London’s newest, and highest, attraction is The View from the Shard, the tallest building in Europe this side of Moscow. It offers visitors a hitherto unseen, 360-degree panorama of the capital from almost twice the height of any other viewing point in London. With a change at the 33rd floor, visitors are whisked up to the 68th floor in lightning-fast lifts, alighting at the first of twin decks. The 68th is fully enclosed and heated, reassuringly safe even for those with no head for heights. Four floors higher on the 72nd floor is a deck partially open to the elements but, claim the owners, highly resistant to suicide attempts. It gives a better sense of just how far you are from the ground, surpassed only by the cables supporting the cradles used by the window cleaners, who presumably train for the job on the Eiger or the Matterhorn.
The View is good value for money and costs almost £25, the same as a flexible ticket on the London Eye, but you have to stipulate a specific arrival time at the Shard. Dusk is undoubtedly the best choice, when the lights of London gradually come into their own to provide a dramatic change of scenery and perspective. At present there is no limit on how long you may remain at the top, and more than enough to keep you fully engrossed for an hour at least. Touchscreen monitors on each corner identify landmarks and places of interest with potted histories of their origin, and a choice of day and night-time views. Twin deterrents discourage an even longer stay: the absence of both seats and toilets at the top.
Booking in advance does of course carry the considerable risk of poor visibility, as a building whose summit lies more than 1,000 feet above the ground can be enveloped in low cloud. At present, particularly at night, there is likely to be spare capacity for visitors who arrive on impulse but that may change as The View becomes better known. On a clear day, landmarks as far away as forty miles can be identified from the viewing decks.
The Shard is in Joiner Street, London SE1, very close to London Bridge Underground and mainline station. It is open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day.
For tickets telephone 0844 499 7111 or visit www.theviewfromtheshard.com