Bankside – beyond Borough Market

Bankside has been the place where Londoners come to play since London was first invented. All the serious important stuff on government and money making happened on the north bank. Over on the south bank things were a little more relaxed. Even now, there is lots to explore on Bankside beyond Borough Market: we’ll start there but meander on and discover wonderful things.

Ancient and Modern

Borough Market

Foodie heaven. Borough Market comes in two parts, well three really. One has stalls selling street food. My favourite is Horn OK which sells the most delicious Masala Dosa. Next provisions, fruit, vegetable, fish, meat …. take your pick. Some of the best foodie raw materials in the capital are on offer here. Third is the myriad of small shops, cafes and restaurants that have popped up around the market. My favourite of all of these is Neals Yard Dairy.

Cheddar Cheese Neals yard

Southwark Cathedral

There has been a church at the southern end of London’s oldest river crossing since at least the Doomsday book. The church was dedicated to St Mary and became known as St Mary Overie, or over the river. Although a large and fine church, it didn’t actually become a cathedral until 1905.

Looking up to coloured roof in medieval church
Southwark Cathedral by candlelight
  • Southwark Cathedral, London Bridge, SE1 9DA
  • Open: For service times check website, when there is no service Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm, Saturday 9.30am – 3.45pm and 5pm – 6pm, Sunday 12.30pm – 3pm, 4pm – 6pm
  • Admission: Free, if you want to take photos a permit costs £1
  • Special candlelit photography evenings take place a few times a year, check the website for details of the next one. £11.50 gets you into the candlelit cathedral for a couple of hours.

Wander along and take in the view

For my money the walk along the Thames at Bankside offers some of the best views in London. Yes, you can stand on some of the bridges or go up tall buildings but this view from ground level is the best for me. Whilst you’re strolling, look around you.

Bubbles St Pauls
Bollards

Take a close look at the bollards as you walk around. After the Battle of Trafalgar the British took possession of a lot of French cannons. Once the Napoleonic wars were over these cannon were sold as scrap. Some of them found use as street bollards, with firing end lopped off and a cannon ball stuffed in the barrel. Most of bollards that you see now are modern. But this one over looking the Thames is an original French Napoleonic Cannon!

Bollard made from a canon
Napoleonic canon bollard
Street Names

Take a look at the street names, they tell the story of what used to go on around Bankside. Bear Gardens was not a pleasant place in which to see wild animals but rather the place to go to see Bear Baiting. Bankside, recalls the great earthen banks built to keep the Thames at bay. Cardinal Cap Alley is named after a well known brothel that used to stand here.

Street name sign - bear gardens
Umm! I wander what went on here?
Millennium Bridge

Known to all as the Wobbly Bridge, as when it was first opened it did indeed pitch and roll in a most alarming way. It has long since been fixed and wobbles no more than any other bridge but still the name sticks. The Millennium Bridge, as it is properly named, was designed by Norman Foster and was opened in the year 2000. Whatever you call it, it is a fine place to get good views across to St Pauls or along the river.

Bridge looking toward St Pauls Cathedral
Wobbly Bridge
Winchester Geese

Winchester Geese were not birds but women. More specifically prostitutes. Bankside with its drinking dens, bear baiting and brothels was under the control of the Bishop of Winchester. Far from considering such activities ungodly, the Bishop encouraged them and benefited greatly from the taxes that he levied on them. The Bishop held court in a magnificent Palace, all that remains is a wall with an empty rose window.

Ruined ecclesiastical building with rose window Winchester Palace London
Winchester Palace
Crossbones

Bankside was a far from salubrious place in the past, many of the extremely poor people who lived and died here were buried in a mass grave on Redcross Street. It is thought that 15,000 unnamed people are buried here. Now the site is home to a park and many people light candles and tie rags for remembrance.

Crossbones shrine
Crossbones
Colourful crossings

Make sure that you head south from Tate Modern to use the pedestrian crossing over Southwark Street. Camilla Walala created this crossing as part of the London Design Festival. It makes me smile every time I use it and is the only road crossing that I go out of my way to use!

Colourful pedestrian crossing London
That is one colourful zebra!

Theatre on Bankside

Bankside was where you came to enjoy yourself. It was outside the jurisdiction of the City of London and all manner of things were allowed here that you couldn’t do on the North side of the river. Theatre was one of those things. Shakespeare built his theatre here and you can still see shows today.

