On our first visit to London, we didn’t know what exactly to expect. The city is a juxtaposition of old and new, as well as a thriving modern city. Seeing everything we wanted to even in the amount of time we scheduled wasn’t enough, but we wanted to get a good feel for the city as well as see several different areas and things while we were in town. Before our trip I reached out to an old roommate who is now an expat to find out where to see the best view of the city from above. While most tourists are drawn to the London Eye (it is pretty fantastic), he suggested a visit to St. Paul’s Cathedral, a lesser known viewing location that is beautiful in its own right. But my former roommate left out out a bit lesser known viewing location (at least to tourists) – the Shard.
The Shard is one of the most notable modern sky scrapers towering above London at 1016 feet, making it the tallest building in Western Europe. Designed by Renzo Piano, the Shard is easily accessible via the Underground and not only offers shopping, dining, hotels and office space but also breathtaking views you can’t get anywhere else in the city and any anglophile will love. The View from the Shard offers viewing platforms on levels 68, 69 and 72. We were invited to not only to enjoy the view, but to experience the champagne on the sky deck.
The ride up to the top of the Shard is relatively quick, but requires two different elevators to get there. As you go to the top of the Shard, you will notice that you cannot see any view as you race at 6 miles a second. This is to conceal the views as you go so you can enjoy it completely on the top. The attraction is completely accessible and there are elevators to help get to the open views on the 72nd floor.
Once you get to the 68th floor, you are immediately greeted with beautiful views of the city below you. Each direction of the Shard Sky Deck has the major buildings noted that should be in your view. Your overall view from the Shard is 40 miles in any direction and is nothing short of spectacular. But one of my favorite parts about the View from the Shard experience, there isn’t a time limit for your visit. Head up to the top during the afternoon, grab a glass of champagne or a snack and stay until the sun sets (trust me it’s worth it – even if it’s cloudy). Watch the sun set over the city and London light up like the jewel she is.
Not sure what you’ll do up at the top of a building for that long? Every visitor to the View from the Shard is giving an audio and video receiver to help guide them on their visit. The guide not only tells you about the space you’re currently in, but how the building was designed, built and even how it is maintained. There are also digital viewers that can show you what exactly you’re looking at, that same view in different seasons, different times of day and even what that view would have been several centuries ago. The View from the Shard helps add a historical education to the trip.
If the weather permits, venture up to the 72nd floor for an open air viewing platform. The area is currently a garden space which offers flowers and other greenery to add to your view. There is no roof on this level, but there is still glass and safety bars keeping you safely within the building. The 72nd floor doesn’t have seating options, but you’re able to sit on the floor and snap the photos around the beautiful building as long as you want. If you want a real experience, visit the bathrooms on the 68th floor – have your camera ready!
Since London weather can be unpredictable The View from the Shard has a weather guarantee:
If you cannot see at least three of the following landmarks – The London Eye, St Paul’s Cathedral, The Gherkin, Tower Bridge and One Canada Square – on the day of your visit, we will let you return within 3 months for free!
As the sun begins to set over London, the lights are dimmed inside the Sky Deck to not compete with the magnificent views of the city below. The View from the Shard is a great way to experience London for first time visitors or a return to the city. No where else will you be able to see the whole city, the history and more from one place.