The View from The Shard London
If you’ve been to London lately you might have noticed a new addition to the capital’s skyline. Towering above the regular icons between London Bridge and Tower Bridge is a sculptural building surrounded by giant shards of glass. And from February 2013, you can whizz up to its panoramic viewing platform at 800 ft, and see the whole of London stretching out before you. I couldn’t resist a sneak preview of one of London’s newest attractions, The View from the Shard…
Up to the top of The Shard…
From the top of The Shard, central London is a Lego set, criss-crossed by Fisher Price trains. If you put a man in a red and white stripy jumper out on the streets you could have a great game of Where’s Wally? This building takes one of the worlds most historic and populated capitals, and turns it into a toy.
And The Shard brings out the child in me. My ears pop in the lift and I giggle. I can’t stop myself from saying “Wow” as I reach the 69th floor. And I spend ages awarding myself points for spotting double decker buses as they trundle around toytown, with ten extra points for the taxi with the union jack roof.
The highest viewing platform in London
The Shard is the tallest building in Western Europe and from the viewing platform, some 244 metres (800 feet) up you get a 360 degree view of London. This morning, as clouds sweep by the tip of the building, and the city stretches out for 40 miles in every direction, we could be in the USA, where the skyline and the skyscraper are king. But I know I’m in London, because I’m looking straight at the Gherkin.
It’s an attraction that raises questions
Like everyone else, I immediately rush around ticking off icons; St Paul’s, The London Eye, The Olympic Stadium. And then, when I’m certain I’ve clocked all the important landmarks, I wander slowly, taking in the detail. I’ve lots of questions; “Who owns that secret roof garden on the top of Cannon Street Station? Why is South London greener than the north? Are all the cranes in the world in London right now? And all the traffic cones too? Where’s that little train going and is it running on time?”
A lesson in geography and history too
If you are unsure of a landmark, there are twelve cool digital telescopes in strategic positions to help you distinguish your Armadillo from your Gherkin. If you zoom in on a landmark, the screen will brief you on it in one of ten different languages. It’s like the highest geography lesson in England, I remark. Our guide for today, Ruth Howlett, agrees, “You can’t get this kind of experience anywhere else. It’s also a history lesson; you can see everything from William The Conqueror’s eleventh century white tower to the Walkie Talkie still under construction.”
More than just a view
The London Symphony Orchestra has recorded a specially composed score which will be played in the high speed lifts, and designers of the visitor experience say they’ve done everything they can to make it a London-centric attraction.
“We are immersing people in it throughout,” says Anders Nyberg, the CEO of The View From The Shard. “As they proceed through the attraction they’ll see a montage of all the great London neighbourhoods; parts of London they’ve never seen before. We believe tourists will go to The Shard when they first come to London to get totally orientated.”
There might be one drawback to that though. “I’ve done London now, I might as well go home,” jokes one of my viewing companions as we prepare to leave.
I’ll be back…
Tens of thousands of tickets have already been sold for The Shard and when it opens in February 2013 this cloud topped attraction is bound to be a magnet for families. I make a silent promise that I’ll return next year with the kids. I’ll be like Willie Wonka showing them proudly into the Great Glass Elevator. And hurling them into the sky.
The View from The Shard is due to open in London on 1st February 2013. It will be open from 9am until 10pm daily. At £24.95 for adults and £18.95 for kids, this isn’t a cheap family day out. And you won’t get it to yourself; there may be 250 people up here at any one time. But you can stay all day; I could have stayed for hours. Timed sessions will ensure the crowds don’t obscure your view, and by February there will also be an outdoor viewing platform in place.