Location: 20 Fenchurch Street.
Price: Entrance is free.
This weekend I took to the sky as I visited one of London’s hottest (and greenest) new attractions; the Sky Garden at the top of the Walkie Talkie Tower. I was steeped in history when I visited the Tower Bridge Exhibition last week, well I this week I couldn’t have chosen a more contrasting location if I tried. The Walkie Talkie skyscraper (also known as 20 Fenchurch Street) was only completed late last year and the Sky garden itself only opened in January, so this really is as brand new as you get.
In case you are wondering, the Sky Garden is the entire top floor of 20 Fenchurch Street which is open to the public for free. The space is adorned with various species of plants, tree’s and fauna which is where the names come from. There is a restaurant (which must be booked separately), a bar and plenty of seating. There is also an outdoor terrace, but seemed to be closed off to the public.
The entrance to the Sky Garden can be easily found at the base of the tower. Just walk around the whole base till you find the doors labelled Sky Garden, it should be very obvious. Whilst entrance to the Sky Garden is free, you do still need to book in advance, presumably so they can avoid overcrowding, this can be done on the Sky Garden’s main website: http://skygarden.london/
Once you arrive you will need to show your tickets, you can just bring up the email on your smartphone which will be scanned. You and any guests you have will need to have ID with them that match the names on the tickets; all in all this process is painless and fast. You then need to pass through security, which is airport like but still very swift and pain-free.
Once you’re in the lift, you need only wait 30 seconds or so before you are whisked up to the 38th floor. When you exit, you are in for a treat, twenty-foot high windows spanning the entire length of the floor looking out over south London. ‘Wow’ was the only word I could mutter as I entered the huge space. And yes, it is huge. The whole space is open plan, very sleek and very modern; I had to stop for a good 30 seconds and just look at the fantastic space that surrounded me.
It becomes apparent quite quickly that this is more of a Sky Bar than a Sky Garden. Most of the space on the lower level is devoted to a bar and seating area; there is house music playing and the drinks are flowing. A tranquil Garden of Eden in the sky this is not. At the end of the day there is probably much more money to be made from people buying cocktails than sniffing carnations.
Before I headed to the aforementioned bar I took a round trip of the entire space which is split into a lower and upper floor. The entire space is clad in glass which means you can get a 360 degree view of the city if you walk around the whole room. The stairways are quite busy with people stopping to take pictures of the view. There are small areas where you can sit amongst the foliage, this is probably the only place where you feel like you are in a garden, but I never got a chance to perch myself amongst the plants as these seats were always taken.
Once you reach the top of the stairs you are greeted with yet more super-huge windows with what has to be my new favourite view.
Looking north towards the city you find yourself level with the countries tallest buildings. As a bit of an architecture nerd, I found this very exciting and I easily spent a good 20 minutes staring in wonder.
The views are actually pretty awesome wherever you are in the Sky Garden. At about 160m high the Walkie Talkie is the 11th tallest building in London, which may not sound like much, but it’s the 3rd highest with a public viewing space, so getting such a good view for free is something we should all be celebrating.
I must say though that the view isn’t the best available in London. For that you would have to visit The View from The Shard which is over 100 metres higher and is just that bit more breath-taking. Never the less, this is a great view for free.
On to the bar! Located at the centre of the lower floor the bar is impossible to miss. Offering a wide variety of beers, wines, cocktails and even some snacks, it’s well stocked for a lengthy stay should you wish.
Given my experience with drinks prices in London coupled with the fact that I was located is possibly the coolest bar in the city meant that I was prepared for the worst price wise. At £5 for a pint of Heineken it isn’t cheap, but I was expecting worse if I’m honest. The prices of other drinks were in the same vein as that of most central London bars, but conserving this was no ordinary bar I think that’s quite reasonable.
Once you have your drink you may be hard pressed to find somewhere to sit. There are tables and chairs aplenty, but there are also hordes of people waiting to pounce on them as soon as they become available.
After you’ve had your fill of drink and taken a good long look at the view, here isn’t much else to do. I’d say I spend at least an hour in the Sky Garden, but I could have spent longer if it wasn’t a Sunday evening.
I don’t profess to be an expert on London’s bar scene, but this must be one of the most unique spaces to sit down and have a drink in the whole country. If you go to the Sky Garden not expecting much of a garden then you should have a great time. The views are stunning, not the best, but still amazing. The atmosphere is upbeat and fun and almost everyone is ridiculously good-looking, so you know it’s a chic place to be.
Best of all, it’s free! There are places in London where you have to pay to get a worse view in a cramped space so really you have no excuse to not check it out, I’ll certainly be going back to scout the Fenchurch Restaurant as soon as funds allow.
You can book your time slot to visit the Walkie Talkie Sky Garden by going to this website: http://skygarden.london/
Free entry, great views, expensive drinks.