• Fleur Barton

Best London Views

Updated: May 15

London is a mainly low rise city with pockets of high rise buildings centred around the old City of London financial district. It is possible to have some fantastic views of the iconic skyline but with only a handful of structures open to the public, you will need to decide which best fit your circumstances. We have pulled together our take on the best views of London based on our own experiences and feedback from guests. Click on the links below to get more in depth detail on how to organise and make the most of your visit.


Best London Views poster

Best view in London, if money is no object: The Shard

The Shard at night from across the River Thames

Pros:

Superb unrestricted views from the tallest building in Europe across the City of London and towards Westminster with the Houses of Parliment

Cons:

Ok for a special occasion, but very expensive especially if you are travelling with a family.


Click here for more details


The most memorable London view experience:

The London Eye


The London Eye from Westminster Bridge on a sunny day

Pros:

Excellent views, especially across to Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster. A fun and exilerating experience

Cons:

Quite expensive and time limited at its highest point as the wheel doesn't stops moving.


Click here for more details


The best view in London for free: The Sky Garden


View of Tower Bridge at night take from the Sky Garden

Pros:

A superb view across all the iconic sights and free to enter.

Cons:

You will need to book 2-3 weeks in advance at peak times.


Click here for more details


The best view in London at the last minute:

120 Fenchurch Street.


View across the City of London from 120 Fenchurch Street

Pros:

Great views of the City skyline including St. Pauls and Tower Bridge. Free entry, no booking necessary and not especially busy.

Cons:

Restricted views, no indoor area.


Click here for more details


The best view in London for those scared of heights: Primrose Hill


View of the city skyline from the top of Primrose Hill

Pros:

A beautiful part of London with genuine locals and a sweeping view of the London skyline. Free of charge and without fast lifts or shear drops.

Cons:

Weather dependent and slightly out of the centre means having to be more adventurous on London transport.


Click here for more details


The best of the rest view in London: One New Change


View of St Paul's Cathedral an the London Eye from One New Change

Pros:

A wonderful view of St. Pauls and parts of the city skyline. Free of charge and entry is unrestricted

Cons:

A limited view.


Click here for more details


Guild to visiting the Shard


Also known as the Shard of Glass, this iconic Renzo Piano designed building with 72 floors, was completed in 2012 and is located on the South Bank of the Thames in what is known as the London Bridge Quarter.


The building is mixed use containing a 5 star Hotel, offices and residential flats. For those celebrating a special occasion, there are restaurants on the 31 and 32 floors and a cocktail bar on the 52 floors.


View of the Shard at night

Views


Being the tallest building in London, the views from the Shard are outstanding in all directions stretching many miles. We were able to make out quite easily Wembley stadium in the west which is 9 miles away and to the east the Queen Elizabeth II road bridge which connects the outer London ring road, the M25 which is 15 miles away. The main viewing area is on the 68th and 69th floor. In addition, there is an outside deck on 72nd floor.


Costs


To guarantee your visit you will need to book online and the official website states the best prices are when you book 4 days in advance. Prices start at £28pp. For an additional charge you can insure your tickets in case you miss your slot for any reason.


There are other ticket packages starting from £39 per ticket that include a glass of Champagne.


Entry details


The address is: Railway Approach, London SE1 9SG.


Tickets can be booked here and there is usually availability on the same day. Entrance is through an airport style security. You can arrive up to 15 minutes after the designated time on your ticket. The size of baggage is limited so it's probably best not to visit on your last day with suitcases as they are unable to store them. Do bring appropriate clothing if you intend to stay out on the open deck especially if you intend to take advantage of the ability to stay right up to closing time as entry is not time limited.


If you are unable to see at least 3 of the following landmarks due to low visibility, you will receive a complementary voucher allowing you to return free within 3 months.


