Bankside is one of London's most-visited areas, known for the Tate Modern, Borough Market, and for its stunning views of the city of London. However, what many people don't know, is that the area has a fascinatingly sleazy past. On a wonderful London history tour that begins in Borough Market, set off with a guide to learn about the area's long and colourful history from its roots as a Roman trading post through to its reputation today as a tourist hotspot.
Medieval Brothels and a Prostitutes’ Graveyard
The first stop on the tour is the former site of medieval brothels, both high-end and seedy. While clients of the former could enjoy themselves in luxury, courtesy of a noblewoman with liberal values who set up shop in Elizabethan times, those who frequented brothels at the lower end of the scale were often lucky to leave without being robbed or even murdered. Nearby, you will also visit a former prostitutes' graveyard from the Middle Ages that now doubles as a touching memorial site for thousands of outcast souls.
Brit-Pop in a Bombed-Out Church
As the London walking tour continues along the stunning riverfront - pointing out facts that are both sordid and amusing along the way - it arrives at a bombed-out church that played a significant role in the birth of Brit-pop. After its destruction in World War II, what remained of the church was used for many years as a recording studio in which Depeche Mode - an English electronic band - recorded their first album. Following in their footsteps, was a generation of artists that drew inspiration from their synth-heavy sounds - influencing British music for years to come
Rounding off the tour, are ghost signs that hint to Bankside's colourful past. Such signs, which allude to everything from former breweries to mysterious markings of possible 1940s film sets, highlight the ups and downs that have defined Bankside for centuries. These are easily missed if you don't know where to look for them, so roaming around with a seasoned guide is the best way to ensure no stone is left unturned.
A far cry from its troubled beginnings, Bankside today is both a tourist hotspot and an excellent jumping-off point for shopping, eating, café hopping, and museum browsing. Once your tour has come to an end - back where it began in the foodie haven that is Borough Market - you will be in an excellent spot for a bite to eat. Treat yourself to pasta at Padella, tacos at El Pastor, or an unending selection of free samples from merchants selling gourmet food before heading to the Tate Modern for one of their constantly changing, world-class exhibits.
As far as London walking tours go, this historic tour of Bankside is well worth shouting about. Nosing around this neighbourhood with an expert opens it up in an otherwise unimaginable way and adds a totally new dimension to an already incredible area of London.