The Best Bird’s-Eye Views in London

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Everyone’s heard of the London Eye, but where else can you see the entire city from above?

In every city I’ve been to, I love seeing the city from as far up as I can. I’ve driven up hills, I’ve ventured up buildings, and taken aerial trams, in order to get the best view I possibly can.

London was no different. Prior to my trip, I did some research and found my options to be The London Eye, The Shard, Tower Bridge, The Monument (to the Great Fire of London), and the lesser-known SkyGarden. I have compiled a list of the best views in London of London. 

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1. London Eye

THE best known of the bunch! And probably, the most touristy. While everyone calls it “The London Eye,” it is technically known as “The Coca-Cola London Eye” because Coca-Cola now owns the naming rights to this attraction.

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View of House of Parliament buildings from the London Eye.

The ride is approximately ½ hr long and you will get the best view of the House of Parliament buildings and St. Paul’s Cathedral from your pod. This is also the closest you can get to Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben (at this time, August 2016) since the tower is closed for renovation until 2020. 

If you’re ballin’ and you’re seeking some more privacy, you can opt to rent out the entire pod at a price. 🙂

TIP: They have e-tickets, but you might want to print them anyways. You might not get cell phone reception due to signal issues around the ferris wheel. If you still choose to go with the e-ticket, you should load it before you get to the gate or they won’t be able to scan it.

Website
Address: The London Eye, Riverside Building, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, London SE1 7PB
Prices: £23.45 ($30.21 US) and up, save money by pre-booking online

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2. The Shard

The Shard has THE highest views of London, floors 68, 69, and 72 are open to the public with the purchase of a ticket.

Floor 68 is mainly the souvenir area. Floor 69 provides you with an indoor viewing area. On floor 72, you will be standing at the “point” at the top of The Shard, which is open to the elements.

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View of St. Paul’s Cathedral from The Shard

2 reasons I wanted to see “The View From The Shard”:

  1. It offers the highest view of London.
    THIS WAS TRUE!  
    The buildings that looked so large and close from the other vantage points I went to, were MUCH smaller once I went up The Shard. This was the best view from up high for sure!
  2. You can see Windsor Castle.
    THIS WAS IFFY.
    You can definitely see as far as Heathrow Airport, which is pretty impressive already. It was pretty cool to be see planes landing and taking off in the distance. However Windsor Castle was a bit further and you could only see it if you asked the Guest Ambassadors. So NO, it is not possible to see Windsor Castle with your naked eyes. The Guest Ambassador I spoke to was nice enough to take out binoculars and showed me where it was located. I was able to see it, ONLY with binoculars.
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View of Tower Bridge from The Shard

They also have a weather guarantee: “If you cannot see at least three of the following landmarks –  The London Eye, St Paul’s Cathedral, 20 Fenchurch Street (The Walkie Talkie), Tower Bridge and One Canada Square – on the day of your visit, we will let you return within 3 months for free! Staff at the ticket desk will let you know on the day if the Visibility Guarantee has been authorised and will arrange your return ticket.”

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View of the Walkie-Talkie Building (20 Fenchurch) from The Shard

TIP: I wouldn’t purchase tickets too early in advance, about 2 weeks in advance should suffice. Sometimes they run Saver Deals so you also don’t want to miss out on those. I was able to save 20% on my timed-ticket; however, they are usually only available for specific dates and times. But if they’re not running the Saver Deal, purchasing tickets online in advance will provide you with 15% off. 🙂

Opening hours can vary depending upon the season, check the website for latest times.

Website
Address: Joiner Street, London SE1 9QU
Prices: Adults – As low as £18.95 ($24.41 US), £25.95 ($33.43 US), up to £30.95 ($39.88 US)

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3. SkyGarden

When 20 Fenchurch Street aka “The Walkie-Talkie” building was envisioned, the government mandated that they provide a public space available to all, that space became SkyGarden.

The building is 38-stories tall and is the 5th tallest building in London. SkyGarden is located at the top of the building and includes an observation deck, an exotic plant garden, and an open air terrace. The garden area also has a few restaurants and a bar.

Pros

  • FREE (Best view for the price, or lack thereof.)
  • Great views and a nice area to relax and explore in the garden.

Cons

  • It is very difficult to get tickets, there are only a certain number available per day. Tickets are available 3 weeks prior to the visit date and are quickly snatched up. If you’re not able to score tickets, alternatively, you could consider making a reservation at one of the restaurants to experience the view.
  • Security is similar to airport style. They put your bags and jacket through an X-ray machine and you are not allowed to bring liquids over 100ml (3oz). There is also a size limit on the baggage size, see website for more details.   
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View of Tower of London and Tower Bridge from SkyGarden

I was able to score us tickets a couple of tickets for 5:30pm after several tries. It was well worth the effort since it was FREE and the space was very beautiful. It also provided us with the best view of The Shard.

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View of The Shard from SkyGarden

It’s also worth noting that it is possible to swap tickets at a later time or date if the original time and date you signed up for no longer works for you; however it is quite difficult due to the limited quantity of available tickets.

We didn’t order any drinks at the bar so I am unable to confirm the quality, however we saw they were quite expensive. We noticed there were various exotic plants within the garden, such as bird of paradise flowers, amongst many others.  