• London Eye

• The Walkie Talkie

• Tower Bridge

• One Canada Square

• St Paul’s Cathedral


How to get there


If you are travelling from the Lancaster Hall Hotel, take the Central Line (Red) from Lancaster Gate to Bond Steet and change onto the Jubiliee line (Silver/grey) to London Bridge. Look out for the exit signs for the Shard. Journey time is about 30 minutes.


The nearest Tube station is London Bridge on the Jubilee Line and Northern Line (Bank Branch). The nearest mainline railway station is London Bridge.

There are many bus routes leading into London bridge: 17, 21, 35, 40, 43, 47, 48, 141, 149, 343, 381, 521 and RV1. Use the Transport for London journey planner here to find your most efficient route.


The nearest car park is at Kipling St, London SE1 3RU. The Shard is within both the Congestion Charge Zone and Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). Check your car number plate here before you travel to see how much it will cost you.


Nearby attractions


The surrounding area is very lively with a huge selection of bars, restaurants, pubs and cafes. Our favourite highlights include Borough Market which sells a variety of artisan and seasonal produce along with HMS Belfast, a former UK warship that is now a floating museum.



Guild to visiting the London Eye


The London Eye has become an iconic part of the London skyline since it was completed in 1999. Since then it has transported millions of visitors 135m into the air, travelling at a steady 2 revolutions per hour. Located outside of County Hall in what was the former headquarters of the now defunct Greater London Council, the structure is almost opposite the Palace of Westminster which incorporates Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and the House Lords forming the seat of the UK government.


The viewing pods on the London Eye

Visitors are transported in 32 capsules, each with a capacity of 25 people and who are directed onto the continuously moving wheel. The views are spectacular, giving the sensation of flying, although you will only be on the top section for a few minutes in total. This view of London is not for the faint hearted or those scared of heights. As one of the most popular attractions in London, large queues form throughout the day although they are well managed and build a large sense of anticipation of the coming flight.


Views


Unlike the other buildings, this is a constantly changing view and you might need to strategically place yourself when you enter the capsule to afford the best views which include St. Paul's Cathedral, the Houses of Parliment, the south bank and river Thames.


The London Eye at night lit up from across the River Thames

Costs


To guarantee your visit you will need to book online. Prices are from £27 per person.


Visitor Details


Address: The London Eye, Westminster Bridge Road, SE1 7PB

Opening hours - 11am to 6pm.


Tickets can be booked here and there is usually availability on the same day. Entrance is through an airport style security. Your journey time will be about 30 minutes.


How to get there


If you are travelling from the Lancaster Hall Hotel, take the Central Line (Red) from Lancaster Gate to Bond Steet and change onto the Jubiliee line (Silver/grey) to Westminster.

Take the exit for the River and cross over Westinster bridge. Journey time is about 25 minutes.


The nearest Tube station is Westminster on the Jubilee Line or Waterloo station on the Jubilee, Northern Line (Charing Cross Branch), Bakerloo and Waterloo & City. The nearest mainline railway station is Waterloo.

There are many bus routes to Westminster bridge: 1, 26, 59, 68, 76, 139, 168, 172, 176, 188, 243, 341 and 521. Use the Transport for London journey planner here to find your most efficient route.


The nearest car park is at 39 York Rd, London SE1 7NQ next to Waterloo Station. The London Eye is within both the Congestion Charge Zone and Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). Check your car number plate here before you travel to see how much it will cost you.


Nearby attractions


Westminster bridge is the closest crossing and is popular with tourists taking their obligatory photo of Big Ben, especially now the covers are coming off after an extensive multi-year refurbishment. It is also worth taking a stroll along the south bank towards Tower Bridge. There are many things to observe including a book market under Waterloo bridge, a world renowned skateboard park under the Southbank centre. Other highlights include Shakespeare's Globe theatre and Bankside Gallery.



Guild to visiting the Sky Garden


Located in the insurance district of the City of London the Sky Garden sits atop 20 Fenchurch Street. More commonly known as the ‘Walkie Talkie’ due to its distinctive shape. This venue is a firm favourite with staff at the Lancaster Hall Hotel, not just because it is free to enter, but because the views are spectacular, the viewing space generous and the exotic plantings make it place you would be happy to sit down and enjoy the light and views.


