Whatever the season, who could resist a waterside setting where the venue comes hand-in-hand with an outstanding view? There’s no doubt that the River Thames in London is among the world’s most vibrant waterways, displaying both the heritage and contemporary arts and culture of the capital along its banks. From world-class galleries to restaurants and bars, we take a look at the best riverside venues in London to soak up this scenic side to the capital.
Two of the most prominent arts venues in London, Tate Modern and sister gallery Tate Britain happen to offer stunning riverside settings. Tate Modern in particular has been garnering international interest in recent months with the opening of its new extension, the Switch House, which gives the gallery even more space to exhibit its collections of modern art. As the first gallery to have been opened within the Tate group, Tate Britain is equally as revered, but rather than focusing solely on modern art, Tate Britain exhibits art from as far back as 1500 right up to today’s boundary-breaking contemporary art.
With a focus on performing arts, the energetic Southbank Centre is one of our favourite riverside venues in London. Throughout each month of the year, visitors can be sure to experience a bounty of events and exhibitions, from literary and music festivals to seasonal events like the Southbank Centre Winter Festival, which returns each year with a festive market overlooking the Thames.
While Southbank Centre represents contemporary culture in London, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is certainly a representation of the city’s heritage within the arts. Hosting performances of Shakespeare’s plays, as well as an exhibition and tour, this oak and thatch replica of the original Elizabethan theatre certainly gives visitors an immersive experience of Shakespearean London.
From exhibitions and performances to the city’s heritage-rich landmarks, visitors can follow the river round to reach two of the capital’s most famous sites, the Tower of London and nearby Tower Bridge, which with stories deriving from their centuries of history, each give visitors a deeper understanding of Britain’s fascinating past.
Of course, a discovery of riverside venues in London just wouldn’t be complete without following the curve of the Thames round to Greenwich, where landmarks like Cutty Sark – the world’s only remaining tea clipper – and the Royal Observatory, which is the home of Greenwich Mean Time, await.
Naturally, these historic landmarks and cultural venues lie alongside a number of outstanding restaurants and bars with views over the water, some of which you don’t even need to leave the venues to find. The Tate Modern is home to its own collection of dining destinations including the new Switch House Restaurant, which serves seasonal British cuisine on level nine, promising views over the city’s skyline.
The Southbank Centre, too, has a series of eating and drinking spots, perhaps the highlight of which is the restaurant and bar Skylon. While tucking into modern European plates, diners are treated to views of the river as it lights up after dark.
One of the standout restaurants for its river views owes its name to its fine location. Le Pont de la Tour is just a short walk along the water from Tower Bridge, and as a result has spectacular views of the landmark, particularly from its outdoor terrace, which in winter is transformed into a wintery alfresco setting.
Of course this is just the beginning. Landmarks and museums line the riverbanks, with riverside pubs to explore, too. And what better way to discover these riverside venues in London than by setting out on a Thames River Cruise?