Things to do in Waterloo

Waterloo is a vibrant area in central London, set on the south bank of the river Thames. As well as containing some of London’s foremost attractions, Waterloo is also a cultural hub.

There are plenty of excellent restaurants, cafes, pubs and bars too, where you can relax and recharge your batteries.

The Southbank centre is always a buzz of activity. This is the UK’s largest arts centre where you can find the Royal Festival Hall, the Hayward Gallery, the Poetry rooms and so much more. Towering over the centre is one of the capital’s most recognisable landmarks, the London Eye.

Waterloo is packed with places to visit, from galleries to museums, from the traditional to the quirky. Just a stroll across Waterloo Bridge provides great views of London across the river and provides a hint of what you will discover on the south bank.

Waterloo is well served with transport options for visitors, including Waterloo station, one of the largest and busiest overground stations in the country. The station’s Portland stone Victory Arch is the first in a long line of memorable sights for visitors arriving in Waterloo through this station.

The following are 10 of the best things to see and do in Waterloo.

1. London Eye

The London Eye during sunset
The London Eye during summer
Skyline photography of the London Eye under white cloudy sky during daytime

Since its launch in 2000 the London Eye has quickly become one of the most famous landmarks in the capital.

The incredible 360 degree views offered by the London Eye consistently makes it London’s number one attraction. You will see Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and so much more from your enclosed capsule as you slowly go round.

The London Eye wheel is 135 meters tall and contains 32 high tech glass capsules. The slowly rotating wheel provides for a 30 minute visit, allowing you to view London form a whole range of perspectives. On a particularly clear day there is the potential to see as far away as Windsor castle.

The standard admission price can start from £22 per person for a family ticket, requiring at least one adult and two children. To receive the cheapest prices you need to book tickets online. However, the London Eye has a range of experience tickets available including the London Eye river cruise, as well as multi-attraction tickets.

For those who fancy a tipple as they go round there is the champagne experience or the newly added pub pod, where you can sample two drinks per person as you enjoy the views.

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2. Sea Life London Aquarium

The Sea Life London Aquarium is located on the ground floor of County Hall on the South Bank of the River Thames in central London, near the London Eye (© Drow male, CC BY-SA 4.0)
The underwater walk of Sea Life London Aquarium (© Ox, CC BY-SA 4.0)
A shark at the Sea Life London Aquarium (© Phalinn Ooi, CC BY 2.0)

Explore the fascinating world beneath the waves at London’s Sea Life aquarium.

Located in the County Hall building next to the London Eye, you will have the chance to see over 500 species as you travel through the aquarium’s 14 themed zones.

The Shark Walk allows you to watch these incredible animals as they swim underneath a glass paned walkway. The Ocean tunnel lets you watch the sea life swim around and above you as you walk through. Delve in to the Rainforest adventure to explore and learn about some of the animals that live in this important environment.

You will see sharks, octopus, penguins, rays and much, much more when you visit Sea Life London. The aquarium is set across three floors, where talks and feeds will allow you to learn more about these magnificent creatures as well as ask questions to the experts.

Standard online adult tickets start from £27, while combination tickets providing entry to the aquarium and up to four further London attractions are also available.

3. London Dungeon

The London Dungeon is a tourist attraction recreates various gory and macabre historical events in a gallows humour style. (© giggel, CC BY 3.0)
Entrance to the old London Dungeon building. (©, CC BY 3.0)

Take a deep breath and prepare to encounter some of London’s darkest secrets from times gone by in this entertaining walk through experience.

Special effects, thrilling rides and a cast of actors combine to provide visitors with a memorable journey through tales of crime and horror.

Jack the Ripper, Sweeney Todd and Guy Fawkes are some of the famous names you will get to meet. You can visit the torture chamber, travel the conspirator’s walk or face London’s ‘maddest, baddest judge’ in the courtroom.

The Medieval lift provides the descent in to the dungeons, while the Tyrant boat ride lets you experience your final journey along the Thames to the Tower of London. For the braver souls the Drop Dead: Drop ride is a vertical free fall drop ride based on the theme of the long drop of the hangman’s gallows.

The London Dungeons is an exhilarating immersive experience. Located a short walk from Waterloo station, a standard ticket starts from £27, with combination tickets available providing access to four more London attractions.

4. Tate Modern

Tate Modern from close to Blackfriars Bridge on the River Thames at the northwest. (© Acabashi, CC BY-SA 4.0)
A panoramic view from Tate Modern balcony (© Alistair Wettin, CC BY-SA 4.0)
The Turbine Hall inside the Tate Modern (© Hans Peter Schaefer, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Located on Bankside around a 15 minute walk from Waterloo Station is the iconic Tate Modern. The gallery has a huge collection of art, photography and film, plus live art exhibitions, all housed in a former power station.

The Tate Modern in London first opened to the public in May 2000.

Wherever you look and wherever you turn there is always something to pique your interest. Even the strange angles of the rooms and ceilings have been designed to heighten your curiosity. This is a gallery displaying the best in modern and contemporary art, where you can see works from Matisse, Cezanne, Picasso, Dali and many more as you wander round.

