Best South Bank Things To Do – London 2024

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Have you been wondering the best things to do in London’s South Bank? I’ve got all the info you need!

London’s South Bank is a treasure trove of activities and experiences, making it a must-visit destination for both locals and tourists. As someone who grew up in London, I have spent many hours exploring this area.

It’s always been a convenient place to meet friends thanks to the many restaurants along the route near Waterloo and the pedestrian pathway along the River Thames. I wouldn’t be able to count the number of times I’ve taken advantage of the bargain set menu at Ping Pong.

If you’re a first-time visitor to London and need help planning your itinerary, the South Bank is a great place to start. The South Bank is one of the best areas to see many major landmarks. This one stretch of path takes you past the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben. the London Eye, the Shard and more.

When it comes to dining, the South Bank offers a range of restaurants and cafes that cater to every palate. You can indulge in a wide range of options from trendy street food vendors to riverside restaurants.

The area is not only home to renowned landmarks such as the iconic Tower Bridge and the London Eye but also hosts world-class cultural institutions like the Tate Modern and the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

So, why not come and dive into the amazing culture, stunning views, and delicious food that the South Bank has in store for you?

🤩 For a guided tour of the South Bank and major London landmarks, join this tour!

Best Things To Do On The South Bank

View from the South Bank of the River Thames across to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament with boats on the river

1. Walk!

Yep, my #1 recommendation is free! Well, excluding the cost of public transport to get there. Walking along the Queen’s Walk in London is an unforgettable experience for first-time visitors. It’s one of my favourite walks in the city and I’ve done it many times.

The pedestrian-only path runs between Waterloo Station and Tower Bridge directly next to the River Thames. It treats you to some of the best views of London landmarks, so I think it’s perhaps the best place for a first-time visitor to London to start.

You’ll get fantastic views of iconic landmarks such as the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, the London Eye, The Shard, and the Tower of London. The Queen’s Walk offers a perfect vantage point to admire the architectural grandeur of these famous landmarks.

The area around Waterloo usually has some food stalls around, street performers, and stalls where you can buy drinks to take with you. You’ll also pass by the Jubilee Gardens for a bit of greenery, and a double-decker bus converted into a frozen yoghurt shop.

🤩 I love this walking tour of London for seeing major landmarks!

The Tae Modern is one of the best South Bank things to do. The image is of an art museum converted from a power station, with a tall concrete tower at the front pf a large brown building. There are tress in front of the museum next to the river.

2. Tate Modern

Tate Modern is an absolute must-visit for first-time art enthusiasts in London. The best part? Entry is completely free! That’s right, #2 is also a free option.

The famous Turbine Hall exhibits large installations that simply wouldn’t fit in most art museums. The main collection includes works by Picasso, Matisse, Hockney and more. It’s one of the best art museums in the city.

The Tate Modern is the perfect place to immerse yourself in the world of contemporary art. So, whether you’re an art lover or simply curious, a visit to Tate Modern is an experience that will leave you inspired and enriched.

Price: Free!

Best For: Visitors with an interest in art, whether beginners or experts.

Location: Bankside, London SE1 9TG

Tate Modern

The Shard at sunset, from across the River Thames. The tall glass and metal skyscraper rises far above other buildings with a purple tinted sky.

3. The Shard

The Shard is an absolute must-visit for tourists in London, and the most obvious building in the London skyline. One of the main highlights of this iconic skyscraper is the breathtaking view it offers at The View From The Shard.

You’ll be treated to panoramic views that showcase the entire cityscape in all its glory. The highest viewing level is even open air (although with high enough glass walls that you don’t have to worry about any safety issues). There is also a bar so you can enjoy a cocktail or glass of champagne as you enjoy the view.

From the River Thames to historic landmarks like Tower Bridge and St. Paul’s Cathedral, the View from The Shard is nothing short of spectacular.

Apart from the stunning views of London, The Shard also boasts a selection of fantastic restaurants. They aren’t the cheapest restaurants to eat at as you are also paying for the view, but they don’t use the view as an excuse to sacrifice quality – the food is excellent.

