NFT London South Bank / Waterloo / Lambeth North

South Bank / Waterloo / Lambeth North

Hug the riverbank and you can culture 'til you puke. But you'll need stamina to survive; with such densely populated institutions your brain will give up long before your body. When it does, head for the cafe by day/bar by night, Concrete, tucked away behind the Southbank Centre, where the art installation du jour promises to have you wetting your pants in no time.


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Posted By:  Claire Storrow
Photo:  Claire Storrow

The Travel Cafe
By their nature, areas around major train stations tend to be transient places with all kinds of stragglers and the residues of society present. Cheap, poor quality establishments take residence and take advantage of hungry and thirsty people arriving and departing. It often feels like a warning not to enter into the city where you find yourself, a joke on the part of the people who live in the wider environs. This was the case for Waterloo up until fairly recently. Lower Marsh has always had potential -- a cosy little community, like an undiscovered lane filled with small, local businesses and very few chains, that defies the norms of high streets up and down the country. Thankfully, for us and for travellers alighting here, the area has experienced rejuvenation in the past few years with vibrant cafés, restaurants and bars popping up and a regular street food market taking place. In fact there seems to be a particular focus on welcoming travellers with Four Corners café, Travelling Through bookshop and café, and now The Travel Café (which actually spills out onto Westminster Bridge Road next door to Sista Barista). A Korean enterprise which also organises tours in Korean and Japanese, the café is a breath of fresh air -- the perfect spot for a hit of caffeine whether you're on your laptop, reading a book or meeting a friend. In fact, I have no doubt that this is the kind of place where like-minded people will make new friends. As I left, I was asked to pick out one of the tiny potted succulents on the counter to take home, because, "People who live in London usually don't have something to look after." It was such a lovely sentiment and I am indeed looking after my new little friend.

Posted By:  Anne Siegler
Photo:  Anne Siegler

Leake Street Tunnel
After trying unsuccessfully to hunt down some of Banksy's infamous stencil graffiti, by asking around we came to find out that they had been removed. We were told to check out Leake Street near the Waterloo Station. Leake Street was covered in graffiti by Banksy and friends back in 2008. Very little of the original art remains, but what has been added to the tunnel is exciting to see. Graffiti is legal in this designated area making it a colorful social experiment.

Posted By:  Daniel Kramb
Photo:  Daniel Kramb

Yes, it's an awful lot of grey concrete that makes up the Southbank Centre. But while the daring Brutalist architecture continues to entertain love/hate feelings among most Londoners, no one doubts the excellence of what's going on inside this cultural powerhouse. At the Hayward Gallery (nowadays just The Hayward), exhibitions are now nicely complemented by this small cafe, which turns into a bar once the sun sets (yes, behind Waterloo Bridge). The bar, concrete-dominated, as you might have guessed, is a bit pricey to become your regular. But there's Russian beer on tap and, given that they put absinthe in their mojitos, always a chance that you might end up talking someone into giving the Hayward's Projects Space to your own, truly amazing art installation next time round.

Posted By:  Anne Seymour
Photo:  Anne Seymour

Southbank Centre
London just doesn't offer enough opportunities to watch lithe and attractive lovelies frolicking in water. Fortunately, the South Bank did its bit to rectify this heinous oversight. Appearing Rooms was one of the recent art installations at the Southbank Centre, featuring jets of water which burst intermittently to create walls around you, to the delighted shrieks of participants and the sizzling hiss of their fried iPods. Rarely given the green light to poddle about in fountains, Londoners chucked themselves in with abandon, watched by repressed suits wishing they still knew how to play and delighted voyeurs making videos for their evening's self-relief. With a bit of logic visitors could avoid getting wet--after all, its watery walls were apparently more about contemplating transience and modern life (yawn) than tormenting the spectators (though the joys of pushing kids into the upcoming jets must not be underestimated). Although Appearing Rooms has ended its run, the South Bank's regular cycle of installations are invariably unmissable, and a highlight of the city.

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