Derek Robertson, May 2018
“As long as I gaze on Waterloo Sunset, I am in paradise” sang quintessential British group The Kinks in 1967, and their hymn to this often overlooked corner of London has stood the test of time.
Far more than just being a train station, this buzzing, lively area has enjoyed a renaissance over the last decade or so, and is now home to a host of attractions and world class drinking and dining. Here are the top 10 things to do should you find yourself by the “dirty old river rolling into the night.”
This historic south London street has hosted a street market since the 19th Century, and despite all the development in the area, retains much of its local charm. Try some top notch coffee at Coleman Coffee Roasters, cocktails at Cubana, a pint at the Camel & Artichoke, and Korean food at Po Cha once you’re done wandering the mix of the weird and wonderful stores that populate this vibrant little neighbourhood.
The Old Vic
This 1,000 seat, not-for-profit theatre is one of the cornerstones of London’s performing arts culture. Established in 1818, it has undergone a number of transformations over the years, but has always excelled at staging world class drama and supporting new talent. It’s most recent incarnation sees Hollywood A-listers regularly starring in heavyweight works from the greats like Harold Pinter and Samuel Beckett alongside more winsome, popular fare.
Leake Street Tunnel
Ever since Banksy happened upon this 300-metre tunnel and inaugurated the “Cans Festival” in 2008, Leake Street has represented the best of London’s burgeoning street art scene. It’s a free-for-all brick canvas for anyone who fancies themselves as a graffiti artist; no rules, no limits, just an endless visage of colour and expression in what would otherwise be a dank, drab underpass.
You might not expect classic French-influenced bistro dishes with a twist in this part of London, but Brasserie Joel is an oasis of elegancy and sophistication amid the south London bustle. In a contemporary red and black dining room perfect Beef Bourguignon and Mussels & Clams Marinière are served with Gallic charm and slick efficiency.
Sea Life London Aquarium
If you have a fascination with the deep blue sea – or some kids to entertain – a visit to one of Europe’s largest collection of marine animals is a must. Featuring a Shark Walk, an Ocean Tunnel, a Rainforest Experience, and a penguin enclosure, the aquarium aims to be as educational as well as exciting, with ocean conservation one of it’s top priorities. And if you’re feeling particularly brave, you can even feed – and snorkel – with some of their sharks.
The London Eye doesn’t just dominate the South Bank skyline – it dominates most tourists’ itineraries too, and for good reason. Europe’s tallest Ferris wheel, it offers stunning aerial views of the capital from 135 metres up during the 30-minute ride. And there’s a host of options to make this a truly memorable experience; night rides, a Champagne Experience, or even hiring a private capsule are all possible.
Medieval times were cruel and unjust, and you can explore some of the horrors for yourself at this subterranean tourist attraction. But it’s not all gory tales and macabre history; using a mixture of live actors special effects, and rides – such as the The Tyrant Boat Ride, the Drop Dead: Drop Ride, and the Whitechapel Labyrinth – it’s fun too, albeit not for the fainthearted!
British Film Institute
Did you know that the UK has the largest film archive in the world? It lives here, at the BFI, a charitable organization established by Royal Charter in 1933 to promote and preserve filmmaking and television in the UK. Alongside the archive, film festivals, and a series of educational initiatives, the BFI also has the largest IMAX screen in the UK and specializes in seasons of classic, independent, and non-English language films.
Imperial War Museum
One of five locations, the Lambeth Road museum occupies an imposing former Royal Hospital and sits in the middle of a park. Through a variety of exhibitions, collections, and galleries, the museum tells the story of people whose lives have been forever changed by armed conflict, from World War I to the present day. A sombre, reflective place, current exhibits include the Holocaust Exhibition, A Family In Wartime, and Age Of Terror: Art Since 9/11.
The Hayward Gallery
Situated within the Southbank centre, the Hayward is a world-renowned contemporary art gallery and a landmark example of Brutalist architecture. It hosts three or four major exhibitions every year, in the past celebrating legendary artists such as Paul Klee and Francis Bacon. It’s currently hosting the first UK retrospective of German photographer Andreas Gursky, who has been hailed as “one of the most significant photographers of our time.”
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