London espresso: the Southbank

Part of a series highlighting one area of London.

The South Bank. This itinerary is designed to take the better part of a day, and is best for fair weather. Ideally, aim to go between Wednesday and Saturday, as this is when Borough Market runs its full trade. A limited market is in operation on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Day Planner
Distance: The route itself is 3.2 miles (5.1km) and would take about an hour to walk. However, this does not consider the time you’re going to want to spend at museums, on the London Eye, or at Borough Market!
Stops: Imperial War Museum, The London Eye, Southbank Centre, OXO shops, Bankside, Tate Modern, St Paul’s Cathedral, Borough Market, Shakespeare’s Globe.

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If you’re starting in the east end, make your way to Bank Station and catch the Waterloo & City Line. This is an often-forgotten-about line as it only goes between two stops: Waterloo and Bank (which is in the City)! The journey takes only five minutes.

From Waterloo Station, head first to the Imperial War Museum which is a fifteen minute walk away. Founded in 1917, the museum was intended to record the war effort and sacrifice of Britain and its Empire during the First World War. The museum’s remit has since expanded to include all conflicts in which British or Commonwealth forces have been involved since 1914. I am personally interested in seeing the exhibit People Power: Fighting For Peace, which runs through August 2017.

After the Imperial War Museum, double back towards  the London Eye (currently sponsored by Coca Cola). This riverside landmark is a giant observation wheel with a height of 443 feet (135 m). By comparison, the Seattle Great Wheel is only 175 feet (53.3 m) tall. Queues can be massive, so prepare to wait – the fantastic views are worth it, however. You’ll be treated to one rotation, which takes 30 minutes.

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view of Parliament and Big Ben across the River Thames from the base of the London Eye

After you’ve recovered from the dizzying heights of the London Eye, stroll east along the banks of the River on the car-free Queen’s Walk. You’ll pass the Southbank Centre, which is the largest single-run arts centre in the world.  Take a moment to admire the book market beneath Waterloo Bridge, as well as the skater park with expert adrenaline junkies trying out their luck. There are plenty of shops to explore, but for me, this walk is all about taking in the beautiful cityscape.

After walking one mile along the River from the London Eye, you’ll reach Tate Modern. In addition to its fantastic contemporary art, this museum offers some of the most impressive views of St Paul’s Cathedral, which you can see from across the Millennium Bridge. Tate Modern – like almost every museum in London – is free to the public, and has a really fascinating space on the ground floor called the Turbine Hall.

the view of St Paul’s Cathedral and Millennium Bridge, as seen from in front of Tate Modern.

Just a two minutes’ walk from Millennium Bridge is (the reconstructed) Shakespeare’s Globe.  The original theatre was built in 1599, destroyed by fire in 1613 when a theatrical cannon misfired, rebuilt in 1614, and then demolished in 1644. The new building, completed in 1997, is as true as possible to the original – there is no steel used in its construction, and the roof is of thatched wood. Also, if you’re going to see a show, invest in renting a cushion because as in Elizabethan times, the seats are solid wood with no padding!

“Groundlings” stand on the main floor of the theatre, as they would have done in the 17th century!

From Shakespeare’s Globe, walk ten minutes further east to bustling Borough Market. It was first mentioned by name in 1276, although the market itself claims to have existed since 1014! This is a foodie paradise which must truly be seen to be believed. There is something here for everyone, from German breads and French cheeses, to fresh duck and craft beer. It’s very easy to get lost here, so either hold someone’s hand or have a pre-determined rendezvous time and place!

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As you can see from the map below, Borough Market sprawls across several streets. I took my husband to a croissant making workshop at Bread Ahead Bakery (on Cathedral Street) and we absolutely loved it! Also, the best coffee in town is over at Monmouth, on the corner of Stoney Street and Park Street. Don’t let the queues put you off from an amazing latte!

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My suggested timetable for this itinerary
11:00 – Imperial War Museum
13:00 – lunchtime
14:00 – London Eye
15:00 – explore
16:00 – Borough Market
18:00 – dinner
19:30 – performance at Shakespeare’s Globe


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