With all the incredible places to see, London is the kind of city you visit and never fully see it all – in fact, I think that task is almost impossible. This is why I think it’s easier to focus a visit on each of the areas of London; with South London being no exception. Honestly, there’s a ton of spots and heaps of the best things to do in South London that are dotted all across the river.
Now, you’ve probably realised that I’m totally biased? I just can’t help it, London is my favourite city and South London is a gem that I love so much.
So, to help you get the most out of your time south of the river, I wanted to share my very favourite spots you need to explore on the first trip to South London.
Some spots might seem obvious, whilst others a little more ‘off the beaten track’. Whatever the case, I’m sure you’ll find a fair few spots to explore whilst heading around South London.
Take a look, below, at the best things to do in South London.
1.) London Eye
You kinda can’t start off a list of best things to do in South London without mentioning the iconic London Eye – especially if you’ve never been to London before!
Now, the London Eye is probably one of the most recognizable landmarks in the South of London and well worth a 30-minute ride on the wheel for views all across London.
We’ve been on it a few times (over the years of living here) and it’s always so nice. Though, my favourite time to head up is at sunset and I’d recommend you getting tickets for this time of day if you want to see the orange hues all across the city.
Yes, it’s very popular with visitors but rightly so – the views are fantastic. Afterwards, take a stroll east (along the Thames) towards the Southbank area. Here, you can watch a performance, visit some of the foodie spots and make the most of the seasonal fairs and markets that line the area. It’s lovely.
If you’re lucky enough to visit on New Year’s Eve, you’ll be blown away by the immense fireworks display that we try and catch every year. With the London Eye being the centrepiece of the show, it’s best to book tickets (to view from the street) way in advance so you get a space on the cordoned-off streets themselves.
2.) Tower Bridge
Built back in the 1800s, Tower Bridge is one of the most quintessential sights to see in London.
Of course, you can take a wander over Tower Bridge, towards the Tower of London and see the views over the River Thames.
Not only that, nowadays you can now tour the inside of the towers themselves and discover the Tower’s fascinating history. Plus, you’ll get to stand on its glass floor and enjoy outstanding panoramic views of London from the very top walkway on Tower Bridge.
Feeling peckish? Head over to nearby Santo Remedio for the most delicious Mexican food in South London. We love this spot for their fresh fish and tacos. Plus, they have a pretty potent bottomless brunch, too!
3.) Crystal Palace
Quite far away from the riverfront, visiting Crystal Palace is one of the best things to do in South London that’s a little away from the busier touristy spots.
Now, one thing you can’t miss is the large dinosaurs that call Crystal Palace park home! First created as part of a Victorian-era theme park, the dinosaurs, which were restored in 2002, provide a peek into the 1850s’ understanding of palaeontology. Though, to be honest, they just look super cool and they’re probably Crystal Palace’s most famous residents.
Also, the best part, Crystal Palace Park is totally free to visit, making it a perfect way to spend a family-friendly day out.
4.) Cutty Sark
Built back in 1869, the Cutty Sark is a British tea clipper ship that’s steeped in history (see what I did there? Steeped!).
Now one of the last tea clippers to ever be built, it’s set pride of place right in the heart of Royal Greenwich. long ago, the Cutty Sark used to transport tea to England from Asia and was prized for its speedy service and luxury tea leaves that fetched quite a pretty penny!
Nowadays, the Cutty Sark is a gorgeous museum that’s well worth an hour (or so) visit.
Plus, you can easily partner this with a visit to all the great spots in Greenwich, like the; Painted Hall and the Royal Navy College.
5.) Maltby Street Market
A food lover’s paradise, be sure to check out the Maltby Street Market in the Bermondsey area of South London. Here, you’ll get to devour a shed load of tasty delicacies and treats from around the world.
Typically a weekend market, it has delicious street food being sold by loads of food and drinks stalls that line the route.
Open on Saturday and Sunday from 9 am-5 pm and 11 am-5 pm, it’s a place that’s visited by locals and visitors alike. To beat the majority of the crowds, arrive early and give yourself plenty of time to pursue and devour everything in sight!
Afterwards, for a night of immersive theatre and creative spaces, head to Waterloo and explore the Vaults. Here they host a range of theatre spots underground, right within the arches of the railway itself. It’s totally cool and you get to see some epic shows.
