Home to a restaurant, hotel and arguably the best view in London, the Shard may really have it all! First of all though, I’m not sure if it’s just me, but does anyone else think that the Shard looks pretty from up close and then totally weird and unfinished from far away?!
Standing at the bottom before the visit, looking up made me feel a little nervous about the fact that I was about to become one of the tiny dots at the top of the tallest building in Europe! I mean, on cloudy days, you can’t even see the top and it’s not as if us Londoners are used to seeing too many skyscrapers…
So basically, the Shard (formerly London Bridge Tower) is 87 stories high (1016 ft) and the UK’s answer to modern skyscraper building. Completed in 2012, the viewing tower was opened to the public in early 2013. The skyscraper actually got its name when the architect, Piano, was criticised by English Heritage who claimed that the tower would be “a shard of glass through the heart of historic London”. Anyway, enough context!
How to visit the Shard
If you’re looking to visit the Shard for yourself, then you’ll want to book your tickets well in advance. As there is limited space at the top, then you should buy your entrance ticket as soon as you know you want to go. Buy your tickets in advance here.
The Shard tends to be busier at the weekends and during school holidays. As a result, if you’re able to, I highly recommend booking your trip mid-week and earlier in the day if possible. You should also bring a jacket as the open-air terrace at the top can get a little bit chilly.
My experience visiting the Shard
Entrance to the Shard
You start your visit by going through airport-like security (unsurprising for the tallest building in Europe!). You then have your picture taken in front of a green screen so that you can purchase somewhat ‘fake’ photos at the end of your visit!
Next an audio guide (unfortunately my guide ran out of batter after 5 minutes so I can’t tell you what was on it…) by a super friendly guide who tries to assure you that the elevator will be fine (this definitely made me a little more nervous!).
Lift 1 of the Shard
Okay so finally after the reassurance, the ‘faux’ photo and rigorous screening, you’re finally whisked away into THE elevator (lift?) and there are some crazy graphics on the ceiling of leaves and stars etc. I think it must be to try and distract you from getting claustrophobic! The elevator is so smooth that the only way you can really tell how fast you’re going is through your ears popping and the numbers on the elevator screens! Trust me though, those numbers do not go up fast enough!
Lift 2 of the Shard
Okay so I said THE elevator the first time round because I thought that was it. However, you actually get out of the elevator about halfway up and are put into a second one. I was just thinking why?! What is the point? But anyway, I think it just adds to your eagerness to see ‘the view’ and makes it even better when you finally reach the top!
The View from the top of the Shard!
Once you step out of the second elevator and are hit with this. A 360 view of London. Isn’t it just incredible? The view from the top of the Shard is easily one of those must take London shots. Although it had been raining earlier that morning, I was incredibly happy that it finally cleared up in typical British Weather Fashion…
Levels 68-72 are ‘The View‘. On a clear day, it is often possible to see up to 40 miles into the distance! From the top, everyone below looked like little ants- I am never going to be able to walk through London again without wondering if someone is watching me from the top of the Shard!
On the top level there’s this cute arrangement of plants with little signs saying ‘please mind the plants’! Here’s me in front of St Paul’s, chilling with a glass of champagne.
Okay so I should probably have been enjoying the view, ignoring my phone etc but I couldn’t find my friends! (that’s the excuse…) However, when I tried to call them, the weirdest thing happened- there was no signal. I guess you’re higher up than the masts or something?
Finally, if you’re looking for a great view of London at a cheaper price, then I totally recommend a visit to the Monument of London! Nearby, you’ll also find the Sky Garden at the top of the Walkie Talkie building. The view from the Sky Garden is also free, though you’ll have to book a time slot to visit in advance!