Bankside is still the exciting and edgy part of town that it was in William Shakespeare’s day. This historic Southbank location is where the greatest English writer’s most famous plays were performed, in his own playhouse, right on the river. Visit London with us and discover this little gem of a neighbourhood where the long gone has returned, the old was made new and art and culture continue to flourish.
ENTERTAINMENT AND CULTURE GALORE!
Bankside was the entertainment district in Elizabethan times. It’s location just across the the river from The City of London meant that it was free of the City’s rules and restraints. Those in power were threatened by the open frivolity of the area, with it’s gaming dens and brothels and tried to close the playhouses down. Fire and plague were also very real threats. Artists, performers, entrepreneurs and the general public flocked here, however, eager for fun, entertainment or to make money! The artistic energy and cultural flair of Bankside and it’s surroundings is alive and well today in such places as The Southbank Centre, The Barbican and Tate Modern Art Gallery.
The Globe Theatre is a survivor! It was once taken apart and re-assembled across the river. It then burned down during a performance when a canon mis-fired and terrible plague closed it’s doors more than once. Fast forward a few hundred years, however, and this enchanting playhouse rose like a phoenix from the ashes, to delight us once again. These days it stands safe and sound almost exactly where it did in the Bard’s day, in all it’s thatched, oak-timbered glory. Shakespeare’s plays were written to be performed, not read – where better to see them than in the theatre that he knew and loved?
THE HISTORIC GEORGE INN
The wonderful George Inn in Southwark is a short walk away from The Globe and was the Bard’s local tavern, so they say. It is certainly the oldest pub in London and one of only two coaching inn’s that still exists in the capital. It’s lovely gallery is intact and players used to perform in inns such as this for their supper. Charles Dickens was known to be fond of the coffee served here and he mentions The George in his writings, as does the historic diarist Samuel Pepys. There are several delightful rooms to drink either coffee or alcohol in here and a restaurant upstairs.
JUST ACROSS THE RIVER
St Paul’s Cathedral stands directly across the river from Bankside and catching sight of it’s glorious dome sparkling in the near distance is breathtaking. Shakespeare probably also enjoyed looking at it as he was rowed across every day in a wherry (hired boat) to get to his playhouse for rehearsals, (crossing the London Bridge of his day took too long.) These days we have the lovely Millennium Bridge which links Bankside and The City and crossing it is one of the nicest walks you can take when you visit London. It offers up some of the best river views to be had and drops you off right before the steps of St Paul’s.
We highly recommend staying in one of short let apartments close to the river, when you visit London. See our guide to canal and riverwalks which is part of our free London attractions series. After all, some of the most enchanting and historically delightful parts of town are the one’s there where the Thames rolls quietly by, carrying the past with it.