I do love a tall building – I’ve climbed to up the top of the Rockefeller Centre in New York, the Eiffel Tower in Paris and Tokyo Tower in Japan. I believe one of the best ways to see a city is from a high vantage point. It was about time I experienced the View from the Shard to take in all the iconic structures that now characterise the London skyline.
London’s current highest and best views can be enjoyed from the Shard’s viewing platform on floors 68, 69 and 72. At 244 m above ground the View from the Shard offers visitors an unparalleled 360-degree for up to 40 miles.
The Shard is perhaps one of London’s biggest tourist attractions. The highest building in London designed to look like a shard of glass – it’s pretty impressive.
This 95-storey skyscraper reaches almost 310 metres into the air and towers over the skyline of south London. It was designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, who’s probably most famous for designing the Pompidou Centre in Paris.
LOCATION OF THE SHARD
The Shard is located right on top of London Bridge tube station, a central hub in London and one of the city’s biggest train stations. It therefore shouldn’t be difficult to find your way to the attraction.
The Shard itself is an astounding glass structure and is currently the tallest building in Western Europe (the Mercury City Tower in Moscow is the tallest building in Europe). At 135 m it’s height is over double that of the London Eye.
Depending on what exit you get off / arrive at, you may need to walk a couple of minutes to find the relatively inconspicuous entrance to the View from the Shard.
The entrance to the viewing gallery on the ground floor of the Shard isn’t in the best position. Unlike the entrance to the hotel and restaurants, which are both located in the grand front entrance to the building on St Thomas Street, the entrance to The View from The Shard is tucked away on Joiner street, which is a sort of alley way going through London Bridge Station.
Even though there are several signs in the area announcing the entrance, you could easily walk past it if you weren’t paying attention. My advice would be to arrive via London bridge station underground and follow the signs to ‘The Shard’ and keep an eye out for the large screens on either side of the entrance.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
Tickets to The View from the Shard cost around 26£ and in the unlikely event that you can’t see at least three of the following landmarks – St Paul’s Cathedral, the London Eye, The Gherkin, Tower bridge and One Canada Square, the Shard will issue a ticket to return for free on another day.
EXPPERIENCING THE VIEW FROM THE SHARD
ENTRANCE AND SECURITY
Upon arrival you will walk into the ticket office, you can either go and collect your tickets or walk straight through to security if you have printed them off at home. You can book up to 3 months in advance and buy up to 8 tickets at a time. I would recommend purchasing your tickets from the Get Your Guide website, as they have consistently the cheapest tickets available and are a large and reliable company.
Yes, you have to queue to collect your tickets or for security, but not for very long. The service at the View from the Shard was surprisingly efficient.
While you wait have a close look at the London-themed artwork on the walls, featuring some of the capital’s best-known residents, past and present.
Your bag, belt and shoes will get x-rayed before you head up. This is a general safety measure of the Shard and no need for concern. The experience is very similar to airport security. You have to put your belongings on a tray that is passed through an x-ray machine. You will then walk through a scanner to make sure you have nothing on your person. To be fair I didn’t think about the security before going up The Shard, however it does make you feel very secure going through all the security checks
High-Speed Kaleidoscopic Lifts whisked you up to the first triple-height viewing platform in a couple of Seconds.
You will make your way down from the entrance toward the lift. Here a member of staff will ask you to wait until the next lift arrives and your ushered in. Each lift holds about 8 people, at full capacity this can feel fairly cramped but not claustrophobic.
The lifts themselves are an experience. The lifts are so smooth and quiet, they do go very fast in fact they travel at 6 meters per second. My ears popped on the way up.
To get up to the view from the shard you’ll have to use two sets of lifts. The first will take you up to level 33 and the second arrives at level 68. As you get in each lift there are staff members directing you where to go and they are all so friendly and enthusiastic.
