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Southbank Centre, London

Belvedere Road
England SE1 8XX
Tel: 44 871 663 2501
Tube: Waterloo or Embankment
view web site ›'s insider take:

The Southbank Centre is a thriving complex of theaters, galleries, and public arts spaces, including the Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Hayward Gallery, sprawling along the Thames near the London Eye. If, on your visit to London, you're planning to attend a major dramatic production, a comedy festival, or a musical performance of any stripe, from classical to jazz to hip-hop, you're probably coming here. Originally constructed in the 1950s and '60s, Southbank Centre is approaching the final stages of an overhaul begun in 2005, which, among other things, included a new building for the British Film Institute; a swank new eatery, Skylon; and the creation of several public riverside parks. Alas, Southbank itself has long been the subject of a heated ongoing debate about the merits of modern architecture: On one hand, the bulky concrete structures, connected by a maze of split-level walkways, are upheld as among the few remaining examples of the ultramodern Brutalist style. Southbank's detractors argue that the complex is ugly, hard to navigate, and a whole lotta concrete. Given the sheer concentration of artistic merit bottled up in this set of buildings, Southbank may be definitive proof of the old saw that true beauty is on the inside. Check the online calendar for a complete listing of events.—Siobhan Adcock

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