Discover - South Bank
As the name suggests, South Bank’s riverside location makes it a pretty spot to explore any time of the year. But when fairylights twinkle in the trees that line it, it can only mean one thing: Wintertime is back (from 10 Nov). Shop for Christmas presents at its market, sample bratwurst, raclette and vegan dishes, and sip mulled cocktails from Wintertime bar. When a hot drink isn’t enough to warm you up, head indoors to the area’s attractions.
Coca-Cola London Eye
When this Ferris wheel opened in 2000, it was the world’s tallest, and at 135m, it’s still Europe’s largest. If you’re short on time and want to see everything, a ride in one of its 32 capsules takes 30 minutes and gives you 360° views of the River Thames, Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and St Paul’s Cathedral.
This centre is made up of a number of cultural venues and theatres including Queen Elizabeth Hall and The Hayward Gallery, which will reopen next year (from 25 Jan). It is also the site of the Royal Festival Hall – a permanent legacy of the Festival of Britain, a nationwide celebration in 1951 intended to boost post-war morale. Don’t miss Harlem Gospel Choir, a New York-based choir known for blending contemporary gospel with jazz and blues (17 Nov), which are performing as part of EFG London Jazz Festival. Outside, there is a daily secondhand book market under Waterloo Bridge, while SC Food Market sells food, drink and produce in Southbank Centre Square (Fri-Sun).
Founded in 1933, BFI Southbank is home to the national film archive – so if you can’t find a flick on Netflix, you’ll find it here. As well as screenings and regular festivals, it has live acoustic music and DJs at The Riverfront (Fri-Sat). The nearby BFI IMAX screen films in 3D on Britain’s biggest cinema screen, in a 500-seat auditorium.
Gabriel’s Wharf on Upper Ground Street brightens up South Bank with its colourful, independent shops, galleries and restaurants. If you’re feeling the chill, invest in a woolly hat at Nordic Nic Nac, which sells Scandinavian-inspired handmade knitted hats and scarves. You can also pop into Southbank Printmakers for limited edition artwork. Run as a co-operative, it is staffed by the artists who create the work on display, so there’s always an expert on hand to answer your questions. Beauty and the Bib meanwhile, sells cute bibs, babygrows, hats and onesies.
Oxo Tower Wharf
The boutiques in Oxo Tower Wharf sell things you won’t find on the high street. Snowden Flood sells souvenirs designed, made or sourced from the UK. Pick of the best is a teapot featuring the River Thames; London’s Hidden Walks and rhubarb and cardamom jam by London Borough of Jam. Bramwell Brown designs and sells clocks which forecast the weather by detecting changes in air pressure – handy in the British winter… Can’t decide what to buy? Then a Mr Jones Watches Decider watch will decide for you – as the seconds pass, the clock face changes from yes to no. While you’re in the wharf, visit Dazzle@oxo (from 12 Nov) – an annual showcase of established and new jewellery designers in gallery@oxo; Freedom from Torture: Drawing a line under torture (8-12 Nov), an auction of contemporary art by emerging and well-known artists such as Quentin Blake at Bargehouse, and National Open Art (17-26 Nov), an exhibition of British and Irish contemporary art from 2017, also at Bargehouse.