South Bank Walk, London, England

The Millennium Wheel, London Eye, on the South Bank of London, England

The start of a great walk down London’s  South Bank, starting at Westminster Bridge (Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament are on the bridge’s north bank), County Hall and the London Eye’s big wheel.

What to see on the South Bank of the Thames River

On a fine summer day this is a wonderful, almost traffic free walk beside the Thames River, popularly starting/finishing at Westminster Bridge and the London Eye or perhaps crossing on the Hungerford Bridge from Charing Cross/Trafalgar Square.

A South Bank walk will meander past the lively but unattractive National Theatre, Royal Festival Hall, Gabriel’s Wharf bars and restaurants, Hay’s Galleria, the Tate Modern (turn left onto the Millennium Bridge to visit St Paul’s Cathedral) and Shakespeare’s Globe among other things, finishing/starting at Tower Bridge or cross it to see the Tower of London.

Part of the Thames Path by the National Theatre, South Bank, London

The London Beach beside the National Theatre, a spirited if diminuitive attempt to copy the success of Paris’ beach.

A South Bank walk is best on a late summer afternoon when the sun shines straight down the river at your back. It’s flat, well paved and child friendly, with some free entertainment and plenty of eating and drinking places en route.

The walk is also lovely at night with various well-designed illuminations and Thameside pubs well placed to lubricate the journey.

national theatre, south bank, London, England

One of many bright and curious additions and embellishments to the Royal National Theatre, thankfully as the original series of Stalinist concrete blocks is hideous and desperately needs help. Photo by Tony Hisgett. The theatre runs free outdoor shows on early summer evenings.

hay's galleria, south bank, London, England

Hay’s Galleria used to be a ship repair dock and is now a tourist market, shops and café zone.

Poetic Tunnel, South Bank, London, England

One of several tunnels passing under roads decorated with ancient London sayings and new graphics.

Tate Modern thames view, London, England

The Millennium Bridge over the River Thames joining the Tate Modern art gallery on the South Bank to St Paul’s Cathedral on the edge of the City of London on the North Bank. Remember that the City of London is NOT the same as London city!

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

shakespeare's globe theatre, south bank, London, England

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on the South Bank of the Thames River, next to Tate Modern and Millennium Bridge across to St Paul’s Cathedral.

The original Globe Playhouse was built in 1599 and paid for by Shakespeare, Cuthbert Burbage and four other actors. It soon became the most popular theatre in town, showing first runs of Hamlet, Othello, King Lear and Macbeth among other plays which Shakespeare not only wrote but probably acted in and possibly produce too. He also lived nearby.

The original Globe site was a couple of blocks away in Park Street from the current one but burnt down in 1613 when a prop cannon in Henry VIII set fire to the thatched roof. Picture of London in 1630 with Globe Theatre.

The new Globe Theatre has been designed to replicate the Elizabethan drama experience of standing in a curved space and shouting at/along with the actors.

Tickets for performances: Contact the Box Office in person April-October 10am-6pm; November-March 10am-5pm, or by phone 0207 401 9919.

Official website: Globe Theatre

HMS Belfast

hms belfast, south bank, London, England

HMS Belfast, another thing to do on the South Bank.

HMS Belfast is a World War II warship (Cruiser Class) that saw action protecting Arctic convoys, was part of the attack on the German battleship Tirpitz in 1944 and supported the D-Day landing in 1945. Her last action was seen during the Korean War in 1952.

Pay to enter. Tours are free for children under 15.

Opening hours: 10am-6pm in summer, 10am-5pm in winter.

Official website: HMS Belfast

Tower Bridge

The London Mayor's Glass Testicle, on the left, looking upriver from Tower Bridge, London, England

The London Mayor’s Glass Testicle, on the left, looking upriver from Tower Bridge.

tower bridge and the Tower of London, London, England

Tower Bridge looking across to the Tower of London on the North Bank of the Thames River. This marks the end/start of a South Bank walk.

The Design Museum

This is the last serious attraction at lower end of the South Bank, just downstream of Tower Bridge. We were unimpressed by the museum on our first attempt but haven’t visited recently.

Opening hours: 10am-5. 45pm daily except December 25, 26. Last admission 5. 15pm.
Address: 28 Shad Thames, London SE1 2YD.

Pay to enter. Discounts for students and concession holders. Free to under 12s.

Access: Not convenient! The nearest tube is probably London Bridge or Tower Hill (near Tower of London).

A circular Thames River walk

The North Bank of the Thames runs beside the river but also alongside busy traffic for much of the way so that’s not a pleasant option for tourists who are looking for a round-trip hike down the South Bank and up the North, or vice versa.

However, one option after walking down the south side and crossing Tower Bridge is to head past/around the Tower of London and walk a block or two away from the Thames through the City of London. There are some worthwhile sights which will eventually lead you back to Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square etc. See our City of London pictures of the area.
There is a professionally designed route (with markers) called the Jubilee Walkway that goes along the South Bank and back along the north side but we found the website over-complex and confusing.

South Bank walk, getting there or back

Upstream – tube/underground at Westminster or boat at Westminster Pier (both are beside Westminster Bridge); or from Waterloo tube and main rail line.
Downstream – tube and main line at London Bridge station, on the way; for a tube at the end you have to cross Tower Bridge onto the North Bank and head straight up to Tower Hill (or Tower Gateway for the limited destinations of the DLR light rail service).