The Shard: A bird’s eye view of London

There is always something special about seeing a city from a different view point.

No matter how long you spend tramping through its street, exploring its alleyways and hanging out with the locals, if you climb the tallest building in a city you always see it from a completely new perspective.

I’ve visited tall buildings all around the world – sometimes with more success than others. The Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Empire State Building in New York had amazing views. Whereas this is what we saw from the 492m (1,614 ft) high Shanghai World Financial Centre:

Hmm...something tells me we're not going to see much!

Hmm…something tells me we’re not going to see much!

But the one place I’ve never seen from up above is London – my own capital city.

So it was exciting when we got tickets to go up the Shard – the tallest building in Western Europe, at 310m (1,016ft).

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You can book viewing slots in advance to save the queues so it’s just a matter of turning up at the allotted time and waiting in line for a few minutes. Then we were whizzed up in the lift to the 68th floor, our ears popping on the way.

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We’re going up there??

We were lucky enough to have a gorgeously clear day – although fortunately it wasn’t too hot as I imagine it can get a bit sweaty behind all of that glass!

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Blue skies

The viewing platforms – called, funnily enough, The View – are on floors 68, 69 and 72 and the glass walls mean there are 360 degree views for up to 40 miles.

If you’re not a fan of heights, be warned: the first few moments when you step out of the lifts and are confronted by the floor to ceiling windows can be a bit dizzying. But it doesn’t take long to get used to it and after a couple of minutes I was crowding next to the window like everyone else.

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You have been warned!

The views from The Shard are amazing. It really is a chance to see London in a completely different light. One of the things I loved the most was the way that you can see how perfectly the city preserves the old while embracing the new.

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The Tower of London, which was founded around 1070

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The City, including ‘The Gherkin’ (built in 2003)

The medieval Tower of London sits comfortably close to the ultra-modern buildings of the City of London, the main financial district. From the west side of The Shard, the Houses of Parliament, London Eye and St Paul’s Cathedral can all be seen in the same view.

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The 17th century St Paul’s Cathedral

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The London Eye, with the Queen’s home Buckingham Palace in the top left-hand corner

There was also the chance to see all of the secret spots the city holds: the roof gardens, the construction sites and what goes on behind those tall gates and fences!

Tiny red London buses snake around the streets, toy-like trains cross bridges and ant-sized cyclists weave in and out of the traffic.

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A train from London Bridge passes over Borough Market, next to the 800-year-old Southwark Cathedral

You can spend as long as you want at the top, although the viewing platforms are, understandably, designed to keep people moving. So there are no toilets and just a small bar, selling pricey drinks. There are some interesting machines which you can use to zoom in on areas of interest to find out more information about the buildings. They also show you what the views look like at night and I liked a feature which reveals what the same place would have looked like at different times in history. It’s hard to imagine a time when London was mostly just fields. The only down-side was that the devices time out after two minutes, obviously so that everybody gets the chance to have a go, but it did feel very rushed when you were trying to look at something – especially as there is a rolling second-by-second countdown in the corner.

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Stepping back in time

But all in all, it was a great visit and I did leave with a new love for London, as well as plans to find and befriend the person with that amazing roof garden!

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11 responses to “The Shard: A bird’s eye view of London

  1. We did this in February and it was soooo cold! At the very top platform I was worried we’d be blown away it was so windy! It wasn’t a nice day when we were there but the views were still great. I’d love to go back up again though to see a pretty sunsunt over the whole of London 🙂

  2. This is something I’d consider trying at some point. The Shard is an impressive sight on the skyline.

    I’ve also been up the CN Tower in Canada and the Oriental Tower in Shanghai (sadly it was pitch black on a Saturday by the time I got to the top, took hours!)

    Looks like you had some great views (shame your pictures aren’t a little bigger).

    • Thought I saw your name on the list. Congratulations! That’s brilliant news. If you can get some interviews/visits lined up in advance to do in your free time then that’s quite helpful. Looking forward to following your trip:)

  3. Fab views – I did it in February too and it was so cold with snow and fog, so didn’t look quite so impressive! I want to go back sometime and catch the view from the hotel bar a few floors down so I get a cocktail to go with it.

    • Brrr! Sounds like it was good that we waited until it was a bit warmer as I hate the cold! I’ve heard that’s a good way to do it. Would be lovely to see London all lit up.

  4. I’m a sucker for birds eye views! Still haven’t been to London but [somewhere in Europe] will hopefully be my next home so I’m definitely planning on traveling through all of the UK. I’ll have to come here when I do!

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