Hear ye, hear ye: London’s beloved South Bank has been named the third coolest street in the world right now. The full list, The 30 Coolest Streets in the World, was put together by Time Out with help from no less than 27,000 city folk from around the world. The idea was to celebrate great local businesses, communities and energy. The things that make you look at a street and think ‘yes, I would like to spend a lot of time here’.
Earlier in the year we asked Time Out readers about the coolest streets in their respective cities. Londoners suggested loads, including Peckham Rye, Old Compton Street, Kingsland Road, Northcote Road and (bafflingly) Oxford Street. It was however, the lovely old South Bank which came out on top.
A lot of places in London make the claim, but the South Bank is a genuine cultural hub. A two-mile procession of mainly state-funded arts and entertainment venues and events, it’s one of those rare places that’s as popular with Londoners as it is with tourists. An utterly perfect spot to experience being out and about in the capital again.
The area’s modern-day life began in 1951 with the Festival of Britain, which was staged to boost morale in the wake of WWII. Still testament to the project is The Royal Festival Hall, which has since expanded into the Southbank Centre and sits alongside BFI Southbank, the concrete ziggurat of the National Theatre, the London Eye, Tate Modern, the Millennium Bridge, Shakespeare’s Globe and more.
The street food scene has also come along leaps and bounds in recent years. Crepe a la Carte, Street Pig BBQ and Shrimpie are three local highlights. Oh, and we can’t well omit The Indians Next Door, can we?
There’s obviously a lot more than just food to South Bank. It has a genuine energy that has come back in spades post-lockdown. It’s used by all sorts of small businesses and artistic communities and has yet to lose its personality or appeal, despite being a well-known tourist destination. Cool is an impossible (and some might say self-defeating) thing to try and quantify, but the South Bank definitely has something. The shops are good, the skaters are good, the book market is good, the BFI’s afternoon screenings of Battleship Potemkin are especially good. It’s all very, very good.
I’d be personally delighted if more areas and streets in London could follow the South Bank’s example. It’s not an easy thing to balance necessary development with genuinely credible, cultural heft. The South Bank is held in high regard by so many of the city’s residents for a reason. Take that, Rue Tiquetonne in Paris.
Everything there is to do that’s good on the South Bank
Check out our full list of The Coolest Streets in the World