If you’ve been following this blog at all, or even scrolled down the home page, you’ll notice that recently I’ve been focussing a little on seeing London from high up places. There was no particular rhyme or reason for this pattern, other than in my down time before leaving London to go to Toronto for a few months, I ended up spending time at a bunch of tall places overlooking the city because I realised I hadn’t been to them. You never really do those things when you live there, for some reason so I finally got round to it. That’s literally it.
They always say that you don’t realise how much you miss something until it’s gone and honestly, they’re right. Writing these posts has been somewhat therapeutic, as it is lovely to look back on fond memories and contemplate how great a city London is. I absolutely adore Canada but it would be remiss of me to deny how homesick I am.
Hence, why I am continuing the theme of high up places by putting my experience of them to use… By ranking them. I mean, what’s the point of writing about these places if I’m not even going to consider which is the best one for you to visit. Of course, this is personal opinion and I’m pretty damn sure that any history buffs reading this are going to despise my considerations but nonetheless, I am going to go ahead and do it. Mostly, because I quite like ranking things.
Also, I would like to point out right now that the below are based on places I have visited recently and would therefore like to recommend based on up to date info. It’s not a complete list of every single building/bar you can view London from… I didn’t even mention Muswell Hill, for example, which I would really recommend if you want a nice walk in a park plus a good view. Greenwich Park is pretty good for that too.
1) The Shard (Elevator)
It’s London’s Highest Public Viewing Platform and looks pretty damn good from the outside. You know how romantics say to remember that no matter where you are in the world, you’re looking at the same moon? Just me? Anyway, I used to say that to my friends about The Shard. Even though we lived in different corners of London, we could all see the Shard on our walk home from the tube.
I finally went a few months ago, not to the viewing platform but to one of the bars – Oblix. No, it isn’t as high up as the viewing platform but you can still see a heck of a lot, plus, it doesn’t cost you a penny to get up there. Yes, they would like it if you to bought a drink once there but… Then you get a drink. You do have to dress up a bit (basically not wear trainers) and it may be busy at peak times, nevertheless its a really chill atmosphere and makes for a solid fancy evening. I feel like the vibe fits a bunch of things too – you could impress someone with a nice date there, have a fancy girls day or just treat your parents.
I went as part of quite a random day of tourist activities in London, a post on which can be found here.
2) St Paul’s Cathedral (Stairs)
Ok, fingers crossed this one will please the history buffs because St Paul’s Cathedral is bloody old. I could actually go into some real history about it because I actually picked some up while I was there but what you really want to know is… What can I see from there? There are various galleries with different stages of view but it’s pretty great. The golden gallery is at the top and there is a stunning view from it. I will point out the very top is quite a tight squeeze and I wouldn’t recommend for those with a fear of small spaces, not only because of the lack of space at the top but also because the walk up there is quite narrow and even I (a short person) had to bend down a few times, so I didn’t hit my head on things. It is a lovely view and a really cool way to see the city, if you don’t mind the adventurous walk up (oh did I mention there are 528 steps to the top?) Plus, you get to walk through the whispering gallery, which not only has a lovely view of the inside of the Cathedral but also has unique walls which mean you can whisper on one side and be heard on the other. I remember my mum taking me there as a child and it was pretty cool.
My boyfriend and I went up here as part of a ‘lates’ experience, so we could see the sunset from the top. It was also a lot quieter inside than during the day when it is open generally to the public (not that we aren’t public but you get me) and we didn’t have to queue. If you’re around when they do that again, I would highly recommend it.
3) Sky Garden (Elevator)
If you read my post on this, you’ll know that I actually had quite a lot of issues with the Sky Garden when visiting, so you may be surprised to see it at Number 3. Well, annoyingly the terrible organisation of the place is outweighed by how nice it is inside… It’s a botanical garden up high in London, with tea on offer and good views. Yes it is busy and irritating to get up/down in, and to book, but once you’re up there I can’t deny that its really quite nice. All my observances and tips on visiting can be found here.
4) Monument (Stairs)
As I mentioned in my earlier post about walking up here, a lot of people don’t even realise you can go inside Monument. This might explain why in my experience, it’s quite a quiet tower to view London from. Then again, that might just be because you have to walk up a million steps to get there (ok, 311). As an ‘experience’ there isn’t that much to do but it’s an interesting little piece of history and good exercise, plus it’s pretty cheap. You can also get a joint ticket with Tower Bridge from here. Info on this in my post about both attractions, here.
5) Tower Bridge (Elevator/Stairs)
My review of Tower Bridge was fairly scathing when you consider its one of the most well known landmarks within London and a great piece of history but honestly, I just didn’t think it was that great. Due to its background and how it looks from the outside, it’s interesting to go in but in truth, I found it disappointing inside. I felt that it was quite run down and need of updating. I visited as a child and loved it but I don’t think its been updated much since then. I completely understand visiting but I really do need to point out that if you’re going there simply for the view, my above suggestions are way, way better options. If you want to learn about the history of Tower Bridge/tell people you’ve been in there, then sure go for it.
6) Roof East (Elevator)
This one is a bit of a curveball, as it isn’t really a viewing platform like the others. I just really like it because it’s somewhere a bit different to go to, that actually has a lot going on… You’ll get a different view to everywhere else because it’s in Stratford, East London and whilst there, you can play games, drink, go to the cinema (dependent on the time of year). Yes, other places – the London Eye, the Sky Garden etc do put events on up there, like yoga, storytime and tea, but they book out very quickly and are a real special thing. Roof East has a good atmosphere all year round and lots going on, without it being a huge deal. I guess it’s just a bar really and one that a lot of people I know go to a lot but that’s why I felt like it was worth a mention. It’s not a big tourist thing and you’re likely to see something different that everyone else you know that has visited London, has seen. My post about Roof East can be found here.