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The View from the Shard in the snow, London

The View from the Shard in the snow, London

So when you book a ticket to the newly opened viewing platform at the top of Western Europe’s tallest building in February, what you’re hoping for is a clear, crisp winter’s day. One with perfect visibility over the whole 360° panorama from the top would be nice. But unfortunately you can’t control the weather, and you certainly can’t rely on it during an English winter. So instead of sun and blue skies for my trip to the top of the Shard, I got snow and clouds. Would there any ‘View from the Shard’ at all for me?

After nearly three years of construction, The Shard finally opened to the public earlier this month. This 95-storey skyscraper reaches almost 310 metres into the air and towers over the skyline of south London. It was designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, who’s probably most famous for designing the Pompidou Centre in Paris. Most of the floors are going to be take up by offices, a hotel and some seriously expensive apartments, but it was the observation deck at the top that got me interested.

The View from the Shard in the snow, London

The open air viewing platform on the 72nd floor and looking up to the peak

I do love a tall building – I’ve climbed to up the top of the Rockefeller Centre in New York, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Sky Tower in Auckland and ICC Tower in Hong Kong. And I’ve seen some pretty good views of London from the London Eye and the BT Tower, but until now there hasn’t been a really tall building to get a bird’s eye view across London from. And after I’d watched the Shard slowly rise up, month on month, out of the window of my old London flat, I couldn’t wait to get to the top once it was finished.

The View from the Shard in the snow, London

Tower Bridge and the view down the Thames to the east

Some of the whopping £435 million budget for the building has obviously been spent on the slick ‘View from the Shard’ experience. You’re welcomed with London-themed artwork featuring some of the capital’s best-known residents, past and present. Then after going through airport-style scanners you head into the lifts – the first one goes up to the 33rd floor and the second takes you on up to the 68th. They are amazingly quick and smooth, you can hardly feel you’re moving, and each take only 30 seconds. There are no windows along the way so the first time you see out is once you reach the viewing platforms.

The View from the Shard in the snow, London

The lower viewing platform on the 69th floor

The first is up a few more stairs on the 69th floor. On a clear day the views stretch for 40 miles across London in all directions. On a snowy, cloudy day in February – not so much. I could follow the line of the Thames and the train tracks leading out of London Bridge station, and see a few of the buildings beyond, but not much more. Thick clouds made the whole London landscape look like it’d turned into black and white. There are ‘Tell:scopes’ dotted around the floor that let you zoom in on the view – or in my case taunt you with what the perfect daytime, dusk and night-time views should look like. They also mark up 200 of London’s most famous buildings so you know what you are looking down at.

The View from the Shard in the snow, London

Tell:scopes show me what I should be seeing

Further up again is the 72nd floor’s open-air viewing platform at 244 metres high. It was icy cold up there and the views weren’t much clearer, though I got a good view of the building’s structure and the shards of glass that reach up to its peak. The morning’s snowfall had stuck to glass on one side and I could only manage to snap a few ‘arty’ shots between the flakes before I had to go and defrost my hands. Thwarted by the English weather, it wasn’t quite the Shard experience I was hoping for, but the building itself – love it or hate it – is a seriously impressive structure and on a sunny day I can imagine it’s spectacular.

The View from the Shard in the snow, London

Looking down the Thames to the west

So did the Shard live up to the hype? Well there’s been a lot of discussion about the £26 price tag (and that’s if you book in advance) and I’d say it’s just about worth it on a clear day. Compared to the Eiffel Tower (£13), Top of the Rock (£22) or even the London Eye (£20), it is pricey, and I can’t see many families wanting to splash out £100 for an hour’s visit. The price rises by £5 if you just turn up, but you should be able to get a decent idea of the weather 24 hours in advance. If it’s cloudy or rainy it’s probably not worth it as you can’t see much. And as a photography fan it was disappointing that there are no gaps in the glass to take photos and a lot of it is two layers thick so it’s hard to get good photos without reflections.

View from the Shard, London

What it’s supposed to look like! (photo credit: View from the Shard)

As for me, well I think next time I’ll head to the Shangri La Hotel’s Gong bar a few floors below on the 52nd level and soak up the same view for the price of a cocktail instead!

The details

The View from the Shard is open 10am–10pm daily (or until 7pm on Sunday–Wednesday from November to March). The nearest Tube/train station is at London Bridge. If you book timed tickets at least 24 hours in advance they cost £25.95 for adults or £19.95 for children aged 4–15, or on the day they’re £30.95/£24.95. If the visibility is so bad you can’t see at least three of the London Eye, St Paul’s Cathedral, The Gherkin, Tower Bridge or Canary Wharf then you get a free return visit within three months.

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The View from the Shard in the London snow – On the Luce travel blog

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28 Comments

  • Reply
    allnuttadventures
    February 22, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    Yikes, assumed it was going to be cheaper than the London Eye so a good alternative. Ah well, think I will wait until the Hotel is open as you say and get the view plus a cocktail for less – I hope! Even though you did not have the best views the pictures are somewhat atmospheric.

