No question, London has its fair share of vantage points offering spectacular panoramas of the city – the top of the Monument or the summit of the St. Paul’s Cathedral dome, for instance, or the South Bank’s London Eye or the adventurous walk along the roof of the O2. But if you want to experience the best quality view of the capital – that is, from the highest possible vantage point – then you’ve got to do yourself a favour and take in The View from the Shard.
Standing an eye-watering 95 storeys high, the glittering, entirely glass-fronted, pyramidal Shard is the tallest building in the UK; it’s also the fourth tallest in Europe and the 111th tallest in the world. In fact, so tall is it that its two viewing platforms – which, together, make up The View from the Shard attraction – aren’t even located at the top; instead you’ll find the first, a triple-level indoor gallery, on level 69 and the second, an outdoor one, on level 72. But don’t worry; both are definitely high enough for an extraordinary view!
However, let’s start way down on ground-floor, for this where your View from the Shard journey begins – and, don’t doubt it; it’s a journey, all right. Located just down the road from London Bridge Station, it’s slap-bang in the centre of town (so, great for a visit if you’re taking advantage of London City break deals while staying at a hotel like the Montcalm Suites London). You’ll find that once you’ve entered the lobby and, before you take a step further, there’s an opportunity to have your photo taken in front a green screen-superimposed image of the ‘view from The Shard’ – don’t forget to get one before you go up or as you depart the building for that must-have souvenir! You’ll also notice the walls of the ground floor are littered with videos and animated maps that illustrate the building’s – and the London Bridge area’s – geographical and historical context in the wider city.
Having checked all that out, now you’ll want to step inside a lift (elevator) and make your way up to one of the two viewing platforms. Rather marvellously, though, these are no ordinary lifts for, during your ascent, videos and mirrors inside give the effect you’re rising through the myriad roofs of London (such as up through St. Paul’s dome and the glass roof of the British Museum’s Great Court). In contrast, on the way back down, you can enjoy the effect of the sky receding and the seasons changing as the London streets come up to meet you. Like it or not, you’re obliged to change lifts on level 33; yes, it’s that far up that one lift journey isn’t enough – in fact, the total journey takes around a minute to complete, even though the lifts move at six metres per second!
Completing your lift journey, you step out on to level 69, whose clever triple-level viewing gallery offers an airy, large indoor space in which to perfectly take in the magnificent 360º panorama offered – so comprehensive is it, in fact, you’ll be able to see up to 40 miles away in any direction. Don’t miss too the opportunity to enhance your viewing experience via one of the many ‘tell:scopes’, digital machines that enable you to explore the city in real-time (as well as offering recorded day and night-time views) and pointing out up to 200 notable landmarks. As mentioned, if you go a little higher still, on level 72 you can step outside and, thanks to the partially-outdoor viewing gallery, you can enjoy another spectacular 360º view and the opportunity to check out the building’s pinnacle up relatively close.
And, as if all that’s not enough, free Wi-Fi access is provided throughout the building, while you can listen along to a specially composed orchestral soundtrack (courtesy of The London Symphony Orchestra) during your time in the venue; just to make the whole experience even more resonant – as if it won’t be epic enough as it is!
Address: Railway Approach, London SE1 9SG
Open: 10am-10pm, Monday-Sunday
Nearest Tube: London Bridge station