As I prepared for my first trip to London, I began to create my “must-see” list. Initially the list started and promptly ended with Kate Middleton. After coming to terms with the reality of my list, I began to craft a more realistic compilation of the quintessential sights that I wanted to check out during my time in London.
Atop my list: Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, the National Gallery and of course, the London Eye. The Eye, a giant Ferris wheel sitting on the River Thames, is prominently featured across the most iconic panoramic shots of London. Once inside of the Eye, a birds-eye view of the historic metropolitan area becomes available as viewers begin to spin around the city.
After spending my first full day in London walking for hours, passing Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and Big Ben I made my way over to the Eye. At first glance the line for tickets poured out the door and the wait to ride was over two hours. High on adrenaline (and my fourth cup of coffee) in an attempt to cheat jet lag, I decided to carry on to the next landmark.
Having done some back-up research, I decided to see London from a different viewing deck, the Shard. The Shard is the tallest building in London as well as the European Union, reaching 1,014 feet in height. It houses businesses, a hotel and a panoramic sky deck. It will put a slight dent in your wallet ranging between £24.95 to £40.95 per guest but the experience far exceeds what the London Eye can offer.
With no line mid-day, we walked directly to the green screen photo opportunity, the first stop of the experience. We were then led through an interactive tour on our way up to the 71st floor, the first level of the viewing deck. This level is completely enclosed and offers refreshments for purchase as you tour the views. Sitting comfortably near the London Bridge, Borough Market and the Tower of London, the 360-degree panoramic views scan from the city of London around to Big Ben and the Eye, following the River Thames. If you’re feeling adventurous, take the short flight of stairs or the lift to the second level of the viewing deck. With similar views, this deck offers a slightly different opportunity to that of the Eye: outdoor views. Unlike the Eye, viewing time at the Shard is not limited. We circled the viewing decks several times, capturing various photo opportunities around the city and beyond.
The Shard is a quick ride on the Jubilee line of the Tube hopping off at the London Bridge stop. Initially, I was hesitant to leave London without seeing the city from the inside of the Eye. After experiencing the views that the Shard offered, I left the city confident that I gained unique and lasting memories from the tallest view in London.
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Know before you go
- The Shard, 32 London Bridge St, London SE1 9SG, United Kingdom
- Tickets: purchasing tickets ahead of time for a specific time slot will save you $$$
- Guides: The Shard is self-guided, no audio or guided tours are offered. Binoculars are placed around the building for extended views
- Group rates: discounts are available for groups of 15 or more.
- Children: Infants up to age three enter for free. Ages four to fifteen require a valid ticket.
- Good Visibility Guarantee: The Shard will offered a free return ticket to use within three months if you are unable to see at least three of the following sites on the day of your visit: London Eye, St. Paul’s Cathedral, The Gherkin, Tower Bridge, and One Canada Square.
ShutterStock.com photo credits: The Shard via IR Stone, Viewing Deck via Paul Matthew Photography, View over London via , The Shard (vertical) via Kiev.Victor
London Destination Guide
- New Road Hotel: Stylish hotel with yoga room, bike rentals, and free Wi-Fi. Within walking distance of many city landmarks.
- The Tower Hotel: Situated in the center of the city, The Tower Hotel is great for visitors. Onsite parking available, free Wi-Fi, and fitness center.
- The Resident Kensington: Located right by Kensington Garden square, this charming hotel boasts free Wi-Fi, laundry service, and in-room breakfasts.
Looking for more? Search for great hotel deals on Booking.com.
- Greater London Apartment: Sleeps 5 in 2 bedroom + 3 bath
- Kensington High Street Flat: Sleeps 2 in 2 bedroom + 1 bath
- TV & Magazine Featured Flat: Sleeps 4 in 1 bedroom + 1 bath