As I am born and bred in London, I may be biased, but our capital city offers so much. One of my all-time favourite areas to walk is along Bankside and the Southbank from Tower Bridge to Westminster Bridge. Officially known as “the Queen’s Walk” and making up a part of the longer Jubilee Walk, the path winds alongside the River Thames for 4km. The walk should take you a few hours to complete; however, this depends on what you decide to do during your walk and how many stops you make.
This walk is always evolving. You will find events such as the Underbelly Festival on the Southbank for its 6-month run during spring and summer. In November and December, some of Europe’s best Christmas markets arrive to tempt visitors with unique present ideas and seasonal food and drink. No matter what time of year you decide to visit, there is always something to entertain you, and in this blog, I will be giving you my top fifteen recommendations of what to do and see on your walk.
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Tower Bridge, London
Why? Because this is London’s most iconic bridge and is where the Best Walk in London officially starts.
Sometimes incorrectly called “London Bridge”, which is a much plainer bridge further along the River Thames, the majestic Tower Bridge spans the water proudly and is an attraction in itself. Take a visit inside and venture across the upper walkway to find out the history of this beloved bridge. You can walk across the lower walkway of Tower Bridge to cross the River Thames but have a look online for timings, and you will witness the bridge lifting to let large vessels through to the other side. Quite a spectacle to see as the road suddenly splits in half to open up!
Borough Market, London
Why? Because this is London’s famous food market and you will want to try everything.
Located 10 mins walk from London Bridge Station in Bankside, this is an area that you cannot afford to miss. There has been a market on this spot since 1851 in one form or another, and it has now been transformed into an eclectic food market where you can purchase foods from all around the globe.
It is open from Mon-Sat, though at Christmas it also opens on a Sunday. Be tempted by all the mouth-watering offerings at Borough Market and grab some street food from one of the many stalls set up beneath the spires of Southwark Cathedral. The area also hosts artisan coffee shops and restaurants, so it is worth checking out.
Southwark Cathedral, London
Why? Because this has been a place of worship for over 1000 years.
A Cathedral since 1905 but a place of worship for many centuries previously, this Gothic-style building is worth a look inside for a moment of peaceful contemplation. See if you can find Southwark Cathedral’s resident cat called Doorkins Magnificat, who arrived as a stray in 2008 and has now become a tourist attraction in her own right!
The Golden Hinde
Why? Because where else would you find a 16th-century galleon in the middle of a city.
Anchored discreetly in St. Mary Overie’s Dock, the Golden Hinde galleon once sailed the high seas captained by Sir Francis Drake as he circumnavigated the globe between 1577 and 1580. Visitors can now go aboard and discover what life would have been like all those centuries ago, and if you have children and want an interactive experience, you can also book yourself aboard to spend the night. If that doesn’t appeal to you, maybe an acoustic or poetry evening may be more of your style.
The Anchor Pub
Why? Because who doesn’t want to enjoy a pint in a pub steeped in history.
Easily identifiable by its pillar-box red window frames and doors, this historic landmark originally built in 1615 was the place that Samuel Pepys watched the Great Fire of London take a hold on the city in 1666. Old brick fireplaces, oak beams and floorboards that creak with their centuries of use will take you back to a bygone era.
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
Why? Because this is a replica of the original Globe Theatre, where many of Shakespeare’s plays were first performed.
The current Shakespeare’s Globe was opened in 1997 and built to exacting standards. Located only one street away from the original, it is almost a complete replica. Take a tour around and learn about Shakespeare’s life and the history surrounding the building, or why not book to see a play while you are here.
Why? Because it is free to enter and full of modern art for you to enjoy.
Housed inside the old Bankside Power Station, the Tate Modern is a must to visit if you are a fan of modern art. Additional exhibitions are charged separately. Let your artistic side run amok around gallery spaces on levels 2, 3 and 4 and finish on the top floor, where you will be delighted by the 360-degree panoramic views over London.
The Millennium Footbridge
Why? Because it is located just outside the Tate Modern and links the Southbank to London’s city via St Paul’s Cathedral.
A slight diversion from the Queen’s Walk will take you across the Millennium Footbridge, with its ultramodern design aligning with the facade of St Paul’s Cathedral, allowing a spectacular view of this landmark.
Why? Because it is home to contemporary designer shops and a rooftop restaurant.
Constructed in the early 1900s as an electricity station to supply the Post Office and then bought in 1920 by the company OXO, of the stock cube fame but later left in disrepair, this building is now a space for artists, restaurants, cafes and pop-up exhibitions.
Make your way to the rooftop restaurant and enjoy lunch or dinner at the OXO Tower restaurant with views across the River Thames to St Paul’s Cathedral and beyond. At night you will see the iconic OXO logo illuminated in red neon and staking its claim on this part of the Queen’s Walk.
Why? Because it is full of unique boutiques and eateries in a quaint courtyard setting.
Stop for a drink in one of the independent bars or cafes situated in Gabriel’s Wharf and wander into the artisan boutiques selling designs from clothes to ceramics and jewellery to vintage wares.
The National Theatre
Why? Because it has been the hub of English theatre since its inaugural opening in 1976.
The 1960’s grey brutalist architecture of the National Theatre is not for everyone with its hard edges and urban concrete aesthetic, but what goes on inside is pure art. Wander around on your own or take a tour of its inner workings and check out the plays during your visit to London; there are always several different productions showing in one week. Browse in the bookshop with its unique gifts or stop for a refreshment break in one of its cafes or bars.
The Royal Festival Hall
Why? Because this is London’s leading music venue located within the Southbank Centre complex.
Opened in 1951, the Royal Festival Hall is one of the world’s leading performance venues hosting a global audience. Some of the greatest artists have appeared at the Purcell Rooms including Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix, JK Rowling, Joyce Grenfell and Benjamin Britten, to name a few. You may want to step inside to absorb the atmosphere of this Holy Grail of creativity.
Adjacent to the Royal Festival Hall is the Hayward Gallery, a world-renowned contemporary art gallery.
The Coca-Cola London Eye
Why? Because it is the world’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel.
Marvel at the engineering from the ground up and then take a 30-minute ride aboard one of the 32 capsules for breathtaking views of London’s famous landmarks. Queues can be horrendous so book online before you arrive to save you a long wait.
The London Eye area is also home to street performers who will mesmerise you with their circus skills, musical offerings, and still life characters! The grass area by the London Eye is a nice place to sit and people-watch at the heart of the Southbank.
London County Hall
Why? Because it is home to the London Aquarium, London Dungeon and the London Marriott Hotel.
The previous home of London’s County Council, this venue is where you will find all manner of aquatic life at the London Sealife Centre. But should you prefer the more macabre and have the stomach for gore, then take an interactive tour experience at the London Dungeon and find out about the history of some of London’s more gruesome characters.
After all that excitement, why not enjoy traditional afternoon tea in the London Marriott Hotel County Hall, where you will feast on cucumber sandwiches, scones with jam and cream and a selection of patisseries, not forgetting the tea! Better still, why not stay the night and be in the heart of the Best Walk in London.
Westminster Bridge, London
Why? Because it is the finish of the Queen’s Walk and leads to the Houses of Parliament.
Constructed in 1738, this foot and road traffic bridge link the area of Lambeth to Westminster. From here you will have a fantastic view across the river to the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben.
To experience history and heritage during your time in London, then take a tour of Westminster Palace. In the 11th century, a royal palace was erected on this site for the Kings of England. Fire destroyed much of the complex in 1512, and it was later rebuilt and used as the seat of Parliament. Today it remains much as it was all those centuries ago.
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