An afternoon outing to central London took us to the cultural South Bank for an afternoon of discovery among some of London’s iconic sites. From entrancing sights of the capital city’s skyline to a glimpse of one of the most famous playwrights to ever live, here’s what we got up to on a trip to London’s South Bank.
A Day at the Globe
Rebuilt by the genius Sam Wanamaker in all of its former glory (thatched roof and timber walls included), Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre sits as an iconic landmark on the banks of the river Thames. Directly opposite the glistening spires of St. Paul’s Cathedral (another must-see in London), the Globe is reached by crossing the Millennium Bridge (as seen in Harry Potter) as it bridges the gap across the river.
One of my favourite ways to discover this Tudor-style structure is through the eyes of one of the knowledgable tour guides that spend their days within its walls. With discounts for students among others, the full adult price works out at around £17pp from the exhibition entrance and run year-round.
Enter through the exhibition door and you will be straight into Shakespeare’s world. Pass by the costumes and fight scenes to the door to your tour where you will be met by a guide rearing to go. Your view from the outside forms the first section with the gob-smacking tale of how the Globe was reconstructed over night and carried across the frozen river Thames (seriously!) to be rebuilt on the other side of the river.
Stepping inside of the theatre for the first time is a breath-taking experience, Stepping into the open space, I couldn’t help but draw in a breath, surrounded by the incredible building that has been created here. You’ll really feel like you have taken a step back in time to become a Groundling or a ‘penny-stinker’ with the incredible attention to detail, recreating every method the original Globe would have used (sans hazelnut-shell floors).
Rest your elbows up on the stage and you will appreciate just how close the audience gets here with a sneaky look at the top and bottom trap doors built for angels or devils to appear. Take a minute to appreciate the beautiful smells of urine, animal fat and beer that would have been floating around this part of the audience back in Shakespeare’s day and you’ll really appreciate today’s clean-and-tidy ethos.
Heading off after our tour of the Globe, we found another London attraction just along the riverside. Art and culture lover’s will find a wealth of attractions within the concrete walls of the Tate with something to astound around every corner.
Looking like it would be at home in George Orwell’s 1984, the main tower of the museum and art gallery dominates the bank-side’s skyline. Step inside and the modernist architecture has vast spaces and towering ceilings with mammoth spaces dedicated to art and its exploration. Those looking for a take-home of what is on offer inside will find huge shops filled with every art book and memento you could imaging whilst cafés and bars let you sit and contemplate as the world goes by outside.
Whilst the Tate does house a selection of paid exhibits as well as members-only areas, there are an absolute ton of free exhibits to explore showcasing everything from war-focussed displays to flashing neon lights that encompass the room with words across their surface.
A View Worth Climbing For
Climb the stairs (or lift) to the very top of the building to find a viewing platform giving you a bird’s eye view of the lovely London skyline, as well as a side view of the iconic Tate tower itself. From here you can look out over the river, the Millennium Bridge and the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral itself as you take on the full 360 views of the platform surrounding the building. Just be wary if you do take the stairs, it is a long way up!
‘Hear’ a Show
Shakespeare’s plays were made to be performed, not read and many theatre companies have brought his work to life in spectacular fashion. Being a life-long Shakespeare fan, I couldn’t believe my luck when we toddled off to see one of his plays in action!
Having opted for a sit-down seat (lazy legs) we hired our cushion in the courtyard outside, grabbed a drink and headed in to our wooden pews to take in the pre-show atmosphere. Back in old Shakespeare’s day, people went to ‘hear’ a play rather than see it, explaining why the posher guests took boxes on either side of the stage rather than directly in front. Being in such a prominent place they could make a show of how wealthy they were to the scruffs below.
The way the stage and walls are created means that microphones are not needed even today wit the sound carrying throughout. So, in Shakespearean fashion, we sat down to ‘hear’ a play, and what a spectacular play it was too!
Every visit to the Globe and London’s south bank comes complete with a whirlwind of brand new experiences and discoveries. If you’re visiting London, why not take a look at my top things to do in England’s capital city here or have a read of some of my other London-based blogs here. As always, click the button below to return to the home page for the very latest of my adventures and be sure to pop back soon!
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