South Bank London

South Bank's best sunset views

When it comes to London sunsets, South Bank’s are among the city’s most iconic! Hugging a 90-degree curve in the river, South Bank looks directly onto some of the city’s most famous landmarks such as St Paul’s, Big Ben and the London Eye.

Cameras at the ready - here’s our guide to the best places to enjoy the sunset in South Bank...

1. The Albert Embankment and Westminster Bridge

The section of riverside promenade between Westminster Bridge and Lambeth Bridge is known as the Albert Embankment.  Looking directly west onto the Houses of Parliament, this is one of the most famous central London locations to watch the sunset - in fact it's even inspired one of the catchiest songs of the 1970s!

Ray Davies from The Kinks was inspired by his many experiences of time spent in South Bank, including a long stay in the St Thomas hospital just behind the embankment when he came up with the lyrics for the iconic hit song ‘Waterloo Sunset'.

In an interview with The Guadian, Davies described how “the nurses would wheel me out on the balcony to look at the river”, including of course at sunset. Bandmate Mike Avery found the lines instantly relatable too; "when I first heard the chorus, I could picture the scene exactly. I’ve done that same walk...Unlike many parts of London, it isn’t hidden behind buildings – there’s a gap, so you can see the big red sun reflected in the river".

Sunset view of the Houses of Parliament on the Albert Embankment

Best camera angles

The arched exit of the underpass beneath Westminster Bridge perfectly frames Big Ben, although you may find yourself crowded in by scores more fellow sunset watchers, all jostling for space to set up their tripods.

For a quieter sunset observation the Big Ben views from the St Thomas hospital gardens just behind the Covid Memorial Wall are similarly spectacular but much less crowded - ideal if you are hoping to take some portraits. You can enter the gardens on Westminster Bridge Road.

After passing underneath Westminster Bridge, standing just in front of the historic County Hall with the London Eye behind you'll get a great angle on the bridge in the foreground (ideally with a red bus passing through your shot of course!) with Big Ben stand tall just behind.

Sunset views from the gardens at St Thomas Hospital

Where to grab a sundowner

London Marriott Hotel County Hall. While you wait for the golden hour to arrive, pass the time with a gin and tonic at the Gillray's Bar, which is said to have one of the biggest collections of craft gins in London.

2. Jubilee Gardens and The London Eye

The London Eye is arguably London’s most famous contemporary landmark. The London Eye looks great from all angles, especially at dusk when the sun sets directly behind it, and of course (depending on what time sunset is) you can also ride the Eye and take your sunset pictures from 135 metres above!

In the evenings buskers perform on this section of the riverside Queens Walk, create a wonderful atmosphere and during Christmas time a festive market spreads out beneath the Hungerford Bridge, adding even more magic to what is already one of South Bank’s most picturesque spots.

The London Eye and Jubilee Gardens at sunset

Best camera angles

For a photo that shows the whole of the London Eye but still leaves plenty of room for a person to be in the shot too – we recommend taking your sunset pictures from the Belvedere Road side of the Jubilee Gardens. The gardens face northwest so you should be able to catch those pink fluffy clouds in the shot too. To get Big Ben in your picture, get closer to the river. 

For an elevated angle on the London Eye and the river climb up the steps of the Golden Jubilee footbridge. From the middle of the bridge you can catch a perfect river view that includes all of the biggest sights in one frame.

Photo by Stuart Tree for South Bank London
Views of the river Thames from the Golden Jubilee Bridge in South Bank

Where to grab a sundowner

Between the Bridges. This sprawling pop-up space next to Jubilee Gardens is free to enter and offers an abundance of al fresco seating set in and around a central courtyard where you'll also find some tasty food trucks and a choice of eight (!) different bars.

3. Queen Elizabeth Hall and Waterloo Bridge

Following the curve in the river, the Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall is uniquely angled for taking interesting sunset photography. During spring and summer, the prime spot to be is up on the gorgeous rooftop garden, a verdant oasis with lovely wildflower planting and a small open-air bar, this is one of the most magical places to catch the golden hour.

Just beyond Queen Elizabeth Hall is Waterloo Bridge. From up on the bridge’s west side you can get a superb panoramic view upriver to the Southbank Centre, London Eye and House of Parliament. Alternatively, by standing on the opposite side of the road you can see downriver to St Paul’s and the City of London whose distinctive glass skyscrapers reflect the light spectacularly.

Winter sunset views of South Bank from Waterloo Bridge

Best camera angles

Stand on the top steps of the distinctive yellow staircase that leads up onto the rooftop garden and you will still be able to get the London Eye and Big Ben in one shot, while also capturing the activity happening on the Riverside Terrace such as Jeppe Hein's summer fountain Appearing Rooms or Southbank Centre's Winter Light installations.

Photo by Stuart Tree for South Bank London
Autumn sunset at the Southbank Centre

Where to grab a sundowner

Wahaca. Adjoining the Queen Elizabeth Hall, this funky branch of the Mexican street food chain Wahaca is constructed from stacked and repurposed shipping containers. There's a variety of terraces overlooking Waterloo Bridge and the river.

National Theatre. Just beyond Waterloo Bridge and the BFI cinema, the National Theatre has a great range of places to sit and grab a drink or coffee while you wait for the sun to make its descent. Up on the balcony is the trendy Forza Wine while down on the piazza below there the NT's coffee shop, The Understudy bar, and in the summer a cluster of tasty pop-up bars and food trucks to choose from.

4. Observation Point and the Oxo Tower

Observation Point next to Gabriel’s Wharf is one of the finest spots on this stretch of the river to admire St Paul’s Cathedral from afar. Although the sun will be setting behind you, the golden hour light is still wonderful – especially during low tide when the water recedes to reveal the publicly accessible stretch of Ernie’s Beach.

For the best rooftop views in the area book a table at the Oxo Tower’s fancy rooftop restaurant, brasserie and bar. From up on the eighth floor you’ll find that more of the City of London’s historic church spires are revealed, although of course it is still the dazzling white dome of St Paul’s that dominates. A little further down the chic 12th Knot cocktail bar on the rooftop of the Sea Containers London hotel has a similarly impressive view.

Best camera angles

The Oxo Tower Wharf is one of the best places in South Bank to get a feel for what this area of London was like a century ago when factories and light industry still dominated the area. The wharf has two historic piers that stretch out right out into the river from where you can watch the sunset, or of course depending on the tide you can also go right down onto the rivershore itself. For rooftop views the Oxo Tower Bar and the 12th Knot bar at Sea Containers London are both winners.

Where to grab a sundowner

Gabriel's Wharf. For something more casual than rooftop cocktails, this quirky riverside courtyard presents an eclectic range of small independent shops and eateries. Grab a seat on the small terrace at the Gourmet Pizza Company or make yourself comfortable with rum cocktails and Caribbean food at Limin's sandy beach terrace.

Photo by Oxo Tower Restaurant
Golden hour views of St Paul's Cathedral from the Oxo Tower rooftop restaurant

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