London’s South Bank draws in record numbers of tourists every year due to its spectacular views of the city along the Thames and its many tourist attractions, like the London Eye, the London Dungeon, and the Sea Life Aquarium. But the part of the South Bank that appeals to me the most is its more colorful side.
The Southbank Undercroft is undoubtedly one of the most vividly colorful spots in the area. Skateboarders and artists have used this unique space under the Queen Elizabeth Hall since the 70’s, but it is now in danger of being replaced by retail units as part of Southbank Centre’s expansion plans. Many locals oppose this new plan and have created a campaign called Long Live Southbank to petition for the preservation of the Undercroft as a cultural landmark. I, for one, hope they win – the last thing London needs is more shops and cafes.
Southbank Centre Book Market
My second favorite spot around South Bank is the Southbank Centre Book Market, tucked away beneath the Waterloo Bridge. This large book market is open every day, rain or shine, and there are many treasures to be found. Their wide assortment of secondhand books, from bestsellers to the more obscure, means that there is something here for everyone, assuming you like to read. (Because who doesn’t?) The books are generally fairly priced, particularly in their expansive children’s section.
South Bank Carnival Rides
Speaking of kids – bring them along to South Bank, too! A small section along the river features a couple of children’s rides and food trucks selling fair-style cuisine, like hot dogs and cotton candy (called candy floss here). There is also a very popular Mexican food truck in this section. You know I never pass up good Mexican food…
South Bank Classic Car Boot Sale
Every time we pay this part of town a visit, it seems like there is some sort of special event going on. This last time we got a little blast from the past when we ran into a British version of a yard sale with a vintage twist. The South Bank Classic Car Boot Sale is an opportunity for classic car owners in the area to showcase their vehicular beauties while also making a little money selling antique goods out of their boots. (In Britain, a car’s boot is its trunk.) Many people attending were also dressed up in vintage clothing, making the event feel even more colorfully retro. (I’ve got plenty of good Halloween costume ideas now!)
South Bank Buskers
It’s not just things and places that make South Bank so colorful, though – it’s also the people. There are some pretty interesting characters hanging around this part of town. Besides the “painted people”, we also caught sight of Charlie Chaplin and Mr. Bean performing along the riverside Queen’s Walk. Busking is quite a popular profession in London and you’re unlikely to go anywhere found in travel brochures and handbooks without seeing at least a few of them.
With so many major tourist attractions to visit in the same area, it’s easy to overlook the lesser known parts of the South Bank, like the Undercroft and the book market, but you’d be missing out. It’s hidden gems like these that really round out London’s fascinating personality!
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