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England: The View from The Shard, London

The Shard from the River Thames, London
The Shard up close!
The Shard up close!

The obsession with tall buildings continues…..this time in the shape of The Shard which London’s highest viewing platform at the top of Western Europe’s tallest building. Mr ESLT and I went full on tourist on a recent visit to our capital and did things we’ve wanted to do for ages but hadn’t previously had the chance. Mr ESLT booked tickets for The View from The Shard well in advance and (bless him) he booked them with the added bonus of a glass of fizz (he’s well trained)! I’ll be honest I was worried about booking in advance as a friend of mine has done that twice and both times she visited the cloud was so low over London Town she shouldn’t see a thing! That being said it turns out we were extremely lucky and even though it was December we visited on a crisp, clear winters day! However, if the pesky clouds do spoil your view The View from The Shard promise ‘that if you can’t see at least three of the following landmarks – London Eye, St Paul’s Cathedral, The Gherkin, Tower Bridge and One Canada Square – on the day of your visit, we will issue each member of your party with a ticket to return for free within three months.’

The Shard from the River Thames, London
The Shard from the River Thames, London

Getting there couldn’t have been easier for us. We stayed at the Doubletree by Hilton Tower Hill which is in the Aldgate area of London. From our hotel to The Shard took us a mere 20 minute to walk.  We walked along the Thames waterfront and over London Bridge on to the South Bank. This allowed us the perfect opportunity to snap a few selfies with Tower Bridge and the River Thames in the background, luckily for us it was a dry(ish) day. If you’re not staying within a walkable distance or simply cannot or do not want to walk, London Bridge tube station is literally under The Shard making it easy to reach by public transport too.

Champagne at the top of The Shard, London
Champagne at the top of The Shard, London

As Mr ELST had booked tickets on line and printed them off at home it was simply a case of scanning the bar code at the entrance to get it. Security is tight at The Shard, meaning you have to take off watches, belts etc. and put them, together with your bags through airport style security. You also have to walk through a metal detector and some people are randomly patted down. Please note no large rucksacks or suitcases of any kind are allowed through so if you are thinking of visiting before jumping on a train, plane, bus home you may need to think again. I thought this heightened level of security may have been implemented due to the recent atrocities around the globe but I have since been told that it’s always been in place which saddens me yet reassures me at the same time.

So many iconic buildings can be seen from The View from The Shard
So many iconic buildings can be seen from The View from The Shard

Security passed, you then get the option for one of those green screen pictures – not for us thanks! You are also given a audio guide which, if you listen to it gives you lots of information about the buildings you are looking at. I’ll be honest I think I saw only a couple of people using them which is a shame because they are a great idea. Then onto the lift which shoots you up to level 69. The heating must have been turned up to ‘totally tropical’ on the day we visited as people where instantly walking out and striping their coats off, us included. The glass of champagne that Mr ESLT pre booked went down a treat as we walked around the 360 degree observation deck pointing out different landmarks across the city and then realising that if you look up above the window there are pictures and it tells you what you’re looking at. We were lucky enough to see right over to Wembley which by all accounts not many people in the winter months get to see. There are also machines dotted around which you can use to focus in on different points and it gives you further information which I think are a great touch to let you get to know the city better.

Obligatory selfie at the top of The View from The Shard
Obligatory selfie at the top of The View from The Shard

Champagne polished off we then decided to ascend further up to level 72 which is the highest point visitors can get to. As the air lock doors to the floor opened we were hit with reality – that it was December in England! This floor is half-open to the elements so we quickly pulled our coats back on – brrr! Again you are greeted with floor to ceiling, uninterrupted views over London. I personally loved seeing the twists and turns of the River Thames from my vantage point. Up here you will find a bar that you can purchase drinks and snacks from however there aren’t any seats for you to sit and enjoy them whilst looking at the view. Once we were satisfied we had seen what we wanted to see we took the lift back down to Floor one where you will find a gift shop (I love a gift shop) and the exit.

Great view of the River Thames from The View from The Shard
Great view of the River Thames from The View from The Shard

All in all a great attraction in London and a nice way to spend a couple of hours. Even though I have been to London numerous times it was great to see it from a new view point. It seems quite indulgent to have a glass of champagne up there but most people whilst we were there is parttake in one. When we visited it was pretty quiet by all accounts. In the summer months I expect it to be very busy therefore I would always advice booking tickets in advance. This also saves times queuing to get in at the start of your experience. I don’t know if I will ever go up there again so I’m glad I finally got to do it. Saying that I imagine that at twilight the views of lit up London are fantastic. I certainly recommend it to visitors to London.

 

 

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3 comments on “England: The View from The Shard, London

  1. The first time we went up (pre-booked tickets) we saw absolutely nothing. It was apparently the first total white-out they’d had since they opened. We’d read on line that we could get free return tickets, but they certainly weren’t offered up to visitors. I saw many people walking out swearing and mumbling to themselves what a total waste of time and money it was. I don’t know if they have changed that policy now, but if you do go and don’t see anything because of fog or low clouds, be sure to ask at Customer Service for your free return tickets.

    Although the timed entry is fairly strict, once you are in you can stay as long as you like, so we booked for about an hour before sunset and stayed until about an hour afterwards, so we got to see it in daylight, dusk and after dark, making it three rather different experiences.

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