Tickets went on sale last summer for The View From The Shard and it opens on 1 February 2013. As you would expect, I’ve had a preview already.
What is The View from The Shard?
This is the new premium visitor attraction at the pinnacle of The Shard, London’s newest landmark. It offers the highest vantage point from any building in Western Europe and almost twice as high as any other viewing point in London. There are 360 degree views to see as far away as 40 miles (64km) from 800ft (244m) above the city.
About The Shard
The Shard is a landmark building on the London skyline, designed by architect Renzo Piano. At a height of 1,016ft (310m) the building is the UK’s first vertical city. Located next to London Bridge station in what is now being called London Bridge Quarter, The Shard sits centrally between the West End, Westminster, the South Bank, the City and Canary Wharf.
What’s a vertical city, I hear you ask? It’s a mixed use building including offices, restaurants, exclusive residences, the 5-star Shangri-La hotel as well as the visitor attraction, The View From The Shard. It was always planned that the building would open to the public.
The name ‘Shard’ comes from its sculpted design, which consists of glass facets that incline inwards but do not meet at the top, but instead open to the sky to allow the building to breathe naturally. Inspiration was taken from London church spires and the masts of ships which once anchored on the River Thames nearby.
What to expect when you visit
From the ground level entrance you go up the stairs to the Foyer where you’ll find ticket sales and some quirky illustrations of famous Londoners. Look out for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as Pearly King and Queen, and Kate Moss marrying Henry VIII. Here’s an example:
You can even have your photo taken against a green screen and be added to the wall gallery, like this:
Your time in the Foyer is accompanied by the “Sound of the Shard” – especially commissioned music to start getting you excited about going up. The galleries mentioned above are seen as you make your way through security checks and to the super-fast lifts.
The first lift takes you up to level 33. This journey takes only 30 seconds. Inside the lift there are screens on the ceiling and mirrored walls. At level 33 you have to change lifts to carry on up. (Note, there is no viewing platform at level 33.) You’ll find a graffiti map of London on the floor describing different areas of the city. This is it:
While waiting to catch the next lift you can test your London knowledge with the clues scrawled on the floor. The next lift takes you from level 33 to level 68 in just 30 seconds and is accompanied by a soundtrack performed by the London Symphony Orchestra.
Level 68 is known as the ‘Cloudscape’ as it prepares you for the viewing platforms above. The windows have opaque film explaining the types of clouds but you can start to see through to acclimatise yourself to the high height.
Also, on this floor is the Sky Boutique the highest shop in London. The hardback souvenir guidebook is £9.95 and they stock cuddly foxes called Romeo as a witty reminder of the urban fox that was found living on level 72 during construction.
Walk up one more floor (or use the lift) and you are at the level 69 viewing platform which is going to be the most popular floor of the building.
Level 69 has a viewing platform on all four sides and is triple-height so it feels very spacious.
Even on a day with low visibility (as it was when I first visited) the views are still breathtaking. It’s not scary being up so high as you can see so far away. Obviously, looking straight down may not be good for someone with concerns (so look away now) as this gives you an idea of what that feels like.
I returned a few days later for another preview to try to get better weather. Initially the raindrop covered windows were an issue for photographs:
But then we met the window cleaners who wipe the windows every day, we were told.
I stayed to let the sun reach us and is was magical watching London come to life with the light. We could literally see the sunlight moving towards us. (This was at midday on a January weekday so don’t think we were there for an early visit.) I loved the shadow of The Shard seen pointing across the Thames:
There are 12 of these digital telescopes that provide information about 200 landmarks and places of interest in 10 languages. They have large touchscreens and you can choose ‘Live’ to move it around and see closer what’s out there or Sunrise/Day/Sunset/Night for pre-recorded versions of the view you are seeing. I found this really helpful on a day with low visibility. By the way, if you visit ona day when the visibility isn’t as good as it could be you are entitled to re-book. Top tip, eh?
There’s a countdown on the screen as you have three minutes before the Tell:scope resets itself and is available for another visitor. Of course, you can use it again, if available.
A short walk (or take the lift) and you’ll reach level 72, the partially outdoors viewing platform. At 800ft/244m, it is the highest vantage point from any building in Western Europe. There is a partial cover but if it rains you may well get wet yet it is exhilarating to feel the air on your face so high up.
You are perfectly safe as the lowest glass wall is still higher than visitors. You may not get as nice photos from up here but the views are worth seeing.
Level 72 is not the top of The Shard, as you can see in the photo above looking up at the pinnacle from Level 72, but it is the highest floor the public can reach.
There isn’t a cafe yet but the public cafes, bars and restaurants will be on levels 31-33 and will open during 2013.
Key info about The View From The Shard
Opening Hours: Opens on 1 February 2013. Open daily from 9am to 10pm (not Christmas Day).
Box Office Tel: +44 (0)844 499 7111. (A handling fee applies for telephone bookings only).
Costs: Adults £24.95 / Children £18.95 / 0-3 years Free.
Tickets must be pre-booked as numbers are managed to ensure no crowds or queuing. Gift Certificates are available to allow the recipient to choose when they would like to visit.
Entrance Location: Joiner Street, London, SE1.