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Elephant and Castle is evolving! South London is transforming and nowhere more prominently than Elephant and Castle in Southwark. Set to become one of London’s must visit neighbourhoods, Elephant and Castle combines new green spaces and dining destinations with familiar favourites and local landmarks.
The most uniquely named neighbourhood in London, Elephant and Castle derives its title from a pub / coaching house from the 1760s (now sadly demolished but another iconic Elephant and Castle pub has since popped up in the area).
From Elephant Park’s and Sayer Street’s new bars and restaurants to a multitude of remarkable museums and markets, here are the best things to do in Elephant and Castle, south London.
Things to do in Elephant and Castle
1. Elephant Park
Have you ‘herd’ Elephant Park is the epicentre of the transformation currently going on in Elephant and Castle? Elephant Park is an incredible new metropolis of apartment buildings, public parks and bars and restaurants (and yes, before you ask, there are lots of model elephants and elephant references throughout – hurrah!).
Still very much in development (and with a heck of a lotta construction site traffic), Elephant Park promises to be one of South London’s property hotspots and go to dining destinations in the not too distant future.
For now, there are several bars and restaurants that have opened in and around Elephant Park and you can literally ‘soak’ up the fun at the free to use Elephant Springs water park; don’t forget to pack your ‘trunks’ – more on this later.
One to watch over the next few months and years, we can see ourselves returning to Elephant Park on numerous occasions to work our way through the soon to open bars and restaurants.
2. Mercato Metropolitano Elephant and Castle
Mercato Metropolitano is one of the biggest street food spots in London and is one of the best things to do in Elephant and Castle.
Housed in an abandoned paper factory, Mercato Metropolitano in Elephant and Castle is the original of the Mercato chain of food halls. There is another Mercato located in Mayfair, plus a smaller version in nearby Elephant Park.
You are spoilt for choice for food options here with over 40 independent stallholders under one roof selling a range of delicious cuisine from around the world including Italian, Sri Lankan, Korean, Lebanese, Japanese and Mexican, plus an on-site micro-brewery called German Kraft. For a full list of traders, check out Mercato’s main website here >
As well as housing street food stalls, Mercato also has a huge deli shop and an outdoor red double-decker bus housing a mini solar-powered farm where you can pick your own strawberries!
Mercato Metropolitano is open Wednesday – Saturday from 12pm until late.
Address: 42 Newington Causeway, London SE1 6DR
3. Castle Square
Found at the heart of Elephant and Castle and on the edge of Elephant Park, you’ll know when you’ve arrived at Castle Square as you’re greeted with dozens of elephant sculptures and installations (more of a savannah actually than shopping mall).
Comprising around 20 local stalls and traders, Castle Square is all about small businesses so there are none of the usual chains or high street brands – a welcome relief compared to most new developments.
A cacophony of cuisines from Latin America to Africa via the Caribbean, Castle Square also has a huge outdoor seating area, where you can enjoy your takeout amongst the elephants – south London’s very own safari!
4. Imperial War Museum
One of the best free museums in London (and most well known), the Imperial War Museum London has a number of permanent collections and temporary exhibitions relating to skirmishes from WWI through to the present day.
Founded in 1917 and housed in this former hospital since 1936, the Imperial War Museum is a London institution and one of five locations (the other in London is HMS Belfast on the River Thames, which you can visit as part of our South bank walk guide).
As you arrive at the Imperial War Museum near Elephant and Castle, look out for the huge Naval guns, previously used on Royal Navy battleships – definitely one of the most memorable signposts in London!
Inside, permanent displays include WWI and WWII galleries, a Holocaust gallery and an incredible array of military vehicles and aircraft. The atrium area (‘Witnesses to War’) with an actual spitfire hanging from the roof is very impressive and thought provoking.
The Imperial War Museum London is open Wednesday to Sunday and open seven days a week from April 2022.
Address: Lambeth Road, London SE1 6HZ
5. Four Quarters Elephant and Castle
Ready for some retro, awesome arcade action? With three London locations (this one in Elephant Park, Peckham and Hackney Wick plus a Bristol off-shoot – or should that be off shoot-em-up?), this combination of craft beers and classic gaming machines is ‘game on’.
Elephant Park Four Quarters is the latest and largest of the Four Quarters London locations, with around 30 gaming machines dating from the 1970s to the early 2000s. Enjoy a pale ale with Pac-Man or a draft beer with Donkey Kong – just don’t put your drink down or it might get ‘Tekken’ etc…
Address: 20 Ash Avenue, London SE17 1AZ
6. Sayer Street
We chanced upon the Sayer Street and district upon our last visit to Elephant and Castle. Running across two streets and awash with colourful huts, street art and leafy alfresco dining areas, this promises to be a south London dining hotspots with bars and restaurants galore, one of most exciting areas to explore (and eat at!) in Elephant Park.
