Get the lowdown on how to visit The Shard for free
The Shard is one of London’s most recognisable landmarks and has become a must-see attraction for Londoners and visitors alike.
Soaring to a height of almost 310 meters above the River Thames, it is the tallest building in the United Kingdom and the seventh-tallest in Europe. It is home to The View from The Shard, the highest viewpoint in London.
Take it from me; the views from this lofty height are sensational. But this panorama will blast a hole in your wallet.
The good news is that there are two ways that you can gain free entry to The Shard: using a London tourist pass and visiting one of the building’s bars or restaurants. Here’s how to do it.
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What is The View from The Shard?
The View from the Shard comprises three observation decks at the top of The Shard building- on the 68th, 69th and 72nd floors – offering 360-degree views of London and up to 40 miles beyond. The 72nd-floor viewing platform rises 256 metres above ground level, making it twice the height of any other viewing platform in London.
How Much is a Ticket for The View from Shard?
In 2023, tickets for The View from The Shard start from £28. The best prices are available if you book more than four days in advance.
What Can You See from The Shard?
For my money, The View from The Shard is one of the best viewpoints in London.
Looking west, London’s bridges follow the curve of the river, including the iconic Tower Bridge. From your lofty vantage point, famous landmarks such as St Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower of London, the Walkie-Talkie building and The Gherkin look like toy models.
Further west, you can see The London Eye and the Palace of Westminster.
Downriver, the shimmering towers of Canary Wharf and the O2 are clearly visible.
In the far north, there’s the arch of Wembley Stadium and the open expanse of Hampstead Heath. Landmarks are a little scarcer to the south, but a notable exception is the towers of Battersea Power Station.
How to Visit The Shard for Free
So you’d like to see these views but don’t want to part with £28+ of your hard-earned cash? I don’t blame you.
There are two ways to gain free entry to the Shard: using one of the London tourist passes or visiting one of the restaurants in the Shard.
Let me be clear; neither of these ways is completely free. But if you are canny you will pay less than the price of a ticket for The View from The Shard and maybe – just maybe – take in the view whilst sipping on an Espresso Martini.
Visiting The Shard with a London Pass
Like many major cities, London has tourist passes: the Go City® London All-Inclusive Pass and London Explorer Pass. These give you free entry to many of the city’s top attractions, including The View from The Shard.
Unlike many traditional city passes, the London Explorer Pass offers access to a predetermined number of attractions over a generous 60-day time window. The London All-Inclusive Pass provides access to an unlimited number of included attractions over a predetermined number of days.
For most first-time visitors to London, these passes can save you money. Even as a Londoner, I would be tempted to buy the London Explorer Pass. But whether either of these passes will be good value will depend on what else you plan to see and do in London.
Restaurants at The Shard
The Shard is much more than just a viewpoint. This vertical city is home to a 26-floor office complex, restaurants, the 5-star Shangri-La Hotel and apartments for ten lucky residents.
There are six restaurants at The Shard. Although none of these reach the dizzy heights of level 68 and beyond, Aqua Shard is considered to offer the best views in the building. Located on Level 31 its double-height glass walls envelop you in London’s skyline.
It’s not cheap but the food is reliably good and it also offers weekend brunch and afternoon tea.
Although the restaurant takes walk-ins, booking ahead is recommended.
A cheaper option to visit The Shard for free is to have a drink in the bar at Aqua Shard. This operates on a walk-in basis only and is subject to capacity.
But Aqua Shard is not your only option for free entry to The Shard. Here’s a quick lowdown on its other bars and restaurants with a view.
Gong – this sophisticated bar on the 52nd floor of The Shard serves champagne and cocktails with a jaw-dropping view thrown in for free.
Sky Lounge – this elegant lounge on level 34 serves drinks and light bites and offers a Sunday Brunch
Ting restaurant. – located on the 35th floor, its floor-to-ceiling windows offer those prized 360-degree views of London. It serves British dishes with an Asian twist and is open for breakfast and afternoon tea.
Hutong – this Chinese restaurant on level 33 is open for lunch and dinner.
Oblix – on the 32nd floor, this restaurant is split across two different spaces offering views across central London from East to West. It serves award-winning cocktails and afternoon tea
Reservations are recommended for all.
How to Get to The Shard
It’s easy to get to The View from The Shard from London Bridge Underground Station or London Bridge (railway) Station.
When exiting the underground station, turn right out of the ticket hall and follow the signs for The Shard or Joiner Street. If you are walking from London Bridge Station, turn left and go down the escalator.
The Shard is also served by buses 43, 48, 141, 149, and 521, which stop at the bus station outside the main entrance to London Bridge Station. London hop-on-hop-off buses also stop close by.
The Shard’s address is Joiner Street, London SE1 9QU. An area map is here.
A Fabulous Free Alternative to The Shard
Wrapped around the top of the Walkie-Talkie building, the Sky Garden is also a popular London viewpoint. Best of all, the Sky Garden is completely free.
The Sky Garden is more than a viewpoint. It is a lush leafy sanctuary in the sky, home to Mediterranean and South African species that have been chosen to work in harmony with the space and light.
Like The Shard, it offers 360-degree views of London, albeit from a lower vantage point. There is more space to wander around and sit, and there is a reasonably priced bar.
The downside? You need to book in advance and entry slots can be hard to come by unless you are quick off the mark
READ THIS NEXT: Visiting The Sky Garden, London: Tips From a Local Expert
Bridget Coleman is a Londoner and has been a passionate traveller for more than 30 years. She has visited 70+ countries, most as a solo traveller.
Articles on this site reflect her first-hand experiences.
To get in touch, email her at email@example.com or follow her on social media.