After watching it climb higher and higher above London, The Shard is finally finished. On February 1st, 2013, The View, the top floor viewing gallery, opened to the public so I went to check it out on a little date night.
The View from the Shard is open from 9am to 10pm daily, with the last entry at 9pm. My tip? Go at night. Let’s be honest, London isn’t a particularly colourful city, and considering the chances of a grey-covered day, you might feel under-whelmed and out of pocket as you stare at the clouds. But at night, even with clouds above, the city lights come alive, and an entire new, mesmerizing view appears. There’s something fascinating about seeing a city at night. Our visit to The View wasn’t time-constrained which was great; I could have spent a long time staring out at the city.
After collecting our tickets and getting through security (be prepared for airport style X-rays) we were stopped in front of a green screen for a photo in front of ‘The View’ that we could later purchase. We preferred our own iPhone style self-portraits so we skipped this extra charge.
Our journey up began. The first lift carried us to Level 33, and a totally enclosed hallway scrawled with a cryptic ‘map’ of London, but unless there’s a queue for the next lift, there isn’t much time to look around.
The second lift took us to Level 68. The lifts travel at 6 metres per second, but without the benefit of glass walls or windows, it was hard to really appreciate how quickly we were moving. All we knew is…it’s pretty quick! At Level 68, we were ushered right away to climb the stairs to Level 69. And finally we could see!
The lower viewing deck is surrounded by 360 degrees of floor-to-ceiling glass. A strange sort of optical illusion meant the glass sometimes seemed further away than it should and I had a few heart-in-mouth, life-flashing-before-my-eyes moments. It’s a strange kind of thrill being this high up.
Digital ‘telescopes’ (free of charge) at different spots help you figure out what’s in front of you. We spent a lot of time trying to find where our homes were (it’s surprisingly hard to get your bearings, or maybe that was just me…) and trying to spot different landmarks. It was pretty addictive steering the telescopes around and seeing arrows marking the various buildings that we couldn’t figure out ourselves. If they didn’t have a countdown time limit to encourage you to let other people try it out, we could have been there a while (although we definitely took two turns in a row…two minutes is not enough!).
Then after witnessing a romantic proposal (aahhhh) we headed up the stairs to Level 72.
The top floor has no ceiling, and the huge height of this place seemed even more real. The view of course doesn’t change all that much so we didn’t spend quite as much time up there as it got a little chilly. Really you’re just there for one more look around, and to officially be on the top floor of our tallest building.
Back down the same way and through the obligatory gift shop, where we purchased what, in my opinion, is the best souvenir – a cuddly version of Romeo the Fox. He has his own true Shard story about managing to sneak up and live on the top levels of the Shard as it was being built. Better than the branded pencils and notepads if you ask me.
The reviews have been pretty varied about whether the £24.95 advance ticket is worthwhile. I know that I had a lovely night out, and for anyone who loves London – The View at The Shard has firmly placed itself on the list of best ways to see this city.
If you think about it, it isn’t much more than a trip on the London Eye, except your visit to The View isn’t time limited, and well, you’re a whole lot higher! Unless you have a private helicopter, you won’t get to see London quite like this any other way.
Here are some pictures of the view:
Let us know if you’ve checked it out – or if you’re planning to. Would love to hear your thoughts too!