There is always something special about seeing a city from a different view point.
No matter how long you spend tramping through its street, exploring its alleyways and hanging out with the locals, if you climb the tallest building in a city you always see it from a completely new perspective.
I’ve visited tall buildings all around the world – sometimes with more success than others. The Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Empire State Building in New York had amazing views. Whereas this is what we saw from the 492m (1,614 ft) high Shanghai World Financial Centre:
But the one place I’ve never seen from up above is London – my own capital city.
So it was exciting when we got tickets to go up the Shard – the tallest building in Western Europe, at 310m (1,016ft).
You can book viewing slots in advance to save the queues so it’s just a matter of turning up at the allotted time and waiting in line for a few minutes. Then we were whizzed up in the lift to the 68th floor, our ears popping on the way.
We were lucky enough to have a gorgeously clear day – although fortunately it wasn’t too hot as I imagine it can get a bit sweaty behind all of that glass!
The viewing platforms – called, funnily enough, The View – are on floors 68, 69 and 72 and the glass walls mean there are 360 degree views for up to 40 miles.
If you’re not a fan of heights, be warned: the first few moments when you step out of the lifts and are confronted by the floor to ceiling windows can be a bit dizzying. But it doesn’t take long to get used to it and after a couple of minutes I was crowding next to the window like everyone else.
The views from The Shard are amazing. It really is a chance to see London in a completely different light. One of the things I loved the most was the way that you can see how perfectly the city preserves the old while embracing the new.
The medieval Tower of London sits comfortably close to the ultra-modern buildings of the City of London, the main financial district. From the west side of The Shard, the Houses of Parliament, London Eye and St Paul’s Cathedral can all be seen in the same view.
There was also the chance to see all of the secret spots the city holds: the roof gardens, the construction sites and what goes on behind those tall gates and fences!
Tiny red London buses snake around the streets, toy-like trains cross bridges and ant-sized cyclists weave in and out of the traffic.
You can spend as long as you want at the top, although the viewing platforms are, understandably, designed to keep people moving. So there are no toilets and just a small bar, selling pricey drinks. There are some interesting machines which you can use to zoom in on areas of interest to find out more information about the buildings. They also show you what the views look like at night and I liked a feature which reveals what the same place would have looked like at different times in history. It’s hard to imagine a time when London was mostly just fields. The only down-side was that the devices time out after two minutes, obviously so that everybody gets the chance to have a go, but it did feel very rushed when you were trying to look at something – especially as there is a rolling second-by-second countdown in the corner.
But all in all, it was a great visit and I did leave with a new love for London, as well as plans to find and befriend the person with that amazing roof garden!