Buskers, sand-castle carvers and performers punctuate this extended pedestrianized walkway along the Thames, which is also home to the Globe, the National Theatre and the London Eye. Dozens of coffee shops, street carts and restaurants make it possible to take your time and pick a stretch that strikes your fancy. For cultural and historical insights, plus the chance to admire London’s skyline as you promenade, this is an unmissable starting point.
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Walk Down the Southbank
It's both the best river walk in London and the city's liveliest cultural hotspot, so a walk along it is a must. The path takes you from the Globe Theatre and the Tate Modern along the Thames—passing Gabriels Wharf with its lovely restaurants—to the National Theatre, the Royal Festival Hall, the Hayward Gallery, and the London Film Theatre. A two-mile strip has never held so many different entertainment opportunities; you could spend weeks along it without getting bored. That's not to mention the regular outdoor (free) performances and the unparalleled views of the city skyline and the Houses of Parliament.
It's on again this Spring-- the Cheese and Wine Festival. Spend an afternoon sampling cheese, enjoying delicious food and sipping wine by the Thames. There's loads of food to explore and demonstrations from which to learn, but whatever you do, have the melted gruyere-- large hot plates warm half-wheels of gruyere just waiting to be shaved onto roasted potatoes and onions. My mouth literally waters just thinking about the experience. I won't be back in London this spring so someone please, please eat this for me and report back. Thank you.
Under the Waterloo Bridge on the Southbank, you'll find second-hand books for sale at the outdoor Southbank Centre Book Market.
I used to come here over the weekends, thinking it was only then the market was open. But now I've learnt it's open every day.
Don't think that London is just for adults waving flags at the Queen's celebrations or cheering on Olympians. This grand old lady of cities has much on offer for kids, as this teenager found out when carefully positioning herself between the upward water spouts on the South Bank. (Her mother was not impressed when she ran through them, though.)
The night markets that take place each weekend on the Southbank are a great place to grab a bite to eat - and a lovely spot for a nighttime walk by the Thames. There are dozens of food stalls representing many different world cuisines, most of them pretty upmarket, so you can choose from pastries to burritos to dolmades. There's also plenty of local brew to try to, be it beer, wine, cider, or apple juice. I recommend the paella stall, if they're there.
Start with a 25-minute ride on the London Eye ($30).
Take Queen's Bank Promenade to the South Bank Centre to check-out murals by Phlegm. Watch the skateboarders awhile.
Continue along the Thames, and if you're lucky you'll encounter Flame Proof Moth singing from the shores.
Next stop: The Tate Modern. Don't miss Dali's Autumnal Cannibalism, my favorite piece.
London trip report: http://bit.ly/1gZcVuX