Admission to the Tate Modern is free, although some exhibitions may have an admission fee. At the top of the Blavatnik building of the Tate Modern is a viewing galley offering stunning views across the capital. The Kitchen and Bar plus the Riverside terrace allow you to enjoy a meal or a drink in a lovely setting. The Tate Edit shop offers all your mementos and gifts, as well as limited editions and designer products for the home.

5. Food and Drink

Cubana, a Cuban bar and restaurant, that does great food and cocktails (© Ewan Munro, CC BY-SA 2.0)
Cocktail at Skylon in South Bank, London (© Ewan Munro, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Waterloo is quietly emerging as a hub for great food and drink options. From fine dining restaurants to gastropubs, independent bars to coffee shops there is plenty of choice when looking for refreshments.


Cubana offers a taste of authentic Cuban food. From the moment you see the colourful mural outside Cubana provides a vibrant dining experience. Located close to Waterloo station, Cubana offers slow cooked Cuban food, dishes straight from the grill and sharing plates of tapas. The choice of cocktails at Cubana pair perfectly with the food.


Skylon uses the best in British seasonal ingredients to produce simple but classic fine dining dishes. Located at the Royal Festival Hall, Skylon is in the perfect spot overlooking the river Thames. Based around a central bar area, this is a relaxed place to eat and drink within a chic interior. Set menus start from £27 per head, while the a la carte menu has seafood and mains starting from £16.

The Cut Bar

The Cut Bar is set across two floors at the Young Vic theatre, ideal for a pre-show meal and drink. The bar also boasts an open terrace where you can relax and enjoy one of their 28 day aged beef burgers from the main menu. Small plates are also available, while there is a good selection of beers, cocktails and spritzers too.

Anchor & Hope

This is a popular pub not far from the Young Vic theatre. The inviting interior is open every day for food except Monday. Both the lunch and dinner menus provide modern twists on classic British pub food. You can choose from an extensive wine list or perhaps opt for a Cornish ale to accompany your meal.

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6. Imperial War Museum

Founded as the Imperial War Museum in 1917, the museum was intended to record the civil and military war effort and sacrifice of Britain and its Empire during the First World War. (© Peter Trimming, CC BY-SA 2.0)
The new atrium at the Imperial War Museum, July 2014. The exhibits include a Supermarine Spitfire, a V-1 flying bomb, a V-2 rocket, a Harrier Jump Jet, and Jeremy Deller's Baghdad, 5 March 2007, the wreckage of a car destroyed by a bomb during the Iraq War. (© Ashley Pomeroy, CC BY-SA 4.0)
V-1 flying bomb on display at the Imperial War Museum (© Peter Trimming, CC BY-SA 2.0)

You certainly know when you have arrived at the Imperial War Museum. The huge naval guns which sit in front of the museum entrance set the scene superbly for what you are about to see inside.

This is one of the leading museums in the world for charting conflict and the horrors it brings.

The museum has a huge collection of artefacts spread across its galleries. Equally as important are the collection of experiences recorded from those who saw and experienced these conflicts first hand. There are over 1,300 items alone in the poignant first world war galleries, including uniforms, weapons, diaries and further keepsakes, plus an immersive trench you can walk though.

The museum houses the largest collection of Victoria Cross medals, accompanied by the incredible stories of the brave men and women who earned them. Tanks, fighter plane remains and assorted military vehicles are further highlights of a trip to the museum.

The Imperial War Museum is less than a 15 minute walk from Waterloo station. Admission is free, although donations are welcomed. The museum has a cafe offering a wide selection of hot food, plus a shop where you can buy from a range of unique gifts.

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7. Theatres

The Old Vic, photographed in 2012 (© MaryG90, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Staircase inside the Old Vic Theatre (© Tarquin Binary, CC BY-SA 2.0)
Royal Festival Hall as seen from outside the Hayward Gallery, London Borough of Lambeth. (© Ethan Doyle White, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Waterloo and the Southbank centre are a cultural and artistic hub. There are a good number of excellent theatres including:

The Old Vic

One of London’s most prestigious theatres, renowned for its creativity and entertaining productions. This is an independent not for profit theatre, which was originally founded in 1818. This popular theatre is located on the Cut, five minutes from Waterloo station. It is recommended you buy tickets in advance.

The Young Vic

This theatre is located not far down the road from the Old Vic and is an offshoot of its established predecessor. The Young Vic is a modern performing arts centre which prides itself on offering a more affordable West End theatre option. Their productions are often innovative, while engaging with the local community is an important part of the theatre’s ethos.

The Royal Festival Hall

This is a world famous venue located at the heart of the Southbank centre. The grade I listed building opened in 1951 and contains a 2,700 seat auditorium. Although perhaps best known as a venue for classical music, the Royal Festival Hall offers a very diverse program of performers. The theatre has seen the likes of Louis Armstrong, George Melly, the Bee Gees, Jimi Hendrix and David Bowie grace its stage.

