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Experiencing the South Bank is a must-do in any London itinerary. Travellers will be visiting the cultural heart of London, an eclectic and creative area that is home to iconic attractions, stylish hotels and boutique shopping.
Within easy walking distance from Covent Garden, Soho, Westminster and the City of London , the South Bank stretches along the Thames from Lambeth Bridge to Blackfriars Bridge. It’s the perfect location for a relaxing stroll and a spot of people watching- away from the bustle of the West End . You can take in beautiful views across to the Houses of Parliament and St Paul’s, especially early morning and at dusk, and the packed programme of theatre, exhibitions, music, film and free events means there is plenty of inspiring things to see and do for all ages.
If you are looking for choice, the South Bank has loads to do, day or night. Take in the views on a flight on the EDF Energy London Eye. For film buffs, the revamped BFI Southbank offers art-house and mainstream movies, plus the trendy Benugo bar & kitchen. The Old Vic theatre is under the artistic direction of Kevin Spacey, meaning big stars and big productions; the annual panto is a must! Just down the road, the Young Vic is leading the way in presenting fresh theatre from emerging talents, and has a buzzy, funky bar which is definitely worth seeking out.
For kids there’s the popular SEA LIFE London Aquarium which runs themed days and family events, and the brand new London Dungeons. The monthly Film Fundays at the BFI IMAX & BFI Southbank mean activity-filled Sunday afternoons for families, and the Florence Nightingale Museum offers an educational slant on a fun activity for a weekend or school holiday.
Take in some classical, world, jazz or pop at the Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall, QEH & Purcell Rooms, which present a diverse programme of performing arts, music and reading events, and are home to the contemporary Meltdown Festival. Watch out for big name curators. The Hayward gallery is the largest public art space in the UK and the exhibitions showcase masters and young British and international artists, usually accompanied by outdoor installations that bring the area to life. A stroll along the riverside can take in art, street performers, skaters, the second hand book stall and al fresco dining. You can also watch award-winning plays with famous names at the National Theatre which presents classics as well as new writing
In fact from June through to September, South Bank really comes into it's own with summer festivals and outdoor events. There's the Coin Street Festival, which has seen a Turkish Bazaar, a traditional English Fete and Pulse, which celebrated Central and Eastern European music. Festival series such as the London Literature Festival, Waterloo Carnival, Meltdown, Watch this Space and The Mayor's Thames Festival mean a diverse programme of arts events, theatre, circus, performance, food, debates, music and fun family-friendly days out.
There’s a great selection of cafes, bars and restaurants for all budgets, so make sure you take time to watch the world go by. Have a light lunch at the cool Concrete day/night bar in The Hayward, a try crepe in Gabriel’s Wharf, or treat yourself to cocktails-with-a-view at the upmarket Skylon or Oxo Tower Restaurant.
For shopping the South Bank is a design-led, boutique experience that offers something a bit different from Oxford Street . Go to Oxo Tower Wharf and Gabriel's Wharf to pick up unique gifts or splash out with a special commission. These shops are particularly good for jewellery, interiors and clothing.
The hotel offering is expanding and the central location and proximity to attractions means it is an ideal choice. There’s the traditional Marriott County Hall Hotel with afternoon teas overlooking Big Ben, the biggest new build hotel in london for over 40 years, Park Plaza Westminster Bridge and the modern Park Plaza Riverbank, Plaza on the River and Park Plaza County Hall for a stylish weekend base from which to explore.
For a one-stop, up-to-date roundup of what’s on, where to stay, eat and shop go to www.southbanklondon.com