London Stories and Tips

A Walk Along the Southbank - Part 3

St Pauls Cathedral from the Southbank Photo, London, England

As you walk further along the Southbank, the sights and things to see get no less interesting. Quite the opposite - there is literally some iconic thing to see absolutely every step of the way.

The Tate Modern is very impressive. It was originally built to be a power station and is made entirely of bricks - 4 million of them in total. It has a huge chimney that goes up 100 metres into the sky. It was converted to a modern art gallery in the late 1990's - there is a model of the inside of the human body and all its organs by the entrance, which is a little unusual.

Right beside the Tate Modern is the Millennium Bridge. It features on a lot of television programmes in the UK and was a bridge we really wanted to see and walk across. It was built, as its name suggests, for the new millennium and was the first completely new pedestrian bridge for a century. When the bridge was being designed, it had to be low enough so as not to hide the view of St Paul's Cathedral, but on the other hand, to be high enough for ships to pass underneath. The supports are not like those of a traditional bridge - they do not rise into the air, but are on the side of the bridge. When it opened, it began to move as people walked on it (its nickname was the Wobbly Bridge). Embarrassingly, they had to close it again to sort this problem out. They added special shock absorbers - this cured the wobble, and now having walked across it myself, I can confirm there is no wobble anymore.

The view from the Southbank of St Paul's Cathedral is wonderful. It was built by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of London burnt down most of the city in 1666. It dominates the skyline in this area - the dome is stunning, and bigger than the chimney of the Tate Modern.

The Globe Theatre is another lovely sight in this area. It is a working reconstruction of the original theatre used by Shakespeare 400 years ago. It was built using Tudor craftsmen techniques and has a thatched room - the first (and only one) of these in London since the Great Fire. Here, they have open-air performances of the works of Shakespeare throughout the summer months.

London Bridge is not so lovely now, but historically it is very interesting. A thousand years ago, King Olaf and the Vikings attacked London. They fought on London Bridge and the Vikings destroyed the bridge and drowned the defenders. London Bridge is the oldest and most important bridge in the history of the Thames. It has though, been rebuilt many times. In 1968, one version of the bridge was bought by an American developer and shipped stone by stone to America. The bridge now, is a bit bland and nondescript, but it is good to stand by it and remember its wonderful history.

Eventually you come to HMS Belfast - another of the great sights on the river. It was built for World War 2 and also saw service in the Korean War. In 1971, after she had travelled half a million miles, the warship was retired and moved here to the Thames to become a floating naval museum and visitor attraction.

After admiring HMS Belfast we carried on to perhaps London's most well known and iconic bridge - Tower Bridge. It is a wonderful sight on the skyline of the city, and at this point we turned and walked all the way back along the Southbank.

On our return, we looked at a lot of the landmarks north of the river we had missed on our walk down - in particular the strangely shaped Gherkin building and the Monument - which remembers the Great Fire of London.

We paused halfway at beautiful Southwark Cathedral and sat on the wall there and admired the architecture. Just behind it on the skyline is the Shard - a new building and the tallest building in London. It makes quite a contrast to Southwark.

From here, we walked all the way back to the London Eye. This is a delightful walk. The walkways by the side of the river are busy, but not crowded, there is something to see every step of the way, lots of bars and restaurants and cafes to stop for a drink or snack and endless photo opportunities.

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