When you know how it’s done, there are just so many ways to get the most out of London without paying for the privilege that it’s amazing anyone pays for anything much at all. Today we’d like to focus on Southbank, which is a brilliant venue that you can spend hours in and not spend a penny.
It might sound an odd thing to say but very often this low-budget approach to tourism proves itself superior. The reason for this is that when you go to London, or any large city for that matter, you’re entering into a hugely complex environment with all sorts going on. If you throw a load of money at it the likelihood is that you’ll move around in a kind of cocoon or a tourist bubble. You’ll speed around in a tour bus with a load of other tourists and you’ll do all the ordinary touristy stuff but you won’t be granted a real taste of London at all. The best thing by far is to actually absorb the culture and the atmosphere and Southbank is the perfect place to do this.
As you walk along by the river you’ll be met with all sorts of experiences that you’d never get on a tour bus. There are second hand book stalls to peruse- you’ll feel all cultured as you leaf through art books under Waterloo Bridge; and there are skaters and BMXers tearing around the place and performing tricks that are as good as any show you could pay for.
When you want to rest those weary feet the perfect experience awaits: sitting on a London bench by the Thames and watching the boats go by. As the water laps calmly at the bank, you’ll really start to feel relaxed and if the river and the people-watching becomes tiresome then you could always give yourself a little taste of luxury playing free online casino games on your phone or tablet. OK, OK… it’ll take a fair bit of imagination to picture yourself in a James Bond film stepping into a high-stakes London poker game in evening dress, but you get the idea!
Before long you’ll inevitably catch the scent of some of the amazing street food to be found around the back of the Southbank Centre. Amazing Lebanese falafel wraps vie with Thai green curry and beautiful Turkish delight for your attention, and all cost far less than a fancy restaurant meal or any of the riverside restaurants.
Then as you amble about enjoying the food, you can really take your time and appreciate all the Brutalist architecture. It’s quite something to behold even if it is a little extreme for your taste, with the dramatic concrete forms reminiscent of Sci-Fi films and the settings of many of those dystopian computer games from the ‘80s.
Finally you can pop into the Southbank Centre itself and enjoy the free attractions. Often there are performances, readings and exhibitions here, particularly if you time it right and go during school holidays, but even just being in the building is great as it’s a lovely space that can be very inspiring.