South London generally refers to the area south of the Thames River as well as those communities that fall into the South London postal codes of SE or SW. This means that some of the communities officially in South London—such as Greenwich and Southwark—have also become part of what is considered Central London as the metropolitan area has grown. Indeed, Southwark and its lovely South Bank lie only a few hundred feet across the river from the Houses of Parliament and contain some of the iconic city attractions including the Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and the giant Ferris wheel, the London Eye.
These can all be enjoyed along the riverfront promenade. The beautiful maritime town of Greenwich is across the river from the Canary Wharf, and is connected to it by an underwater pedestrian tunnel. Some of the most popular things to do in South London are located in Greenwich and the South Bank area. This stretch is also the most popular area for Thames River cruises.
One of the neighborhoods in South London is called Crystal Palace, after the rather astonishing glass and cast iron structure built in Hyde Park for the 1851 Exhibition. The Exhibition lasted only six months, after which the building and other structures were relocated to an area of Croyden about eight miles south of the river.
Wimbledon is another South London suburb that is most famous as a professional tennis center. It is famous in the UK for more than tennis, however. It boasts a championship football (soccer) league, the National Rifle Association founded in the 1860s, greyhound racing, and motorcycle and stock car racing. However, it is the June/July tennis championship that is one of the most important sporting events in all of England. If these Wimbledon championships are on your list of things to do in South London during your summer vacation, you need to make your plans for ticket purchases and hotels as far in advance in possible. Gentlemen will need a tie and jacket if sitting in the Members’ Enclosure, and women should dress accordingly. You will not be allowed in with shorts, jeans, or tennis shoes. Smart casual is also the rule for the next best seats—the Debenture Lounges—although gentlemen do not need tie and jacket. Other Wimbledon attractions include its historic and charming town center and High Street, with some good shopping and traditional pubs and dining spots.
If you’re enjoying family holidays, you should check out the Chessington World of Adventure, a Disney type theme park and zoo with rides and wild animals. This is located only about two miles south of another South London attraction. This is grand Hampton Court Palace, with its beautiful landscaped gardens and extraordinary seventeenth-century maze planted with boxwood hedges and containing more than a mile of paths.
Other things to do in South London include getting out into the countryside. There are numerous green spaces and forests in this area, most of which were former royal hunting grounds. You will even find camping in these areas as well as wonderful hikes and walks in this country whose people treasure their rights of “rambling” on paths and trails (often on private property) that have been established for centuries. There are also castles in the countryside here. Most of these are actually grand former royal hunting lodges such as Bolebroke Castle to the east of Gatwick Airport. Bolebroke Castle, located in Hartfield (the village made famous by Winnie the Pooh) was used as a hunting lodge by Henry the VIII, and today is one of the region’s historic bed and breakfasts.