Whether you see a play at the National Theatre or just take advantage of the comfortable foyer as a meeting place, there's so much to do nearby that you can include it in a full day out on London's South Bank. The National anchors a nearly two mile stretch south of the Thames between Westminster Bridge and London Bridge, that takes in some of the London's best cultural landmarks and visitor attractions.
Heading west from Westminster Bridge, here's what you can see:
- The London Eye - The big wheel is a millennium attraction loved by Londoner's and visitors alike.
- The Sea Life London Aquarium - Relaunched in 2009, About.com London Guide Laura Porter reports that it is much improved and fun for families.
- The London Eye Millennium Pier - A wide range of River excursions and commuter boat services stop at this pier. The Transport for London website has schedules for the fast Thames Clipper services which now accept Oyster Card payments.
- The Southbank Centre - a multi-arts center with several concert halls - Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Purcell Rooms, and a contemporary art gallery and exhibition space - The Hayward Gallery.
- The BFI Southbank - formerly the National Film Theatre, this is a multi-media center with several movie theaters and the national film and television archives. A very good second-hand book market spreads out alongside the BFI under Waterloo Bridge.
The National Theatre is next, a good place to stop for a break before continuing on to:
- Gabriel's Wharf and The Oxo Tower Wharf - 50 independent shops and cafes, open studios and exhibitions in a casual setting. Though the collection of youthful clothing, jewelry and miscellaneous shops and artists studios has been around a long time, it still has a temporary "market" ambiance.
- The Tate Modern The national collection of international modern and contemporary art is free and fun to visit. The views of St. Paul's Cathedral , across the river, and London's Millennium Bridge are spectacular.
- Shakespeare's Globe Theatre - American Actor Sam Wanamaker devoted his last years to creating this faithful reproduction of the Bard's theatre, close to the location of the original Globe in Southwark. See a production in season; take a tour or visit the exhibition year round.
- The Anchor - A pub dating from 1775 that's photogenic but sadly overrun by tourists.
- The Golden Hinde A full-size replica of the Tudor warship in which Sir Francis Drake circumnavigated the globe between 1577 and 1580, berthed at St Mary Overie Dock, Southwark
- The Clink Prison Museum - On Clink Street (really) an old debtor's prison as well as a rather adult museum of Tudor "red light district" activities in the area.
- Southwark Cathedral - London's oldest gothic cathedral dates from 1220. It contains memorials for Shakespeare and for Sam Wanamaker, who rebuilt Shakespeare's theatre in the 20th century.