London is known for many things: iconic red buses, Buckingham Palace and, according to Doctor Who, the place where all alien invasions begin, apparently. But some of the city’s most famous features are it’s buildings and towers, stretching high above the streets.
You can’t really get a sense of London until you’ve taken in the view atop one of the many viewpoints across it, and seeing the buildings and roads stretch into the distance. To help out with this, we’ve compiled a list of the best places for a good view in London, from towering skyscrapers to hilltops. Some are more vertigo inducing than others, and some require a fair bit of climbing (stairs!)- but they’re all worth being able to see things from a different perspective.
The London Eye
Let’s start with an obvious one: The London Eye has become one of London’s biggest attractions and landmarks since it opened in 2000. Alternatively named the rather boring “Millennium Wheel”, it opened when everyone was going mad about the idea of a new millennium, but it’s proved to be a great lookout point to see the views of the city. Of course, as the UK’s most visited ticketed attraction, the Eye tends to have a lot of tourists and can get both busy and pricey. However, it still offers some nice views of the Thames and the South Bank area on a sunny day.
The ArcelorMittal Orbit
The ArcelorMittal Orbit was designed and created for the 2012 Olympics, and everyone remembers how it was championed by our last Prime Minister when he was London Mayor despite its, err, spiralling costs. A decade on and it’s still there at the Elizabeth Park, except it now has a slide installed as a way to make things a bit more interesting. The design is pretty eccentric, but the views are undeniably great from the top of the country’s largest piece of public art. You can soak in the surrounding park and remember back to those two weeks of sporting bonanza.
A departure from the first two entries on this list, The Monument was built way back in the 1670s. It’s a monument (duh) commemorating the Great Fire of London and Charles II’s response to it. It offers some great views of the Gherkin building and Tower Bridge, amongst other landmarks. Be warned though, due to its age and size, the inside can feel quite claustrophobic, and the slightly uneven stone steps means it’s a good idea to wear trainers. At least you’d likely be pretty safe at the top if there’s another great fire.
The Sky Garden
The Sky Garden has long been one of The Handbook’s favourite London skyscrapers, and for good reason: it offers an amazing bar and indoor tropical garden, while allowing you to cast your eyeballs across the many buildings and streets of London. Located at the top of 20 Fenchurch Street (also known as the Walkie Talkie), one of the tallest skyscrapers in town, it’s worth adding to both your list of London bars to drink at and London viewpoints to visit. The building itself has had some controversy in its time, but the Sky Garden is definitely a great attraction.
This had to be on the list, of course: it’s the tallest skyscraper in London. Ever since opening in 2013, the Shard has dominated the London skyline and become an iconic landmark for the 21st century. As such, it offers some spectacular views from the creatively named “View From The Shard”, allowing you take in every inch of London, and then some. It has a champagne bar so you can sip a drink as you gaze out of the windows, and it really is worth the journey and price of admission.
The Royal Observatory
Located at the top of the hill in Greenwich Park, the Royal Observatory has a lot of history to it- not least because of its contributions to the world of astronomy and the concept of Greenwich Mean Time. You’ve got all the time in the world to take in some of the great scenery surrounding it, with views of the Thames and Central London. There’s also a pretty fascinating museum and planetarium to sink yourself into too, if you’re so inclined afterwards.
Up At The 02
If you live in London, there’s a fair chance you’ve been to the 02 at some point, whether for a huge concert or event in the main arena, one of the many exhibitions held there, or even the basketball during the 2012 Olympics. But what you may not have done is climb up above it. As you venture atop the formerly named Millennium Dome, (there’s a lot of Millennium landmarks on this list) you’ll be accompanied by climbing guides to help you navigate the suspended walk way. From here you’ll be able to see great views of the surrounding Greenwhich area and South East London, and it’s especially worthwhile at sunset.
The Emirates Air Line
Another Greenwhich viewpoint, the Emirates Air Line opened a decade ago in 2012, and became a popular tourist attraction, despite being built and advertised with daily commutes in mind. It offers some amazing views across London as you leisurely travel across the Thames, on a 1km gondola line. It may look like something of a novelty from the ground, but it’s really a fun 10 minutes to spend to travel in a particularly unique way in London. Best of all is that since it’s operated by TFL, it’s not very expensive, costing only £4 for a single adult using contactless or an Oyster card.
Primrose Hill is another hilltop viewpoint, and is located just north of Regent’s Park. You can get some really clear views of London up here, in a very pleasant grassy environment. It’s no wonder it was often used by monarchs for hunting over the years. Nowadays it’s hugely popular for gazing at the surrounding scenery, and you can see BT Tower and the Shard easily with good weather. It is of course free given it’s a public park, though it can get very crowded at peak times, so try to go during the week or at other points when the view you’ll be getting won’t just be a sea of people doing the same thing as you.
The Tate Modern Terrace
The Tate Modern is the most visited art museum in Britain, and houses a huge collection of contemporary art. But mesmerising and thought provoking art pieces is not all there is to see at the Tate: there’s also a really good view of London from its terrace. As with a lot of the other building viewpoints on this list, the terrace is home to a very nice bar, and taking advantage of it is a fab way to end your tour of the galleries. You can see plenty of the city’s most notable features up here, in particular St Paul’s Cathedral, so make sure you make a visit the next time you’re in the mood for some modern art.