We take a tour of London’s tallest skyscraper
It might have been branded as an “ego trip gone wrong”, “a glass folly” or even an “architectural catastrophe,” but the view from the 72nd floor of the Shard is gobsmacking – 1,016 (ft) times over.
There’s nothing that can belittle the panorama from the skyscraper’s pinnacle, it’s the kind of view that would, without a shadow of doubt, make it to desktop backgrounds.
Due to open this summer, The Shard has 600,000sq ft of offices, 10 luxury apartments, three floors of restaurants and a 200-room Shangri-La hotel.
But on 1 February, you will be able to scale the Shard, as the skyscraper’s observation deck the View From the Shard throws open its doors.
So what can spectators expect?
Well, all we can say is that from the pinnacle of the building, The Tower of London looks like a sand castle, Big Ben looks like it’s made of LEGO bricks, the London Eye looks like a simple cart wheel and City Hall looks like an old man’s belly. Probably, the only other place you can see both the Wembley Stadium and the Olympic Stadium in one glance is a map of London.
The man behind The View from the Shard is Anders Nyberg, the former director of the Burj Al Khalifa in Dubai, the tallest building in the world.
“From the top of the Shard, you can see the vista of the whole of London,” he says. “The Thames snaking through the city, the railway tracks going out, landmarks old and knew. It’s like you’re looking at London’s life in all its glory.
“You’re at a vantage point from where you can see the whole of London at once – I think Londoners would love it.”
And indeed you do. As you go up the building, you see everything in London. On the ground floor, you’re greeted with murals of famous Londoners up to rather unusual antics. Our very own BoJo is seen shining arch nemesis Red Ken’s shoes, while Prince Charles is getting a makeover by Vivienne Westwood and Vidal Sassoon. Then there’s also Kate Moss tying the knot with Henry VIII while a grumpy Alfred Hitchcock shoos pigeons away at Trafalgar Square.
You then make your way up to level 33 in a lift that goes so fast that your heart jumps. On level 33, you change lifts to get to level 68, while guessing answers to pub quiz questions painted on the floor.
Enter level 69, and prepare to go – Wow! This is where your head’s in the clouds and you feel on the top of London, if not the world. Your eyes soak in the 360 degree view of the 40 miles of the capital, and you see London like never before.
Talking about his favourite view from the Shard, Nyberg says, “I can’t choose. You’ve got Big Ben. Out in the distance you can see the Wembley Arch. There’s St Paul’s, the City, out to the Olympic Park then to Canary Wharf and out to the Thames Estuary.
“Then to the south, it looks like a completely different city. You’ve got so much green space it’s wonderful. Also, you see the Thames snaking through the capital, it’s fabulous.”
But the whole lofty experience gets dampened on a rainy day. Visibility becomes poor and the capital looks hazy.
However, the viewing area comes with special telescopes called Tell: scopes which helps visitors enjoy the views by day or night. The Tell:scope entails information about 200 London locations in 10 languages.
Also, should there be days with zero visibility, ticket-holders will be offered the chance to return another time free of charge.
The Shard v other London landmarks
BT Tower – 620 ft – not open to general public
The Gherkin – 590 ft – not open to general public
London Eye – 443 ft – Tickets start at £17.01
St Paul’s Cathedral – 365 ft – Tickets start at £15
Big Ben – 316 ft – no admission
But the big question remains: Is the Shard worth £24.95 of your hard-earned dosh? Here’s what Nyberg told us when we interviewed him last month:
LLB: Isn’t £24.95 for a ticket very steep?
Nyberg: Basically, £24.95 is very comparable to other attractions. We’re offering as much of a queue-free operation as it can get. Immediate access or a fast pass for London Eye or Madame Tussuads costs well over £25. Everything we sell has a date and time. You arrive half hour before the time designated on your ticket and you can stay as long as you like. No exit time, you need to get out only when we close the attraction at night.
LLB: We already have a London Eye, why would they come up top of the Shard?
Nyberg: They are two very different experiences, you can stay as long as you like or as little as you like. You aren’t captured in a capsule. We’re not a Ferris Wheel, so it’s a different experience. Jokes apart, I think there is room for both.
LLB: But the other tourist attractions are cheaper and have more history attached?
Nyberg: Agreed, But it’s great value for money as you don’t have to stand in line. For other tourist attractions, to get the lower price you sometimes have to wait in a two to three hour queue.
Nyberg says that tickets have been on sale since July and thousands have been bought already.
But will Londoners raise a glass to the View from The Shard? Jury’s out on 1 February.
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