It’s been a while since my last area guide and having moved to the South West over six months ago now, I’m still getting to grips with the less edgy walk of life. One of the places I’ve visited most is Waterloo and the accompanying South Bank. Partly because a client is based there and partly because it’s super easy to walk to central over Waterloo bridge!
The South Bank is a whimsical place perfect for both Londoners and tourists alike. Filled with some of London’s most popular attractions stretching from Big Ben to the London Eye and Sea Life, the stretch also contains some rather unique and unexpected surprises. Starting from Waterloo Station this guide takes you along the riverside through some of those lesser known attractions, finishing at the Tate Modern. Don’t forget your walking boots.
Sip good coffee at Lower Marsh
Lower Marsh, one of South Bank’s original marketplaces located near Waterloo station, is a great place to shop, eat and drink. Independent coffee shops and food stalls line the street away from the hustle and bustle of the riverside. Check it out for a unique slice of Central London life.
Lower Marsh, Lambeth, London SE1 7RG
Get colour drunk at Bar Elba
If brightly coloured staircases and typographic walls are your thang Bar Elba is the rooftop bar for you. Owned by the same folk that brought us Instagram-favourite Bar Josephine (which is actually just around the corner), the bar takes its inspiration from the tiny island of Elba, just off the Tuscan coast, where Napoleon Bonaparte was forcibly sent in 1814. He took his horse and a few hundred of his closest pals to party in the Mediterranean for 300 days. With great views of London and a good looking burger menu, it’s the perfect place to catch up with pals.
Rooftop, Mercury House, 109-117 Waterloo Road, London, SE1 8UL
Get cultured at The Southbank Centre
The Southbank Centre is a world-famous, multi-venue arts centre, with a dynamic year-round festivals programme and an inclusive ethos. It’s the UK’s largest arts centre, founded with the Festival of Britain in 1951 and consists of three main performance venues, together with the Hayward Gallery. Find a daily food market out the back all year round and peruse the shop for design-led gifts.
Belvedere Rd, Lambeth, London SE1 8XX
Take it all in at the Queen Elizabeth Roof Garden Bar & Cafe
The Queen Elizabeth Roof Garden Bar & Cafe is slightly hidden away on the South Bank stretch, but not if you’ve got your eyes open and keep a look out for the bright yellow staircase! A central oasis with views across London, the gardens are free to visit and allow you to relax among wildflowers, fruit trees and allotments. There is also a cafe/bar serving refreshments and as of November, a Finnish sauna where you can take refuge against the winter.
Belvedere Rd, Lambeth, London SE1 8XX
Breathe in Brutalism at The National Theatre
The National Theatre stages over 20 productions a year ranging from new plays, musicals, re-imagined classics and work for young audiences – all at an affordable rate to reach a wide range of audiences. Designed by Denys Lasdun, the building is one of London’s best-known and most divisive Brutalist buildings – a layered concrete landscape that Prince Charles once described as being like “a nuclear power station”. The foyers are open to the public without the need for a theatre ticket and feature a large theatrical bookshop, restaurants, bars and exhibition spaces – all with fabulous dramatic ceilings.
Upper Ground, South Bank, London SE1 9PX
Eat ALL the food at The Green Room
The Green Room is a casual neighbourhood diner, bar and garden created by local social enterprise Coin Street Community Builders and the National Theatre. Inside you’ll find an airy, contemporary space featuring props and scenery recycled from National Theatre shows. Surrounding The Green Room is an urban oasis: a sustainable garden designed and maintained by the Bankside Open Spaces Trust with volunteers from the theatre and local area. YUM!
101 Upper Ground, Lambeth, London SE1 9PP
Tuck into grub at Gabriel’s Wharf
Gabriel’s Wharf is home to an eclectic mix of independent shops, cafes, bars and restaurants. This arty enclave offers design-led shopping, from jewellery and fashion, to fair-trade furnishings and affordable artwork. There are also a number of restaurants and cafes to relax in. Much like the neighbouring Oxo Tower Wharf, diversity and community are at the heart of the site and visitors are treated to a completely unique shopping experience.
Gabriel’s Wharf, Lambeth, London SE1 9PP
Shop Indie at Oxo Tower Wharf
Oxo Tower Wharf is an award-winning, landmark building run by a social enterprise, Coin Street Community Builders and houses over 27 independent designers and makers. The site is home to some of the UK’s most innovative and internationally renowned contemporary designers, restaurants, cafes, bars and exhibition venues gallery@oxo and Bargehouse. You can also find a brilliant viewing platform on the top floor just next to the Oxo Tower Restaurant.
Shop the likes of true London designers and makers such as Snowden Flood, Bramwell Brown, Archipelago, Mikala Djorup and more, while also exploring their working space and their design process. It’s a shopping hub like no other.
Barge House St, South Bank, London SE1 9PH
Interior Heaven at Dandelyan, The Mondrian
The Mondrian is one of the swankier additions to South Bank and Dandelyan is the cocktail bar inside with pink banquettes, a green marble bar and river views. Ryan Chetiyawardana, aka bartender Mr Lyan, is a London cocktail dignitary – he’s worked in some of the city’s most pioneering bars and now has his own range of mixed spirits in Selfridges. Dandelyan has a prime spot off the lobby of the hotel in the former Sea Containers House and is run by a team of super-slick international-hotel ‘servers’. One for special occasions or for those that just really love interiors.
20 Upper Ground, London SE1 9PD
Soak in the view & the art at Tate Modern
The Tate Modern is Britain’s national gallery of international modern art and forms part of the Tate group (together with Tate Britain, Tate Liverpool, Tate St Ives and Tate Online). It is based in the former Bankside Power Station and holds the national collection of British art from 1900 to the present day. As one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary art in the world, there is still to this day no admission charge for access to the collection displays and visitors can enjoy access to the Turbine Hall Space and collection galleries which rotate on a seasonal basis. 360-degree views of London can be seen from the rooftop making it a rather special place indeed.
Bankside, London SE1 9TG