Back In March, my boyfriend Ben and I made our first visit to the Shard to go to a Silent Disco. It was one of our first dates and it was also possibly the best date I’ve ever been on. Both my company and the view were unsurpassed. London by night is a beautiful thing – especially at 72 floors up!
My Mum and her partner Tony had bought tickets for the three of us to go up the Shard as a birthday present for me last year. With time rapidly running out to use them, we settled on 4th August. Ben nabbed himself a ticket to, and we found ourselves staring up at this gleaming beauty just before 12:00.
For those who don’t know the story of this megalith, it used to be an office block called Southwark Towers. The man behind the vision is Irvine Sellar, who purchased the site in 1998. Yes, this has been a long time in the making! The building work itself only started in 2009, and the completed building opened in July 2012. Sellar’s vision was “to create an architecturally striking vertical city”, and the man who put the vision down on paper was Italian Renzo Piano. He apparently took his inspiration from Canaletto paintings and 18th century ships. Whilst I can see that a little, to me it also bears more than a passing resemblance to Sauron’s tower in The Lord of the Rings… (Follow this link and you’ll see what I mean!)
The journey to The View From the Shard starts at a staircase underneath London Bridge station. The easiest way to access it is probably via St. Thomas Street, off Borough High Street. Once your tickets have been scanned in the reception area and your bags checked (think airport security level), you are escorted in groups into the lifts (past an obligatory photo op, whereby your group are green-screened onto various Shard-related backdrops. We did not look our best in ours, so avoided buying it). You are taken to the 33rd floor, then directed through the Hall of Riddles (riddles about various places in London) to another lift, which takes you to the 68th floor. From there you walk up one more floor to the viewing galleries.
We were very lucky with the weather – it was warm but not too hot, sunny but not too blinding, cloudy but not too overcast. And this meant that we had a spectacular view over London when we emerged onto the 69th floor. The photos speak for themselves, and do far more justice to the view than I could. However, I’ll throw in some Shard facts along the way:
– The glass façade covers an area of 56,000 sq metres (602,779 sq ft), the equivalent of eight football pitches
– 95% of the construction materials are recycled (very eco!)
– There are 11,000 glass panels (the angles of these are wonderfully positioned so that they all catch the light differently and throw off patches of light and dark depending on the position of the sun and clouds)
– The Shard is the 59th tallest building in the world, and the tallest building in Western Europe
– For the animal lovers among you (like me!): A fox was found on the 72nd floor towards the end of construction. Nicknamed Romeo by staff, he is believed to have survived on food left by construction workers. He is now immortalised as a cuddly toy in the gift shop
– There are 306 flights of stairs altogether (just imagine how many steps that would be to climb down if the (44) lifts broke! Never mind the Yoga or Military Fitness, that should be the new exercise craze!)
So was it worth it? Absolutely. It’s £24.95 per person, which may seem like a lot, but once you’re up there the time is your own. Our arrival slot was 12:00, and we were there until sometime near 14:00 with no issues. The staff pretty much leave you to get on with it, and even with a steady stream of people coming in, the number of floors means you don’t feel boxed in or crowded. (I also love the astroturf floor they’ve put in for the summer)
I will say, however, that it is not the best choice for those with either a fear of heights or balance problems. My flatmate took one look at my photos and decided he could never set foot there (far too much glass, open space, and the entirely illogical but extremely potent fear of falling through reinforced glass and plummeting 72 floors to his death).
My mum has problems with balance (hearing and sinus-related), and felt a bit dizzy that high up, so spent some of the time sitting down. Again, the staff were completely fine with this. I think unless you planned on scaling the walls and trying to climb out of the open top, they were pretty much happy to let you do your own thing.
We left the Shard with cameras full to bursting of panoramic snaps, but with our stomachs growling. Fortunately, Borough Market was just across the road and open for lunch. (Sadly we devoured our burgers too quickly for photos) We then strolled along the Southbank to the Bankside boarding spot for the Thames Clipper. The last time I did this, many years ago with family, and it poured with rain the whole time. Today, however, we were lucky!
We cruised along the river in the sunshine to North Greenwich, disembarking next to the O2. We then caught a bus back to the main part of Greenwich and went for a wander. Anyone who’s ever scaled the hill to the observatory knows that this is a feat which almost requires you to bring your own oxygen tank to ensure you make it to the top. However, the view is pretty awesome when you get there…
Because it was such a nice day, we were sharing the viewpoint with a lot of other people, but it was worth it, and I’d certainly recommend a visit to the park itself, for the close proximity to Greenwich itself, the Maritime Museum, and the greenery of the park (they even have deer!)
We moved on from the park to the riverside for a final scenic scope before heading back into central by return Clipper. We were all exhausted by this point, and I think Tony was the only one who didn’t fall asleep on the way back to Embankment!
We went to an Indian restaurant on Drury Lane for dinner, as Ben and I found it on the Taste Card. It was quite nice, but nothing particularly special, and I probably wouldn’t visit it again, which is why I won’t dwell on it here. What I would recommend, however, is the gelato we had for dessert from a little shop in Covent Garden near the Lyceum Theatre (I’m really sorry but I can’t remember for the life of me what it was called! I will try and seek it out). See below for a sample of their creations:
We had an absolutely wonderful day. I would absolutely recommend both the Shard and the Thames Clipper to Greenwich. It’s a fun day out for friends, family or dates. Don’t be put off by how commercial they might seem – tourists flock to both for a reason! Make sure you do too.