10 Southbank Surprises
Appreciating London Beyond Oxford Street and Covent Garden.
Although I’ve always been a nearly-London-native, I have exclusively stuck to visiting a few favoured sites every single time I have ventured into the Capital. Oxford Street, Covent Garden and Spitalfield’s Market have been my typical haunts…up until now that is.
When I found out I would be interning on the Southbank, I dismissed the area immediately as dull and resigned myself to lonely lunches in the staff canteen. Being my typically cynical and ‘negative nelly’ self, I full-on expected a painful, dingy commute daily. However, I was more than pleasantly surprised. The London Southbank is actually a beautiful, bustling part of London – home to tonnes of well-known landmarks – which I couldn’t be happier to head towards every morning.
Here are a few features of the area that took my miserable self, quite pleasantly, by surprise:
1. Tate Modern
It took me a couple of days to realise that the large and seemingly popular art gallery just a stone’s throw away from my building – always surrounded by a generous helping of eager visitors – was actually the world-renowned Tate Modern. Currently exhibiting Richard Hamilton, one of the 20th Century’s most influential artists and soon to be showing ‘giant of modern art’ Henry Matisse, how many people can say they just pop to the Tate on their lunch whenever they fancy?
2. Millennium bridge
This famous landmark was built – yep, you guessed it – to celebrate the millennium. Officially known as the London Millennium Footbridge, it did have to undergo some serious reconstruction after it’s grand 2000 opening, being coined ‘the wobbly bridge’. But I can safely say it is now wobble-proof and actually quite the architectural marvel.
3. Sweet Smells
If the hazy even view of London alone isn’t enough for you, perhaps a sweet something to tingle your tastebuds on the way home will cheer up your after-work walk. You’ll be greeted by the sweet wafts of warm, roasted nuts every evening by the forever-enticing food stand; the ultimate personification of London from my childhood.
4. St. Paul’s Cathedral
Standing at 365ft, St Paul’s Cathedral (designed by Sir Christopher Wren) used to be a key tourism pull factor for London, dominating the skyline for almost 300 years. With the recent surrounding skyscraper developments, it is by no means the tallest, but still one of the most beautiful buildings of the capital. Again, holding joyful nostalgic memories from my childhood of hours spent in the whispering gallery, this structure so close to the Southbank epitomises so much of London to me.
5. Food for all!
Within literally 30 seconds of my building there are countless delicious lunch choices; you can find pretty much anything you fancy. Sushi? Sure. Soup? No problem! Noodle hot pot? Of course you can!
There’s all the good’uns around – Pret A Manger, Tossed (noodles and the like) and Itsu (my new fave). With a Sainsbury’s, Tesco and other cute boutique cafes dotted about, there really is no lunchtime craving you could not satisfy.
6. Borough market
If you’re lucky, you might even be able to snaffle yourself a free lunch. Borough Food Market is only a short 10-minute walk down the street, and – claiming to be ‘London’s most renowned food market’ – it has quite a reputation to live up to. And boy, does it deliver. With exceptional quality produce from both Britain and international markets, you can taster yourself up to the nines, all within a lunch break’s work.
7. Bustling bars
Trundling tiredly back in a slightly dishevelled manner most days to ma crib, I am typically in no fit state to hold a coherent conversation over a bevvie or two. However, if I was one day that way inclined, I would be spoilt for choice. The charm of London comes after work hours, with bars around this location inside and out – people literally spilling out onto the street for that pint after work – any day of the week. The merry alchohol-fuelled, smoky atmosphere really does explain the affectionate London name ‘The Big Smoke’.
8. The Morning Walk
Unarguably, this has been totally made by the recent surfacing of sun. For the first time ever, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying walking to work in the morning. Whichever route I take, I always end up crossing the river Thames – glistening morning sunlight and all that. The area seems to be perfectly placed for an amazing panoramic view of the rapidly-growing London skyline. But not polluted by the usual traffic, smoke and noise of central London. It is peaceful and you get a real sense that everything is always moving forwards there. Yeah… it’s a pretty nice sight.
9. Skate Culture
I’m a sucker for a skater. It’s just so cool isn’t it? Does that make me a loser? I don’t care! The skater boys (and occasionally gals) weaving through the Southbank crowds really add to the vibrancy and youth of the area. Good old Boris Johnson has been campaigning against the £120m redevelopment plan to bulldoze the Southbank skate park and I love him for it.
10. Thames Boat Rides
What way could possibly be better to experience the Southbank than a boat trip along the Thames? With tonnes of pier locations to head off from (Westminster, London Eye, Embankment, Festival and Bankside) you can simply hop on a boat wherever you fancy and soak in the views (and hopefully the sun too…but I’m making no promises) along the way.