Londonist is proud media partner to South Bank London, helping you make the most of a South Bank Winter.
Valentine’s Day is nearly upon us. Whether it’s a date marked with a heart, or furiously scribbled out with marker pen in your diary, South Bank London has options on how to spend the day for both the romantics and sceptics among you.
For those looking to spend Valentine’s Day gazing into the eyes of a loved one over a candlelit table, there are several special menus on offer from South Bank restaurants. OXO Tower Restaurant is an obvious choice for dining with an elevated view, but Skylon and Gillray’s restaurants, also offering special Valentine’s menus, have lovely vistas across the Thames.
If you want romance on a budget then Brasserie Joel in Park Plaza Westminster Bridge is slightly kinder on the wallet and a drink in Primo Bar offers a great view of the Houses of Parliament after dark. If you want romance without the romance then Chino Latino is running an anti-Valentines menu with no oysters, chocolate-covered strawberries or spaghetti strings in sight.
If you're not bothered about food or having your feet on the ground, then you might be interested in spending 14 February either up in the sky or down on the water. A variety of London Eye Valentine’s packages mean you can enhance your capsule experience with champagne, roses, chocolates and canapés, or take to the river in a Valentine’s Cruise featuring live entertainment and food/drink goodies.
Ok cynics, it’s safe to look back at the screen. A special dinner with your significant other is no bad way to spend an evening, but it is by no means the only way to enjoy your Valentine’s Day. You could also grab your partner, friend, family member or go solo and enjoy some of the arty offerings on South Bank. Did we mention they’re free, too?
Hugh Turvey, the current artist in residence at the British Institute of Radiology, uses a wide variety of subjects (including surfboards and an elephant’s skull) to bridge the gap between science and art, and you can see his work at gallery@oxo 12-23 Feb. Or peruse the history of the wonderful National Theatre from the early 1900s to today through rarely-seen cartoons and caricatures, satirical swipes and records from the National’s own archive (until 28 Feb).
For something with a more romantic edge, hang on until 17 February for the opening of the Photo Noir exhibition featuring Carnel Lucas — the only stills photographer to be awarded a BAFTA for his service to the British Film Industry (17 Feb-29 March).
BFI Southbank is a natural destination for your cinema needs this Valentine’s Day. Alongside its regular programme of events — Buster Keaton, Derek Jarman, Al Pacino and Feng Xiaogang all have special seasons throughout February — there is a selection of Valentine’s Day screenings, celebrating filmic interpretations of love. We especially like the look of vampiric decadence in Only Lovers Left Alive (starring Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston) and the 50's classic Funny Face (featuring Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn).
If those don’t do it for you, then try exploring the BFI Mediatheque, which enables you to dive into the BFI’s archive and watch a film for free. If you want to spend your Valentine’s Day with documentaries, silent films, ghost stories or even a survey of sex education through the ages (romantic), then this is the place to do it.
Southbank Centre is the location for a Valentine’s Day Classics concert courtesy of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Featuring Rachmaninov’s rich, romantic style in his Second Piano Concert, the Prelude & Liebestod from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, and of course Tchaikovsky's Romeo & Juliet overture, it looks set to be a beautiful evening; however, at time of writing there are only a few tickets remaining so you'll need to be quick.
Out and About
Of course, it's entirely possible to spend a whole day on South Bank enjoying its spectacular views, street-food vendors, riverside cafes, street art and free institutions.
If you like the sound of a carefree day of random wanderings then take a look at South Bank London’s website for the full variety on offer. For a spectacular panorama, we suggest the view from Waterloo Bridge. From about three quarters of the way across the bridge (if you're walking from the south to north side) you can see the whole curve of South Bank, the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, St Paul’s Cathedral and the City. It’s pretty special.
Or, take a leisurely stroll down The Queen’s Walk, which harbours circular seating spots that are perfect for a quiet moment with a loved one. Dusk is our favourite time to visit, when the river seems so still, the fairy lights above you start twinkling and you can wrap up warm with a hot chocolate to watch London life pass you by.
Want more? Take a look at these other ways to spend a lovely winter’s day on South Bank London.
If you take a seasonal snap while out exploring South Bank then post it to the South Bank London Twitter using the hashtag #SouthBankWinter and London South Bank may add it to their winter photoblog, which already contains some beautiful pictures.