London is vast, but it is easy to forget just how vast. In fact it’s only when you get up high that anyone can start to really understand just how big our city is. But if you combine the fact that London is relatively flat and is historically a low rise city, spreading outwards rather than upwards, getting the best views in London from up high hasn’t always been easy.
In recent years things have started to change, however. London hasn’t got any hillier, but it has got a lot higher. In fact there are now loads of different ways to get up above street level to take in the amazing London views which show you just how big this place really is –and below are some of our favourites.
Parliament Hill and Primrose Hill
London may not have any mountains, but it does have a couple of very nice hills – Parliament Hill and Primrose Hill. Both offer great views of the city for the grand price of zero, nada, nothing, zilch.
I am always amazed just how often Monument is overlooked by Londoners and visitors alike. Standing 202 feet high, the Monument is the tallest isolated stone column in the world. Built to commemorate the Great Fire of London in 1666, it still offers fantastic views of London despite the increasing number of high rise neighbours. And at just £3 it’s one of London’s cheapest attractions (a combined Monument Tower Bridge ticket is also available for just £9). History, a bit of exercise (you have to walk up most of those 202 feet), and a great view for less than the cost of a pint? Get up there!
Another iconic attraction, with probably the best views of the Tower of London (as well as up and down the river) from its walkways high above the busy road below, Tower Bridge is a feat of Victorian engineering. If you can try and time your visit with the raising of the bridge for a tall ship or navel vessel you will feel cast back in time. In addition to the stunning views Tower Bridge has a number of very interesting exhibitions on offer. (£8 or £9 combined entry with Monument.)
Whilst the Monument is one of London’s oldest attractions, the Emirates Air Line cable car is one of the most recent. Billed as London’s newest Thames crossing, it will take you from effectively nowhere to nowhere, albeit via some spectacular views of Canary Wharf and East London. A massive failure as a genuine transport option, it’s a winner as a tourist attraction with great views and a bit of a thrill as you glide high over the river. Single: £4.20 cash, £3.20 Oyster Return: £8.60 cash, £6.40 return
The London Eye is a giant Ferris wheel situated on the South Bank, at the very centre of London. Reaching 135 metres (443 ft) high, the views of London change as you rotate, meaning there is always something new to look at in the 30 minutes you’re on board. The best time to visit is at sunset, getting views of the city at day and night. Just remember to use the loo before you board! (£17+)
The Shard is the marmite of London’s skyline – some love it, some hate it. But whichever camp you sit in there is no doubt that Europe’s tallest building has the best views on offer – just as well at just under £25 per person. From the viewing platforms on floors 68, 69 and 72 there are breathtaking views, yet even here you can’t see London’s borders. But be warned: a building that reaches to the clouds is often shrouded in mist, and there are no refunds! (£24.95)
Until such time as the Shard opens its restaurants, Vertigo 42 remains the highest place in London to dine and is therefore one of the best places to eat for London views. On the 42nd floor of Tower 42 is Vertigo 42, a champagne lounge like no other in the city. With sweeping vistas of London, and particularly St Paul’s Cathedral, it is a unique setting to look out over this fair city. Booking is essential but so is saving up – champagne starts at £60 a bottle and whilst the food is good, the menu is limited and expensive. (£60-£500)