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      February 22, 2013 at 8:09 pm

      Thanks – it practically looked black and white so I thought the photos looked better that way! A shame that the visibility wasn’t a bit better though.

  • Reply
    Ship's Cook
    February 22, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    Top tip re the Shangri La think I might join you there!

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      February 22, 2013 at 8:06 pm

      Yes if I’m going to pay out another £25 I want a fancy cocktail to show for it!

  • Reply
    restlessjo
    February 22, 2013 at 8:03 pm

    Suzanne was much luckier with the weather, Lucy. Hey, we could have a Simonseeks cocktail meet-up!

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      February 22, 2013 at 8:07 pm

      Every other blogger I’ve seen who’s been up there got better weather than me it seems, oh well. A Simonseeks cocktail meet up in the Shard sounds like a great idea though, maybe it’ll be second time lucky on the weather front!

  • Reply
    h0tchocolate
    February 23, 2013 at 6:47 am

    wow! I like the featured image, Lucy.

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      February 23, 2013 at 9:30 pm

      Thanks – I thought I’d make the best of the snow and use it in the photos!

  • Reply
    Ad-lib Traveller
    February 24, 2013 at 7:54 pm

    Great blog post, I’ve been contemplating a visit to the Shard but your post did a great job of summing it up. Love your photos, fingers crossed that if I make it then the day is slightly warmer at least.

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      February 25, 2013 at 12:07 pm

      I’d definitely advise booking fairly last-minute so you have some idea what the weather is going to be like. Hope you do better than me!

  • Reply
    ramblingtart
    February 25, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    I actually quite like your moody London photos. 🙂 Though I know it must be so much more spectacular under clear skies. 🙂 That is a hefty price tag! I think I’d do the cocktail at the Shangri La too. 🙂

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      February 26, 2013 at 2:09 pm

      Thanks, I was a bit disappointed at the time but like the photos better now a week or so later!

  • Reply
    memographer
    February 27, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    That’s a great spot, Lucy!! Added it to my To-Do-Go List for the next visit to London. I love tall buildings too! I can add a few to your list… One of my faves is CN Tower in Toronto, there is a room with a glass floor. Very cool!

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      February 27, 2013 at 11:42 pm

      I’ve not been to Canada yet but will make sure to do the CN Tower when I finally do – I’m usually pretty good with heights but the glass floor might put that to the test!

  • Reply
    Ananosseis
    March 4, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    Amazing B&W pictures!! Love them!

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      March 5, 2013 at 4:05 pm

      Thanks, they didn’t look much in colour as it was such a grey day but I like the B&W versions much more.

  • Reply
    My favourite… Views | On the Luce
    April 10, 2013 at 10:17 am

    […] for the layout of a new place, as well as making some of my best photos (just don’t mention The Shard). It’s probably a good thing that I don’t have a fear of heights though. Here are some […]

  • Reply
    My second year On the Luce | On the Luce
    July 18, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    […] everything gets better and nothing ever goes wrong. But that wasn’t the case with my trip to the Shard, Western Europe’s new tallest building which opened in London earlier this year. After […]

  • Reply
    The Exhibitionologist
    March 12, 2014 at 11:14 am

    Actually makes a nice change to see views from the Shard on a misty, wet day!

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      March 12, 2014 at 10:16 pm

      I was hoping for sun and blue skies but in England at that time of year you never know what you’ll get, and I do like the moody look it gives the city!

  • Reply
    London Accountants Person
    September 29, 2015 at 4:25 pm

    It looks pretty astonishing up there I have to say, those gorgeous panoramic views!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      September 29, 2015 at 7:38 pm

      It was a great panorama from up there, even from within a cloud!

  • Reply
    George
    October 17, 2015 at 1:48 pm

    “it was disappointing that there are no gaps in the glass to take photos and a lot of it is two layers thick so hard to get a good photo through without getting reflections.” — that is disappointing! How did you get your pictures to look so clear though?

    • Reply
      Lucy
      October 18, 2015 at 6:56 pm

      There are a few bits where the reflections aren’t too bad (and it was very cloudy as you can see which helped), took a lot of rubbish shots to get some decent ones though so would’ve been good to have some clearer areas. Next stop is the Sky Garden to see how that compares!

      • Reply
        George
        October 19, 2015 at 11:56 am

        I read through your other London posts which was helpful too! I am going there in a month and although it is not my first time but there are a lot of touristy stuff that I haven’t done yet. Any ideas on where to get Shard-like views but without the double layered glass? Also, you may have mentioned this already but are you on Instagram?

      • Reply
        Lucy
        October 21, 2015 at 7:28 pm

        I’ve not tried it out yet but apparently the bar in the Shard is better (it’s a bit lower but clearer windows) – I also like the views from the top of One New Change and the Monument (though they are a bit lower) and the Sky Garden is supposed to be good (its free but you have to book in advance). Will be in London next month so will give it a try! My instragram is lucydodsworth

  • Reply
    Makesworth Accountants
    September 15, 2018 at 4:43 pm

    Amazing Pictures

    • Reply
      Lucy
      September 16, 2018 at 3:22 pm

      Thank you!

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