London at your feet
Standing at 310m, the Shard has redefined London’s
skyline as Europe’s tallest building. It is also poised to become a
major tourist attraction, starting this weekend. So, what can
visitors expect to experience and see? Paul Francis travels up to
the building’s top floor for a sneak preview of an attraction which
will become a must-see destination.
Although it has split opinion over its architectural merits, the
Shard in London looks unlikely to be quite as divisive when it
comes to the views the building will afford over the capital and
And it is not too difficult to understand why. A great deal of
effort has gone into ensuring that visitors are offered an
unrivalled panorama. It is impressive, providing the only place in
the city which can boast a spectacular 40-mile, 360 degree scene
from a viewing platform some 72 floors above ground.
The London Eye, at a mere 135m, may be considered by some as
more fun. St Paul’s Cathedral more atmospheric.
But if you are talking about views that take your breath away,
the Shard beats them all hands down.
There are very few, if any, of the capital’s landmarks, that are
not visible from the viewing galleries on the 69th and 72nd levels.
To the north, Wembley Stadium and Alexandra Palace, to the south,
Battersea Power Station and the Oval cricket ground. To the west,
take in St Paul’s Cathedral, Big Ben and Westminster and to the
east, some newer but just as familiar buildings, such as the
Olympic Stadium, Canary Wharf and the Thames Barrier.
But it is not just the famous landmarks. Equally compelling and
absorbing is just gazing out at the everyday workings of a major
From 72 floors up, the sight of trains criss-crossing tracks
into stations, boats, tugs and cargo containers travelling along
the Thames and the traffic in streets takes on a quite different
It is like looking down at an animated sprawling miniature toy
town and it is very easy to find yourself just watching the passage
of a boat or train, wondering where its final destination might be.
Churches, galleries and museums loom into view wherever you
To get to the top, visitors travel in one of four lifts that get
to the top in about a minute. After a lift transfer at the half-way
point, you then travel to the so-called “cloudscape” on level 68,
then walk up another level to the fully-enclosed viewing gallery,
with floor to ceiling windows.
For more adventurous visitors, the higher viewing gallery at the
72nd level affords the experience of taking in the views from a
partially open air platform. It is certainly worth it – even if you
may, as I did, feel a little apprehensive about being exposed to
the elements at such a height.
Those behind the Shard believe that it will soon become the
capital’s “must visit” attraction.
They could well be right.
The Shard opens to the public on Friday, February 1. Tickets
must be booked and are timed and dated although a limited number of
“walk up” tickets will be available each day.
Prices are £24.95 for adults and £18.95 for children and the
tower is open between 9am and 10pm daily.
Tickets can be booked at www.viewfromtheshard.com or
by phone on 0844 499 7111. The nearest station is London Bridge
(underground and mainline).
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