Unsurprisingly, London’s riverside South Bank is one of the city’s busier areas to explore, so when it comes to picking the best places to sink a pint or two, it’s always worth planning ahead. We’ve hand-picked our favourite spots to enjoy a drink in this creative district, from boardgame bars to old-school pubs; here’s our guide to the best bars in South Bank and the neighbouring Waterloo.
Guide to the best bars in South Bank and Waterloo
In this guide
The best bars in South Bank and Waterloo
- Lyaness – One of the best in the world
- Bar Elba – A slice of tropical paradise
- Draughts – Board games galore
- The Anchor & Hope – A British pub experience
- The Understudy – A KERB venture
- The Waterloo Tap – Beer and gyoza
- Tonight Josephine – An ode to an icon
- Vaulty Towers – Waterloo's funkiest bar
- Oxo Tower Restaurant, Bar & Brasserie – Picturesque riverside views
- The Distillery Bankside – More than 50 gins
- Skylon – Sweeping city views
- The Green Room – A neighbourhood favourite
The best bars in South Bank and Waterloo
The best Waterloo bars and South Bank bars
One of the best in the world
Lyaness is one of the city’s most iconic bars. The bar has been established by the most awarded barman in the world, and the cocktail menu focuses on just five ingredients to allow the team to apply a cook’s approach to mixology. The space is sleek and sophisticated, with velvet seating, shades of blue and green and sweeping views of the neighbouring Thames. They also serve wine, champagne and beer, and a food menu of bar snacks, small plates and sharing plates.
A slice of tropical paradise
Soak up tropical vibes at Bar Elba in Waterloo, a rooftop bar serving tasty cocktails and throwing awesome events. The rooftop is open during the warmer summer months but is covered for the chillier winter months. Sip on cocktails, including frozen versions in summer, and enjoy various events throughout the week, from cinema to comedy nights.
Board games galore
Draughts is a bar for those who enjoy simultaneously getting stuck into a pint and a board game. They have thousands of games on the shelves to choose from, so no matter how many times you return there will always be something new to try. Their drinks menu comprises everything from classic cocktails and beers to soft drinks. If all that gaming works up an appetite, you can enjoy tasty food like burgers, tacos and more.
A British pub experience
The Anchor & Hope pub in Waterloo serves a menu of mouthwatering British dishes scrawled daily on a blackboard and an extensive list of wines, cocktails, craft beers and more. The multi-award-winning pub is quintessentially British, with a dark interior, lots of wood panelling and art that you can purchase adorning the walls.
A KERB venture
KERB at The Understudy is the newly-refurbished craft beer pub at the National Theatre on the South Bank Riverside Walkway. The menu features a line-up of wine from independent makers, guest ales, Gipsy Hill beers and spirits by East London Liquor co. There’s also a range of streetfood traders serving food from around the world, like Mumbai-inspired vegan cuisine and chicken wings made with special six-spice seasoning.
Beer and gyoza
The Waterloo Tap is the place to go for all things beer. Their menu boasts beers from national and global brewers with a rotating assortment of 20 kegs and seven casks that are available every day. Expect everything from Czech pilsners and session IPAs to British ales. If you get peckish, they also serve a small menu of gyoza.
An ode to an icon
Tonight Josephine is one of the most Instagrammed bars in London, primarily thanks to its neon pink interior and iconic 'Good Girls Don't Make History' sign. The bar is an ode to Josephine De Beauharnais, a hedonistic icon who became the Empress of the French after marrying Emperor Napoleon I. She had an admirable way of life, living by the motto 'c'est la f**king vie'. The cocktails are excellent and creatively named, and there's also a selection of wine, beer and cider to enjoy.
Waterloo's funkiest bar
Vaulty Towers is Waterloo’s funkiest drinking hole, decked out in theatrical props and decor. The drinks menu features all the classics, like wines, beer and cider, and various cocktails, like Negronis, fancy Bloody Marys and classic Tom Collins. If you’re hungry, you can enjoy a bite from the classic food menu, from Korean fried chicken wings and buffalo sauce burgers to Mac ’n’ cheese and more.
Picturesque riverside views
Pop along to Oxo Tower Bar for cocktails with a scenic riverside view. The terrace bar has been around for a while, features sweeping views of the River Thames and St Paul’s, and is one of the prettiest spots to enjoy an al fresco summertime drink. The bar food menu features snackable dishes, like fried whitebait with 'nduja mayonnaise and charcuterie sharing platters.
More than 50 gins
This is one for the avid gin drinkers, a bar housed in a former fragrance factory with more than 50 types of gin to sample. If gin isn’t your thing, they also serve a range of craft beers, cocktails and wines from around the world. The space is modern with an outdoor terrace, perfect for al fresco drinking in summer.
Sweeping city views
Head up to the third floor of the Royal Festival Hall in the South Bank Centre and you’ll find Skylon. This swanky bar and restaurant serves a menu of modern European fare in a bright, spacious setting with panoramic views of London’s skyline seen through the epic floor-to-ceiling windows. The bar is very much the room's centrepiece, with an impressive range of indulgent cocktails and a long list of wines.
A neighbourhood favourite
It’s vibes all around at Green Room, South Bank’s neighbourhood bar and kitchen. It houses a pretty garden and timber-framed pavilion designed by iconic architect Benjamin Barfield Marks for indoor dining. The all-day menu is filled with all of the pub grub classics, like Cornish haddock with chips and tartar sauce, and there’s a cocktail menu to accompany it. There's also usually a DJ spinning some tracks on a Saturday.