The South Bank of the River Thames is abundant with cultural and artistic institutions, offering educational and inspirational experiences to visitors and locals of London. Constantly adapting to benefit the public, South Bank is located a stone’s throw across the river from the iconic Houses of Parliament and St Paul’s Cathedral. This bustling part of London is one of the city’s most prominent cultural hotspots.
The Old Vic Theatre
The Old Vic is a site of extreme historical importance within British theatre and is currently under the artistic direction of Kevin Spacey. Synonymous with historical iconic names in acting such as Laurence Olivier, Judi Dench, Eileen Atkins and Peter O’Toole, it is one of the oldest and most famous artistic institutions in the world. The year 2013 marks the 195th birthday of the theatre, and to commemorate this event organisers are holding a series of tours scattered throughout May to August, during which time the public can learn about the long history of this iconic building.
Tour dates and events within the theatre can be found here.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
The EDF Energy London Eye
Initially planned to commemorate the dawning of a new millennium, the London Eye is a landmark on the banks of the Thames River standing at 135m tall, making it the tallest cantilevered observation wheel in the world. Built over seven years, the design of the structure resembles that of a bicycle wheel and can be seen for miles. The wheel is striking due to its simple aesthetic design and engineering. Once aboard the relatively young structure, passengers of the 32 large glass pods are comfortably and slowly lifted sky-high enabling them to cast their views over the city’s horizon.
View the website here to see up and coming events such as the London Eye 4D Experience.
The Southbank Centre
This world-renowned centre for the arts was erected in 1951 to observe the Festival of Britain and is a top location for anything arts-related. The site is home to several important venues holding varying events such as comedy stand-ups, variety shows, musical performances, intellectual and educational programs, and festivals. In addition to managing the Arts Council Collection and helping to curate artistic touring exhibitions across the country, the centre is important as it allows young talents as well as established professionals to display their abilities to a diverse audience.
View contact information and the year’s events here and information on this year’s Festival of Neighbourhood here.
These gardens have seen several changes since their initial construction in 1951, when they held temporary structures to mark the Festival of Britain. Ashamedly, the park became a car park once these buildings were deconstructed, until 1977 when the lot was rejuvenated for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. Designed by West 8, in recent years the park has seen some surface changes, as the area of Southbank has become increasingly popular. However its main function still lies at serving the needs of the public, by promoting sustainability and providing facilities and community participation schemes at the public’s benefit.
View the garden website here.
The BFI Southbank is run by the British Film Institute, a charity-run organisation which has been active since its origins in 1933. The charity is responsible for a number of other art and culture institutions across London, and hosts the London Film Festival in addition to the Future Film Festival, and London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. Neighbour to the London IMAX Cinema, the centre supports UK film and promotes young and emerging talent within the worldwide film industry by hosting a number of annual events including documentary features, film screenings, interviews and previews. Film fanatics will revel within the centre’s cinemas, gallery and film store.
Find out the latest events and information on BFI and BFI Southbank here.
The building which now houses the Tate Modern was once the Bankside Power Station, but has been home to the contemporary art gallery since its opening in 2000. Technically speaking Tate Modern exists on Bankside and not South Bank, but this comprehensive list would not be complete without it. The building is vast, and jaws are guaranteed to drop as visitors enter the expanse of the turbine hall. The Tate is predominantly a charity, and focuses on raising funds for various projects. Housing an impressive collection of modern art and regularly changing temporary exhibitions, the Tate Modern is Britain’s national gallery of international modern art.
Visit the gallery website here.
The Royal National Theatre is one of the leading theatres in the United Kingdom and took residence within its current location in 1976-1977. In its youth, the company situated itself within the Old Vic, before being relocated. A publicly funded organisation, the large plot is home to three auditoriums which display a variety of different productions from contemporary to classic. In addition to this, the theatre boasts regular exhibitions and music events, as well as organising educational workshops for visitors.
Find out the latest performances and events here.
Oxo Tower Wharf
The landmark building of Oxo Tower Wharf has had a rich history and varying functions since its initial construction in 1930. Today, it is home to retail outlets and eateries, as well as individual designer studios. Located in the three-storey warehouse is the Bargehouse, which displays the work of established artists and newcomers, with regular group shows. In addition, gallery@oxo focuses on the display of designers’ works, often curated by charity organisations.
Browse Oxo Tower Wharf here and the Bargehouse here.
Florence Nightingale Museum
The Founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale is a historical icon, earning her status during the Crimean War when she helped countless wounded soldiers, and also with her nursing school at St Thomas’ Hospital in London, where the museum is located. This museum outlines her many contributions to nursing, and enables further understanding of her life by giving details of her childhood and later travels. A self-funded organisation, the museum’s research into the history of nursing is extensive.
View the museum website here.
Bernie Spain Gardens
A hidden garden of Eden, the Bernie Spain Gardens are tucked away between Gabriel’s Wharf and Oxo Tower Wharf along the South Bank. Regularly hosting local festivals and events, the gardens are particularly notable in the Summer when they contain The Mayor’s Thames Festival and the Coin Street Festival; a one day event exhibiting performances in the visual and performing arts. These range from live music, dance and spoken word to local food and drink stalls.
Discover current and upcoming events here.
For all information on visiting Southbank London, visit their website.
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meet our Local Insider
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WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
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Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.