It’s hard to imagine London’s skyline without it. You might be surprised to learn that London’s tallest building, The Shard, only opened its front doors in 2013. Since its arrival onto the London landscape, The Shard has become a must-see destination for tourists and Londoners alike.
The spire-like sculpture designed by architect Renzo Piano was inspired by the nearby railway lines and the masts of sailing ships. English Heritage initially criticized the idea, calling the building ‘a shard of glass through the heart of historic London’, which ironically gave the building its name.
How tall is The Shard?
Standing at 309.6 metres tall, The Shard is the tallest building in the UK, the sixth tallest building in Europe and the 105th-tallest building in the world. Also referred to as the ‘Shard of Glass’, this 95-storey skyscraper is made from 11 000 panels of glass, amounting to a staggering 56,000 square metres. It takes 3 months and 17 very brave window cleaners to clean the entire building.
Can you go up The Shard for free?
Unfortunately, the saying ‘nothing in life comes for free’ rings true when visiting The Shard. A trip to the Shard’s viewing deck, located on floors 68, 69 and 72, is almost double the height of any other viewing platform in London. These unparalleled 360-degree views for up to 40 miles are utterly spectacular and will set you back around £34 per person.
But wait, we have an idea. Whilst visiting the top of the building comes with a price tag, how does Level 31 sound? Aqua Shard is a luxurious bar and restaurant you can visit for free – provided you order at least one drink. We recommend showing up at an off-peak time, so you can enjoy the unhindered views, take photographs and soak in the atmosphere.
How much did The Shard cost?
The Shard cost a whopping £1,2 billion to build. Towering over London’s skyline, a £34 ticket to its famous viewing deck seems cheap at the price.
The viewing deck comprises three floors, each offering mind-boggling views. Opt to sit and savour the view with a glass of Champagne at one of the two bars or venture up to the top story. With only the sky above you, the open-air sky deck on level 72 is a real highlight – mind the pun.
Is there a dress code for The Shard?
There are many establishments located in The Shard and each one has a separate dress code policy.
The viewing gallery at the top of The Shard doesn’t have a strict dress code, however during the evening many people choose to dress up and enjoy the Champagne experience. Day time visitors are generally more casual.
The restaurants and bars within The Shard operate on a smart casual policy, with no sportswear, shorts or flip-flops. Why not make it an occasion and dress to match the beautiful view?
Do you need to book for The Shard bar?
All of The Shard restaurants take bookings and these fill up fast, so reserving a table in advance is highly advised. Unfortunately, GONG is only open to hotel guests whilst the Aqua Shard Bar operates on a walk-in basis.
Exploring the Shard by level
The Shard comprises 26 floors of office space, three floors of restaurants, the 19-floor five-star Shangri-La Hotel, 13 floors of residential apartments and London’s highest public viewing gallery.
The offices were developed to create a vibrant business hub and are now home to 32 companies across a variety of sectors including energy, retail, technology, finance, professional services, education and healthcare.
There are six Shard restaurants and bars in total: Bar 31, Aqua Shard, Oblix, Hutong, TING and GONG, all of which boast floor to ceiling windows and a 40-mile view. But beyond that, they’re all pretty different. From swanky sports bar to world-class Northern Chinese cuisine, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
Starting on level 34 – a soaring 125 metres high – sits the five star Shangri-La Hotel. It’s home to London’s highest infinity pool, where hotel guests can enjoy panoramic skyline views within close reach to iconic landmarks.
How much is afternoon tea at The Shard?
The combination of stunning views and exceptional dining make afternoon tea at The Shard a top choice for true connoisseurs of this lavish ritual. Not to mention you’ll be spoilt for choice. Aqua Shard, Oblix, TING and GONG all serve afternoon tea.
Aqua Shard’s afternoon tea channels different themes, from Mary Poppins to Peter Pan, with scones from her magic handbag and a bespoke cake featuring her famous umbrella. The mirrored menu will set you back about £49pp.
At Oblix, afternoon tea is a traditional affair. You’ll start with finger sandwiches, before moving onto sweet treats for around £42pp.
TING serves up the British classics with a few luxury updates from £60pp. GONG serves a virtually identical menu, a few storeys higher for hotel guests.
The Shard or The London Eye?
They’re both iconic odes to modern London and they both offer amazing views of the capital. But which should you visit?
The main reason anyone would want to visit either the top of The Shard or the London Eye is to view the Capital from high up. The London Eye’s 135m viewing height allows you to see 30 miles, which The Shard’s 208m platform gives you vantage for 40 miles.
The Shard offers visitors unlimited time experience viewing London, whereas the London Eye is limited to your 360 degree rotation.
Whilst experiencing The View From The Shard is slightly more expensive than The London Eye, visiting time is unlimited. Our verdict – if romance is what you’re after – is a magical private capsule ride in The London Eye. However with its unparalleled views, The Shard is undoubtedly a better value experience.
Ready for a visit?
Whether it’s dining at one of the esteemed restaurants or enjoying a cheeky tipple at the bar, a visit to The Shard is the perfect way to re-connect and fall in love with London!
I am an experienced writer specializing in travel, food, weddings, and well-being. Continuing my nomadic lifestyle I am currently based on the beautiful island of Malta.