Named for its position in relation to the Thames, the South Bank occupies just a small stretch of London’s waterfront real estate but has evolved into one of the city’s biggest hubs for entertainment and the arts. From the iconic London Eye to renowned theaters and museums, this attraction-loaded area draws millions of visitors annually and offers an array of things to do in London. Read on to discover our favorite ways to spend your time in the South Bank.
- Admire the city as far as the Eye can see.
The skyline changed forever when the London Eye opened in 1999, so no trip to the British capital would be complete without a revolution on Europe’s tallest Ferris wheel. As you swoop your way around to the tippy top, which rises 443 feet (135 m) above the sprawling metropolis, the perspective on famous landmarks like Big Ben, the Tower of London, and Buckingham Palace is nothing short of breathtaking. If it’s a clear day, you’ll be able to see a whopping 25 miles (40 km) in every direction.
- Block out time to meet your favorite super-powered pals.
The stalwart heroes and dastardly villains of the DC universe make their debut in the South Bank with The Art of the Brick: DC Super Heroes, the acclaimed pop-up exhibition from LEGO® visionary Nathan Sawaya. Large-scale recreations of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, the Joker, Harley Quinn, and a life-size Batmobile are among the fantastical sculptures on display, each faithfully recreated with thousands of the classic interlocking bricks. The gallery will only be around until September, though, so spring into action and snap up your tickets.
- Immerse yourself in the theater arts.
The West End may be the Broadway of London, but the South Bank is also a theater capital in its own right. Catch a performance at the prestigious National Theatre, which continues to draw audiences with an innovative and eclectic program spanning classics, comedies, musicals, and brand-new productions. You’re also guaranteed to find something fresh at the bustling Southbank Centre, which hosts a constant stream of shows, exhibitions and festivals in its 5 unique venues.
- Relax and soak up the views from the Thames.
The city of London was originally constructed around the River Thames, so it’s no surprise that the waterfront is packed with historic and heralded landmarks. For some serene sightseeing, catch a City Cruises boat tour at the South Bank’s London Eye Pier and float your way past St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Houses of Parliament, and Cleopatra’s Needle, all while enjoying hop-on hop-off privileges at 4 central piers for convenient on-land exploration.
- Dive into an under-the-sea adventure.
Sand tiger sharks, green sea turtles, and gentoo penguins, oh my! If you’re bringing the kids along on your trip, SEA LIFE London Aquarium delivers on aquatic fun for the whole family. Start your journey among the toothy residents of the Shark Reef Encounter, admire the massive and graceful stingrays in the Ray Lagoon, and then enter a bustling world of kaleidoscopic color in Nemo’s Coral Reef. With 14 different ecosystem zones and over 500 species to discover in this aquatic wonderland, you can easily spend a half-day here.
- Find serenity in the great outdoors.
Fewer travelers know that the South Bank area is also home to parks and promenades where you can take a break from the crowds. In between sightseeing stops, spread out a blanket in the landscaped Jubilee Gardens located next to the London Eye, or take a stroll along the Riverside Walkway to appreciate the Thames scenery. If you continue east past the National Theatre and Gabriel’s Wharf, you stumble upon the Bernie Spain Gardens, another perfect picnic spot.
- Discover the city’s dark side.
With a past that includes malevolent monarchs, disastrous fires, and diabolical serial killers, London has more than its fair share of grim history. Take a hair-raising journey through The London Dungeon, where a spectacle of interactive shows, elaborate sets, and suspenseful rides plunges you into 1,000 years of the city’s most bizarre and unsettling events. As you narrowly escape the wrath of Henry VIII, navigate the eerie streets of Whitechapel, visit a plague house, and plummet on the Drop Dead Drop Ride to Doom, prepare yourself for plenty of scares, shocks, and laughs.
The South Bank is packed with exciting things to do in London, so what stops are on your list?