Finished in 2014, the ‘Walkie Talkie’ gained notoriety when the concave panes of glass directed the Sun’s rays on a parked car a few streets away causing plastic trim on the roof to melt. The owner of a barber shop on the same street claimed their doormat caught fire as a result but this has since been rectified. The construction of a public space was part of the planning permission and holds the honour of being London’s highest public garden.


View from inside the Sky Garden on a sunny day

Views


At 38 floors and 160m tall the views across the Thames and both east and west take in most of the London landmarks including St. Pauls, Cathedral, Tower Bridge and Canary Wharf. Tp the north there are a cluster of tall buildings that restrict the view but in fairness there are fewer notable landmarks in this direction.


Costs


Entrance is free but you will need to book a ticket as numbers are restricted.


Entry details


The address is: Sky Garden, 1 Sky Garden Walk. EC3M 8AF.


Tickets can be booked here and the booking window opens about 3 weeks ahead on a rolling basis. Entrance is through an airport style security and you should bring photo ID with you on the day. You are asked to arrive 15 minutes before your slot but queues on the whole seem to move quickly and there is a covered walkway if it is raining. Bring appropriate clothing if you intend to stay out on the open deck although inside is warm to maintain the tropical plants.


How to get there


If you are travelling from the Lancaster Hall Hotel, take the Central Line (Red) from Lancaster Gate to Bank Station. Take exit number 5 and onto Lombard Street which takes a fork to the left. You will see the ‘Walkie Talkie’ building in the distance and cross the junction onto Fenchurch Street. The walk is about 5 minutes.


From other destinations the nearest tube is Bank station (Central Line) or Tower Hill (District and Circle line).


Nearest mainline stations are Canon Street or Fenchurch Street.


Bus routes 35, 47, 133, 149, 344 and 388 stop nearby. Use the Transport for London journey planner here to find your most efficient route.


Nearby attractions


We recommend the Bank of England museum on Bartholomew Street (near Bank Station). Entrance is free and this fascinating museum will appeal to all ages. Young children will get the opportunity to pick a gold bar (within a secure cabinet!). Also nearby is the historic Leadenhall Market which will be recongnisable from the Harry Potter films. This charming ancient covered market building is a very attractive and an ideal place to take in a tea or coffee break.


Guild to visiting 120 Fenchurch Street


Located in the insurance district of the City of London a few moments away from the Sky Garden is a rooftop garden which sits 15 floors about the ground. It is a completely open space with a perimeter walk where you can take in views of Tower Bridge, St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Thames.


120 Fenchurch Street was completed in 2018 and was a cluster of existing buildings remodelled around a new courtyard with a roof garden sitting atop what resembles a glass crown around the upper levels. The courtyard ceiling has a 1,900 sq ft LED display featuring forest canopy scenes. The roof garden has benches under a Wisteria covered pergola providing a pleasant shelter on sunny days.


View of the Sky Garden from 120 Fenchurch Street

Views


Given the height, views are restricted in particular by the nearby ‘Walkie Talkie’ housing the Sky Garden but where you can see Tower Bridge, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Canary Wharf and the Thames.

View of Tower Bridge from 120 Fenchurch Street

Costs


Entrance is free


Entry details


Address: 120 Fenchurch Street, EC3M 5BA


Opening hours - opens 10am every day. Closing time - varies.


Summer (1st April to 30 September) Monday to Friday 9pm, Saturday & Sunday 5pm

Winter (1st October to 31 March) Monday to Friday 6:30pm, Saturday & Sunday 5pm

Closed on UK public holidays.


Capacity is limited to 200 people although we have never seen it close to this number. Groups over 12 should book in advance. Visitors will need to pass through airport style security screening and bags too large to pass through the x-ray machine will be refused entry and there is no bag storage.


