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5 places to see incredible views of the London skyline

Plan a walk to one of these sweet vantage points in London and maybe you’ll actually feel something for once

Written by
Nick Thompson

There’s no denying that London is a looker. Staggering glossy skyscrapers and ancient domes on the city skyline make the capital look pretty swish all year round. Sure you can get a decent eyeful of the city via sun-dappled evenings spent drinking slush cocktails at rooftop bars. You’ll catch London from its most photo-ready angles at one of these lofty, leafy hills overlooking London. Plan a walk to feature one of these grassy vantage points and you’re sure to get a chance to use your camera phone’s panoramic setting. Best of all? Unlike the lovely views of the city you can see from bars and tourist attractions, these are all completely free.

Where to find the best views in London

One Tree Hill
Andy Parsons

1. One Tree Hill

Almost certainly not the inspiration for the glossy US teen TV drama, One Tree Hill stands between Forest Hill and Brockley, and offers an unexpectedly breathtaking view of London to the north. Climb the steps to the summit and the cityscape is framed by hybrid black poplars and London plane trees. You’re standing above Europe’s largest underground reservoir, and there are the remains of a WWI anti-aircraft gun emplacement nearby, both of which add a frisson to the splendid vista. Honor Oak, SE23. Honor Oak Park rail.

  • Things to do
  • Cultural centres
  • Alexandra Palace

Ally Pally was conceived as north London’s answer to the Crystal Palace, and – as befits ‘The People’s Palace’ – its socially democratic views are free to all and stunning, with the whole of London laid out at your feet. But spare a thought for its southern cousin as you drink it all in. The Crystal Palace burned down in 1936, and its namesake football team is now managed by Roy Hodgson. South Terrace, N22. 

  • Things to do
  • Primrose Hill

Yes, it’s a cliché, but the sight of London from the top of Primrose Hill really is great. As a result, this 213-foot hill is one of the capital’s 13 protected vistas: spots where the view must remain untouched by development. Back in the day, the hill was used for duelling, but these days you’re more in danger from poshos flying kites. Primrose Hill Rd, NW1. 

  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Richmond Park

This Richmond Park hill is said to be where Henry VIII stood, heart in mouth, waiting to spot a rocket let off from the Tower of London to signal that his missus Anne Boleyn had been beheaded. This is probably bollocks. Either way, since 1710 the view’s been protected. Generations of gardeners have kept it foliage-free, so you can gaze all the way down the Thames to the City of London. Richmond Park, TW10. 

The Point
Andy Parsons

5. The Point

The view of London from beside the Royal Observatory in Greenwich Park is immense, so it’s inevitably swamped by a sea of tourists beneath a waving canopy of selfie sticks. Head just ten minutes up the road, though, and The Point offers almost as great a vista which you can enjoy in virtual seclusion. Take a bottle of something and some plastic cups, colonise one of the two romantic benches, and watch the sun descend in the west. Plus, unlike Greenwich Park, there’s no chucking-out time up here. Point Hill, SE10. 

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