Review: Admiring the skyscape of London from the City’s newest tourist attraction - The Shard viewing gallery
It’s the tallest building in western Europe and the view from the top is London’s latest tourist attraction. James Marston reports from the 69th floor of The Shard.
LONDON Bridge used to be simply where people arriving from Kent got off the train. Nowadays there’s the Tate Modern nearby for culture vultures and Borough Market for those who like posh food.
Added into the mix is the Shard – western Europe’s tallest building and London’s newest skyscraper.
Funded by the Qataris, the building cost around £435million and is a whopping 310 metres high – or thereabouts.
Described as “iconic” and as a “landmark”, The Shard isn’t finished yet. A hotel, restaurants and luxury homes have yet to be finished, the office space yet to be let.
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But in February this year the viewing gallery opened to the public.
Booking advance is recommended and the price is a bit steep – £24.95 for adults and £18.95 for children from four to 15. Buying tickets on the day is even more pricey.
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Once you’re through the airport- style security you are shepherded into a lift which takes you to the 30-something floor. More staff direct you to a second lift which takes you up to the 68th floor. It takes no time at all and your ears pop.
Up a few stairs and you’re on the 69th floor viewing platform – enclosed against the elements, it’s a mass of glass and steel and a wooden floor.
Strategically placed viewing machines enable you to point at various London landmarks and find out what they are – so in case you aren’t sure where to find Buckingham Palace, Battersea Power Station and St Paul’s Cathedral, help is available.
On the 72nd floor – another short lift ride or a few more steps – and you’re outside on the viewing platform that is even higher and open to the elements.
Designed by architect Renzo Piano, the sheer height of the viewing platform – somewhere around 244m or 800ft in old money – makes commuter trains on their way to the suburbs look like a Hornby train set while cars turn into Matchbox toys. On a clear day you can see for around 40 miles.
Unfortunately it wasn’t a clear day when I went up The Shard.
And though I could see a little bit of London when the mist momentarily cleared it was only really the City of London, Tower Bridge, Cannon Street railway station and select bits of SE1.
But never mind. These things happen and if I ever go again I’ll book for an evening in high summer when London is at its most beautiful... when the setting sun catches the river that runs through this imperial city and the skyscrapers and the dome of St Paul’s are bathed in light.
It will be then that the view from The Shard will be worth every penny.