With something to suit all tastes and budgets, restaurants and food outlets include Koi Ramen, Pot & Rice, Beza Ethiopian and Tasty Jerk plus a rather splendid looking taproom bar called The Tap In. There is also MMy – a delicatessen and market which is a smaller version of nearby Mercato Metropolitano.
Vivid and vibrant colours adorn the street and all the art stalls and huts have an environmental ethos and painted with bright colours – sunglasses are optional.
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7. Kiki and Miumiu Oriental Food Market
An independent and artisan Asian food store, this modern, new supermarket on Walworth Road (very near to the Sayer Street restaurant hub) sells all manner of Korean, Japanese, Taiwanese, Vietnamese and Chinese foods.
From pastes to pickles and noodles to nuts, this is a one stop shop for fresh and dried food, with fridges up front and freezers at the back.
Address: 141 Walworth Road, London SE17 1RW
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8. The Tibetan Peace Garden / Samten Kyil
Escape the hustle and hubris of south London with a brief respite in the Tibetan Peace Garden, opened in 1999 by the Tibet Foundation, incorporating sculptures and carvings by artist Hamish Horsley, to coincide with a visit by the Dalai Lama.
Located in Geraldine Mary Harmsworth park just in front of the impressive Imperial War Museum, the Garden of Contemplation is inspired by Buddhist teachings, based on a Dharma wheel with four outer formations to represent paths for the elements of earth, fire, air and water. The Tibetan Peace Garden is free to visit and is a fitting and peaceful place for thoughts and contemplation.
Read about the Peace Pagoda in Battersea park in our things to do in Battersea guide >
Address: 107a St George’s Road, London SE1 7PP
9. Lowline Taproom from Better World Brewing
Time for the lowdown on ‘The Lowline’, a nice, new taproom nestled between Elephant and Castle and Walworth, brought to you by the Better World Brewing Co.
As soon as you walk in, you know you are in for a treat with the sleek, black lines of the interior (kind of has a modernist air hanger feel), beautifully illustrated chalk board menu plus several well stocked fridges (not forgetting the all-important dartboard!).
Opened in March 2022 and one of the first businesses to open in a refurbished goods yard just a minutes walk from the main Walworth High Street and East Street Market, we visited early one Saturday afternoon and were the first of a steady stream of eager drinkers and casual beer connoisseurs (a nice mix of young couples, dog owners and other locals).
For the first couple of hours of opening, all pints are £4 so The Lowline is incredibly good value – we tried the cherry sour, Bison chocolate hazelnut stout and Hog IPA (the 6% IPA was particularly good) – also keep an eye out for the incredible illustrated cans featuring various animals and creatures.
We chatted with one of the Better World Brewing owners for a while about their future plans and how much effort they’d made to make this such a different taproom and not your usual ‘chipboard’ railway arch set-up – it was good to see such a cool, craft place opening up in this neck of the woods (quite close to Orbit Brewery too if you fancy combining the two)
10. The Cinema Museum London
Alas at the time of writing (January 2022), the Museum of Cinema was closed due to staff shortages brought on by COVID-19 so we only got to see the exterior (fittingly a former warehouse where screen legend Charlie Chaplin once lived as a boy).
This incredible looking and historic building is home to one of the UK’s largest collections of film and cinema memorabilia, began in 1986 using the once private collections of Martin Humphries and Ronald Grant – it moved to the current location in 1998.
The Cinema Museum’s exhibits include rare and historic articles relating to film production and exhibition and also examples of old cinema chairs and carpet, plus over one million photos in its archives. The future of the Cinema Museum is currently in jeopardy as the owners of the building look to sell it (as at 2022).
Address: 2 Dugard Way, Renfrew Road, London SE11 4TH
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11. Michael Faraday Memorial
The Michael Faraday Memorial in Elephant and Castle is quite Marmite – you’ll either love it or hate it. Not strictly a memorial or installation in the truest since, it is effectively a huge stainless steel box in the middle of Elephant Square roundabout.
Unveiled in the early 1960s – the interior of the colossal metal cube contains an electrical substation for the Bakerloo and Northern TFL lines respectively, a fitting and functional use for an installation dedicated to one of the founding fathers of harnessing electricity.
Very much a memorial in an unconventional sense, best to only check the Michael Faraday Memorial if you are already in the area or passing by – at night, it also sometimes lights up; very disco (not to be confused with the nearby Ministry of Sound!).
