Is London’s highest visitor attraction with the sky-high price?
The View from The Shard is the viewing platform located on the highest inhabitable floors of The Shard skyscraper. It offers the highest viewing point in Western Europe.
Located over 800ft in the air, it is the highest viewing point in the whole of western Europe. Set out over 2 viewing floors, The View from the Shard provides a 360 degree panoramic view of the entire city of London. Do keep in mind that how much of the city you will see is dependant on the weather outside.
It's not cheap, but the View from the Shard has undoubtedly the best views in the country.
My review of The View from The Shard begins on the ground floor entrance where you are quickly ushered through a security check (similar to an airport) and offered a professional photo with a green screen (which you’ll see on your return visit).
The ground floor is a sort of London gallery, displaying humorous British themed illustrations and video compilations of well-known and some not so well-known areas of London. If you want to see a picture of Emmeline Pankhurst giving directions to the spice girls, then this is the place to see it.
Obviously all of this has been put together as a mere distraction while you wait for the main event, which thankfully doesn’t take too long to arrive. After your photo you are led down a small walkway toward the lifts where a few members of staff will be waiting to guide you to your lift.
Lifts come every 30 seconds of so and there isn’t usually a big queue. Once your lift does arrive you will find another member of staff (a ‘guest ambassador‘ as they like to be called) waiting for you.
Once the lift journey begins your guest ambassador will give you some quirky fact about how fast you are going and how high you are about to be. The staff are friendly, informative and helpful; which is a marvellous surprise but should also be expected for a premium attraction that cost’s £24.95 for an adult.
Your first lift journey will be over after 30 seconds and you will exit into a half way zone where you will transfer into another lift. This area is, well, I’ll let you decide when you see it, but it’s simply a small corridor to another lift. The second lift journey will be much the same as your first. Oh, by the way, the lifts are very cool. Larger screens fill the roof of the lifts and play videos of the seasons (depending on the weather outside).
You will exit the second lift on the 68th floor, but you won’t be able to see the view straight away. In order to build suspense, the glass directly in front of the lift is opaque which I think is a great idea as it really makes you wonder what is out there. Only a small staircase separates you from clear glass and I can guarantee the when you climb it all your attention will be focussed on the magnificent view that awaits you.
Reaching the first viewing platform is an enthralling experience, all that lies before you is a great panorama of London and immediately you can spot some of the world’s most famous landmarks. This level is the main viewing area and reaches dizzying heights of 244m.
You’ll also notice a drink bar which serves the finest Lanson Champagne and a selection of beers. If you would like to indulge in a glass of champagne while admiring the view, you can pre-book your drinks so that they are waiting for you when you arrive. See this page for more information.
On a clear day, the 360 degree view can extend for up to 40 miles. Unfortunately, there are not many ‘clear days’ in London. On an average day you will most likely be able to see 20 miles, which is enough for every major London landmark. On a bad day many views may be constrained and no compensation will be offered. On days of ‘zero visibility’ guests will be offered a return visit on another day of their choosing.
You will likely spend about 45 minutes wandering around the gallery, taking in the view from every direction. There are many great sights to see, my favourite being towards The City, where skyscrapers and castles can be seen in the same view.
You’ll be able to see the full curve of the Thames, from Battersea to the tide barrier and beyond. The Olympic park is visible in the distance as is Wembley. The houses of parliament, St Paul’s and Buckingham palace are also easy to spot. A rich tapestry of London’s past, present and future is on full display.
Whilst walking about the gallery, you may notice some strange-looking devices pointing outwards, these are what’s known as ‘Tel:scopes’ and they allow you to get a closer look at your favourite landmarks. The touch screen devices zoom in wherever you desire and have been pre-loaded with information on 300 landmarks.
Apart from these devices, the viewing area is rather bland. Whilst is has been constructed with premium materials there is literally nothing else to observe other than the view. Whilst the view is magnificent on its own, it could have easily been supplemented with some information on The Shard or London in general.
The final ascent will be to level 72 which is officially the highest viewing point in the EU. This is an open air platform which means you are outside and exposed to the elements. Seeing first had the spikes and shards of glass that give the building its name is a dramatic way to end the experience, however the view isn’t much different from the slightly higher viewing point (but obviously you should go just so you can say you’ve done it).
The View from The Shard provides a very unique experience for Londoners and tourists alike. It simply isn’t possible to get the same breath-taking view anywhere else in the city. The price is certainly on the high side, but this is one of those special things where I have to say that it’s worth it for a really special, one-off day out.
Price: £25.95 per adult. £18.95 for children. Under 4’s go free (no ticket required)
Location: Directly outside of London Bridge Station on Joiner Street. The attraction is on bus routes 43, 48, 141, 149 and 21.