Ah Vauxhall. You’d be forgiven at first glance for thinking that all there was here was a bus station, some pretty ugly buildings (hello Mi5), and a hell of a lot of traffic. But scratch beneath the surface of SW8 and you’ll find that you can unearth a whole treasure trove of things to see and do.
The neighbourhood has seen a major cash injection since the arrival of the new US Embassy in Nine Elms – and a certain controversial ‘Sky Pool’ too – and it’s now definitely cemented itself as being one of the ‘go-to’ spots in town. From dancing the night away at some of the best LGBTQ+ venues in the capital to getting your zen in at Vauxhall City Farm, here’s our rundown of the best things to do in Vauxhall:
1. See what’s on at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern
Kicking off this roundup of the best things to do in Vauxhall is a visit to the inimitable Royal Vauxhall Tavern – one of the most iconic LGBTQ+ venues in the whole of the capital. Arguably the beating heart of Vauxhall, it’s seen the likes of Freddie Mercury, Dame Edna Evarage, Princess Diana (who was famously snuck in with a disguise), Dame Helen Mirren, and, of course, the late and great Paul O’Grady – who performed four nights a week in character as Lily Savage – pay it a visit, and for good reason.
It’s the first building in the whole of the UK to gain Grade II-listed status on the basis of its importance to the LGBTQ+ community, and they’ve got everything here from drag and burlesque to cabaret and comedy on throughout the week. Whatever’s on, you’re guaranteed a ruddy good time at this spot – we’ll see you on the dancefloor!
📍You’ll find the Royal Vauxhall Tavern at 372 Kennington Lane, London, SE11 5HY.
2. Soak up the Westminster views aboard Tamesis Dock
Though there are many spots in Vauxhall to grab a pint or a glass of vino, we’d argue that the best – especially when the sun’s shining – is Tamesis Dock – a floating pub with live music, boat-made pizza, plenty of drinks, and amazing views of the city. Set within a converted 1930’s Dutch barge, it’s certainly unique, and the upper deck – with its backdrop of the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, and Battersea Power Station– it’s a pretty great date spot – especially at sunset. Trust us – we’ve tried it.
As for the bar, they’ve got a rotating selection of draft beers and ciders from local and international breweries, and plenty of wine and spirits to boot. Not to mention vegan and gluten-free pizza and a gig venue downstairs – where even bloomin’ Bastille have performed. Now tell us this one isn’t a winner…
📍You’ll find Tamesis Dock at Albert Embankment, London, SE1 7TY.
3. Meet the alpacas at Vauxhall City Farm
Now when you hear the word ‘Vauxhall’, we’re sure the first thing that springs to mind isn’t ‘farmyard’, but then our beloved capital always manages to throw up some surprises – right? The farmyard in question is Vauxhall City Farm, which is set at the eastern edge of the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens and is run as a charity focusing on education, youth work, animal care and horticulture.
They’ve got everything here from chickens and chinchillas and sheep and goats. Heck, there’s even a pair of alpacas who starred in none other than Star Wars: The Force Awakens – get your photo requests ready. The farm also offers riding lessons and volunteer opportunities, so this is the place to go if you’re looking for a slice of country air in the Big Smoke.
📍You’ll find Vauxhall City Farm at 165 Tyers Street, London, SE11 5HS.
4. Catch a cricket match at the Kia Oval
Straddling the area between Vauxhall and Oval is the ‘Kia Oval’ – an international cricket ground which has been the home ground of the County Cricket Club since it was opened all the way back in 1845. The final test match of the English cricket season is traditionally played here, and the ground has seen many different victories over the years, including England’s famous Ashes win back in 2005.
But it’s not all about cricket here – though that is a major theme. The ground has also hosted other sporting events like NFL and also major gigs here at various points in time. You can find out more on a guided walking tour which gives you behind-the-scenes access to the ground’s most exclusive areas, including the Grade II-listed Gasholder and the JM Finn or MAR Galadari Stands, which both give you panoramic views across the capital.
📍You’ll find the Kia Oval at the Kennington Oval, London, SE11 5SS.
5. Party the night away at FIRE or The Eagle
Now, as previously mentioned, Vauxhall is somewhat of a party place – particularly among the gay community – and both FIRE and The Eagle are the places to go if you’re looking to let loose on the dancefloor. Start off your weekend at FIRE – a multi-roomed, 2,000-capacity nightclub under the arches that hosts house, techno, bass nights and more. It’s open until 9am (!) on Fridays and they have some pretty great DJs spinning the decks throughout the year.