6.) Eltham Palace
Nestled in wider Greenwich, Eltham Palace is often forgotten in lieu of London’s more iconic palaces. That being said, it’s one of the best things to do in South London if you want to explore our city’s vast history.
Presented to King Edward II in 1305, and later serving as King Henry VIII’s childhood home, Eltham Palace was once a royal treasure that is nowadays open to the public.
Eltham Palace is one of London’s best-kept secrets and is typically less crowded than some of London’s other attractions due to being located a train-ride away from busier Zone 1 area of Central London.
That said, it is definitely worth a visit from the well-travelled part of town to experience the English Heritage Site that has so much going for it. Once here, make sure to explore Tudor Palace’s original moat (with the oldest working bridge in the city), the lush lavender gardens on the grounds and explore the Medieval Great Hall and Art Deco Rooms.
We loved it!
7.) Shakespeare’s Globe
Nestled on the banks of the River Thames, not too far from the original site of the theatre, Shakespeare’s Globe is great to visit for a tour or even watching a performance.
Originally built in 1599, the Globe theatre was destroyed in 1644, but visitors can still experience history as Shakespear’s Globe is an incredibly rebuilding of what the original Globe Theatre was like during the Elizabethan Era.
8.) Royal Observatory
Famous for having the prime meridian run through it, the Royal Observatory is located in Greenwich Park and overlooks the River Thames towards Canary Wharf.
Commissioned in 1675 by King Charles II, the Greenwich location of the Royal Observatory serves almost entirely as a museum.
Now, after the observatory’s scientific work moved to a different location. If you’re at all interested in the history of astronomy, exploration, or navigation, be sure to check it out.
Plus, afterwards, you can head for a stroll around Greenwich Park and stop for a bite to eat in Greenwich Market that’s been around for centuries. The local food vendors serve up some real treats.
9.) South London’s foodie spots
Gosh, there are so many to tell you about!
If it’s Piri-Piri chicken you’re after, head across to Casa do Frango in London Bridge. Their chicken is everything and they serve up some tasty Portuguese green wine, too.
Alternatively, head across to Kricket Brixton for their delicious Indian-inspired dishes that are so flavourful. Situated within the railway arches, it’s a spot that’s totally cool and so tasty.
Finally, for some of the best gelato in London, head over to Gelataria 3Bis that serves up a treat in a cone.
If it’s chocolate you’re after, visit Dark Sugars Cocoa House in Greenwich. Here, they’ll serve you up some incredible truffles and treats to try.
You see, in Peckham, there’s a heap of spots to eat, have a few tipples with friends and just chill out. A totally local haunt for Londoners, you’ll be in good company on the rooftop at the Bussey Rooftop Bar.
Also, don’t forget to check out Peckham Levels, with the art spaces and foodie vendors that focus on local enterprises.
Finally, if you want to try some traditional pie, liquor and mash, head over to M.Manze on Peckham High Street. These lots know their stuff when it comes to pies!
Exploring Richmond is easily one of the best things to do in South London if you want a slice of nature!
You see, Richmond has one of the few remaining deer parks in London, Richmond Park. For centuries, the deer have roamed freely and openly and you’ll easily spot them all across the park.
Afterwards, take a ramble towards, nearby, Kew Gardens and explore the stunning grounds and Palm House, too. They even have a treetop walk that’ll take you through the trees.
If you’ve got time, take a gander around Ham House and Garden that dates back to the 1600s. Here, you’ll be able to explore the rooms, see the world-class painting and stroll the historic gardens.
You probably know Wimbledon for its tennis competition, yeah?
Well, that’s incredible and totally fun to visit. We’ve been a few times and it’s always been so much fun – though, we always end up with a sore head the next morning (after all the bubbles and strawberries and cream).
If you’re not visiting around the time of Wimbledon, check out Wimbledon Common with the historic windmill that sits proudly in the greenery.
13.) Bermondsey Street
Around a 10-minute stroll from London Bridge Station, Bermondsey Street has a small-town feel even though it’s right within Central London.
After heading to some of the bars and restaurants along the way, make sure to visit the White Cube Gallery for their seasonal exhibitions and shows. It’s a forever changing space that we love.
Also, for some great coffee, head to WatchHouse Bermondsey that serves up some of the best brews south of the river.
Nestled within a historic Victorian watchhouse, it’s a cosy little spot to chill after a morning exploring South London.
Finally, head over to the Tate Modern (25-minute stroll) and see some of the world’s best modern art galleries! We love it.