Southwark is one of the oldest parts of London. Situated on the south side of the River Thames from the City of London, it began as much of the city did as a Roman settlement. Sitting just outside of the City of London gave it something of a lively reputation for centuries since it wasn’t bound to the city’s regulations, but urbanization in the 19th Century eventually saw the area absorbed into Greater London. Today, Southwark is a busy part of South London and has many interesting places to visit. We’ve come up with a top ten list of our favorites, but you can let us know your own in the comments.
The Golden Hinde
Not the only ship museum docked in London, the Golden Hinde certainly has its own pedigree, having been a privateering ship captained by none other than Sir Francis Drake. To be fair, though, the one you’ll find docked at the St. Mary Overie Dock is a replica of Drake’s ship, since the original eventually rotted away in the 17th Century. This one was made using the same methods and materials as the original and has circumnavigated the globe.
The Young Vic
An offshoot of its parent theatre (more on that later), The Young Vic was built to showcase plays and talent “now and in the future.” As such, its repertoire and company tend to focus more on newer plays and upcoming actors. The building in the Cut was constructed in 1970 and only meant to last five years, but has since become permanent. It’s one of the city’s best theatres in the round, meaning audiences get a 360-degree view of the stage and the players.
This Town-class cruiser is part of the Imperial War Museum and acts much like the Golden Hinde as a piece of living history. Unlike the Hinde, however, the Belfast is the real deal, having been in service from 1939 to 1963. The inside of the ship has been carefully preserved to resemble its various eras from World War II to its decommissioning. It even has a nice bar you can visit and enjoy the view of the river while sipping on a pint.
The Old Vic
One of the grandest theatres in London, the Old Vic tends to host more traditional plays, though this doesn’t limit its repertoire. The theatre will host shows of everything from A Christmas Carol to The Lorax and has been in the entertainment business since 1818 when it was known as the Royal Coburg Theatre. The theater also sponsors a younger company of actors that have provided Britain with several of its famous names.
Fashion and Textile Museum
Home to the history of what we wear, the Fashion and Textile Museum was founded in 2003 and dedicated to revolutionary fashion, textiles, and jewelry design. Operated presently by Newham College, it offers fashion related courses for students and businesses alike. The café and gift shop are free to enter, but you’ll have to pay to get inside for the exhibits. These exhibits focus on anything from designers to single articles of clothing and worth a visit for anyone with an interest fashion.
Yes, there’s another theatre on this list, but you might note there’s a very obviously good reason for it. The south bank of the Thames got a reputation for being a theatre district (among other things) during the Elizabethan period thanks to City of London regulations that banned them within the City’s limits. Thus, when Shakespeare and the Lord Chamberlain’s Men needed their own theatre in which to operate, the original Globe was constructed in 1599. The one closed in 1642, and the current replica was built not far away in 1997. More than just a museum to the Bard, his players, and his works, Shakespeare’s Globe is a working theatre that put on Shakespeare’s plays as well as other productions from his and later eras.
Part of the Tate Group and constructed out of an old power plant, the Tate Modern is Britain’s national museum dedicated to modern art. Guided tours are available along with a fascinating amount of workshops and exhibits. The tours don’t just take you around the museum, but you can select tours that focus on specific artists and movements. If you got lucky, you might even be able to hear about the pieces from the artists who created them on tours or at talks that the Tate Modern hosts.
Borough Market is one of the largest and oldest in the city, having been in the business of wholesale and food sales since at least 1276. Today it has over 100 stalls selling fresh produce, meat, cheeses, and more. Whether you want something homegrown or imported delicacies, there’s a lot to choose from. If all the shopping makes you hungry, there are also a lot of street food stalls that will fulfill your appetite. The market is open every day except Sunday, though the full market is only open from Wednesday to Saturday.
Southwark Cathedral is the mother church of the Anglican diocese of Southwark and was constructed beginning in 1106, and has had portions of it rebuilt up to 1897. Its lovely Gothic architecture was the first of its kind in London when the church was first rebuilt in the 13th Century. Aside from being an active place of worship, the cathedral also hosts concerts and art exhibitions throughout the year. Make sure to observe the cathedral’s calendar, however, as services will limit the ability to tour the church.
London’s tallest skyscraper, the Shard is a mixed-use tower that houses restaurants, bars, shops, and a five-star hotel. The part that most people will want to see is The View from the Shard, which operates on floors 68, 69, and 72. View also operates a number of events throughout the year, including film screenings that have a special ticket price. Most of the restaurants can be found on floors 31-33, and the highest bar in Europe, Gong, is on floor 52. Whatever you’re looking for, you can find it here, though the view is definitely a must-visit for anyone who wants to see all of London at once.