VIEWING PLATFORM OF LEVEL 68
On level 68 interactive touchscreen telescope let you explore the views in more detail and compare the panorama of London over time. You can find out more about individual buildings in the London skyline (in 10 different languages), as well as zoom in on the ant-like figures you see milling around the streets of London.
If it is a special occasion (or if you just find yourself thirsty), there is a champagne bar where you can pay extra for a glass of bubbles, nibbles too, and toast over a breath-taking view. You could also grab a cup of coffee, should you feel so inclined.
VIEWING PLATFORM OF LEVEL 72
Level 72 is an Open-Air Viewing Gallery. It is also the highest habitable level of the building. But don’t panic, if like me you are scared of heights. The Viewing Platform is screened by Shards of Glass and you’ll feel completely safe.
Here you’ll be able to gaze up to the very top of the building and watch shards of glass melt into the sky.
Exposed to the air you will fully enjoy the atmosphere and sound of the city below. The surrounding glass means that you will stay warm and dry, whatever the weather. Nonetheless there is a real sense of being outdoors.
SHOPS AT THE VIEW FROM THE SHARD
The whole experience lasted just over an hour although once up on the viewing platform you can stay as long as you like. Note that there are no seats available so you do have to stand whilst drinking your coffee or champagne if you have opted for a champagne experience.
The View from The Shard also features shops; including The Sky Boutique on Level 68 – the highest shop in London. Both stores offer a wide range of bespoke designs and limited edition souvenirs, from guidebooks to champagne.
A COUPLE OF TIPS WHEN VISITING THE VIEW FROM THE SHARD
If you are driving there is a car park close by – it’s situated on Kipling Street which is approximately a 5-10 walk. Once you leave the car park you need to turn right to the end of the street and then left till you see the entrance to Guy Hospital. This is actually a road so you can cut through and once you start on this road you will see The Shard just ahead.
Early morning visits seem to be less busy although even on a bright day it can be foggy in the city. Please keep that in mind if you want clear views
Pre booking will save you a few pounds although you can just turn up on the day.
Be prepared for the bag and body scanning. This can take time especially if travelling with lots of bags, children, pram etc.
Use the toilets available on the ground floor as you will not be able to use the toilets on the upper floors. If you get caught short on level 72, then you will have to come own to use the ground floor toilets and will not be allowed up again.
There are no seats when you go to the viewing desk although foldable chairs may be available on request.
If you have booked a champagne experience this is available on level 69 and a coffee shop is situated on the top floor.
The view from the shard is something every Londoner should experience at least once … I’d recommend a sunset or sunrise viewing slot so that you see the City lights in all their glory.
All in all we had an absolutely fantastic day. This is a great day out for couple, families and families with small children.
I also can’t fault the service at the View at The Shard, it was very well organised and never felt too crowded or busy, which made the whole experience even more enjoyable. The whole experience is super high tech and smooth.
I would however note that as a photographer, I was a little disappointed that there were no gaps in the glass to take photos. It was very difficult to take good photos without reflections through the two layers thick glass.
Tickets for the viewing area aren’t cheap, but the view is unquestionable, particularly on a clear day. So for that special occasion or for a first time Londoner it’s a pretty unique experience.
I’d definitely like to come back and check in to The Shangri-La Hotel (apparently the spa views are to die for), try one of the yoga classes, or experience the silent disco on the top floor (yes you heard correct!).
Even though the restaurants menus are slightly pricier than your typical London eatery, the experience is combined with the view and I would definitely recommend that for the more experienced Londoner looking for a bit extra. You can read all of about my lunch at the Ting Lounge Shangri-La.
The View from the Shard is open 10am–10pm daily (or until 7pm on Sunday–Wednesday from November to March). The nearest Tube/train station is at London Bridge. If you book timed tickets at least 24 hours in advance they cost £25.95 for adults or £19.95 for children aged 4–15, or on the day they’re £30.95/£24.95. If the visibility is so bad you can’t see at least three of the London Eye, St Paul’s Cathedral, The Gherkin, Tower Bridge or Canary Wharf then you get a free return visit within three months.