If there is a better way to see a city than up the highest building soaking up the panoramic views, then I am yet to find it. I took a trip on the London Eye with my family when I was younger, at a time I think it was still called the Millennium Wheel – yep, it was that long ago – and it was a great way to check out the city from above. But since that time, the London skyline has changed a fair bit, with the introduction of the Gherkin, Walkie Talkie, Cheese Grater and Shard among the many.
With the opening of the Shard came the opportunity for better than ever panoramic views across London, and since it opened I’ve been itching to head up and check them out for myself. And recently, I finally had my chance.
A quick drive into London and I already had my camera out, taking photos of all the stunning buildings along the way. My boyfriend works in London and gave me a quick tour of some cool buildings we don’t usually pass as we made our way to Southwark where we parked up before making our way to the Shard.
Tickets collected, we passed through the security area, picked up an electronic guide and jumped in the lift. Considering it’s a popular tourist attraction, and we were visiting midday on Saturday, we didn’t have to queue at all and wouldn’t have known it was peak visit time. I was very pleasantly surprised at how efficient it was!
The first lift took us to the 33rd floor in next to no time, where we changed to a second lift to take us to the 68th floor. Both lifts travel at a speed of six metres a second, so we were stepping out to the viewing deck before we knew it. The Shard is the tallest building in the EU at present, and the views from the top are absolutely breathtaking. With two floors to choose from, we immediately opted for the upper floor. From the ground level, the Shard doesn’t quite look finished, which I guess is all part of it looking like shards of glass. From the top however, it’s a very interesting design feature. We were on the upper viewing floor, and there was glass all around us but yet parts of the ceiling were open.
As strange as it is, I loved it! There’s a bar up there and people took a seat on the artificial grass and just relaxed for a while to soak up the views. We’d timed our visit amazingly, as there were celebrations for the Queen’s 90th birthday, which included a fly past. For those not familiar, this is when a number of military aircraft fly over Buckingham Palace followed by the Red Arrows, a collection of planes who emit coloured smoke leaving streaks of red, white and blue lingering over London. We just happened to be at the top of the shard as they flew over, and as such we had the best view I could have asked for. Even the Queen would be jealous!
After taking a million and one photos of the view, and trying to see if we could spot our home – we couldn’t… – we descended the tower and made our way to Borough market for some lunch. I always rave about how much I love Borough market, but it was absolutely rammed and probably the first time I didn’t enjoy being there. I guess Saturday lunchtime on the day of England’s first Euro football game probably isn’t the best time to go…
We had a quick look around to see what was on offer before grabbing a couple of sandwiches and a doughnut (£2.50, for a single doughnut!!) and wandering along Southbank back toward the car. The clouds were looming and the rain threatened for quite a while, but we still found the time to nip down to London’s ‘beach’. Just next to the walkway alongside the river is an area which resembles a rocky beach. On a sunny day I’d imagine it’s quite a popular place, but with the clouds rumbling overhead we were only joined by one other person down there.
Eventually the weather didn’t look like it would hold off much longer, and it seemed like a very good idea to head back to the car and make our way home. And as always, as we made the short journey home I couldn’t help but say how we should go into London more often. It’s so easy, so close, and so accessible. Why do we not make the most of having a city on our doorstep that people spends thousands of pounds visiting? I always say we should do things in London more often, it’s just such a shame that adult life gets in the way and keeps us busy.
- Best timed tickets would be for late afternoon/early evening depending on the time of year. Seeing London in the light, then relaxing as the sun goes down and seeing it lit up would be the best!
- Set aside a couple of hours for a visit, but you could see everything pretty quickly if you want.
- You’ll have your photo taken as you go in, and you can buy the picture as you leave. The poses are awkward, but the end result looks good.
- Don’t like lifts? The whole process going up or back down is super quick. In fact, the lift to the 68th floor took about the same amount of time most lifts take to travel 3 or 4 floors. The ceiling lights up and plays a video so you’ll be distracted anyway.
- The Shard is well placed to grab food in Borough Market and enjoy the London Southbank scene.
- Closest tube stations: London Bridge, Borough or Monument.