Shakespeare’s Globe

Shakespeare’s Globe isn’t the actual theatre that Shakespeare knew but rather a loving recreation of what the Globe would have looked like. If you don’t have time to take in a show then you can take a tour of the building. Some years ago we took the teens to see A Midsummer Nights Dream here. We thought that it would be a one time visit to a tourist trap, it was wonderful. We have been back every year since and are now Friends of the Globe!

Thatched Half timbered theatre
Shakespeare’s Globe
Menier Chocolate Factory

An intimate theatre space based in a former chocolate factory, the Menier may be small but it is big hitting with many of its productions transferring to the West End and even Broadway.

Art

When I first came to London, Bankside was awash with artists working away in gently decaying warehouses. Now it is home to London’s most popular art gallery.

Tate Modern

I took Mr CW on a hard hat tour of Tate Modern, when it was midway through being converted from a power station, for our first date. With hindsight a risky choice but both our relationship and the gallery have thrived! Come to see an amazing collection of modern art. Small children love running up and down the Turbine Hall, we spent many happy hours there when the teens were tiny. Check out my guide to current London exhibitions and museum cafes for low downs on where and what there is to eat.

  • Tate Modern, Bankside SE1 9TG
  • Open: Sunday – Thursday 10am – 6pm Friday – Saturday 10am –10pm
  • Admission: Free (special exhibitions need to be paid for)
Bankside Gallery

Nestled in the shadow of Tate Modern is the Bankside Gallery, home to both the Royal Watercolour Society and the Royal Society of Painter Printmakers. The gallery puts on free shows, where you can buy most of what you see and the shop always has an excellent selection of birthday cards!

  • Bankside Gallery, 48 Hopton Street, SE1 9JH
  • Open: Daily 11am – 6pm
  • Admission: Free

Interesting stuff that defies category

OK an odd heading, but I’ve thought really hard and miscellaneous seemed a bit short. One of the things that I love most about Bankside is its quirkiness and variety, you never know what you might stumble across round the next corner.

Science Gallery

Nestling in the lee of the Shard, right next to London Bridge Station, the Science Gallery aims to highlight the area where art and science meet. Its fascinating exhibitions are thought-provoking and free. Even better, on the ground floor there is a really good cafe.

Georgian building in shadow of modern shard
Science Gallery
  • Great Maze Pond, SE1 9GU
  • Open: Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 6pm
  • Cafe Open: weekdays 7.30am – 6pm, weekends 10am – 6pm
  • Admission: Free
Old Operating Theatre and Herb Garret

Right opposite the Science Gallery is the Old Operating Theatre and Herb Garret. Originally this was the church of St Thomas’ Hospital, the roof space was used for drying medicinal herbs and was later used as an operating theatre. It is nothing like the squeaky clean operating theatres of today, indeed it looks far more like a theatre than a medical space. The Old Operating theatre is the oldest surviving surgical theatre in Europe.

  • 9a St Thomas Street, SE1 9RY
  • Open: Monday 2pm – 5pm, Tuesday – Sunday 10.30am – 5pm
  • Admission: Adult £6.50 concessions available
Clink Prison

Clink is a slang term for prison. This is the original Clink, a little piece of linguist history! There has been a prison on this site since 1144. Nowadays it offers the chance to experience the sights and smells of an old style prison and to handle the gruesome torture devices on show.

  • 1 Clink Street, SE1 9DG
  • Open: Summer daily 10am – 9pm, winter 10am – 6pm
  • Admission: Adults £7.50, concessions available
Golden Hinde

Odd one this! The Golden Hinde is a full size reconstruction of the ship Sir Francis Drake used to circumnavigate the globe in the sixteenth century. This ship was building in the 1970s and has undertaken many long ocean voyages of her own. Now lives on Bankside and you can go on board to see what an ocean going galleon was like.

