First look: The View from the Shard
Published: 01/02/2013 - Filed under: News »
Unless you live underground or are unfortunate enough to suffer from anablephobia (the fear of looking up), anyone living in or visiting London over the last couple of years will have been aware of a new building dominating the capital’s skyline.
At 95 storeys, the Shard is the tallest building in western Europe, towering 310 metres over London Bridge in an irregular pyramidal shape entirely clad in glass.
Designed by Renzo Piano, the architect behind the avant-garde Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris, and developed by British entrepreneur Irvine Sellar with Qatari backing, the project took 12 years to complete and is covered in 11,000 individual panes of glass.
Referred to as a “vertical city”, the building will eventually house office and retail space, apartments, restaurants, London’s first Shangri-La hotel and, of course, the capital’s latest visitor attraction, the View from the Shard.
The experience officially opened to the public today, and has already had more than 130,000 advance bookings, despite the hefty entry fee of £24.95 for adults and £18.95 for children when booked in advance. Tickets purchased on the day for the next available timed entry cost £29.95 or £23.95, or £100 per person for “immediate access”.
Business Traveller was invited to last night’s launch party, attended by Sir Terry Wogan, Michel Roux Jr, Dan Snow, Ken Livingstone and Rachel Whiteread among others, with actor and Londoner Simon Callow giving an opening speech praising the “magnificent” building.
The entrance to the View from the Shard is on the same level as the London Bridge Underground ticketing area – pass by this on your right, with the cafés and shops on your left, and keep going towards St Thomas Street until you are opposite the Igloo flower shop, where you’ll see large multimedia screens showing time availability.
Guests take a set of stairs up to the main ticketing area, through a security check and then into the first set of lifts whisking you at six metres per second up to the 33rd floor. A quick change of lifts and then it’s up to the 68th floor, followed by one more set of stairs to the triple-height 69th-floor viewing level.
Immediately you’re confronted with a spectacular view of the city, looking north over HMS Belfast, with City Hall and Tower Bridge to your right, and Canary Wharf further in the distance. According to the promoters, on a clear day you can see up to 35 miles in all directions, “from Heathrow to the west, to the Thames Estuary in the east”.
Guests can walk around the 69th floor at their leisure, taking in the 360-degree view of the capital, and there are several “tell-scopes” – interactive digital telescopes allowing visitors to view the city either in real-time, or with the choice of pre-loaded sunrise, daytime, or night footage. The technology allows users to zoom in on the capital’s streets and rivers below, and interactive pop-ups display information on famous landmarks.
I could have walked around the level for hours (there’s no time restriction on your stay), picking out new buildings, bridges, parks and landmarks with every circuit, but after a while in the warmth it was time to brave the open-air 72nd floor, the highest inhabitable part of the Shard at 244 metres above the city.
Walking out on to the viewing platform, you are hit with a blast of icy cold air (perhaps unsurprisingly given the time of year), along with soaring, angelic music pouring out of speakers. The views of London are not greatly enhanced by this level compared to two floors down, but being outside does make the experience feel all the more real, and you get a chance to look up through the centre to see the Shard’s peak another 20-odd floors above you.
Would I pay £25 for the experience? Well, the views are certainly spectacular, but with so many tall buildings offering similar experiences around the globe, one can get a bit blasé about seeing a city spread out before you. And, of course, travellers flying into Heathrow airport can arguably get similar views by choosing a window seat on their aircraft. But as a one-off experience it’s probably worth the entrance fee to say you have stood on top of the tallest building in the European Union (for now at least).
Two points of note – whether you need to or not, visit the toilets on the 68th floor, for a private floor-to-ceiling view of the city (and note the incongruous option of pulling down a blind – I’m not quite sure who is going to be passing by the window).
Finally, while I’d like to pretend the scanned photo below was taken up on the viewing platform, it’s actually a superimposed digital shot taken on the ground floor. All guests can avail of this option, for an extra cost, along with an array of memorabilia in the ground-floor gift shop.
For more information visit theviewfromtheshard.com.
Report by Mark Caswell
alexpo1 - 02/02/2013 19:05
You are looking well Mark...the view is not bad either!
ADD A COMMENT »
British Airways A380: What you need to know 18/05/2013
BA has 12 of the superjumbos on order and will roster the first onto its Los Angeles route from October 15, followed by Hong Kong from November 15 — full story »
This month we're giving away two nights in a deluxe King Bedroom at St Ermin's Hotel in London and three prizes of luxurious stays at the Regal Airport Hotel Hong Kong — full story »
JetBlue will place its "B6" airline code on all flights operated by Emirates between the U.S. and Dubai, as well as between New York's JFK airport and Milan — full story »