Address: Elephant and Castle, London SE1 6TG
12. Southwark Playhouse Elephant and Castle
The Southwark Playhouse company has been around for three decades and in that time has occupied various places and spaces from railway arches to an old car workshop.
Now with an eye on the long-term,at the time of writing (January 2022), the Southwark Playhouse was due to move to a new purpose built theatre in Elephant and Castle, located in the base of the new UNCLE housing complex and tower in Newington Butts. However, when we visited recently, the new theatre had signs up saying it was due to open in 2019 but clearly hadn’t so Covid must have put paid to that.
It now appears the plan is to open two new Southwark Playhouse venues in the borough over the next few years, with the Elephant Castle branch to open this year (2022) and likely another in London Bridge by 2025, pending planning permission.
Address: 77-85 Newington Causeway, London SE1 6BD
13. Elephant Springs Water Park
A popular and playful place for young families to visit and explore, the Elephant Springs is a new water park and recreation area in Elephant and Castle.
With hammocks to relax in whilst the kids frolic in the water jets and aqua cascades (in the summer months), there are also sandpits and leafy walkways.
A green oasis in the heart of the neighbourhood, this is one of the best, free family activities in Elephant and Castle.
Address: 21 Ash Avenue, Elephant Park, London SE17 1FR
14. Elephant Park Pavillion / Treehouse
A brand-new community space opened in the summer of 2022 and located in the heart of Elephant Springs, this new Elephant and Castle treehouse is a viewing platform, pavilion and park cafe that can also be hired for special events.
When we last visited on hot sunny Saturday in July 2022, the Hana Coffee hut located below was really popular with several full tables outside (mainly parents enjoying their caffeine fix whilst children explored the upper viewing platforms).
15. 400 Rabbits Pizza
A little slice of pizza heaven in Elephant Springs Park, 400 Rabbits has an industrial decor with bright interior colours, a well appointed bar with ample craft beer choices and most importantly, pretty darn tasty sourdough pizza.
With an outdoor area overlooking the children’s water park and playground, this is a popular Elephant and Castle family friendly restaurant and reasonably priced. Most pizzas were around the £10 to £12 mark and much better than the usual pizza chain fare. We opted for the anchovy pizza plus some craft beer and cola. The sourdough garlic bread with mozzarella (£5) is also highly recommended.
16. The Elephant and Castle pub
As mentioned in the intro, the Elephant and Castle area originally gets its name from an old pub/ coaching house originating in the 1760s but alas, it was knocked down in the 1950s.
These days, the name lives on with an Elephant and Castle pub on Newington Causeway, a popular local watering hole just a couple of minutes walk from the Bakerloo line tube station.
With huge bay windows overlooking the main road, this is a great spot for a pint and people watching, with a menu of hearty and traditional pub grub.
Address: 119 Newington Causeway, Elephant and Castle, London SE1 6BN
17. Ministry of Sound
London’s most famous dance club known throughout the world has its flagship venue located on Gaunt Street in Elephant and Castle. The home of British dance and global trance opened in 1991 and has been a king of the London clubbing scene ever since attracting around half a million a clubbers a year (Covid depending).
The building itself is actually a former bus depot and the street itself is rather nondescript in the daytime, home to just the Ministry and a university campus building.
In recent years, the influx of new apartment buildings and investment in the area has meant that most of the buildings in the immediate vicinity of the Ministry of Sound have been knocked down and turned into swish new residential and office spaces. Hopefully the super club will live on. It is open 3 nights a week until the wee small hours (Tuesday, Friday and Saturdays from late until 6am).
Address: 103 Gaunt Street, London SE1 6DP
18. Walworth Square
Located at the end of Sayer Street and part of Elephant Park, Walworth Square is home to various businesses, shops and restaurants plus pop-up activities (for instance, when we visited last, there were several dining pods and domes for people to eat their picnics and own food in).
Most recently, Walworth Square has unveiled a new 6 metre long war memorial and sculpture, designed by Scottish sculptor Kenny Hunter depicting a boy standing on a fallen tree, with the dedication “Against the armour of the storm I’ll hold my human barrier” – a line from a WWII poem.
19. East Street Market
OK, so East Street Market is technically in Walworth but we thought we’d round out this list of Elephant and Castle activities with this real slice of South London life and one of London’s oldest street markets, just a short walk along Walworth Road.
The East Street Market (or The Lane as it known locally) has been running since the 1880s and is where locals go to get fruit and veg, cheap fabrics, toys and clothing and knock-off perfumes – last time we visited, there were also several street food stalls towards the far end of East Street market, including a Portuguese stall selling bifanas; nom.
Address: East Street, London SE17 1EL
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