On the south bank of the Thames, not far fromWaterloo, the Southbank Centre is a thriving hub of arts and culture. Housing the Royal Festival Hall, Hayward Gallery and Saison Poetry Library, the Southbank Centre always has a very varied programme of events to suit every taste. In addition to the full programme of concerts and other events in its calendar, there’s always something going on at the Centre and it’s worth dropping by on a weekday or a weekend afternoon to see what you can catch.
The Hayward Gallery has a history of exhibiting some of the most progressive and inventive art anywhere inLondon. With a regular programme of ticketed exhibitions, the gallery has a history of fine art displays to rival any other gallery inLondon.
In addition to the ticketed events, the Gallery hosts regular free exhibitions, talks and visual arts events hosted in its space. One of the highlights in the current programme is “In Water, I’m Weightless”, a National Theatre Wales contemporary dance piece commissioned as part of the cultural Olympiad.
The shops around the Centre also have some very accessible art that you can take home with you. The Southbank Centre Shop offers space to designers and artists to offer their works for sale at very affordable prices. The shop also has books on art and design that will stir the creative imagination and fill you with ideas.
The Royal Festival Hall is one of the largest and grandest concert halls inLondon. With a regular programme of classical music, opera and other musical events, there’s always something on the programme that will keep you interested.
Inside the building, there’s far more than just the main hall to keep you entertained. In the main lobby there’s currently an interactive exhibit of books, where you can wander around a maze that’s a bibliophile’s dream. Pick up one of the books, browse through it, then set it back down somewhere else and add your own contribution to a constantly evolving installation.
At the front of the Southbank Centre, there are often street performers and buskers vying for the attentions of passers-by. There’s almost always something going on there, and its well worth taking time to pause and see what might crop up if the weather’s nice.
One thing the Southbank Centre isn’t short of is places to eat. With a whole host of restaurants and cafes in the area around the Royal Festival Hall, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
If you’re looking for a snack, consider picking up a sandwich from the Royal Festival Hall’s café at the front of the building. They do an excellent coffee and sandwiches with tempting fillings such as poached salmon and crème fraiche on locally baked bread. If the weather’s nice, the terrace outside the entrance has tables and chairs where you can sit and watch the world go by.
If you’re celebrating a special occasions, there’s really only one place to go and that’s Skylon. The Royal Festival Hall’s top-floor restaurant boasts a gourmet tasting menu and unparalleled views across theThames. Visit after dark and you’ll be treated to a cityscape full of twinkling lights and the river’s bridges lit up in all their finery.
With the best in contemporary art, fine dining and music of all kinds, the Southbank Centre has so much to offer the visitor. Add to this the chance that you’ll catch an unscheduled impromptu talk or performance and it makes spending time on the South Bank unpredictable in all the best ways.