The viewing platform known as “The View” atop London’s latest skyscraper and Western Europe’s highest building has been open one month now, so dealchecker thought it was ‘high’ time (groan) we got ourselves to the summit of The Shard to suss out the value of that view; is £25 for a 40 mile vista a real deal or a rip off?
The View occupies floors 68 to 72 of The Shard, the highest point of the 310-metre-high glass tower that is open to the public. To get up there you’re going to have to catch two lifts. But these aren’t just any lifts. These are “kaleidoscopic”, high-speed lifts, lifts that can whisk you through 30 floors in 30 seconds.
Whilst you’re hurtling skyward by speedy lifts, you’ll barely feel a thing. One member of our party was so busy fretting about the anticipated stomach drop that she didn’t even notice we’d already taken off until we were half way up the tower. The need to pop your ears may well be your only clue you’re moving at all.
You land at floor 68, a flight of stairs (or one more not-high-speed lift) from the first viewing platform on floor 69.
And what about the view from The View? Well it is spectacular, obviously.
London is laid out like a living map before you. You can trace the network of roads which thread through the city under the tyres of matchbox cars, watch teeny tiny trains pull out of London Bridge Station, and tinier still pedestrians racing to catch them.
Landmark spotting is the main activity going on. From the obvious and unmissable; the Gherkin, Tower Bridge and the BT Tower to those in the distance; Big Ben’s tower, the London Eye and the Olympic stadium. If you need some help spotting your house, your office or your hotel there are computerised telescopes stationed on most sides of The View. They show an augmented reality view of London – pinpointing famous landmarks onto a live and magnified view for you to explore. You can even opt to change the view to a recording of daylight, dusk or night-time if you want to get a feel for The View at another time of day.
We went up shortly before dusk – so we got to see the change happening in real time, as London’s green parks and grey river were outshone by streetlit roads and spotlit buildings.
You get two floors for your money; floor 69 is enclosed, but continue up to floor 72 and you’re exposed to the elements, and to the incredible architecture of the Shard itself. When we went on a bitterly cold February day this open-air platform was a little emptier, for obvious reasons, and we also noticed that the north side of the building was always busier. Not that there was any need to rush; although entrance slots are timed you can spend as much time up in the air as you want.
Clearly the is going to become the view for London. At more than twice the height of the London Eye the view is unmatched. Plus it wins points for feeling more solid underfoot (useful if you’re scared of heights!) and your time in the air isn’t limited.
The whole experience feels decidedly unearthly, helped in no small part by the London Symphony Orchestra’s heavenly music playing in the background.
And as for the price, £25 might sound a lot (especially compared to other views; Dubai’s Burj Khalifa is £23 and that’s 140 metres taller) but we concluded we were happy to pay every penny… and will very likely do so again this summer. Well, London could be looking all different by then.