Stretching alongside the River Thames, London’s South Bank is known for its vibrant bar scene and landmarks such as the London Eye. Here are the best bars on the South Bank, from outdoor pop ups to panoramic roof terraces and swish cocktail lounges.
Best Bars on South Bank London
The South Bank covers the riverside area between Blackfriars Bridge and Westminster Bridge, as well as some parallel streets behind. If you head further along the river towards the Millennium Bridge, that area is known as Bankside.
In this South Bank bars guide, we’re focusing solely on the South Bank area itself. Many of these bars can be found on The Queen’s Walk, a pedestrianized riverside pathway.
1. Applebee’s Fish
Following on from their successful Borough Market restaurant, Applebee’s have opened a pop-up site on The Queen’s Walk, Southbank. Since 1998, the Applebee family have been bringing fresh fish to London via their fishmongers and cafe.
Their fish comes from sea to plate in less than 48 hours. The new South Bank tropical pagoda is a lovely place in which to enjoy fresh fish or simply an Aperol spritz.
Applebee’s Fish, The Queen’s Walk, Bishop’s, London SE1 8XX, United Kingdom
2. Beer Hawk
This low key Southbank bar specializes in craft beers and real ale. Tucked away on a quiet street, this bar and bottle shop has over 120 beers including 12 beers on tap.
Some of the beers are brewed in London, such as Eire of the Dog from Goose Island Shoreditch and Boulder from the London Beer Factory. The interior decor is modern and there’s also outdoor seating.
Beer Hawk Southbank is currently open from Thursday to Sunday only.
Beer Hawk, Unit 6, The Gallery Tower Estate, Stamford St, London SE1 9LS, United Kingdom
3. BBQ Club Bar – Jimmy’s Popup
From May to the end of September each year, you can find BBQ Club Bar on The Queen’s Walk. Located next to Waterloo Bridge, opposite the Royal Festival Hall and BFI, this South Bank bar has stunning river views.
Lit up at night, the BBQ Bar is open 7 days a week from 12 pm to 10 pm. Booking is not required, unless you’d like to eat upstairs at the BBQ Club.
Chef Jimmy Garcia and team are known for their London pop ups. They serve unfussy yet delicious food which you cook yourself with guidance from their chefs on their tabletop Big Green Egg BBQs.
BBQ Club Bar, The Queen’s Walk, Bishop’s, London SE1 8XX, United Kingdom
4. Beany Green
A popular spot for daytime coffee or evening cocktails, Beany Green is a vibrant Southbank bar terrace. Part of the Daisy Green restaurant group, this is one of the most colourful local bars.
You’ll find it next to the Hungerford Bridge, next to the Royal Festival Hall. It’s housed inside a converted shipping container decorated with Peter Blake artworks.
However, there’s no inside seating so best visited when it’s warm and dry! Try the Beany Blend Aussie coffee and homemade banana bread or seasonal cocktails.
Beany Green, Belvedere Rd, Bishop’s, London SE1 8XX, United Kingdom
5. BFI Bar & Kitchen + Riverfront
The British Film Festival, or BFI for short, boasts two Southbank bars. BFI Riverfront is directly on the river Thames, while BFI Bar & Kitchen is located on Theatre Avenue.
For views of the River Thames and the vintage book stall, BFI Riverfront is great. Open from 11.30 am daily, this bar has a large ground floor outdoor terrace and upstairs Balcony Bar.
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They serve stonebaked pizzas, homemade pasta and gelato. To drink, try a Spiced Margarita or Limoncello Spritz.
BFI Bar & Kitchen has a pre-movie menu that is popular with film-goers. They also have a nice selection of film themed cocktails.
BFI Bar & Kitchen, Theatre Avenue, South Bank, London SE1 8XT, United Kingdom
BFI Riverfront, BFI Southbank, The Queen’s Walk, Bishop’s, London SE1 8XT, United Kingdom
6. Gillray’s Steakhouse & Bar
One of the most luxurious Southbank bars is Gillray’s. Located within the 5 star London Marriott Hotel County Hall, Gillray’s Bar can also be accessed directly from the riverside walk.
The bar design is inspired by James Gillray, an 18th century political satirist. There are crystal chandeliers, comfortable seats in shades of teal and ochre and wood panelled walls.
Head barman Rui has created some delicious London themed cocktails including The Jubilee, Tea Tax Tempest and White Lion. Gillray’s is one of the best London gin bars, with over 100 different gins. There are also wines, snacks, local beers and spirits on offer.
