The Shard, London's tallest building, was not universally well-received when it was completed in 2012. For every fan of architect Renzo Piano's crystalline, church steeple-inspired skyscraper – rescued from the jaws of recession by Qatari investors in 2008 – there's at least one detractor, angry that the 1,016-foot-tall hulk was ever allowed to bully its way into sightline omnipresence.
But if views of The Shard are controversial, the views from it are not. At 800 feet, the building's ticketed viewing platform The View from The Shard is nearly double the height of its closest competitor, the London Eye. From that high up London is Lego, the Thames a blue shoelace. Even the peaks of the City, immediately north, appear suddenly quaint. So, featuring where to eat to what to see a nearby, here's our sky-high guide to a trip up The Shard.
What's all this about The View from the Shard?
Chances are your trip up western Europe's tallest building is for The View from The Shard, a ticketed viewing platform with 360-degree views across the capital and beyond (up to 40 miles on a clear day). The attraction spans three levels of decks (the bottom two enclosed, the third open to the elements above) on floors 68 to 72 of the skyscraper, reached by two super-smooth, high-speed lifts taking just 30 seconds each. Up top, Digital 'Tell:scopes' update the coin-in-the-slot binoculars at traditional viewpoints: touchscreens locate and provide information about important landmarks, zoom in, and toggle between views from different times of the day.
How about opening times and tickets info?
The View from The Shard is open daily from 10am to 10pm. Winter hours, starting in October, are Sunday to Wednesday, 10am to 7pm; and Thursday to Saturday, 10am-10pm. Please note that last viewings start one hour before closing. Tickets cost £25.95 in advance for adults (£30.95 on the day) and £19.95 for children aged 4-15 (£24.95 on the day).
Hang on, where actually is The Shard?
Up. More specifically, The Shard is in Southwark, just two minutes from London Bridge Station (accessible by rail and the Northern and Jubilee lines tube lines). If you've got 10 minutes to spare, alight at Monument tube station (on the Circle and District lines) and behold The Shard's towering majesty as you cross London Bridge. The site can also be reached by more than a dozen buses that stop outside the entrance to London Bridge Station, including the 43, 48, 141, 149 and 521.
Eating and drinking at The Shard
Things to do near The Shard
Maltby Street Market
During the summer of 2010, a quiet bubble of gastronomic intent was swelling under the railway arches in Bermondsey. This unlikely south-east London backwater quickly became a popular destination for a Saturday morning wander with a bit of grocery shopping along the way. A few years on, many new traders have got involved, the recently Ropewalk has become a full-on street market, and some of the original bunch have moved down the road to Spa Terminus. Ropewalk is now open 9am-4pm Sat and 11am-4pm Sun but Spa Terminus is still strictly Saturdays only (around 9am-2pm for most producers), so that’s the day to take it all in.
One of the most famous river crossings in the world, Tower Bridge is actually only 120 years old. Still, the fact that it lifts up in the middle when large vessels are passing underneath makes it an icon that most children probably picture in their minds when singing ‘London Bridge is falling down’. Planes have flown through it, David Beckham has steered a speedboat underneath it and in 1952 a double-decker bus really did ‘leap’ over the gap when the bridge started to lift without warning. At the time when it was built, Tower Bridge was hailed as a miracle of Victorian engineering, with the steam-powered strength to lift up the two halves of the roadway whenever required. For some time, you’ve been able to visit inside the towers, see the steam engines and walk over the high-level pathways, taking in the stunning views from such a height over the Thames. But now the walkways feature a glass floor, so you experience the incredible sensation of standing 42 metres above the water seemingly without anything beneath you. Incredible, that is, for anyone with a head for heights. Morning yoga sessions are even held here, although they sell out very quickly. The Tower Bridge Experience attraction also includes an exhibition celebrating other great feats of engineering in bridge design from around the world, and an art installation as you descend down the ornate staircase. In peak visiting hours or during bridge lifts it’s not always easy to guarantee what time you will be able to
The food hound’s favourite market is also London’s oldest, dating back to the 13th century. It’s the busiest too, occupying a sprawling site near London Bridge. Gourmet goodies run the gamut, from fresh loaves and rare-breed meats, via fish, game, fruit and veg, to cakes and all manner of preserves, oils and teas; head out hungry to take advantage of the numerous free samples. A rail viaduct, vigorously campaigned against, is now in place, which means restored historic features have been returned and works disruption should now be at an end. As if to celebrate, a new Market hall, facing onto Borough High Street, has been opened: it acts as a kind of greenhouse for growing plants (including hops), as well as hosting workshops, tastings and foodie demonstrations. You can also nip in with your snack if the weather’s poor. Discover more great things to do in London Bridge
Although the Monument, which commemorates the Great Fire of 1666, is often attributed to Christopher Wren – who did choose its location 202 feet from the baker’s shop in Pudding Lane where the fire originated – it was almost certainly designed by Robert Hooke, the seventeenth-century polymath who also invented the sash window and spirit level. The area at the base was given a makeover in 2007 and the Corporation of London installed a new pavilion with public toilets and facilities for Monument staff. Those who climb the 311 steps to the top are rewarded with a certificate as well as wonderful views of London and the gilded bronze urn at the top of the tower blazing in reflected glory in the roof of the new pavilion. Following the Monument’s reopening in Feb 2009 after extensive but sensitive restoration, a live video stream of images from the top can be seen by visitors at the base who prefer not to tackle the ascent. Discover more great things to do in The City