Just south of the Thames is one of the oldest and most interesting parts of London. Over the years, Southwark has been everything from a Roman settlement to the home of Shakespeare. In recent times when it is the center of rebirth along the water in London.
Southwark first became important as the ending point of the Roman London Bridge, constructed around 50 A.D. The area was abandoned when the Romans left in the 5th century and reoccupied around 886. During the middle ages it was home to monasteries with Southwark Cathedral being the oldest remaining place of worship from this time.
The cathedral’s present building dates mostly from 1220-1420. Inside you’ll find memorials to the 15h century poet John Gower, a wooden effigy of a knight believed to date from the 13th century, and even the burial place of William Shakespeare’s brother Edmund.
Part of the fun of Southwark is getting to it. Immediately outside of the cathedral you’ll find the legendary London Bridge. A bridge has been located near this site for almost 2,000 years. This incarnation dates from 1973 so there should be little worry of it falling down. The most recent bridge in London is the sleek Millennium Bridge, stretching from St. Paul’s Cathedral in The City to the Tate Modern in Southwark.
The Tate Modern is built inside the old Bankside Power Station and features some of the finest modern art museums in the world, combining the huge industrial space with the likes of Picasso, Warhol, Rothko, and Pollock. And best yet, the admission is free.
During Elizabethan times, Southwark was outside the jurisdiction of Puritan London, so the banned forms of entertainment, like bear baiting and plays were found across the Thames. Shakespeare’s famous Globe Theatre was along the water and a modern reproduction can be found nearby where the foundations to the original theater lie. During the summer the theater is open for performances of Shakespeare’s plays, a highlight for any visitor.
During the time of Chaucer, Southwark was filled with galleried coach inn’s, including the Tabard where The Canterbury Tales begins. Next door to where the Tabard stood is the George Inn, London’s last remaining inn. Rebuilt after a fire in 1677, you can stop in for a pint or go upstairs to the restaurant for a meal just as Charles Dickens would.
The other historic pub in Southwark is The Anchor, where Samuel Pepys watched the Great Fire in 1666. The pub itself burnt down in 1677, but was rebuilt and frequented by actors from the nearby theaters, pirates and smugglers.
For food, Southwark’s Borough Market is possibly the best food market in all of London. The market claims to existed since 1014 “and probably earlier” and is still a great source for fruit and vegetables and well and higher-end food stalls.
Recently Southwark is home to some of the more innovative London architecture. London’s City Hall is a glass sail-shaped building along the water. And the long-awaited Shard will open in June. Reaching 1,017 feet (310 meters), it will be the tallest building in the European Union. There will be an observation deck on the 72nd floor of the pointed glass building.
Well if you like what you have read, take a look at these Southwark vacation rentals and find a great place to stay.
This huge, beautiful three bedroom duplex vacation rental in Southwark, London (LN-500) is a short walk from all of Southwark’s many attractions.
This one bedroom vacation rental in Southwark, London (LN-865) echoes back to the days of Southwark being filled with warehouses with the exposed brick on the inside of the building. The apartment is a short walk from Borough Market where you can stock up on food to enjoy in the apartment.
Whats your favorite part of Southwark?
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