Gillray’s Steakhouse & Bar, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Rd, London SE1 7PB, United Kingdom
7. Limin’ Beach Club
Have a drink with your feet in the sand at this hidden gem on Gabriel’s Wharf. Limin’ is a Trinidadian expression which means hanging out with friends.
This chilled beach bar will have you feeling like you’re in the Caribbean rather than London. They serve specialties from Trinidad and Tobago, among the most diverse Caribbean cuisines.
Enjoy fried bake and sea bass or aloo pies, washed down with a rum punch. Limin’s Executive Liquid Chef, Paolo Molinaro and team rustle up some delicious concoctions.
Limin’ Beach Club, Gabrie’s Wharf, GV5Q+6W, Bishop’s, London SE1 9PP, United Kingdom
The brainchild of London mixologist Ryan Chetiyawardana, aka Mr Lyan, Lyaness is a stunning cocktail bar overlooking the River Thames. Located within Sea Containers London, Lyaness is one of the World’s 50 Best Bars.
The elegant space was designed by Jacu Strauss and the Lore Design Team. Comfy blue banquettes are complemented by a green marble bar and octagonal mirrors.
The menu is arranged around ingredients, giving guests the freedom to find their perfect cocktail. If you prefer to opt for their signature cocktails, we recommend the Grasshopper, an unusual combination of Onyx, mint butter, Lyaness whey liqueur, Lyan cream gin and Land cacao husk. It has a surprising yet delicious taste of chocolate.
Several of the ingredients used at Lyaness are made in house. Infinite Banana is a flavoursome cordial used in 3 cocktails including Banana Fitzgeral, with Roku gin, lemon, ripasso blueberry and coffee chaff.
There are some tasty bar bites including salt beef croquettes with honey mustard dressing, tacos with sea bass, bream and coriander salsa and blistered Padron peppers. A spicy chorizo flatbread with olives, mozzarella cheese and wild rocket is another good choice.
Lyaness, Sea Containers London, 20 Upper Ground, South Bank, London SE1 9PD, United Kingdom
9. OXO Tower
On the 8th floor of the iconic OXO Tower, this 200 foot garden terrace bar has unparalleled views of St Paul’s Cathedral and the river Thames. It’s one of the best London al fresco restaurants. There’s also a spacious indoor area with floor to ceiling windows.
OXO Tower Bar is open from 12 noon daily apart from Wednesdays when it opens at 3 pm. It’s not necessary to book although it’s wise to call in advance to check how busy the bar is.
OXO Tower Bar, Barge House St, South Bank, London SE1 9PH, United Kingdom
Taking its name from a futuristic statue built for the Festival of Britain in 1951, Skylon is a contemporary restaurant and bar with 1950s design elements.
Situated on the third floor of the Royal Festival Hall, Skylon has a stylish River View bar and a large outdoor terrace. Known for its Skylon Martini, it also serves some succulent bar bites.
Skylon, Belvedere Rd, Royal Festival Hall, London SE1 8XX, United Kingdom
11. The Green Room
This modern British restaurant and bar is tucked away from the crowds on Upper Ground, behind the National Theatre. There’s a spacious Green Garden bar adorned with fairy lights and homegrown herbs.
This dog friendly terrace seats up to 100 guests. Enjoy a Southside Fizz with Villa Ascenti Gin, Prosecco, lemon juice, sugar and mint or a Neighbourhood Sec with Pampero rum, Triple Sec, lime and pineapple juice and blackcurrant cordial.
Designed by Benjamin Barfield Marks, the garden pavilion won the temporary category of the New London Architecture Awards. With floor to ceiling windows, it’s decorated with theatrical props inside.
The Green Room, 101 Upper Ground, Bishop’s, London SE1 9PP, United Kingdom
StreetEat South Bank
Along Queen’s Walk, there’s also a pop up bar and food trucks with limited seating – StreetEat on the South Bank. From mid July to mid October, this Underbelly pop-up event features street food by Coco Labelle, Hola Guacamole, Katsutopia, Kurbside Kitchen, Lukumade Doughnut Tales, Simply Falafel, Smoketeers and The London Grilled Fish Company.
The following popular South Bank bars are currently closed. If you are the manager or owner of one of these bars, let us know when you reopen:
- Primo Bar – cocktail bar with live music and great river views, located within the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge London.
- Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden – reopening in Summer 2021.
- Spiritland – all day eatery within the Royal Festival Hall.
- Topolski – the former studio of Polish painter Feliks Topolski, decorated with his artworks in a railway arch.
- Understudy – located within the National Theatre, Understudy has a large riverside terrace.
- 12th Knot – on the 12th floor of Sea Containers, with panoramic views of the River Thames.
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