My undiscovered gem: London Southbank

A friend of mine from California recently came to visit me; it was her first time in the UK and I felt duty bound to show her some of the highlights of British culture over the few days she was here. Being a tourist, it was clear that she’d want to visit London and experience the atmosphere, and as much as I enjoy our capital city, I felt compelled to go beyond the typical trudging along Westminster bridge and hopping on and off tubes. I wanted to give her something new and something that really captured the diversity and vibrancy of the big smoke.

I discovered Southbank.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve definitely walked down that side of the Thames before. I’ve been on the London Eye and I’ve seen the traditional sights. This, however, was me experiencing my capital city with fresh eyes and a new perspective; something I love to do. Carrying on further past the London Eye, we encountered buskers and street performers, with a much less invasive attitude compared to those you’d encounter on Trafalgar Square or any other tourist-ridden spot. It was almost relaxing.

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Despite the chilly winter weather it was a pleasant walk along the river bank. After walking a short distance we came across what I feel was the highlight of the day: the Southbank Christmas market. This was made up of multiple components. There were the traditional stalls that you’d expect to find at a Christmas market selling small, quirky (albeit slightly overpriced) gifts. Additionally, there was a fantastic outdoor food court, which had a dozen different cuisines on offer; something which a food lover like me found incredibly tempting. An Indian, vegetarian curry stand, Turkish falafel and super-gooey brownies are just some examples of what was on offer there.

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Adjacent to this, there was also an adorably-decorated, Swedish themed section of the market. There was a food van selling traditional Swedish snacks. I had to indulge in some rosemary salt fries (which were indeed as delicious as they sound). Another stand was selling Glögg/Mulled wine and other festive drinks and there was also a huge tent sponsored by Rekorderlig, selling fruit ciders. It was incredible.

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Following the Christmas Market we continued on across the bank; passing a roller disco tucked away in a tunnel decorated with the most colourful and intriguing street art and also a small skate park with yet more graffiti. It was, in my view, a real insight into British culture without having to fight through tourists or pay extortionate amounts of money.

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I would honestly recommend a visit to Southbank if anyone is in the London area and looking for something festive to do before Christmas. In my opinion, it’s probably a more chilled-out alternative to Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland.

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