A day in London: Bankside

A walk along the River Thames from Westminster to Tower Bridge is a great way to take in a lot of London’s history – with views over Parliament, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and The Tower of London; plus opportunities to visit some great attractions like Tate Modern and The Globe, you get a bit of everything.

If you’re taking this tour on the weekend I’d suggest starting around 12:00 so you can be at Southbank in time for a yummy market lunch!

Start the tour by heading to Westminster Bridge – nearest stations Lambeth North (Bakerloo) or Waterloo (Bakerloo, Jubilee, Northern, Overground) – from here you have a great view over Parliament and Big Ben (actually called Elizabeth Tower, Big Ben is just the clock itself). Do be aware that both are undergoing restoration work, so will be partially covered in scaffolding until 2021-ish.

London Eye
London Eye from Jubilee Gardens

From here turn right to walk along the river (which should be on your left) to pass the London Aquarium, London Dungeon, and London Eye, all of which will likely be mobbed so I’d give them a miss! As you walk past Jubilee Gardens, keep an eye out for busking street-performers, including the ever-present living statues as well as dancers, musicians, and some more ‘one-off’ acts.

 

If touring on the weekend, turn right when you hit Royal Festival Hall to find Southbank Centre’s fabulous food market – don’t worry if you hit it a bit early, it will probably take you a few laps to decide what to have anyway! Personal favourites are the Polish bigos bowls, Korean burritos, and Spanish paella; plus, there are plenty of veggie and vegan options available. You might need cash here, although a lot of the stalls do now accept card.

Once you’ve had your fill, head back to the river and continue along it to pass the rest of the Southbank Centre complex, including the National Theatre and Hayward Gallery. If you’re into art, you might want to make a stop at the Hayward Gallery, which usually has a couple of nice exhibitions including a small free one, and is often less crowded than the Tate, which we pass later on.

View of Bankside
View of the Shard and Tate from across the river

As you continue along the river you’ll pass Oxo Tower, which contains shops and restaurants (if you didn’t eat earlier); and then arrive at the Tate Modern. Feel free to just marvel at the ex-power-station from the outside, or head in to see the free turbine hall exhibition or any of their other many free and paid exhibitions, so check what’s on. You can also head up to the top floor viewing level for amazing panoramic views across London, but beware, it will be crowded.

Not far beyond the Tate is Shakespeare’s Globe, a replica of the original Elizabethan theatre Shakespeare would have written and performed in, which houses two working theatres as well as a great museum. Entrance to the museum is £17 for adults, and includes an audio guide as well as a guided tour around The Globe itself. Do be aware that the tour will vary massively depending on when you go, and whether there are performances on or students using the stage. I’d therefore suggest doing this in winter, when they don’t use the open-air Globe, to be sure you get the best experience. The Swan pub next-door is a nice, if a bit pricey, option for food or drinks, and as you’d expect has some gorgeous views.

If you’d like, turn away from the river along New Globe Walk and onto Park Street to wander past The Globe’s original site (commemorated with a plaque), and follow the road around through Borough Market, one of the largest and oldest food markets in London. Then head out the other side onto Southwark Street.

If you’d like to finish the tour here, you can cut out to London Bridge station (Jubilee, Northern).

City Hall and Tower Bridge
City Hall and Tower Bridge

If you’re staying with us, follow the main road around the station (keeping your eye out for great views of The Shard), and head back to the river via Hay’s Galleria. Turn right to head past the HMS Belfast, an ex-Royal Navy ship turned museum; and City Hall, a cool building designed by Norman Foster to house the Greater London Authority (London’s government). This entire stretch has some particularly Instagram-worthy views of London.

 

You’re at the home stretch! Head up the stairs onto Tower Bridge, which you can climb up for ~£9.80, or continue along past the Tower of London. From here it’s a short walk to Tower Hill (Circle, District) or Tower Gateway (DLR).

I hope you enjoyed this post – it’s a bit of a change of format, so let me know what you thought down in the comments below or via my contact page. Did it work or not? Any other information you would have liked to see? Suggestions for where I write about next?

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