Note: My images have been color-corrected as the glass at SkyGarden is blue-tinted lending to very blue-toned photos.

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Some of the windows have graphics of the building with the corresponding building name printed to help you find them.

Website
Address: 20 Fenchurch St, London EC3M 8AF
Entrance is around the corner of Fenchurch Street, at the back of the building via Philpot Lane.
Prices: FREE, tickets available 3 weeks prior to visit date here.

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4. The Monument (to the Great Fire of London)

Important Note: In order to visit and see the views, you MUST be able to climb 311 steps up a windy staircase to the top of The Monument.

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The top of The Monument (to the Great Fire of London).

The view from The Monument reminded me of the bird’s eye view from a metropolitan rooftop garden. The top of The Monument puts you smack dab in the middle of some of the oldest parts of the city, right amongst the buildings.

Even though it is over 300 years old and was built in 1677, it still holds its own while surrounded by London’s modern skyscrapers.

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The Walkie-Talkie building (20 Fenchurch) and the Gherkin from The Monument

This sight also provides some of the best views of 20 Fenchurch Street aka “Walkie-Talkie building” (where SkyGarden is located), the Tower Bridge, and the Swiss Re Tower aka “Gherkin.”

After completing the climb, you’ll be given a certificate that proving you climbed up all 311 steps! I thought it was a fun souvenir. 🙂

Opening hours can vary depending upon the season, check the website for latest times.

Website
Address: Monument Street and Fish Hill Street, London EC3R 8AH
Prices: Adults – £4.50 ($5.80 US) for The Monument only, £11.00 ($14.17 US) for The Monument and Tower Bridge Exhibition Note that if you purchase the ticket on site, it is CASH ONLY.

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5. Tower Bridge

Contrary to popular belief, this is NOT the London Bridge, this is the Tower Bridge; however it is such a well-known landmark of London that it’s often confused to be the London Bridge.

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The Shard from the Tower Bridge.

The Tower Bridge crosses the River Thames and was built between 1886 and 1894. The bridge uses a hydraulic system located within the towers to lift the bascules and allow vessel passage underneath. Today, the bascules are only lifted at certain times of the year.

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One of the walkways from Tower Bridge taken from the other walkway.

If you’re interested in the view and the history, the exhibition ticket is definitely worth it (especially when purchased as a combo ticket with The Monument admission). I learned a lot about the bridge and how it works. The exhibition includes access to both towers, a view of the engine rooms, and the glass-floored section of the bridge deck.

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The Walkie-Talkie (20 Fenchurch) & part of the Tower of London from the Tower Bridge.

The Tower Bridge provides the best views of London from the Thames as well as amazing views of the Tower of London.

This bridge was also featured in the Sherlock Holmes movie with Robert Downey Jr., Rachel McAdams, and Jude Law.

Opening hours can vary depending on the season, check the website for latest times.

Note: You can walk underneath the bridge via pedestrian walkway for FREE, however if you want to go up the bridge and see the exhibition, you will need a ticket.

Website
Address: Tower Bridge Road, London, SE1 2UP
Prices: Adults – £8.70 ($11.21 US) for Tower Bridge Exhibition only, £11.00 ($14.17 US) for The Monument and Tower Bridge Exhibition

Map of the Bird’s Eye Views

Click on the location pins to see where they’re all located!

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12 COMMENTS

  1. I like the view from SkyGarden the best–certainly doesn’t hurt that it’s free! Thanks for sharing these different views of London, I usually only read about the London Eye.

    • You’re welcome! I had that problem when I was researching for my trip to London too, there wasn’t enough information about getting great views so I thought I’d take a stab at solving that problem. SkyGarden provides an amazing view, especially for the price. It’s just super difficult to get tickets, took me several tries over a few days to score some.

    • I appreciate the compliments! I’m still working on my photo style but I’m glad you appreciate it! London honestly wasn’t top on my list of European cities to visit but I enjoyed it a lot and I’m looking forward to visiting again!

  2. Cool! Honestly I’ve never really been drawn to visit London. But the places you’ve described are helping to convince me 😉
    The SkyGarden looks so cool! Also, I love that you get a little certificate after climbing the steps to The Monument 🙂

    • I get you, I wasn’t ever drawn to London really either… but when the boyfriend gets sent on a work trip, who am I to say no? 😉 With that said, I honestly enjoyed London more than I ever thought I would have and I am looking forward to my next trip back. I’d definitely love to visit several places on day trips that I didn’t have time for this time around.

      Not gonna lie, I LOVED SkyGarden, however because it’s so difficult to get the free tickets I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it entirely. But it is my favorite out of the 5 based upon the price and the view you get, it’s just way more practical since London isn’t exactly the cheapest place in the world.

  3. Happy you had fun in lovely London! I lived there for a year and I miss it! Going back there next year for a little visit:D Need to go to SkyGarden for sure! Been up the Shard for a cocktail, that’s really nice too! Awesome recommendations!

    • You should definitely go to SkyGarden, it’s so worth it since it’s free! It’s just more effort to get the tickets. Glad you enjoyed the recs 🙂

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