If you’re looking to extend your experience at The Shard, there is also a luxurious hotel available for guests. With its sleek and contemporary design, staying at The Shard offers a truly unforgettable experience.

I live less than an hour away from The Shard, so I have absolutely no good reason to stay there except that it is on my bucket list so I am determined to do it one day. I just want to wake up with those amazing London views.

Price: £28.50 for a session at The View From The Shard. Staying in the hotel will set you back several hundred pounds per night.

Best For: First Time Visitors

Location: 32 London Bridge St, SE1 9SG (but you cannot possibly miss it!)

View From The Shard

Borough Market is one of many food havens around the city, making London worth visiting for foodies.

4. Borough Market

Borough Market is a must-visit destination for London tourists. As one of the city’s most famous markets, it is very popular with both locals and visitors.

The market is often busy and boasts a diverse range of food options. From freshly baked goods to international delicacies, there is something to satisfy every palate.

Whether you’re in the mood for traditional British cuisine or exotic flavours from around the world, Borough Market has it all. Situated along the scenic South Bank, it is the perfect place to stop as you explore the area.

I’d recommend planning to stop there for lunch or an afternoon snack. Many of the restaurants you’ll pass by near Waterloo are chains that you’ll find all over the city. Borough Market is a better choice if you want something different.

Price: entirely up to you.

Best For: Foodies

🤩 If you want to explore the market with a food tour, book here!

The London Eye is a major London landmark.

5. London Eye

The London Eye features in virtually every tourist guide to London that exists. Standing at a height of 135 metres, it is the second tallest Ferris wheel in Europe – one in Russia was built in 2022 and is 5 metres taller.

The 32 glass capsules, representing each borough of London, provide a 360-degree view of the city, allowing visitors to enjoy the views of famous landmarks such as Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, and the River Thames.

I can’t deny it is a London icon so I have to include it, but unless it is something you have your heart set on or are visiting with kids, I would recommend the Shard instead.

Price: From £25.50 per adult when booked online in advance.

Best For: First-Time Visitors

London Eye

6. Sea Life London Aquarium

London Aquarium is a must-visit attraction for tourists with kids who are seeking a captivating underwater experience. This incredible destination is home to a diverse range of sea life, including magnificent sharks, graceful rays, and mesmerizing jellyfish. It’s one of the best South Bank things to do with children.

As you explore the aquarium, you’ll be able to witness these fascinating creatures up close and personal. From the thrilling shark tunnel to the interactive touch pools, there are plenty of opportunities for children to learn and have fun.

The fun and welcoming atmosphere of the London Aquarium makes it an ideal outing for families.

Pull relevant information from the tourism page, from reviews on booking platforms, and from your personal experience.

Price: from £28 per adult – but only if you book online in advance.

Best For: Families

Location: Riverside Building, County Hall, London SE1 7PB

Sea Life London Aquarium

7. Southbank Centre

The Southbank Centre comprises several venues including the Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Hayward Gallery. These sites offer a range of free and paid exhibitions and events.

From classical music concerts to writing workshops and art exhibitions there is also something on, and if you are passing by you can pop in to check out what’s available.

A food market also operates behind the building on weekends, including open-air bars if you fancy a cocktail to fortify you on your stroll!

Best For: Classical Music Fans

Location: Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX

Southbank Centre

8. British Film Institute

If you are a film buff this might be for you. The British Film Institute (BFI) hosts screenings of classic films and more obscure releases that most of us won’t be aware of.

It’s not the place to see the latest blockbuster but will be of interest to cinephiles.

The BFI also holds one of the world’s largest dedicated cinema libraries, which can you just wander into without booking or being a member. The library regularly hosts talks from a variety of speakers, but those do need to be pre-booked.

The onsite restaurant, cafe and bar are also all popular stops for people in the area.

Price: Free entry plus cost of screenings

Best For: Film Fans

9. London Dungeon

Are you looking for a fun and thrilling experience for the whole family while visiting London? Look no further than the London Dungeon! From the moment you enter, you’ll be greeted by costumed actors who bring the city’s gruesome history to life, along with the sights and smells (!) of the city.

