The Shard has already become an iconic, landmark; dominating the London skyline since its completion in July 2012. We sent our very own Kirsten Beacock (despite her protestations of being scared of heights) to take in The View from The Shard and see what the capital’s newest, must-see attraction has to offer.
The only way is up
I don’t possess the best sense of direction ever, however it would be pretty difficult to miss The Shard. It’s a beast of a building, towering over London (it’s the tallest building in Western Europe) and instantly recognisable on the city skyline. When you get up-close and personal to the base of The Shard you almost need the flexibility of a contortionist to crane your neck far back enough to see right to the top.
With tickets dated and timed to avoid queues, it really is a slick operation, and within minutes I had passed through the airport style security and was spirited into the first of the high-speed ‘kaleidoscopic’ lifts that take you to the top – ideal if you are a little nervous about heights as you literally have no time to dwell on it. Now these lifts really are top quality! I was so distracted by the ceiling that it was only the strange sense of my ears popping that alerted me to the fact that I wasn’t on the ground anymore, but on floor 68. Moving from one lift to another one taking you to floor 69 (an eye-watering 224m (800ft) above the ground and twice the height of any other viewing platform in Britain), the passage is seamless. Coming out of the lift, with the sun bursting out from behind the clouds I was suddenly hit with a view I can best describe as “breathtaking”. In fact the people I shared the lift with were so impressed they spontaneously burst out aloud with one word – “wow”.
As far as the eye can see…
“It’s fabulous, I am scared of heights but I am not scared now. This was a last minute plan for us. Coming from Boston, with all that is going on, we were a little anxious about coming up somewhere high; it’s been a sad day. We were actually heading to the Globe and using The Shard as a marker as we walked over Tower Bridge, and as it was on our way we decided to come up on the spur of the moment. It’s not my first time coming to London, but the first with my two kids.” – Stacy from Boston, USA
At first it is hard to take in the astonishing 360 degree, 64km (40mile) view over the city, and people seemed to wander around a little dazed as they tried to absorb the sheer spectacle. I even made the near-fatal error of looking straight down to the ground, but for some reason the building instills a sense of calm (it might actually be the soothing music they play). So rather than panic; I took in the people scurrying along below, like little worker ants on their daily commute, and watched the trains snaking out of London Bridge Station in different directions.
Instantly you get a real feel for the sheer size and scope of this incredible city. It also feels strangely peaceful as you look down from above on the hurly burly nature of London life. The incredible amount of cranes show a city in a constant state of flux, with the new buildings jostling for position with the ancient landmarks like, the still stunning, St Paul’s Cathedral.
Ready for a close-up?
As befitting a state-of-the-art building, they have interactive telescopes to use – which are a nice touch. Once you have selected your language you can view the skyline in more detail live, watch a recorded version, and you can even see what it would look like at night and at sunset. The landmarks also pop up when you zoom on them, which is great for visitors not familiar with the skyline and have particular places they want to pick out.
So how does this new kid on the block compare to say the London Eye or even New York’s Empire State Building. Pretty well actually, London is such a sprawling city compared to New York so it does take a little more time to take in everywhere and spot the landmarks. Of course it is a lot higher than the London Eye but I think there is room for both attractions in the capital, the Eye has the fun factor in that it moves along and you are closer to central London, while The View from The Shard boasts more of a wow factor (and the fact you are stationary and feel a little less rushed it did help my vertigo!)
“It is wonderful, really well planned.” – Corinne from La Rochelle, France.
You don’t just have to visit at night to catch a glimpse of the stars
If you are lucky you might even be able to spot some celebrities in the viewing area. Visitors have so far included comedians Michael McIntryre, Russell Brand and Stephen Merchant, DJs and singers like Pixie Lot, Terry Wogan, Zane Lowe and Example, along with actors such as Simon Callow and Mat Horne. Cupid’s arrow has also struck The View from The Shard, with the viewing platform seeing two marriage proposals in a matter of minutes on its opening day in February. Proving you are never too old for a new experience, the Chelsea Pensioners have also paid a visit. And broadcasting literally hit new heights when The View from The Shard hosted the UK’s highest breakfast show with a Magic FM live broadcast.
“It’s fantastic, it is good to get the opportunity to get an overview of the city. It is a positive addition to London. It is amazing to contrast the old buildings with the new ones.” – Sabine, from Germany.
Where is it?
The Shard is just outside London Bridge tube/train station. The entrance is on Joiner Street, just off St Thomas’ Street. From the upper concourse outside the station, you can take the escalator beside The Shard down to Joiner Street and then turn right at the bottom. There is a big pink sign showing you the way – so it’s hard to miss!
How do I book?
The View from The Shard advise booking in advance to avoid both queues and disappointment! You can do this online or over the phone, with tickets on the day costing £29.95 for adults and £23.95 for under 15’s. Children under three are free! Book your The View from The Shard tickets on lastminute.com.
Daily from 9.00am to 10pm – with last entry at 9pm.
When is the best time to go
The views are amazing at all times of the day, I went just after 6pm – however sunset and the evening viewings are especially spectacular.
Five facts about The Shard
- The Shard London Bridge is a lofty 310 meters (1,017ft) tall
- It was designed in 2000 by Renzo Piano.
- Amazingly the construction was completed in just over three years – bang on time for the Olympics.
- The towering achievement means it is the tallest building in Western Europe.
- The View from The Shard is almost twice the height of any other viewing platform in London.