The View from The Shard
I am up against the glass in seconds swallowing in the sight with great gulps.
Emerging from London Bridge underground station, it is a moment before I get my bearings. Swamped by the concrete mass of Borough Market and the London Bridge Quarter surrounding me, it’s not until I turn the corner onto St Thomas’ Street that I see it. Looming 1,016ft above me, its ominous spike piercing the hovering London smog, towers Western Europe’s tallest building: The Shard. With the majestic peak a mere pinpoint in the distance, the sleek and shining building glitters in the morning light, clouds reflecting off of its smooth exterior like a colossal mirror.
Guided through the glass doors by smiling staff, we make our way through the building. Understandably, The Shard is rich in staff members and security as the epic building is also home to offices, restaurants, residences and a hotel. Swiftly escorted through the airport-like security checks we are positioned for a souvenir photograph. Ushered around the corner we make our way to the first lift. Dark at first, as soon as the doors close the ceiling flickers into neon-lighted life, the colourful flashing pictures and patterns reflected tenfold in the mirrored walls. The ‘kaleidoscopic’ lifts use these special effects to create the effect of soaring through iconic ceilings and roofs of London towards The Shard’s pinnacle. Emerging on Level 33 and through the graffiti décor, we have one more lift to go.
As the Level 68 button turns a glowing red and the doors creep open, we are shown up the final flight of stairs to The Cloudescape. Alone in the room, we are instantly hit with a blaze of light, the morning sun slicing through the tall glass windows casting elongated shadows of Renzo Piano’s impressive structure across the open floor. The clouds now lifted, our view is clear right out to the misty edges of Greater London and beyond.
Immediately drawn to the view before me, I am up against the glass in seconds swallowing in the sight with great gulps. After a few minutes, my initial awe subsiding, I look around and take in the simplistic décor; above me sits a sign showing the significant buildings visible from that particular window, to my right lies a computer screen on stilts. These 12 ‘Tell:Scopes’ act as a powerful pair of binoculars, allowing guests to explore the view in real time and pinpointing over 200 significant landmarks and places of interest. They also show the view at different times of the day using pre-recorded images. With friendly, informative and attentive staff on hand at every turn, guests will never be stumped by the sights.
Having left palm and forehead prints dotted around the entire floor’s glass windows, we decided move on to the next and final level. At Level 72 The View from The Shard reaches the dizzy heights of 800ft and features a partially outdoor viewing gallery with a 40 mile panoramic view of the city. Eyes wide in wonderment, my hair blowing in the sweeping wind, I am engulfed by the majestic and ominous soundtrack of the London Symphony Orchestra and The Joyful Company of Singers, lost completely in my surroundings.
Unsurprisingly, The View from The Shard has been an instant hit with visitors and is a popular place for engagements since its opening on 1 February 2013. In fact within just 10 minutes of the attraction opening it had its first happy couple cracking open the bubbly. It may be the breath-taking view, it may be the excitement, but standing 800ft above the great city of London really is a special experience. I’d even go so far as to say other-worldly (and for a very un-spirited person like me, that really is saying something!).
Descending The View from The Shard is another experience in itself. Back on Level 68 we find The Sky Boutique, London’s highest shop, and browse the souvenirs of picture books, postcards and ornaments. There is even cuddly fox toy on sale in honour of Romeo, the fox that was found roaming The Shard’s skeletal upper levels during its construction. Taking the lifts back to the ground floor we are once again accosted with bright lights and colourful flashes as the multimedia-enhanced ceiling reflects the trip back down to earth, showing a receding sky, changing seasons and eventually the day-to-day hustle and bustle of London.
Leaving through the gift shop and the smiles of the staff, we head back out into the swarming streets of the city. As I join the throng of the oncoming crowd I can’t help but reflect on my experience, my head still in the clouds.
Renzo Piano, Architect, The Shard: “London is a city of inspiration and imagination. When we designed The Shard, a viewing gallery was part of our thinking right from the start. We wanted to create a public space where people could visit the building to experience London in a different way and also feel that they have discovered the spirit of the building. Level 72 is a wonderful example of this; in the open air on the highest habitable floor, you are surrounded by the shards of glass as well as the sights, sounds, elements and atmosphere of the city below. On top of the city, but also within it.”
Tickets are pre-booked from the website and cost £24.95 for adults and £18.95 for children. Alternatively you can call the box office on +44 844 499 7111.
The View from the Shard is open from 9am - 10pm daily (closed on 25 December).