London’s latest skyscraper, The Shard, designed by architect Renzo Piano is also an amazing new visitor attraction. ‘The View from the Shard’ on floors 69-72 is the only place where it is possible to see all of London at once. The 360 degree panoramic takes in the Tower of London, St Paul’s Cathedral, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Battersea Power Station, Wembley Stadium and the Olympic Park. I went along on a grey and mizzy opening day to see how many London landmarks I could spot.
I love looking down on the world from way up high – be it from a hot air balloon, a plane window or the highest of buildings. I’ve viewed Paris from the Eiffel Tower, Toronto and its islands from the CN Tower, New York from the observation deck of the World Trade Centre and Las Vegas, The Grand Canyon and Rio de Janeiro by helicopter. Obviously I don’t suffer from vertigo. When I heard about The View from the Shard I knew instantly that I had to see my capital city from its highest point.
We started our visit in the lobby before going through security where coats and bags pass through x-ray machines and people through a scanner – much like airport security only friendlier. We’re directed to the first lift through an area with a map of London covering the walls and floor with cryptic clues marking each landmark. The Shard experience is ‘queue free’ because visitors choose the time and date of their visit so with a limited number of tickets available per slot we didn’t have to wait.
The first lift, one of 44 in the building, went up the first 33 floors at a rate of 6 metres a second. We shooshed upwards smoothly and quietly feeling nothing but a small tummy flip as we came to a halt. The lift attendants were chatty and gave out random facts – did you know that 95% of the building’s construction materials are recycled? The second lift whisked us up the next 35 floors to level 68, the cloudscape, and as we stepped out my ears popped. Onwards and upwards and a short flight of stairs and we’re at floor 69 home to the triple-height main viewing gallery. The ascent took no more than a minute; to take the stairs – all 306 flights – doesn’t bear thinking about…
The day had started wet and grey but luckily the rain had cleared and the sun even put in a brief appearance although raindrops still speckled the glass. On a clear day the epic views stretch for up to 40 miles.
We picked out many of the capital’s major landmarks – with the help of twelve interactive telescopes you can pinpoint up to 200 famous buildings and monuments.
After half an hour on this level we climbed up another short set of stairs to reach floor 72 – the highest viewing point of any building in Western Europe at a spectacular height of 244 metres.
Partially open to the elements this level is surrounded by massive shards of glass which gradually taper up to the building’s peak making up the spire and taking The Shard to its full breathtaking 1,016 feet.
Looking up to the peak
11,000 panes of glass to clean
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to ‘View from The Shard’ and I’d love to return and view London at dusk, its lights twinkling in the twilight – although I’m not sure I could justify the sky-high admission price a second time.
What’s to know…
How much time did we spend at The Shard? Set aside 1 to 2 hours – we were there around 1.5 hours and we weren’t rushed through the visit.
Prices – In Advance: Adults: £24.95, Children: £18.95 On the day: Adults: £29.95, Children: £23.95
These Prices for General Admission are valid to 31 Oct 2013
Daily 9am to 10pm except 25 December. Timed tickets every 30 minutes until last entry at 8.30pm. The Shard closes at 10pm.
Getting there – Tube London Bridge (Northern Line, Jubilee Line) Overground/Network Rail London Bridge
The Shard Viewing Gallery