London Guide - The South Bank

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As it's name suggests London's South Bank is situated on the south side of the River Thames, on the opposite bank to the City of Westminster.

Unlike the north bank, this area is much less developed and has fewer attractions than it's crowded neighbour. The area covers around 2.5 square kilometres in and around the London Boroughs of Southwark and Lambeth and is classified as London's arts and cultural centre, with The Royal Festival Hall and The National Gallery to name but a few of it's impressive lineup of buldings.

The area stretches from London's Westminster Bridge to Tower Bridge, an area which includes the two footbridges of the Millenium Bridge and Hungerford Bridge and the metro stations of Waterloo, Southwark, Embankment and London Bridge on the Jubilee Line, as access routes into the area. 


                               County Hall.

Working your way from the south side of Westminster Bridge situated between St Thomas's hospital, and the London Eye, one finds the impressive, six storey County Hall, once home of the now defunct London County and Greater London Councils, the hall now contains the Sea Life Aquarium, the box office and visitor centre for it's neighbour the London Eye, The London Film Museum, two hotels and several restaurants and private apartments. 


   The South Bank Centre and Hungerford Bridge.

Situated between County Hall and Waterloo Bridge is the 21 acre site of The South Bank Centre, which houses The Royal Festival Hall, the Queen Elisabeth Hall and the Hayward Art Gallery.

The site is also home to the parkland of Jubilee Gardens.

The walkway along this stretch of the river is called Queen's Walk, a Thameside pathway which takes visitors all the way from The London Eye to Tower Bridge, the world's largest bascule ( draw ) bridge. 


   Image courtesy of David Samuel, wikimedia commons.

         The National Theatre of Great Britain.

Next door, but not part of the South Bank Complex, is the National Theatre of Great Britain, a public funded theatre company with 3 auditoria which consist of The Olivier, The Lyttleton and the Cottesloe Theatres.

Next door and with it's entrance uniquely situated under the eaves of Waterloo Bridge is BFI Southbank which houses the National Film Theatre, the U.K's leading repertory cinema, which includes 3 cinemas, exhibition halls and coffee shops.

After Waterloo Bridge, Old Father Thames curves towards the London Borough of Southwark and the area known as Bankside, passing the OXO Tower, an elegant art deco building originally built as a Post Office power station, then bought by the meat extract company OXO for use as a factory. Today the building houses an array of bijou arts and craft shops with restaurants and coffee houses.The upper floors of the building are private apartments.

Berthed along this stretch of the river is a modern replica of Sir Francis Drake's, 16th century galleon, the Golden Hind. 

Further along, looms the austere facade of the Tate Modern, the world's most visited, modern art gallery, which sees over 4 million visitors a year.

Housed in a former 1940's power station, the gallery is housed over 5 levels and includes both regular and temporary collections of work which focus on the abstract, expressionism and contemporary genres of modern art. 


   Image courtesy of Ester Inbar, wikimedia commons. 

                     The Globe Theatre.

Moving on, one will come upon Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, a modern replica of his Elisabethan, round, open air theatre, which sports London's only thatched roof.

Also along this stretch of the river is the popular Borough Market, the architecturally, impressive City Hall, a 10 storey building that is neither located in nor serves the City of London, which is home to the London Authority, The London Assembly and the Mayor's Office. 

Further along the river and alongside the London Bridge metro station is the yet to be finished Shard, a building that will become upon completion, Europe's tallest building.

Berthed on the river at this spot is HMS Belfast, a Royal Navy cruiser, now a museum ship, owned and operated by the Imperial War Museum.

One is now at the site of Tower Bridge in an area called Shad Thames, which houses Butler's Wharf, a large apartment complex which was once the largest warehouse complex on the Thames when it was completed in 1873. In daily use until the late 1970's, the building fell into dereliction, before being transformed into what you see today in the mid 1980's. At ground level is several coffee houses and eateries, where you can see the unique architecture of it's restoration.

Looking across the river at this point  shows the two buildings of The Gherkin and the Tower of London, looking as if they are side by side,and giving the viewer an insight into 1,000 years of London architecture.

Officially this is the end of the area known as the South Bank, although the River Thames majestically makes it's way on towards the London Borough of Greenwich, home of Greenwich Park, the Royal Observatory and the Cutty Sark. 


                             City Hall. 


                                                           ACCESS ROUTES TO THE SOUTH BANK.

Bridges - in concurrent order.

Westminster road and foot bridge.

Hungerford rail and foot bridge.

Waterloo road and foot bridge.

Blackfriars road and foot bridge.

Millenium foot bridge.

Southwark road and foot bridge.

London road and foot bridge.

Tower road and foot bridge.

Underground ( metro / tube ) stations -

Waterloo - For South Bank Centre, National Theatre.

Embankment - For South Bank Centre.

Southwark - For Globe Theatre, Mayor's Office, Borough Market.

London Bridge - The Shard, HMS Belfast.


         Waterloo Bridge with views of The City.









Kimberley Heit
Posted on Mar 3, 2012
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