It’s hard to imagine London’s skyline without The Shard.
Soaring to a height of almost 310 meters above the River Thames, this 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 viewing platform in London.
The Shard is one of London’s most recognisable landmarks and has become a must-see attraction for Londoners and visitors alike. But is visiting The Shard worth it?
In this article, you’ll find everything you need to know about The Shard, from buying tickets to tips on how to make the most of your visit.
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Key Facts about The Shard
The Shard is located on the south bank of the Thames, close to London Bridge, one of London’s most famous bridges.
It is also known as the Shard of Glass, Shard London Bridge and formerly London Bridge Tower.
The Shard was designed by the famous Italian architect Renzo Piano who took his inspiration from the nearby railway lines and the masts of sailing ships. There are 11,000 panes of glass, with a total surface area of 56,000 square meters.
But who’s counting?
We have English Heritage to thank for its name. Initially, they criticized the plans, calling the building ‘a shard of glass through the heart of historic London.’ The term stuck.
From The Shard’s three observation decks – on the 68th, 69th, and 72nd floor – there are 360-degree views of London and up to 40 miles beyond. The 72nd-floor viewing platform stands at the height of 256 metres above ground level, making it twice the height of any other viewing platform in London.
Tips for Visiting The Shard, London
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.
The View from The Shard opening times
The opening hours for The View from The Shard vary according to the day of the week and it is often closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Hours can also vary depending on any events that are taking place.
Check The View from The Shard’s visiting hours here before you visit.
Is The Shard free?
The unparalleled views from the viewing platforms on the 68th, 69th, and 72nd floors come with a hefty price tag attached. However, there is a way that you can visit the lower floors of The Shard for free.
More on that later.
How much does it cost to go up The Shard?
The ticket price for The View from The Shard starts from £28. The best prices are available if you book more than four days in advance.
When is the best time to visit The Shard?
There’s no bad time to visit The View from The Shard.
If you visit the day, you’ll be able to see many of London’s most recognisable landmarks laid out before you. Visit just before the sun goes down and you’ll get all this plus the chance of sunset views over London.
The flip side of this is the volume of visitors. The sunset time slots are understandably popular and you may find yourself having to sharpen your elbows to capture those iconic views.
A nighttime visit is a different experience, giving you the chance of seeing London lit up below you.
If possible, avoid visiting The View from The Shard at the weekend. If you have to go there on a Saturday or Sunday, aim to finish your visit by 2 pm.
What happens if there is poor weather during your visit to The Shard?
Let’s face it; rain is not unheard of in London. With the best will in the world, you can be super organised and buy your ticket in advance only to find rain and mist obscuring your view on the day of your visit.
With The Shard’s View Guarantee, you can return for free within 3 months if you cannot see at least three of the following five landmarks:
– London Eye
– The Walkie Talkie
– Tower Bridge
– One Canada Square
– St Paul’s Cathedral
How long can you spend at The Shard’s viewing gallery?
You can spend as long as you like at The View from The Shard. There is no time restriction to your visit.
How long should you allow for a visit to The View from The Shard?
Allow at least an hour to visit The Shard’s viewing gallery, two hours if you are visiting at a busier time.
You need to factor in time to pass through the building’s airport-style security scanner and wait for the elevator to take you to the observation decks.
Tips for Buying Tickets for The View from The Shard
Where can you buy tickets for The View from The Shard?
For the best prices, buy your ticket here at The Shard’s ticket office. Although these tickets are not refundable, they are exchangeable for a new date or time, subject to a hefty £15 amendment fee.
For a fully refundable ticket, decide if it’s worth paying a premium. Click here to book a refundable ticket for The View from The Shard.
Can you buy tickets for The View from The Shard on the day?
Don’t be a hostage to fortune.
Although you may be able to buy a same-day ticket at quieter times, I don’t recommend this if you are visiting London on a short break. The View from The Shard is extremely popular and is often fully booked.
What should you do if The View from The Shard is fully booked?
Don’t fret. All is not lost.
If you have your heart set on visiting The Shard, you may be able to do it as part of an organised trip. Local tour companies bulk buy tickets months in advance and bundle a visit with seeing other London attractions.
For example; this comprehensive walking tour of London’s top sights ends with a visit to The View from The Shard. Click here to book.
What to Expect from a Visit to The Shard
As befits the tallest building in the UK, your visit starts by going through airport-like security.
Once you have cleared security, you can have your picture taken against a green screen. This photo is available to purchase at the end of your visit.
I declined the offer.
Taking the elevators to The Shard’s viewing platforms
Not one, but two elevators whisk you up to the start of the observation decks. It’s all part of the experience.
These elevators are fast – travelling at six metres per second – but the ride is smooth. The total time to ascend to floor 68 is one minute.
It was a quiet time and I queued for around five minutes before entering lift #1, which terminates on floor 33. A second lift then takes you up to level 68.
Exiting the elevator, you then ascend to the main viewing gallery on Level 69.
From this triple-height viewing gallery, you can take in the views or prop up the in-house bar with a glass of fizzy stuff in hand.
For the highest possible views, head up to the viewing gallery on Level 72.
I preferred this viewing gallery to the one on Level 69. It is partially open to the elements (wrap up warm) and allows you to glimpse the iconic pinnacle of the building. It is also quieter than the more commercialised lower levels.
What can you see from The View from The Shard?
For my money, The Shard is one of the best viewpoints in London. Not only do you benefit from 360-degree views but due to its height, you can see up to 40 miles on a clear day.
All the big hitters are there.
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.
Eating & drinking at The View from The Shard
There is a bar on level 69 and on level 72 which offers a selection of drinks and light bites. The View from The Shard does not offer afternoon tea, lunch menus or dinner options
Make sure that you spend a penny before you leave. The toilets on the 68th level of The Shard boast some of the best views in town
How to Visit The Shard for Free
You don’t want to part with £28+ of your hard-earned cash? I don’t blame you.
But did you know that you can visit The Shard for free, although you won’t be able to reach the dizzy heights of level 68 and beyond?
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, but 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 reviews are 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 without paying is to have a drink in the bar at Aqua Shard. This operates on a walk-in basis only and is subject to capacity.
The Shard vs. London Eye
Should you see London from the Shard or the London Eye?
Both give you the opportunity to look down on the capital’s landmarks from a great height but, for me, The View from The Shard is the clear winner.
On a clear day, the London Eye’s 135-metre viewing height allows you to see for 30 miles. The Shard’s 72nd-floor deck at 265 meters gives you a bird’s eye view for 40 miles.
Your time to enjoy these views on the London Eye is limited as one full rotation takes 30 minutes, with your pod being at its most elevated position for a fraction of that time. The London skyline is yours to enjoy at The Shard for as long as you want to stay.
Ticket prices are similar
The Shard vs. The Sky Garden
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
I recommend visiting both The Shard and the Sky Garden but if you want to save money and can book in advance, I’d plump for the Sky Garden.
READ THIS NEXT: Visiting The Sky Garden, London: Tips From a Local Expert
Is it Worth Visiting The Shard?
I found it extremely difficult to justify the hefty ticket price for The View from The Shard. If it wasn’t for snapping up an annual pass on a Black Friday deal, I probably wouldn’t have made it there.
But I am so glad that I visited The Shard. Yes, it is expensive, but those views are sensational.
Good things really do come at a price