How to get there


From the Lancaster Hall Hotel - take the Central Line from Lancaster Gate to Bank station. The tube takes around 15 minutes with a 10 minute walk from Bank to 120 Fenchurch Street.

Nearest tubes – Bank (Central Line), Monument (Circle Line)


Bus routes 35, 47, 133, 149, 344 and 388 stop nearby. Use the Transport for London journey planner here to find your most efficient route.


Nearby Attactions.


On leaving the roof garden lifts we suggest turning right and threading your way through to a spectacular view of some of the most iconic London skyscrapers including the Lloyds building, 122 Leadenhall known as the Cheesegrater and 30 St Mary’s Axe known as the Gerkin with St Andrew Undershaft church in the foreground.



Guild to visiting Primrose Hill


Situated north of Regents Park in the London borough of Camden is the picturesque neighbourhood of Primrose Hill. Whilst not as spectacular a view as the others listed in this article this one is most certainly for the romantic types who prefer a less touristy setting along with those who aren’t keen on heights. The walk to the summit which sits 60m above sea level is a relatively gentle climb on a footpath. The surrounding views of central London are protected against development and trees are deliberately kept low so as not spoil the view.


View of Primrose Hill park with the City skyline in the background

With no queuing or time limit you can sit back and enjoy the view and on a sunny day it is a great spot for a picnic.


Views


St. Paul's Cathedral, the Shard, the BT tower and the City of London skyline.


Costs


Entrance is free


Visitor Details


Address: Regent's Park Road, NW3 3AX (nearest entrance to viewing area)

Opening hours - 24 hours except bonfire night and new years eve when it closes at 9pm.


How to get there


From the Lancaster Hall Hotel, walk to Lancaster Gate tube station and take the 274 bus to Prince Albert Road which runs along the base of Primrose Hill. Journey time is about 20 minutes.


Nearest tubes – St John's Wood on the Jubilee line with a 20 minute walk to Primrose Hill.


Bus routes 31 and 274, stop nearby. Use the Transport for London journey planner here to find your most efficient route.


Nearby Attactions.


Regent's Park which has a Zoo and the Regent's Canal which you can walk along either to Paddington or Camden Town.


Pretty houses near Primrose Hill

Guild to visiting One New Change


New change is a retail and office building in the City of London next to St. Paul’s Cathedral. Designed by French architect Jean Nouvel it was completed in 2010 and is a more modest height at 8 stories and 34m. Whilst not as spectacular as the more well known London views there is a wonderful vista of St. Pauls cathedral with the London Eye in the background.


View of the Shard from One New Change

There are no real restrictions on entering apart from waiting for a vacant lift and if you haven’t managed to book anywhere else and are on a budget then New Change will at least allow you to get a rooftop level view.


Views


Here you can see the dome of St. Pauls Cathedral, the London Eye, the Shard of Glass building and the statue of Lady Justice on the roof of the Old Bailey, the central criminal court for England and Wales.


Costs


Entrance is free


Entry details


Address: One New Change. EC4M 9AF

Opening hours - 6am to midnight daily.


There are no restrictions to gain access to the roof (although the official website says guest can be subject to security screening). There is a bar and restaurant on the roof too, so the lift can become quite busy directly after working hours.


How to get there


Nearest tubes – St. Pauls (Central Line), Mansion House (Circle & District lines)


Bus routes 4, 8, 25, 56, 100, 172, 242 and 521 stop nearby. Use the Transport for London journey planner here to find your most efficient route.


Nearby Attractions.


Aside from St. Pauls Cathedral, there is the former hub of London Newspaper production known as Fleet Street to the West. The Museum of London is a five minute walk along St Martin’s Le Grand and Aldergate Street towards the brutalist concrete towers of the Barbican Centre. In the opposte direction to St. Pauls a 5-10 minute walk along Cheapside will take you to the magnificent Royal Exchange at Bank.

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