Outdoor & Indoor Oasis in London’s Bankside District

August 30, 2012 by

A walk in one of Bankside’s urban forests.

One of my favorite London neighborhoods is Bankside, a district in the city’s South Side, on the southern bank of the River Thames. As I’m always looking for a great urban outdoor oasis, Bankside appeals to me for its hidden green spaces, parks, and gardens–refreshing urban green areas where you can find a great picnic spot or a tranquil retreat.

Heading to Bankside
I’ll be in Bankside September 19-24 for The London Design Festival where I’m joining an international group of 14 designers, bloggers, stylists, and authors for BlogTour, hosted by interior design resource, Modenus, and media partners 100% DesignDecorexdesignjunction, and Tent London.

Bankside’s riverwalk along the bank of the Thames.

The London Design Festival is one of the world’s most important annual design events, taking place at venues all across London, with over 300 events and exhibitions staged by hundreds of partner organizations across the design spectrum and from around the world. I may experience design overload, but I can take it.

Photo: Art of the Estate.

To preview a bit of the awesomeness you’ll be seeing here later, I thought I’d offer a little virtual mini-tour of Bankside, where I’ll be staying…

Quiet seating corner in the garden at the Tate Modern.

What to Do In and Around Bankside
Just strolling the river walk along the Thames is enough to satisfy me. But Bankside is also home to The Tate Modern, the famed Borough Market, and less than a half hour’s walk to many other attractions like The London Eye, the National Theater, Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, and The Garden Museum.

The Garden Museum and Church.

London Garden Museum (Formerly the Museum of Garden History) Did you even know this gem existed? Rescued from demolition in 1977, the museum took up residence in the abandoned ancient church of St Mary’s whose garden houses the tomb of the great plant-hunters, gardeners, and collectors, John Tradescant the Elder (c.1570-1638) and Younger (1608-1662), and is the centerpiece of a recreated 17th century Knot Garden (below) planted with many of the same flowers which grew in the Tradescant’s London garden four centuries ago.

The Knot Garden at London Garden Museum.

The museum also has a secluded outdoor cafe where you can enjoy a bit of al fresco dining.

Citiscapes Garden Festival
Aiming to bring a creative new approach to the way urban parks and gardens are designed, Citiscapes is a new garden festival taking place in London from May through September 2012. Organized in partnership with the South Bank and Bankside Cultural Quarter, the festival will be creating a series of garden installations by leading designers in collaboration with EDF Energy London Eye, The Architecture Foundation, The Old Vic Tunnels, and the Design Museum.

Underground gardens at The Old Vic Tunnels, part of the Citiscapes Garden Festival.

Old Vic Tunnels A combination of beauty, glamour, mould, and decay (above), this unique underground landscape features various zones including a reconfigured Chelsea Flower Show garden, glowing greenhouse, fungus covered jewel-encrusted sculptures, and light, sound, and scent installations.

Edible Estates Garden To provide a new model for urban agriculture, The Tate Modern commissioned this community run estate garden project with US artist Fritz Haeg.

Gibbons Rent in full bloom. Photo: Courtesy of Andrews Burns Architect

Gibbons Rent  This permanently transformed long forgotten cut-through from Magdalen Street to Bermondsey Street was permanently transformed into a public green space for the whole community. Launched as part of the London Festival of Architecture in June 2012, according to the developers, the project established “a framework of large potted plants that allow space for the community to add their own contributions.” It’s hoped that the space will grow and evolve over its lifetime to become a secret oasis in this area of London. By sponsoring a plant, the public is invited to play a key role in making the new community garden a green and pleasant place to rest, relax and enjoy.

The courtyard at the citizenM Hotel. I’m liking these red planted benches and the illuminated pots…

Where to Stay: citizenM Hotel
When I travel, I always select my digs by location, style, and price. If I find accommodations that fulfill all three of these criteria, I have found a winner.

The colorful totally cool lobby at the citizenM hotel.

I’ll be staying at a new boutique hotel in Bankside, citizenM, which fits the bill offering it all–great South Side location, fresh design featuring furniture by Vitra, and affordable luxury–which in this case means a comfortable big bed, power rain shower, free movies on demand, and free wifi. In other words, a winner.

I love how the courtyard’s trees are reflected in the surrounding glass.

In addition to the standout colorful and upbeat interior design, the hotel features a fabulous interior courtyard (above) where I will be able to blog outdoors thanks to their their free wifi.

A room at the citizenM with a glowing wall.

The ‘M’ of citizenM stands for ‘mobile’–referring to stylish on-the-go travelers as well as the hotel’s efficient shipping container construction model. The rooms are modular units built off-site then moved to the location for easy placement. The construction for the Bankside hotel was completed in a mere nine months.

The citizenM does it all in great style in a very cool neighborhood right on the Thames and just steps from the Tate Modern museum. Stay tuned for more about citizenM.

Where to Shop
Borough Market Located in under a network of railway viaducts, Borough Market, one of the world’s largest gourmet food market, consists of up to 70 stalls and stands offering specialities direct from the producers.

You’ll be able to salivate over gastronomic specialtees including organic products, delicatessen, cheese, wines, fish and imported gourmet fare. And I’m told the vendors will happily tell you about their specialities, where they come from, and how to prepare them.

Bankside Mix Behind The Tate Modern on Southwark Street, you’ll find the Bankside Mix, a new cluster of restaurants and watering holes as well as cool shops, including JOY for funky clothes, cards, gifts and fashion, and home accessories, and Oliver Bonas for an eclectic mix of women’s clothing, jewelry and accessories.

Bankside Mix, Photo via Flickr by Everyday Life Modern.

Where to Eat
If you haven’t already picked up a sumptuous meal to go from the Borough Market, you might want to head to The Restaurant at the Tate Modern for some of the best views in London.

For a more casual experience, consider trying one of London’s “gastropubs.” Pub food has progressed in recent years beyond the Ploughman’s Lunch and the basics like steak and kidney pie and fish and chips. The new breed of gastropubs offer a blend of high quality gastronomy within a pub.

My son, who lived in Bankside while a student at The London School of Economics, shared that his favorite place to eat was the modern gastropub, Anchor and Hope, above. In addition to great food, the pub reportedly has a long table in the back that was made from reclaimed wood. I’ll drink to that!

Keep following for more on The London Design Festival via the Modenus BlogTour…


  1. Celestine said:

    Cool places indeed! I am really glad to see some greens in the city!

    — September 1, 2012 @ 09:24

  2. Mark Hill said:

    All of these places look magnificent. I miss green color since I have moved to Toronto one year ago, but you motivated me to go out and try to find some nature around here. Until now, my only connection with plants was my “vertical garden”. It is surprisingly easy to make one.

    — September 11, 2012 @ 09:34

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