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8. The Vaults

The Vaults Theatre in Waterloo (© Jwslubbock, CC BY-SA 4.0)
Inside the Vaults Theatre in Waterloo (© Jwslubbock, CC BY-SA 4.0)

The Vaults continues the artistic theme, taking you underground to a world of immersive theatre and arts. The Vaults is located beneath Waterloo station in a series of eight disused railway arches, providing a unique and atmospheric setting.

The Vaults encourages artists and performers from all walks of life to show their work. This is a hotbed of imaginative artistic talent where anything goes. Theatre, art, comedy, food and more come together to offer visitors an eclectic mix of immersive performance art.

As you approach the main entrance you are treated to a taster of what to expect as you walk through the Leake Street tunnel. This is a graffiti tunnel with wall to wall street art, which is also known as ‘Banksy Street’. It is a worthy prelude to what you will find within the underground tunnels at The Vaults.

9. Shopping

Stores at Gabriel's Wharf, Waterloo (© MikeStnly, CC BY-SA 4.0)
Lower Marsh, Waterloo Market stalls line this narrow street which runs parallel to the side of Waterloo station (© Stephen McKay, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Waterloo has a good mix of shops, with the station a centre for many well known brands including Lush, Accessorize London, Foyles and Oliver Bonas. Waterloo is also home to a number of quality markets including:

Lower Marsh Market

This is one of London’s oldest market streets and remains as popular as ever. There are a diverse range of traders and food outlets selling craft items and handmade produce, as well as a wide selection of street food offerings. The market itself is surrounded by a further mix of diverse shops and restaurants.

Gabriels Wharf

Located on the South Bank, Gabriel’s wharf has a diverse range of independent businesses who design and sell their own products. From vintage clothing to knitwear, homeware to printworks, Gabriel’s Wharf is a great place to find bespoke gifts. There is a good choice of food and drink establishments too.

Southbank Centre Food Market

This market can be found at the Southbank centre every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Visitors will find fresh food and drink offerings that take their inspiration from across the globe. Food stalls and independent traders line the market in the square located behind the Royal Festival Hall.

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10. BFI Imax

"Superman Returns" at the IMAX Cinema in London (© Greg Peterson, CC BY 2.0)
An aerial shot of the IMAX Cinema in London (© Robert Aleck, CC BY-SA 2.5)

Sit back and enjoy a classic film on the biggest cinema screen in Britain, measuring in at a whopping 20m by 26m. This is state of the art cinema with the surround sound to match. It is an immersive cinema experience like no other.

Tickets can be booked through the Odeon website. Located at 1 Charlie Chaplin Walk, the BFI Imax is also a centre for education and learning in film. The 500 seater auditorium can also be hired for a pretty luxurious and impressive gathering or function.

The cinema is located just a minute’s stroll from Waterloo station and has a fully licensed bar where you can enjoy a pre-film drink.

11. More things to do in Waterloo

Outdoor events at The Overture, a free three-day festival to mark the reopening of Southbank Centre's Royal Festival Hall, attended by over a quarter of a million people.
London River cruises are a popular attraction among tourists
"View of the Jubilee gardens from the London Eye  (© joinai, CC BY 3.0)"

Waterloo is a destination filled with attractions and places to see and visit. Here are just a few more suggestions.

London Eye River Cruise

See the sights of London on this 40 minute circular river cruise. Heading off from the London Eye pier you will see many of London’s iconic landmarks, including Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, the Tower of London and HMS Belfast.

The cruise departs at 45 minutes past every hour and includes a live commentary informing you about all the historic sites you pass. River cruise prices start from £13 when bought online, with an option to buy a cruise and London Eye admission ticket also available.

Jubilee Park and Gardens

This landscaped park is a place where visitors can relax beneath the London Eye while enjoying riverside views. Lawns, flower beds, trees and granite pathways make for a comfortable location to take a break while you explore Waterloo and the South Bank.

The park has a large, modern adventure playground suitable for children up to the age of 11. Jubilee Park and Gardens are open every day of the year, and the playground is generally open from midday to dusk.

Southbank Centre

Although we have already touched on parts of the Southbank Centre there is always so much going on at this artistic complex. Besides the Royal Festival Hall the centre also houses the Hayward Gallery, the Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Purcell Room.

Outdoor dining and street food play a prominent role around the Southbank centre. Visit the Florence Nightingale Museum or the exhibition and immersive theatre staged in the Bargehouse, a former industrial building. There is a huge offering of cultural and artistic variety at the centre to entertain and inspire its visitors.

Waterloo East Theatre

This is a fairly new addition to the theatre scene in Waterloo, but one well worth its own mention. Opened in 2010, the theatre has a 100 seat auditorium situated in an old unused railway arch. The theatre stages all forms of dramatic production, but has a particular affinity to musical theatre.

The theatre provides an opportunity for new and aspiring writers and performers to showcase their talent. The theatre has a proven track record of staging acclaimed and award winning productions and is an excellent addition to the quality of theatre offered in and around Waterloo.

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