Climbing Up over London – Up at The O2
One of our missions during our week in London was to view the city from the air as many different ways as possible. London is good for this; novel opportunities range from flying across The Thames in a cable car to circling above it in a giant Ferris Wheel. And coming soon, The Shard; whizzing you up above the capital in high speed lifts. But one of the most atmospheric experiences for the boys and I was climbing Up at The 02; a rooftop walk like no other…
Going Up at The 02
The 02 – London’s bounciest trampoline?
I can’t help bouncing. Even though I’ve been told not to. It’s hard when you’re on a giant trampoline, suspended high above the financial district of London. I can’t see my kids as they’re way ahead, but if I’m flouting the bouncing rule, then they are surely in danger of pinging themselves into Canary Wharf?
I wasn’t sure what to expect when we booked onto Up at the 02. I had been very uninspired by it’s former incarnation as the Millennium Dome. And I couldn’t quite envisage how you enable children to walk over the top of a building given the modern obsession with health and safety. I imagined some kind of scaffolding, or perhaps a stairwell, protected from the elements and from risk. All in all, a safe, cotton wool experience.
The 02 – London’s biggest adventure dome?
But it’s not like that. The o2 has managed to pull off something unique here. Planners have taken an iconic building, opened it up to adults, children over the age of 10 (and more than 1.2m tall), and even wheelchair users (by arrangement), and made it feel daring. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not going to thrill Chris Bonnington. It probably wouldn’t even thrill his grandchildren.
If you are used to standing on Striding Edge or peering over the amber rock of the Grand Canyon, then a quick hike over the 02 isn’t going to get your adrenaline flowing. But if you have a sense of adventure and don’t need crampons to feel like a mountaineer, then you will like this.
Yes, it’s a factory line. Yes, you need to get a move on at the top as the next group is on your tail. Yes, it’s a faff filling in all the forms, watching the video, and putting on the warm suits. But yes, I kind of enjoyed the rigmarole. The movie is a little bit funny. The locker room and suits make you feel like you are an astronaut, and the young and enthusiastic staff pump up the experience.
The walkway is beautifully lit, and our guide is helpful and fun. Perhaps it helps that the attraction has only been open since June; and as this is the first winter, it’s still a novelty for all. And it certainly helps that we do it at dusk, when London is at its best.
The 02 – London’s steepest walkway?
In case you aren’t picturing it yet, the 02 is a dome. and ‘Up at the 02′ is a walkway over this dome, with a taught wire suspended along the walkway at waist height. You simply attach yourself onto the wire, which keeps you safe from random gusts of wind as you stomp up and over the curved building. It’s steep; I know for sure my mother in law couldn’t handle the gradient. But vertigo sufferers can rest assured that there are no precipices.
If you fell off the walkway (impossible because you can’t unhook from the wire once you’ve been hooked on) you’d simply bounce on the taught, tent-like covering of the 02 roof below you. I am comfortable enough to let the kids go way ahead, while I get on with enjoying the view.
The 02, London’s most atmospheric outdoor viewing platform?
We go up as the sun goes to bed. By the time we reach the top, office life is winding down below us, and the city is putting on its party frock and preparing the cocktails. The view is good but not quite as spectacular or panaromic as the one I got from the top of the Shard. But that’s not the whole point here. This is an outdoor activity with a climbing theme. The cow tails and karabiners are as much a part of the experience as the view from ‘the summit’.
The lights are coming on, the planes are trailing across the darkness. I feel the elements. I feel the changing light. I feel alive. I feel I could bounce from this giant trampoline straight into the stars.
My tips for booking Up at the 02
- In peak times book ahead. It’s busy and there are only a limited number of slots in a day.
- Take a camera that will fit into a small space or a smartphone that takes good pictures. You have to carry it in the pocket of your all-in-one.
- Go at night. It’s more atmospheric.
- Don’t worry about bringing mountaineering kit; they will give you boots if your footwear is unsuitable, warm suits, and gloves.
- Chill out and let the kids go on ahead. You’ll get a break and they will feel like they are conquering Everest.
- Don’t panic about the weather. It was freezing the night we did it, but we hardly noticed; adrenaline has a habit of warming you up.
- Leave a good couple of hours to do the attraction; you’re only as fast as the slowest person in the group.
- Warm up afterwards in one of the many bars and restaurants in the 02. Or make a night of it and combine it with a trip to the cinema .
Up at The 02 is at the 02 Arena on the North Greenwich Peninsular in East London. You can reach it on the Docklands Light Railway, by the Thames Clipper river bus or on the Emirates Cable Car (3 out of 10 cool ways to get around London). There are climbs every 20 minutes (it takes 90). Off peak tickets start at £22 booked in advance online. On the day is more expensive. There are no discounts for children (min age 10), which is a shame. And 1 adult must be present for every 2 children. Check the website for opening hours, booking arrangements and practical stuff.
Disclosure note: Thanks to staff at Up at The 02 for arranging entry to allow us to bring you this story. The experience and all the views and opinions expressed are, as ever, entirely our own.