I’m going to let you in on a little secret, to get amazing views of the London Skyline there is a free alternative to the Shard, offering in many respects a better view of the city.
The Sky Garden is a multi-level garden located at 20 Fenchurch Street and is London’s highest public garden. The weather was perfect during our visit ensuring that we could get some of the most spectacular 360 degree views of London.
The famous enlarged glass dome located at 20 Fenchurch Street, nicknamed the ‘walkie-talkie’ building offers three levels of beautifully landscaped public gardens and London’s most exclusive social spaces, including observation decks and an open air terrace.
You can’t but notice the sheer size of the building as it dominates the landscape as you turn the corner shortly after you walk out of the nearest tube station at Monument.
It can get very busy as you await entry, but on our midweek visit we were so lucky to miss the crowds and walked straight to the admission desk for entry.
Once inside you will go through airport style security screening and will be directed to the high speed lift which takes you straight up to level 35.
As you leave the lift into the cavernous atrium, you are immediately struck just how beautiful and serene it is up here. The Sky Garden planting has been designed by award winning landscape architects Gillespies and installed by Willerby Landscapes.
The beautiful green gardens were bursting with drought resistant Mediterranean and South African flowers along with tree ferns and fig trees creating a lush prehistoric forest.
In the distance through the vast glass windows you see the skyline of London, dominated by the Shard.
Inside the Sky Garden is a choice of bars, restaurants and coffee shops and lots of people were enjoying the drinks and lunch at the Sky Pod Bar whilst admiring the spectacular views.
We made our way to the outdoor viewing platform, which at 155 metres offers breathtaking views of London. As we looked down at iconic landmarks such as the Tower of London, St Pauls Cathedral and the London Eye you can’t help but appreciate what a beautiful city London is.
Each side of the building are staircases that meander through the lush vegetation, with small trees, shrubs and beautiful flowers. As we walked around the gardens it felt as though we were in a tropical garden and not on the 35th floor of a skyscraper in central London.
There were some lovely quiet spots as we explored the Sky Garden to just sit, relax and appreciate the beautiful gardens and views on offer.
At the top of the stairs we reached another large enclosed viewing area, looking north. The views of London once more are spectacular with the Leadenhall Building, Gherkin and NatWest Tower lined up like chess pieces in a row.
In the distance the iconic Canary Wharf looks so small to the east, while the Tower of London is laid out below for a spectacular view.
The first of the two restaurants at the Sky Garden was the Darwin Brasserie on level 36, serving an all-day brasserie with views across the City of London.
On the very top floor was the Fenchurch Restaurant and Terrace. I loved the space and peace offered on the terrace which had unspoilt views from the top of Sky Garden, offering a great alternative perspective.
As we made our way back down the steps toward the atrium level the views out of the huge glass windows were again spectacular. We spotted the iconic Wembley in the distance which was where our daughter was singing that evening. What was great about the Sky Garden was because the space is so vast, it never felt crowded.
The Sky Gardens is a must-visit London attraction. The 360 degree views of London are some of the very best in London, in many ways it offers a better experience than the Shard, coupled with the fact that it’s free whereas the Shard costs from £25 per person.
However there are only a limited amount of tickets available to the Sky Garden and visits need to be booked online. Tickets are released 3 weeks in advance, where you select a time and date for your entry. Alternatively if you make a reservation at one of the restaurants at the Sky Garden, you will also be able to enjoy the spectacular views on offer.
Opening hours: 10 am-6 pm, Monday to Friday. 11 am-9 pm – weekends.
Transport: By tube – Monument is the closest. Tower Hill, Tower Gate, Aldgate and Bank are less than 10 minutes walk.
For more information and for booking visit the Sky Garden website