London’s South Bank lies in the heart of the city’s action. The area buzzes with activity year-round and is a great place to immerse yourself in the city’s festivals and culture. From big attractions to pop-up bars, the South Bank has a range of experiences to offer.
If you have 24 hours, I recommend starting at Westminster Bridge. You’ll get a great view of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben on one side and the London Eye on the other.
From the bridge, walk along the Thames toward the London Eye and you’ll understand what makes this area so exciting. From merry-go-rounds to street performers, there’s something to catch your eye or ear with every step.
A spin on the London Eye is worth booking ahead for, not least because it has some of the best views in the city. You’ll spot everything from Buckingham Palace to The Shard from the top, and the photo opportunities are unparalleled.
Back on the ground, continue along the river toward Hungerford Bridge. The Jubilee Gardens are a great place for a stroll, and the area by the bridge is often home to festivals and seasonal events.
The annual Underbelly Festival offers live entertainment from April to the end of September, and the Christmas markets add a great dose of seasonal cheer at the end of the year.
Passing under the bridge, you’ll come to the Royal Festival Hall. In addition to concerts and performances, it often hosts free exhibitions. It’s worth popping in to see what’s on as you go by.
There’s also an outdoor food market behind it from Friday to Sunday, and it’s a good place to stop if you need a snack or lunch.
Back on the river, Queen Elizabeth Hall is home to more performances and a great rooftop bar and garden in the summer months. Behind it, the Hayward Gallery is the place to go if you like contemporary art.
Beyond them you’ll come to Waterloo Bridge, where there’s an outdoor book market that will allow you to indulge your inner literary fan. It sits in front of the BFI Southbank, a film complex offering the best of British and international cinema.
Next door is the National Theatre, a great place to see everything from Shakespearean comedies to modern dramas on stage.
Past the theater, there’s more to explore as you work your way toward Bermondsey and London Bridge. Tate Modern is one of the city’s most famous art museums, and Shakespeare’s Globe theater is the place to see the Bard’s works performed on stage. Which is to say nothing of Borough Market, London’s most famous food and produce market.
Originally from San Francisco, Julie Falconer moved to London in 2007 and runs A Lady in London, a blog about all things lovely London and beautiful travel.