Explore the various themed rooms, each showcasing a different aspect of London’s sinister past. Whether it’s the infamous Jack the Ripper or the Great Fire of London, the London Dungeon experience offers a counterpoint to the more typical London attractions such as the British Museum.

For those who enjoy a bit of a fright, this could be a great place to stop at the South Bank.

Given the nature of this particular attraction, it’s important to take into account the potential challenges that certain individuals might face. For young children, the experience can sometimes be a bit overwhelming and even scary.

The dark and confined spaces might not be suitable for those who suffer from claustrophobia, so keep these factors in mind when planning your visit.

Price: Ticket prices for adults start at £29.50 but vary significantly according you whether you pre-book online and choose a timed slot vs anytime access. Check the website for more details

Best For: Visitors who like a scare.

London Dungeon

10. Oxo Tower

The Oxo Tower in London is a building that most people walk straight past. However, it’s worth taking a second look.

There is a free viewing platform on the same level as the restaurant and bar – one of London’s lesser-known viewing decks. It’s nowhere near as tall as buildings like The Shard or Sky Garden, but it is generally less crowded. And free.

The ground floor of the building hosts a variety of independent shops, with artisan crafts for sale. You can also have a drink or dinner at the Oxo Tower’s Bar and Brasserie.

Best For: Views on a Budget

11. National Theatre

The National Theatre is another arts venue on the South Bank (there are quite a lot of them!)

There are three separate theatres in the National Theatre building, so there are usually a few different productions on at a time. These include classic plays, contemporary theatre and musicals.

There are also guided tours you can join to see how the cast and crew bring these productions to life.

Tip: If you can’t go and see a live National Theatre production they sometimes have screenings in cinemas around the UK. I’ve seen live and repeat performances of Coriolanus and King Lear at the cinema as they sold out almost immediately (possibly due to Tom Hiddleston starring in Coriolanus…)

Best For: Theatre Aficionados

National Theatre

12. Globe Theatre

The Globe Theatre is the best place for visitors seeking to immerse themselves in the rich history of Shakespearean theatre. As a meticulous reconstruction of the original Globe Theatre, it offers a glimpse into the world of Elizabethan drama.

There are regular tours of the theatre providing insights into the history of perhaps the world’s most famous theatre (even if it isn’t the original!)

For theatre enthusiasts, the Globe Theatre is an exceptional venue to experience a Shakespearean play, as it presents the works of the legendary playwright in both traditional and modern productions.

Theatre tickets can often be quite expensive, but the Globe Theatre also offers standing tickets for as little as £5, as well as seated tickets.

Where To Stay Near The South Bank

There are several hotels in the area around Waterloo, but as it is central London you are looking at higher prices than staying further out.

Park Plaza County Hall would be my top recommendation for a hotel near the South Bank.

For a slightly cheaper but still well-rated alternative, try the Wellington Hotel.

How To Get To The South Bank

The area is well-connected by various modes of transportation (like most of London), making it easily accessible from different parts of the city. The easiest way to get there is via London Underground stations.

My recommendation would be to exit at Westminster Station. Westminster is on the north side of the river, but you’ll get close-up views of the Houses of Parliament before crossing Westminster Bridge to the South Bank.

Once you are on the south side (near Waterloo Station which is a good alternative), head east along the Queen’s Walk which will take you past everything on this list. Keep going until you hit Tower Bridge, and then if you still have some time and energy visit the Tower of London.

FAQs: Best South Bank Things To Do

Is South Bank a good area for dining?

Yes! There are lots of restaurants near Waterloo. Several of the venues in this list have their own restaurants and Borough Market is also worth a look. It is a very popular area for locals and tourists to go for dinner so I do recommend booking a table.

Are there any free activities or attractions in South Bank?

Of course! The Tate Modern is free, and some of the arts venues have free exhibitions as well. Walking along the South Bank is free and one of the best routes to see London landmarks.

What’s the best time of year to visit South Bank?

Spring and autumn are the best times to explore the South Bank. The area can become very crowded in summer, and winter is not the best weather to be walking long distances.

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