One of the capital’s most historically and culturally relevant neighbourhoods, Bankside sits within the fashionable borough of Southwark on the edge of the Thames.
Dating back to the 16th century, ‘Banksyde’ once existed beyond the city walls, making it a natural meeting point for outsiders and freethinkers, leading to it becoming a somewhat riotous pleasure quarter known for its brothels, gambling dens and theatres. Even today, it prides itself on doing things its own way and is home to some of the best cultural attractions anywhere in London.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at what makes Bankside so special:
If you’ve never seen a show at the Globe, it’s like seeing English history come to life. Constructed in 1599 by Shakespeare’s playing company, the Lord Chamberlain's Men, it was destroyed by fire, only to be rebuilt in 1614. Closed again in 1642, it was reopened as ‘Shakespear’s Globe’ in 1997, to once again become the quintessential way to see one of the Bard’s plays. Both the architecture and craftsmanship on display are simply incredible, and there’s a good chance the end of the night will be characterised by a lot of dancing. After a fair amount of wine.
Dating back to the 12th century, Borough Market is one of the largest markets anywhere in the city. The emphasis here is on amazing food, and sustainable produce but also the sheer pleasure of taking the time to browse all that’s on offer. It’s simply a great way to spend an afternoon, because across more than 100 stalls you’ll find the very finest in fruit, veg, meat, cheese and fish, and that’s just for starters. Featuring cuisine from across the globe, fine wine and a range of high-end, artisan bakeries, it’s really earned its reputation as one of London’s premier shopping locations.
Waterloo Millennial Park
Despite being just a short distance from Waterloo Station, this expansive, tranquil park feels a million miles from the hustle and bustle of the big city. With epic lawns, beautiful sculptures, nature trails and wildflowers, this area is a great example of people power, first created by the local community. Since then it’s been taken on by the Bankside Open Spaces Trust, who’ve continued to support and include residents in the maintenance and continued development of this wonderful natural space.
Tate Modern is home to the UK’s collection of modern and contemporary art, which it shares with audiences through its galleries, touring exhibitions and across a broad range of digital platforms. Spanning 500 years of British art, the Tate remains a trail-blazing global institution, its influence permeating every part of the art world. Entry is free and once inside you’ll have access to a breathtaking array of works, making this the ideal place to spend an afternoon, preferably with a friend or loved one so as to share this extraordinary, sensory experience.
Food for thought:
Our top picks for eating and drinking in and around Bankside:
Swan at the Globe
Situated within the iconic Globe Theatre, Swan at the Globe is a stunning restaurant set over three floors, featuring awe-inspiring views of the Thames and St Paul’s Cathedral. Open since 2007, the menu is seasonal British fare done with real style, utilising fresh local produce sourced from some of the country’s best farmers, greengrocers, butchers and fishmongers. The afternoon tea is pretty amazing too.
If you’re in the mood for something different or, dare we say it, a little eccentric, you could do a lot worse than Bustronome. For the uninitiated, this is fine dining on the move. Specifically, on a double-decker bus. Taking in the London sights, you’ll be served a four, or even six-course meal prepared for you by star-chef Sebastien Nicolleau. A unique, gastronomic experience guaranteed to carry you away.
The Real Greek
They say the sign of a great restaurant is the extent to which local people take it to their hearts. That&rsquo's definitely true of The Real Greek, a beloved Mediterranean bistro that serves up authentic Mezedes, Souvlakis and Sharers in a lively, welcoming environment that just gets more and more popular with each passing year. The Halloumi popcorn, as you can probably guess, comes highly recommended.
Known for its incredible views across the London skyline, Oxo Tower also delivers great food, an easy-going atmosphere and outstanding live music. The scallops and lobster alone keep people coming back for more, as does an excellent range of cocktails and an exemplary brunch menu. In many ways, though, it’s that there’s so much going on under one roof that makes this stylish eatery so hard to resist.
Bankside is served by an abundance of highly efficient tube stops, including London Bridge, Blackfriars, Southwark and Waterloo. There’s also the Thames Clippers, a speedy boat service that goes from Bankside Pier once every 20 minutes. For anyone seeking a different kind of commute.
Education and Business
Bankside is home to some of London’s best schools and colleges, including Southwark College, DLD College and Banbridge Academy. It’s also a home for cutting-edge businesses and successful tech start-ups like MXX and Electric Gamebox.