A Day in London’s South Bank

Like I’ve said before, I loved London. Our day in London’s South Bank was no exception… the old buildings, the busy sidewalks, the abundance of diversity and culture. We headed out midmorning and spent a full day just wandering about and discovering this area that literally every single Londoner that we met had recommended to us.

London's South Bank

To be honest, this didn’t end up being our favorite day– and so I wouldn’t continue the trail of recommendations– but I still think London’s South Bank is so iconic you have to fit in at least an afternoon here. And no matter what time you arrive, it’s the right time to stop in Monmouth Coffee Company and grab a hot cup of coffee and a pastry of some sort. The shop is open to the outdoors which is a bit chilly in the fall and winter but still really lovely since it connects you more to the bustle of the city. There was quite a line when we stopped in but we still managed to snag a couple seats on the elevated platform at the back. We were nestled between a few other people at the bar seating and we just happily munched away on our croissant and sipped our coffees, listening to all the British accents around us.

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Next, we set off for the Tate Modern. As you know, we’re big suckers for museums, especially free museums. We had already been to the British Museum and had a really successful time there soaking up history and ogling Super Old Stuff (that’s my official term for it). The Tate Modern is obviously an entirely different kind of museum as it’s an art exhibition, but it came so highly recommended as well that we knew we wanted to see it. Unfortunately, this was another disappointment for me! I really hate sounding like a downer– and I especially hate it when I read travel bloggers slamming on a city and its treasures– but I have to be honest. I just wasn’t that impressed. There were some interesting things to see, but overall I didn’t find anything I absolutely loved, and I wouldn’t return again. Turns out history museums must be more my thing!

London's South Bank

We had walked down the bank on our way to the Tate Modern, but we’d been in a bit of a hurry and there was certainly a nip in the air that warned “winter is coming!” Strolling back the other direction, we tried to brace ourselves against the cold and take our time to enjoy the view of the water and skyline along the way. Photos 1 and 2 below are of Millennium Bridge, and photos 3 and 4 are taken on London Bridge, which is commonly overlooked while the title of “London Bridge” is mistakenly given to the Tower Bridge, which is pictured in the background in photo 3. (Whew! Did you catch all that??) Just some fun facts… and also so you don’t get confused and out yourself as a real tourist when you set out looking for the wrong “London Bridge” (;

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As much as I enjoy history, I’m also a huge English lover. Although I haven’t read Shakespeare in ages, it was fun to walk by the Globe Theater and imagine what it would have been like to see him direct one of his famous plays here. Although this isn’t the original location of the theatre, it is quite close to that spot and is a carefully reconstructed replica. It seems to have all the charm of an original!

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^^^ Do I look cold? Thought so.

Next we headed back up the street where we’d started with our caffeine fix; this time to the other side where we entered Borough Market. This was hands down our favorite part of London’s South Bank, although you do know we let food guide a lot of our travels…

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As you can see above, the flower and vegetable stands were gorgeous and colorful and enough to make me want to up and settle in a teeming city like London where things like this are available year-round, all-week in various marketplaces. Instead, I just decided to enjoy the moment while it lasted and take a couple photos.

We decided to stop for lunch here and after browsing all the stands with their amazing sights and smells, we settled on this one for Indian food. Something about veggies piled on rice, smothered in sauces that light a fire in your mouth… perfect for anytime but especially a cold fall day. We were lucky enough to find a clear bench in the covered garden area so we were able to cozy up and enjoy this one sitting down. All of the stands deliver their food in portable containers though, so you can always stop for lunch here even if you’re running from one place to the next!

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And of course, because we are also bakery folk, we had to try this doughnut thing. It was candied almond (and something else we can’t remember- shame on us) but all you really need to know is it was delicious. We’re definitely going to try and find this stand again when we return this Christmas.

London's South Bank

To end our day in London’s South Bank, we headed back out towards the water to go down the other direction along the bank. We passed the gorgeous Southwark Cathedral along the way and I couldn’t help but stop right on the edge of the sidewalk to stand and admire the view. I know there are a lot of pretty churches in Europe– and we’ve seen quite a few– but they are all just so beautiful and each unique in some way!

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When we did finally hit the water, we turned to the right and slowly made our way along. We did some people-watching (selfie sticks everywhere!!) and watched as the Tower Bridge loomed larger and larger in front of us.

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Just as we came up on the bridge, there was a large, open park area and we stood for a few minutes, again just admiring the view. If you’ve read about our travel style, you can understand why we don’t pack our day full of tourist sites, all on an orderly schedule with tight timetables to keep. Although we do want to check the “big things to see” off our lists, we tend to pick an area of town and then just explore on foot. It allows us to see the city through more of a local’s lens… and it’s cheaper too. Just #keepingitreal. And the view here was really nice, allowing us an overview of London’s South Bank, all in one shot!

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So in the end, we may not have found our favorite spot to hang in London, but we did eat some fantastic food and see some famous sites. According to every person we met, London’s South Bank is a must to add to your itinerary, so I wouldn’t dare contradict a local. Add it! But then go with tapered expectations. And perhaps go in the summer when you can truly enjoy just strolling by the water. And no matter what, go to the Borough Market and sniff out those heavenly doughnuts where all your day’s disappointments will immediately cease to exist!

  • Ahhhh I absolutely love Borough Market…so much good food! I’m with you, I thought that the Tate was a bit underwhelming. Also, totally just realized you sent me an email at least like 6 weeks ago that I’ve never answer…oops! xo

    • Haha.. thank you (!!) for confirming the Tate Modern underwhelm. Glad it’s not just me. And the Borough Market was amazing.. can’t wait to return! Don’t worry about the email.. hope you’re doing well! I keep thinking of heading your way but I’m a wimp about going north in winter 😉

  • I wish we had markets like that! Enjoyed your photos very much!

    • Thanks! I know I’ll miss these markets if we ever come back to the States. Thankfully, famers’ markets are getting more popular so you can find similar things in a lot of cities!