Golden Hinde figure head on ship
Golden Hinde
  • St Mary Overie Dock, Cathedral Street, SE1 9DE
  • Open: Nov – March Daily 1oam – 5pm, April – October 10am – 6pm
  • Admission: Adults £5

Bankside History

Bankside is one of the oldest settlements in Britain. For 6,000 years people have lived here. It was with the creation of Londinium that the place really began to buzz. This was where you came to eat, drink and be merry. Bankside was home to many stewhouses, not convivial places to eat tasty stew but rather raucous brothels. Beside the stewhouses were many animal baiting pits. Pleasanter entertainment was to be had in one of the many theatres. Shakespeare would have known this area well. Later the area became industrial, the home to wharves, warehouses and a huge power station. Now the power station is an art gallery, the warehouses are apartments and hotels and wharves gone.

Shakespeare Street Art
Shakespeare by Jimmy C

Eat and Drink in Bankside

Eating and drinking has always drawn people to Bankside. You could, of course, never stray out of Borough Market but flee the crowds for tempting alternatives a little further afield.

George Inn

Once upon a time Borough High Street was lined with galleried coaching inns. Now only one remains, the George Inn. Before the theatres were built the yards of these taverns doubled up as performance spaces. Shakespeare put on shows here! Now the pub is owned by the National Trust and is a fine place for pub lunch or even just a pint.

Half timbered pub with sign George Inn
Shakespeare drank here!
Swan

Yet more Shakespeare connections. The Swan is the tavern that is attached to the Globe Theatre. It is a fine place for a pre-theatre dinner but at anytime of day the tables offer good river views over to St Pauls.

The Arch

Nestled in under one of the many railway lines that criss cross the area, the Arch is a wine lovers’ paradise. You can either sit in and drink or buy a bottle to take away from the extensive Laithwaites list.

Boot and Flogger

The Boot and Flogger was once the only place in the UK that didn’t need a licence to sell wine. Revel in that history as you find a cosy place to sit in the warren of tiny rooms that never seems to end.

Staying in Bankside

Bankside is a good location to stay in if you are visiting London for a holiday, connections to the rest of the City are good and you are surrounded by places to eat and drink.

Native Bankside

Native Bankside are serviced apartments tucked away just behind Tate Modern located in one of the many old warehouses. They have one or two bedroom apartments with kitchen and sitting areas. Downstairs they have an area stocked with the makings of a simple meal or breakfast if you don’t have time to pop out and shop.

Sofa, dining table and kitchen
Space to put your feet up at Native Bankside

How to Get to Bankside

Blackfriars and London Bridges mark the easterly and westerly boundaries of Bankside and luckily both have train stations. Thameslink trains stop at Blackfriars, make sure you get out at the southern end. London Bridge has mainline trains and the Jubilee and Northern Line underground stations. You can, of course, walk across the Millennium Bridge from St Pauls.

Bankside beyond Borough Market
Disclosure:  I was invited on a tour of Bankside by Better Bankside, all opinions are my own.
Suitcases and Sandcastles

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32 Comments

  1. April 3, 2019 / 8:05 am

    Hoping to take a teen to London this Easter – this is a wonderful post, Catherine. Might just hang out here for the day!

    • Catherine
      Author
      April 3, 2019 / 8:37 am

      It is our preferred area for serendipitous meandering

  2. April 3, 2019 / 9:25 am

    Right, that’s my next visit to London sorted. Thank you 🙂

  3. Maddie
    April 3, 2019 / 9:50 am

    What a fascinating post. One of the few areas of London I have been in recent years and I didn’t see a quarter of these things. I’ll know what to look for next time!

  4. Trish @ Mum's Gone To
    April 4, 2019 / 12:06 pm

    This is one of my favourite areas of London and yet I’ve learned lots of new things from reading this post. The next time I go back I’ll look out for the crossing! #farawayfiles

  5. April 4, 2019 / 12:33 pm

    Great post, I love finding out interesting historical facts about London. This is such a lovely area just to stroll around, it’s brought back memories of my lunch time walks when I worked up by St Pauls. #farawayfiles

    • Catherine
      Author
      April 4, 2019 / 1:26 pm

      What fantastic place to work and stroll around!