Speaking of DJs, there are some legendary ones working the room at The Eagle on Sunday nights. Who are they we hear you ask dear reader? Well, none other than Horse Meat Disco – who first started out at the club back in 2003 and have since become a key fixture at club nights around the globe as well as festivals including Glastonbury. It’s a great spot to come for a boogie on a Sunday night, and they’ve also got everything from drag shows and a great beer garden too.
📍You’ll find FIRE at South Lambeth Road, London, SW8 1RT and The Eagle at 349 Kennington Lane, London, SE11 5QY.
6. Tuck into a roast at The Canton Arms or The Black Dog
Let’s face it – there’s nothing better than a good old roast right? Especially on a rainy day. Luckily for you, there are a few pubs around this neck of the woods where you can get yourself a pretty bangin’ one – including The Canton Arms, which is beloved by none other than Joanna Lumley herself.
Their roast here is somewhat legendary south of the river, and their braised rabbit ‘chasseur’ and new season Jersey mids have to be tasted to be believed. Other things on the menu include roast dexter beef, a seven-hour roasted salt marsh lamb shoulder and a duck and smoked ham pie with buttered greens. Sign us up! Elsewhere, you can make your way to The Black Dog, which does excellent roasts and ‘Steak Saturdays’ – where you can feast on a 400g T-bone steak and a side of fries for just 19 quid. Winner, winner.
📍You’ll find The Canton Arms at 177 South Lambeth Road, London, SW8 1XP and The Black Dog at 112 Vauxhall Walk, London, SE11 5ER.
7. Discover the art of the Newport Street Gallery
Now culture vultures – listen up! Vauxhall ain’t all just about pubs and clubs. It’s also home to one of the very best art galleries we’ve got in town – AKA the Newport Street Gallery – which is the product of Damien Hirst’s dream to share his extensive art collection with the public.
Since it opened back in 2015, Newport Street Gallery has been hosting a range of different exhibitions, from major artists like Jeff Koons to rising stars that Hirst is keen to spotlight. Current exhibitions include a showcase of works by Brian Clarke – who is widely regarded to be the most important artist working in stained glass today. Fancy!
📍You’ll find the Newport Street Gallery at Newport Street, London, SE11 6AJ.
8. Take a wander down the River Thames
Ok, so this might be a bit of an obvious one, but you really can’t avoid the Thames when you’re in Vauxhall. And there’s nothing better than going for a stroll along the river when the sun’s shining. One of our favourite routes here at Secret London is if you head north up past Tamesis Dock to Lambeth Bridge, from where you’ll be able to see the Grade I-listed Lambeth Palace – the official home of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
From here, cross over the bridge then head back down towards Pimlico, popping in at the Tate Britain to admire the artwork if you fancy it. Then, head back towards Vauxhall via the Vauxhall Bridge and admire the towering structures of Mi5 and the St. George Wharf Tower – currently the tallest residential building in the United Kingdom. Recognise this view? It was featured in none other than Skyfall… “hello 007”!
9. Dive into a plethora of street food at Market Place Vauxhall
We love ourselves a bit of street food here at Secret London, and Market Place is definitely the spot to go if you’re craving it in SW8. Whether you’re feeling bubble tea and a classic custard doughnut or you need some serious comfort food in the form of a steaming bowl of homemade, slow-cooked beef bolognese, then you’re all set here.
Current vendors here include baking-maestros Bread Ahead, Karapincha – our favourite purveyors of Sri Lankan grub in the capital – and Mama Mia! Pasta, who, as the name suggests, whip up some bloody fantastic pasta and other Italian fare. There’s veggie, vegan, gluten-free and halal-certified fare here too, so no need to miss out if you fall into either one of these categories!
📍You’ll find Market Place Vauxhall at 7-11 South Lambeth Place, London, SW8 1SP.
Rounding off this list of the best things to do in Vauxhall is – yep, you guessed it – a bottomless brunch (and you know how much we love one of them). This one features a fully-live vocal show on stage from multi-award winning, World number one Lady Gaga tribute act, sound alike, and look alike – Donna Marie Gaga and her dancers – and it’s one hell of a party it has to be said.
Add in 90 minutes’ worth of bottomless prosecco, cocktails, beer or cider, some delicious street food and prizes worth up to £200 to be won, and you can see why we absolutely love this one! Now can we get “the applause, applause, applause”… (sorry). Grab your tickets here.
📍You’ll find the Go Gaga Bottomless Brunch Show at Vauxhall Street Food Garden & FIRE Club, 6A South Lambeth Place, London, SW8 1SP.
So there you have it – a roundup of the very best things to do in Vauxhall. From pubs and pints to eclectic art galleries and picturesque parks, there’s something for everyone here, so get down south of the river and see for yourself!