Local Guides

9 great things to do in Southbank & Waterloo

If you’re planning a day out in London for the first time, a visit to Southbank and Waterloo is an absolute must. The area has been touted as the gateway to the City and the epicentre of the capital’s creativity. With river cruises, theatres, museums and iconic landmarks, Waterloo are undoubtedly one of the most ‘happening’ regions of the capital.

Served by four train stations, getting around Southbank and Waterloo is easy. Deciding what to do is the challenging part. But that’s why we’re here; to make planning your day trip simple!

Whilst you could spend a lifetime exploring these riverside regions of London, we highly recommend squeezing these activities into your trip.

Pig out on street food

Southbank was once known as London’s larder and holds on to a piece of that heritage with the Lower Marsh Market (often said to be the City’s oldest market street). From Monday to Friday, you’ll find a diverse range of tasty delights, from Hawaiian Poke to Italian Focaccia. On Saturdays, the street transforms into a flea market, where independent traders sell local crafts and goods. Check out the fantastic second-hand record stall there.

Watch a show

Waterloo, an artistic hub of London, is home to many theatres. Book a seat at the Old Vic to watch theatrical displays from past and present. Or, attend a show at the Young Vic to see some of Britain’s aspiring stage actors. The Southbank Centre might be more up your alley if you want to listen to the musicians and composers of tomorrow. For something totally unique, take a look at The Vaults – London’s best performing arts venue.

Marvel at marine giants

SEALIFE London Aquarium houses one of the largest populations of marine creatures in Europe. Take the family to see sharks, penguins, stingrays, jellyfish and much more. Inside the museum, there are numerous exhibitions, interactive experiences and activities for the kids.

View London from above

London is one of the world’s great capitals. There’s nothing quite like admiring the entire cityscape from the Coca-Cola London Eye. When you reach the maximum height of 135 metres, you’ll have a clear view of landmarks such as Westminster, the Shard and St Paul’s Cathedral. Too scared to look down? Just pretend it’s VR.

Dare to tour the London Dungeon

Today, London is one of the world’s most warm and welcoming capital cities. In medieval times, things weren’t so pretty. If you can stomach it, head to London Dungeon to see how some of the City’s goriest events unfolded. Special effects and convincing yet light-hearted actors make the experience eerily realistic.

Visit Tate Modern

Tate Modern is Britain’s national museum of modern and contemporary art. Inside the art galleries, you’ll find collections from some of today’s best artists from across the globe. There’s no entrance fee at Tate Modern – proof that some of the best things in life are free.

Have a picnic

Waterloo has its fair share of upscale restaurants, but you can enjoy a budget lunch by the river at Jubilee Gardens. This riverside green space was reopened by the Queen in 2012 following its transformation into a park with beautiful flower beds, nearly 100 trees and plenty of room to lay a picnic towel.

Take a selfie from Westminster Bridge

Cliché as it may be, your trip to London won’t be complete until you’ve taken a selfie with Westminster and Big Ben in the background. Located less than half a mile from Waterloo Station, Westminster Bridge offers some of the best views of the Houses of Parliament.

Speed along the River Thames

Take a break from the slow rush-hour traffic by hopping on a speedboat at Waterloo Pier. Whilst you race past landmarks like the London Eye and Canary Wharf at 30 knots, a tour guide will inform and entertain you with good-old British banter. 

The Southbank is a crucial piece of the London puzzle. To explore all the essential parts of the capital’s city centre, take a look at our London tours page.