The View From The Shard … its not too bad. In fact is just a little bit special. Earlier this week I was lucky (understatement) enough to be invited to a sneak press preview of London’s soon to be top attraction – The View From The Shard, an invitation I obviously accepted.
Ahead of the public opening on Feb 1st 2013 I exited London Bridge underground station and turned onto St Thomas street. From there I had my first sighting of the beautiful giant … gulp! Whilst I’m not afraid of heights, we’re not best friends either. I was a little nervous, but this was too good an opportunity to turn down just because I’m a bit of a wimp. Onwards and Upwards, quite literally.
Checking in at reception
The entrance to The View From The Shard was a little concealed, but I found it in the end (directions at the bottom of this post). Walking into the main reception I felt like a backpacker walking into a 5* hotel, it was so plush and I am clearly not. The staff however were great and soon had me checked in and ready for the press viewing. Whilst waiting for 3pm to come around and the start of our tour I leafed through the press pack and took in a few stats on The Shard …
|Height of building||309.6m / 1016ft|
|Occupiable floors||72 levels|
|Height of highest habitable floor||259.9m / 853ft|
|Number of glass panels||11,000|
|Number of lifts||44|
|Gross floor area||31.4 acres|
I also took in a few of the London based quotes projected onto some of the walls. This reception area was truly London orientated, not just focused on The Shard. Videos of London sights and neighbourhoods ran on loop and some other walls were lined with amusing galleries of over 140 famous Londoners in playful and comic settings. These should keep you occupied whilst you pass through security. Keep an eye out for Boris shining the shoes of his good mate Ken, and Kate Moss marrying Henry VIII.
When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life
London is a modern Babylon
London is a bad habit one hates to lose
In total, guests take four separate lift journeys up and down to the different viewing galleries, 2 up and 2 down. It doesn’t take long to get up to the top though, the lifts travel at six metres a second (not that you feel it) and can have you up to level 68 within a minute.
Lift 1 – Ground Floor to Level 33
You ascend the first 33 floors in what are being called ‘kaleidoscopic’ lifts. The lifts are so named because of the video screens within the lifts which are used to create the effect of soaring through iconic London roofs and ceilings the dome of St Pauls for example. Sadly these graphics were not yet in use upon my visit and so I wasn’t able to get any images, it sounds awesome though!
Level 33 – Transfer Zone
Level 33 is known as the ‘Transfer Zone’. Here you will need to move to your second lift. Its a short walk from the first lift to the next, in between which you will walk atop a special graffiti map of London (image below). This map is special because it details famous landmarks and areas of London using descriptive sentences only. How well do you know London? – this map will put your knowledge to the test.
Level 68 – Cloudscape
The lift from level 33 will take you all the way to level 68 which is also know as ‘Cloudscape’. Cloudscape allows you certain views over London, but its main purpose is to educate you on the different types of cloud that you’ll see floating over London. I only ever remember stratus and cumulonimbus from school.
Although not open upon my visit, level 68 will also offer The Sky Boutique, the highest shop in London. If you want to take home a memento from your Shard experience, this is the place to invest.
Level 69 – The View From The Shard is revealed
The one you’ve been waiting for. Just one flight of stairs up from Cloudscape and its the main attraction. Enter the main viewing gallery and have your breath taken away. 360 views of London for up to 40 miles, not too bad haha. Honestly its breath taking! I took this opportunity to use my new GoPro for the first time and happily snapped away for a good half hour.
One of the standout features of level 69 (apart from the views) are the different ‘Tell:scopes’ dotted around the gallery area. The ultra hi-tech telescopes allow guests to explore London and its famous landmarks in real time or pre-recorded day, sunset and night time settings. The Tell:scopes can identify over 200 landmarks within the city, just point them in any direction and they’ll tell you what you’re looking at.
A few of the notable landmarks I could pick out included …
- North: Wembley Stadium and Alexandra Palace.
- East: The Olympic Stadium, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Canary Wharf and the Thames Barrier
- South: Battersea Power Station and The Oval cricket ground
- West: St Paul’s, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace.
Level 72 (800ft / 244m)
Once you’ve walked around level 69 countless times, and you will, its just a few more stairs up to level 72 and the highest viewing gallery of The Shard. Level 72 is 800ft up and partly open to the elements so wrap up warm in winter. Even at this great height I was still able to connect to the Shards free wifi. I was on a press embargo until this morning (Friday 11th) so I could tweet any photos of the views, but when you head up for your own viewing this is the perfect opportunity to send out an image to all your mates and make them extremely jealous.
Up on level 72 TV crews were busy trying to schedule an interview with The View From The Shard CEO – Andy Nyberg.
The View From The Shard is the only place you can see the whole of London all at once, and as such, is a natural starting point for exploring the UK’s capital. Here visitors can find the entire city laid out before them, to be explored, admired and inspired by. We’ve designed an immersive visitor experience enhanced by state of the art technology to draw people deeper into the story of London, its people and history I hope that our guests – Londoners and tourists alike – will enjoy a truly unique encounter with the city and The Shard.
Though level 72 is the highest viewing gallery, its not the highest point of the building. If you look up the skyscrapper goes on even further into the heavens … i’d hate to be the window cleaner on this place!
Whilst I loved The View From The Shard experience during daylight hours, I absolutely adored it during sunset and the darkness. The city comes alive with a magnitude of multicolored lighting once the sun goes down and in my eyes instantly looks more vibrant and atmospheric.
Before I knew it my View From The Shard experience was over and I was on my way back to London Bridge. Looking back up at the skyscrapping monster from below it was hard to believe I’d just been soaring above the nations capital, some 800ft above everyone else. What an experience!
The View From The Shard Video
Open to the public from 1st Feb 2013. Tickets available from – http://www.theviewfromtheshard.com/
From the Underground:
Follows the exit signs towards Borough Market. Once out of the station and facing Borough Market, hang a hard right and turn down St Thomas street. You’ll now see The Shard, its pretty hard to miss. Follow the road until you come to Starbucks on your right hand side, turn left here and walk straight past the escalator up to the overground station and under the large bridge (below). Notice Igloo flowers on your left, the entrance to The View From The Shard is opposite on your right.
From London Bridge Overground:
Turn left out of the station and take the esculator down to St Thomas street. You’ll see a Starbucks at the bottom of the escalator which you should take. Once at the bottom take a hard right and head under the bridge (below). Notice Igloo flowers on your left, the entrance to The View From The Shard is opposite on your right.