Londoners have watched over months and years as the glassy figure of the Shard has gradually cut into the Thames skyline. Finally, the first official photos from the complex’s 69th floor viewing platform have been released – with the first public viewings following in February 2013 – and by the looks of things, from this height London looks INCREDIBLE! At £24.95 per ticket, however, the Shard is not exactly cheap. That’s why we’ve come up with a few alternatives.
This structure may be a deal shorter than the Shard, but it is infinitely more relevant to the history of London, and there’s less queuing involved too. Built between 1671 and 1677 by Sir Christopher Wren, the Monument marks the spot at which the Great Fire of London broke out; this is reflected in the golden urn of flames that crowns it. It only costs £3 to go up to the Monument viewing platform; the views are impressive, plus you’re awarded a certificate for your endeavours. The bad news? Lifts weren’t around in the 17th century, so you’ll have to tackle the 311 steps with knee grease alone.
The tallest skyscraper in the City of London, Heron Tower is home to commercial enterprises (and the largest private aquarium in Britain) but anyone can dine out at its Restaurant & Sky Bar, where opposite-facing terraces allow you to take your pick from vistas looking out over the City to the west, and Olympic Park to the east. Food on offer is a fusion of Brazilian, Peruvian and Japanese, and diners are ferried up to their tables by scenic elevators. Okay, you’ll probably end up spending more than £24.95, but at least you’ll have a full stomach to show for it.
Manmade structures continue to command the city’s skyline and strive to create the best views, but nature has a way of effortlessly winning. Primrose Hill in the north gives out over a spectacular London panorama, from which you can pick out such landmarks as the BT Tower and Eye. This is the ideal vantage point for those who are nervy with heights, or for those who like to enjoy their views sprawled out on the grass with a picnic. Parliament Hill on Hampstead Heath is a similarly rural vantage point.
If you’re wondering where exactly Elizabeth Tower is, you know it better than you think. It’s the new name given to the Victorian Gothic clock tower commonly referred to as Big Ben (although we all know that’s actually the bell inside). Visitors can’t simply saunter up the stairs (it has 23 more than the Monument), but if you’re a UK resident, you can write to your MP to ask for permission and organize a tour – pretty cool, huh? In truth, the actual scenes you get of London are extremely limited, but the view of the world’s most famous bell-and-clock-combo is unrivalled. As, we expect is the din when Big Ben tolls…