Southbank Centre

Abhijeet Modi
Feb 29, 2024 By Abhijeet Modi
Originally Published on Oct 07, 2021
The Southbank Centre lights reflecting off the River Thames.
Age: 0+
Read time: 4.6 Min

  • Visit the Southbank Centre to experience eye-opening, vibrant and bold new artworks, bringing people together to experience culture in a special way.
  • Home to four orchestras, the Hayward Gallery, the Purcell Room, two halls, the National Poetry Library, and so much more, there’s something for every family at this outstanding venue.
  • Don’t miss out on the fabulous Southbank Centre events held here throughout the year, including the Southbank Centre food market and Southbank Centre book market, as well as collaborations with the British Film Institute and a host of family events, such as Family Concert, the best symphony for children.

Set on the South Bank of the River Thames, Southbank Centre is acclaimed for diverse and ground-breaking programming, and the amazing teaching and learning team, making art accessible to all.  

The Southbank Centre was founded in 1951, born out of the Festival of Britain, and has since become not only a leading arts venue, but the largest arts centre in Britain. Their aim is to break down barriers for more people to engage in art and culture. The site has a rich architectural history; the centre is made up of multiple buildings and venues for a diverse viewing and experience of the culture London has to offer. The Royal Festival Hall was built according to scientific acoustic principles, and its epic 7,866-pipe organ was designed by Ralph Downes and built by Harrison & Harrison.

Southbank Christmas market huts lined up in front of the Royal Festival Hall.

Every time you visit, you will experience a new wonder, making it a place of intrigue, curiosity and creativity. The vibrant, fresh programme of dance, gigs, music, BFI cinema and performance pay tribute to the historic legacy of the brutalist buildings and the countless number of legendary artists who have graced the centre over the past fifty years.  

Each year the Southbank Centre hosts the Imagine Children’s Festival, which is the largest of its kind in the UK, for 12 days of literature, music, comedy, international performance, creativity, parties, participation and free fun for children aged 0 – 11 and their adults. You can drop by for free events and family-oriented workshops or pre-book your spot at paid theatre shows and exhibitions, sure to spice up the February half term. From eco-based games, to design challenges and wonderful performance, there’s something educational and creative for everyone.

The Southbank Centre has regular events for families, which allow you to enjoy and learn about art, music, books and more. They offer a selection of activities and performances from friends and partners to creatively learn about all things culture. There’s also the FUNharmonics family concert, where you are invited to hear the London Philharmonic Orchestra at star-studded, semi-staged complete performances for all to enjoy.  

The Southbank Centre food market runs every week (Friday to Sunday) to offer you food, drink and dessert that’s bursting with flavour from around the globe. Certain to satisfy all taste buds, young and old! Plus, tucked under Waterloo Bridge you'll find the daily book market, one of London’s best-kept secrets. This is the one of few outdoor secondhand and antique book markets in southern England. While you're exploring the South Bank, check out the London Eye and London Aquarium, too.

What to know before you go

  • Southbank Centre prides itself on being fully accessible to buggies and wheelchair users.
  • All Southbank Centre buildings have public toilets with wheelchair access and baby-changing facilities.
  • There is a multi-faith prayer room, which is located on Level 2, Green Side, Royal Festival Hall, offering a quiet space for prayer and meditation. The door code is available from the Welcome Desk on Level 2.
  • There is a Changing Places toilet, which is located on Level 1 (Royal Festival Hall), next to the JCB Glass Lift. This is for the use of disabled people who need personal assistance to use the toilet. Go to the Welcome Desk on Level 2 (Royal Festival Hall) for the key.
  • There is assistance available for blind and visually impaired visitors, which includes guiding and narration. Assistance dogs are welcome.
  • Babes in arms and children under 7 cannot attend classical concerts at the Southbank Centre, but there are lots of other family specific events and exhibitions where they are welcome.
  • The Hayward Café is a great place to grab a light snack and coffee on site, but there is also an array of fantastic places to eat on the South Bank if their menu doesn't take your fancy. Some family-friendly options include Giraffe, Strada, and Honest Burgers, plus there’s Wagamama’s, Snog Frozen Yoghurt and Pret A Manger.

Getting there

  • To get to the Southbank Centre by the Tube, you can find it a five-minute walk from Waterloo station (Northern, Bakerloo, Jubilee and Waterloo & City lines), or a seven-minute walk at Embankment (District & Circle lines).
  • To get to the Southbank Centre via bus, it is a two-minute walk from routes 1, 4, 26, 59, 68, 139, 168, 171, 172, 176, 188, 243 and 521, which all stop on Waterloo Bridge, or a five-minute walk from York Road, via routes 76, 77, 211, 341, 381 and 507.
  • The closest stations are Waterloo, Waterloo East, Charing Cross and Blackfriars.
  • For parking, there are car parks available nearby at the APCOA Cornwall Road Car Park (490 metres away).
  • There are four Blue Badge parking spaces located on the Queen Elizabeth Hall slip road off Belvedere Road. These spaces are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Southbank Centre visitors coming by car can use the discount code ‘SOUTHBANKCENTRE20’ for a 20% discount on YourParkingSpace.

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Written by Abhijeet Modi

Master of Computer Science

Abhijeet Modi picture

Abhijeet ModiMaster of Computer Science

An experienced and innovative entrepreneur and creative writer, Abhijeet holds a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Computer Application from Birla Institute of Technology, Jaipur. He co-founded an e-commerce website while developing his skills in content writing, making him an expert in creating blog posts, website content, product descriptions, landing pages, and editing articles. Passionate about pushing his limits, Abhijeet brings both technical expertise and creative flair to his work.

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