Today it’s one of London’s most visited and famous areas, its history telling an interesting development over the decades. Previously a no-go zone, It was the Industrial Revolution that finally invigorated the South Bank, transforming it from marshlands into a working port. Then came the factories, most notably the Lion Brewery (now the Southbank Centre), followed by the railways, which gave birth to Waterloo Station by 1901. In the century that followed, the South Bank suffered quite a lot of neglect before undergoing a dramatic cultural renaissance. Today, it stretches five square kilometres along the River Thames and is home to some of the most iconic buildings, events and attractions that London has ever seen.
Endless Entertainment at the Southbank Centre
Spanning 21 acres at the South Bank’s Waterloo end, the Southbank Centre comprises multiple arts and entertainment venues. The most famous of these is the Royal Festival Hall, where in July you can hear drum and bass star Goldie’s album, Timeless, performed live by the Heritage Orchestra (22-23 Jul), and see Pulitzer Prize-winning musical Of Thee I Sing (30 Jul). Next door to the Royal Festival Hall, you’ll find the Hayward Gallery and its latest exhibition, Carsten Höller: Decision (to 6 Sep), in which the Belgian artist explores perception and decision-making through a series of mysterious objects and installations. To the side of the gallery lie both the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room, which host everything from big-name performers to emerging artists. July’s highlights include dance show Badke and A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Mendelssohn’s music.
Take a Spin on the London Eye
Rising 135m into the sky, to the west of Jubilee Gardens, is one of the UK’s most recognisable and best-loved landmarks. Made up of 32 air-conditioned glass capsules, the London Eye acts like a giant Ferris wheel, raising passengers up to some of the best 360-degree views this city has to offer. Gaze out over the river towards the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, and on a clear day you’ll see for up to 40km. Inside each pod you’ll find an interactive guide to bring the views to life, and if you’re still hankering for more after your 30-minute adventure, you can visit the Coca-Cola London Eye 4D Experience, a four-minute show free with every ticket.
Buy tickets for the London Eye here
Enjoy Summer's Udderbelly Festival
It may sound odd but, for Londoners, nothing signals the start of summer quite like the sight of a giant purple cow turned upside down beside the Thames. As locals, we know this means that the annual Udderbelly Festival (to 19 Jul) has arrived at the South Bank, and eight weeks of comedy, circus and family entertainment can begin. Inside this unique pop-up theatre, you’ll find an exciting programme of events for all ages, including Comedy Club 4 Kids, circus production Polymer, sell-out comedy Austentatious: An Improvised Jane Austen Novel, and award-winning physical theatre show Kraken. Some shows are limited to one-night only, so be sure to get down to the cow and book your tickets before they sell out.
Book tickets for Udderbelly here.
Dine at Topolski, an old artist's studio
From the Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden bar to award-winning restaurant Canteen and the regular food markets that spill out around it, South Bank’s riverside has plenty to tempt your palate. Head slightly away from the river, however, and you’ll find lesser-known gem Topolski, a former studio to Polish-born artist Feliks Topolski, whose murals depict key events and people of the 20th century. Acting as both a gallery and live music venue in addition to being a café and bar, Topolski excels in its Polish infused vodkas and Eastern European cuisine. Where better to reflect on the South Bank of today than inside the studio that helped shape its cultural DNA?