  6. Clare Thomson
    April 4, 2019 / 1:43 pm

    This is so interesting, Catherine. I walk along here often when I come into London as it’s close to my nearest station but I can see there’s lots more to Bankside than I’d realised. Thanks for sharing on #farawayfiles

  7. April 4, 2019 / 3:17 pm

    I agree, walking along the Thames is a great way to view London. I hadn’t heard of the Science Gallery, I’ll have to check that out next time I’m there, it sounds interesting. #FarawayFiles

  8. April 4, 2019 / 5:32 pm

    I used to work right across London Bridge from Borough Market and I loved it so much. The food and the cooking smells are so amazing! Easily one of my favourite places in London. #FarawayFiles

  9. pigeonpairandme
    April 5, 2019 / 11:15 am

    I never knew Winchester geese were called this! I too love this part of town. Thanks for such an interesting post, and telling me some snippets of information I didn’t know. #CulturedKids

  10. April 5, 2019 / 8:06 pm

    I love your posts, this is a definite must read before our next trip to London .I feel like I need a little Cultural Wednesday leaflet to take round with me. There’s SO much more to do in London than most people think. Thanks for opening my eyes! #CulturedKids

  11. wildkidswander
    April 6, 2019 / 1:16 am

    I’ve never been to London or heard about “Bankside” but this area sounds like a lot of fun! Hopefully one day we’ll be able to visit. #culturedkids

  12. Beth
    April 7, 2019 / 1:21 am

    Love this post Catherine! I am familiar with quite a few of these places but you def gave me some new ones. And I love the Globe, too. It’s a top rate site for many reasons.

    • Catherine
      Author
      April 7, 2019 / 8:09 am

      I was bowled over by The Globe, we love the Sam Wanamaker theatre as well

  13. April 7, 2019 / 4:23 pm

    I love the Globe as well and looking forward going soon with the kiddies ! Tate Modern turbine hall very familiar as you say – its funny how opinionated is my 5 years old about modern art 😂 The science gallery is not something I’ve done though, will pair it soon with a visit to the Shard. As usual great #CulturedKids post! X

  14. bavariansojourn
    April 7, 2019 / 7:56 pm

    What a wonderful post. I am in love with that crossing, it’s gorgeous! I also love Masala Dosa but my fave thing to have at Borough is a toasted cheese sandwich on sourdough, just soooo good! Did you know there’s a replica Globe Theatre in Rome? I found it one day and thought I was hallucinating! 😀 #CulturedKids

    • Catherine
      Author
      April 7, 2019 / 7:57 pm

      No I didn’t know that, now I need to go to Rome!

  15. April 8, 2019 / 10:35 pm

    We walked from Tower Bridge to Westminster Bridge today along the South Bank. It really is a fabulous part of London. Just love Borough Market and all it offers. #CulturedKids

    • Catherine
      Author
      April 9, 2019 / 7:47 am

      That is one of my favourite walks in the world!

  16. April 9, 2019 / 6:58 am

    Borough is my fave part of London

    • Catherine
      Author
      April 12, 2019 / 2:16 pm

      A great place to just wander

    • Catherine
      Author
      April 12, 2019 / 2:16 pm

      Love that fact that subsequent bollard have taken the design of cannon stuffed with a cannon ball too!

  17. April 9, 2019 / 7:41 pm

    This is such a comprehensive post. When I go to London I love to stick to one area and really do it properly. I love this area but really didn’t know so much about it. Definitely my next trip sorted #MondayEscapes

    • Catherine
      Author
      April 12, 2019 / 2:15 pm

      Really getting under the skin of an area is is always good fun

  18. April 9, 2019 / 10:12 pm

    We spent a lot of time there when last in London. I also loved Flat Iron Square too. Great part of the city. #MondayEscapes

    • Catherine
      Author
      April 12, 2019 / 2:14 pm

      Always something new to discover!

  19. April 9, 2019 / 11:36 pm

    Great post with lots of ideas for walks. I never knew that Overie meant ‘over the river’! I’ve re-discovered Bankside recently but there’s still lots I want to see there. #culturedkids

    • Catherine
      Author
      April 12, 2019 / 2:14 pm

      I liked that truffle of information too!

  20. April 22, 2019 / 9:44 am

    What a brilliant selection of things to see and do in what is actually a relatively small part of London! I have spent lots of time in this area over the years, and didn’t know about half of the stuff you covered 🙈I will be looking out for the Napoleonic cannon bollard next time for sure. I remember visiting the operating theatre museum as a kid and I LOVED it!
    Thanks for linking up to the last #MondayEscapes

    • Catherine
      Author
      April 23, 2019 / 2:27 pm

      It is amazing to think that operations were a thing of entertainment!

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