Located on the South banks of the River Thames, the Southwark is steeped in British history and is home to some of the city’s oldest and newest attractions.
Mention ‘Southwark’ to most visitors to London and they’ll probably give you a blank look as though you have just spoken some long extinct language. However, once you start to mention some of the people and places from this part of the capital, a look of recognition will soon start to spread across their faces.
William Shakespeare, one of the most famous Englishmen of all time strutted his stuff in Southwark at the old Globe Theatre, the foundations of which can still be found at Southwark Bridge Road. Shakespeare’s Globe, a modern recreation of the original is less than a kilometre away on the banks of the Thames at Bankside.
Southwark was also once home to another great Briton of the written word – Charles Dickens. It was here that Dickens’ father was sent to the notorious Marshalsea debtors’ prison. Dickens subsequently wrote about the Marshalsea in three of his novels: Pickwick Papers, David Copperfield and Little Dorrit. The last remaining wall of the Marshalsea can be found at Angel Place, SE1. Dickens also put the borough in the history books when Bill Sykes murdered Nancy on the steps of Southwark Bridge in Oliver Twist.
Geoffrey Chaucer immortalised Southwark in the 14th century when the Pilgrims met at the Tabard Inn before setting out on their journey in The Canterbury Tales. The Tabard burned down in the 19th century but the George Inn off Borough High Street is a working 17th century pub, similar to what the Tabard would have been like.
As well as the biggest names in English literature, Southwark also boasts the biggest building in Europe. The Shard, at 309.6m, with 83 floors and 44 elevators is London’s most visible attraction, rising up from the Victorian streets next to London Bridge Station.
From the viewing deck of the Shard, visitors can look down upon some other well-known London attractions in Southwark: Tower Bridge crosses the River Thames from Southwark to the Tower of London. The decommissioned warship HMS Belfast guards the banks of the Thames at Southwark just around the corner from the London Dungeon on Tooley Street. Visitors can also see the Tate Modern, housed in the old Bankside Power Station next to the OXO Tower. Looking westwards, Shakespeare’s Globe can be seen, while to south lies the dome of the Imperial War Museum.
Back on street level, just across from London Bridge Station, the majestic Southwark Cathedral stands guard over London Bridge and possibly London’s most famous open air food venue, Borough Market. Other venues for food include the Cut, with a selection of cuisines from around the world; or Lower Marsh, just behind Waterloo Station, which offers more food options and interesting shopping, none more so than at fetishist heaven Honour.