Rise About It
We took an amazing trip to ‘The Shard’ at London Bridge which is one of London’s newest and certainly biggest attractions.
I’ll take you through our trip, what there is to do, what there is to see, and some handy tips and pointers to make sure you get the very most out of your visit to the tallest building in Western Europe.
From my office by Tower Bridge I have been able to witness first hand this behemoth of the city’s skyline emerge. I have been fascinated with it ever since, googling new facts almost on a daily basis to bore colleagues and family. This is an obsession I have passed on to my 3 year old daughter Avery who almost nightly insists on being held up to the window to catch a glimpse of it from her bedroom window 12 miles south of the actual location.
So I was thrilled when, as a surprise for my 30th birthday, my partner Georgina told me she had booked a trip to the top. I was under strict instruction to dress sharp and around midday we hopped on the train straight into London Bridge, with the terminal delivering you right to the base of the building a few steps from the train and you’re literally at the front door of London’s‘ city in the sky.
No quintessential British queuing required here, we showed our tickets at the door and were whisked into level zero. A few minutes early this gave us time to take a peek at the galleries detailing the construction phases and to learn a few more facts about the architectural mastery involved.
First impressions of this new attraction were all positive, everything has been done to the very highest standards, the process is efficient without ever feeling rushed and the staff were incredibly polite and helpful. There’s a feeling of eager anticipation in the air as you wait to embark.
We’re guided into the super sleek, super modern elevators and the journey begins. The viewing gallery is spread across floors 68 – 72 and to reach the upper echelons you must use two separate lifts. One that transports you up to the 35th floor where you step out , walk just a few yards and step in to a carbon copy of the first lift up to the top. The whole journey takes less than 3 minutes in total and feels incredibly smooth and comfortable. The staff are warm, knowledgeable and keep you entertained all the way.
The doors open and the light floods in, you’re surrounded by crystal clear glass and immediately turn your attention to the skyline stretching out beneath you.
On the north side you look out across the Thames to see ‘The City’ a contrast between the ultra modern glass Gherkin, Walkie Talkie and Cheesegrater and the majesty of St Paul’s, The Tower of London, Monument, Tate Modern and Tower Bridge. A wealth of history mixed with modern dynamism straight ahead of you.
Look around further and there’s so much more to see, sports obsessed (well I am) we spotted, Wembley, Arsenal’s Emirates ground, The Olympic park and to the south we were lucky enough to spot the Oval cricket ground in the middle of an Ashes Test Match.
They have some handy gadgets too, superb digital telescopes that allow you to zoom in on areas far away and see what’s going on in complete clarity.
One of the most impressive sights was seeing planes flying past at an equal height to where you’re stood. We were lucky enough to see 2 Chinook helicopters fly directly overhead no more than 20 metres from the summit.
They place no limits on the amount of time you can spend up at the peak but after about an hour we’d seen enough to satisfy.
We ventured down and I thought the trip was over but Georgina had secretly planned an addendum to our trip.
We walked round the side of the base to another more discreet entrance, this is where being told to dress sharp suddenly made sense. We were transported up to Aqua bar which I can only describe as an experience in opulence. Situated about half way up it is an exclusive cocktail bar that caters for a distinguished clientèle. After another whirl in the lifts we were warmly met by the maitre d who showed us to the best seats in the house.
Spread across an entire floor, Aqua is predominantly a cocktail lounge but has a restaurant attached offering what’s described as ‘innovative contemporary British cuisine’.
But we were there to sample their array of fine Cocktails, they have an extensive choice and the sommelier is happy to lend advice.
We quaffed back champagne and savoured a range of tantalising creations into the mid afternoon feeling very regal looking out onto the city below us. A beautiful summers afternoon the view from level 31 almost (almost) matching the view from the summit.
A thoroughly enjoyable way to celebrate my 30th. Highly recommended and to my mind a new ‘must see’ for anyone visiting the capital.
How to get there.
The Shard has to be the easiest place to find in the whole of the capital, look up and it’s there. Public Transport is also a doddle as it’s built on top of London Bridge station, buses, tubes, trains all flow to and from the terminal. Plan a Journey TFL
What else is there to do around?
A fair bit actually, walk along the south bank towards Tower Bridge and you’ll pass Hays Galleria, HMS Belfast, The Mayors Office, cross the Bridge itself and arrive at The Tower of London (another must).
Walk west along the river and head past, Borough Market, Sir Francis Drake’s famous ship the Golden Hind, Shakespeare’s globe theatre and end up at Tate modern and the Millennium Bridge (the spinny one from Harry Potter).
Lots to see and do nearby, this part of London’s a hubbub of activity.
Is the gift shop any good?
In honesty a lot of the same tourist mementos as other attractions but they do have a few innovative pieces like they’re very own magnums of Champagne complete with crystal flutes.
Anywhere else to eat?
In addition to Aqua, the Shard has two other restaurants:
Oblix on level 32
Hutong on 33
Best time to go?
For a more pleasant relaxed experience I’d definitely recommend booking. You need only to rock up at lift off time and you are whisked efficiently through with no queues. Book it, Plan It, See It
We went mid afternoon on a sunny afternoon, there was a slight haze in the air but the views were still terrific. You can book for sunset but be sure to get the right time. It closes at different times depending on times of the year so do be aware if you’re not pre-booking.