It’s no secret I love a good view.
In any place, finding a view from above is usually fairly high on my list of things to do while visiting.
London is built for great views. With plenty of tall buildings, historic streets and cascading hills in parks, you’ll have no shortage of options for a bird’s eye view of the city.
6 Views of London I Love
The Shard: Hard to miss in London, as the city’s tallest building, the panoramic views over south London (and beyond) are insane. The viewing platform at the tippy top will set you back £30 for expansive views of the city.
On a budget?
Do as I like to, and visit Aqua Shard, one of the buildings bars for almost the exact same view (a few floors lower), and have more control in what you pay by choosing whether you want tea, soda, beer, wine or a cocktail. Reservations for Aqua Shard are recommended (make them on Shard’s website) if you’re visiting in a large group or at a peak time (sunset). Most times I’ve been there, it’s mid-day, and I usually only go with 1-2 other people, so no issues getting a table with a great view if we’re patient and wait a few minutes for people to leave.
London Eye: Set along the Thames River, the Eye offers great views of Westminster and St. Paul’s. Is it touristy? Yes. Is the view good enough to make up for that? Depends. Visiting once mid-week with my sister, it wasn’t too bad but on the weekends, there’s usually a lot of people queueing to see the view. As cliche as it may be, there’s no denying the view is spectacular.
St. Paul’s Cathedral: On my first visit to London over 12 years ago, I visited St. Paul’s and climbed 528 steps to the top. I have a few photos from the visit, but none of them are great quality and I could barely remember the inside of the cathedral or climb/view.
London’s skyline has also changed so much since that visit, I knew I wanted to see the view (and the inside of the cathedral) again before setting off for sabbatical. The view from the Golden Gallery is outstanding. Unquestionably one of the top views of the city.
Tower Bridge: Another faint memory from my first trip to London, I vaguely recall walking along the top of the bridge after touring the Tower of London.
So glad I returned before leaving the city. The views of the Thames are incredible, and getting a behind the scenes look at the engine room, plus walking stories atop the bridge is a pretty cool way to spend a few hours.
Sky Garden: Tucked away inside a thirty four story building, Sky Garden is equal parts relaxing and stunning. A lush garden with a soaring view of the London skyline? Yes, please.
Best of all, it’s free. Book tickets in advance via their website to reserve your time slot and ensure entry. There’s also a restaurant at the top, but it’s only available by reservation.
Every so often, there are also events happening in the garden, which you can typically get tickets to on Fever. In December, I attended a festive night with carols, Christmas tunes, mince pies and mulled wine. So fun!
The Tate Modern: The Tate is one of my favourite museums in London and free to enter. Their modern art exhibits are always interesting, and it offers a beautiful view of London from the 5th floor cafe.
Finally, if you’re short on time and on a limited budget but want to see beautiful views, walk along the Thames.
I’d recommend starting near the Bank station-
- Walking down to the Tower of London
- Crossing Tower Bridge
- Walking toward the Shard
- Passing through Borough Market
- Then, making your way to the riverside
- You can walk along the river for a while, passing Shakespeare’s The Globe, Millennium Bridge, The Tate Modern and St. Paul’s
- Eventually, you’ll reach the London Eye, which is across from Parliament, as well as nearby Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace
It’s a lot to see and will likely take you a few hours (rent a bike if you want to be quicker), but a free way to see a lot of London’s historic and iconic sites on foot.
If you’ve been to London, where are your favourite places to see the city from above?