AS a tourist in London, the most rewarding way to take in the sights of the Big City, I have discovered, – is from on high!
Living just an hour-and a-half (on a good day) from the centre of London, I am no stranger to the capital’s tourist trail. Been there, done that. . . or so I had thought.
On my most recent visit my family and I were able to appreciate a very different view of the city – from two uniquely spectacular perspectives – including the top floor of the tallest building in Western Europe.
Having been blown away on previous occasions by our views from the London Eye, The View from the Shard surpasses that experience. Standing at heights of almost 310 metres (1,016ft in old money) at your highest possible vantage point, it is literally enough to take your breath away.
As the highest viewing platform in the city, it is the only place to see all of London – all at once. The viewing galleries on Level 69 and the open-air Skydeck
on Level 72 provide a breath-taking 360-degree view that stretches for up to 40 miles, that’s all the way to Henley-Upon-Thames!
Some more facts for you. . .
The building has 11,000 glass panels; the area of the glass façade is 56,000 sq metres (602,779 sq ft), which equals eight football pitches; there are 44 lifts and 306 flights of stairs; 95% of the construction materials are recycled and each facet forms a shard, a plane of glass gently inclined inwards, rising towards the top; the corners of the development are open and the shards do not touch, allowing the building to “breathe”; there are 72 habitable floors and three restaurants.
Tickets range from £15.95 per adult and £9.95 for children if booked in advance and from £20.95 per adult and £14.95 for children if booked on the day.
Worth it for special treat and in my opinion a better use of your tourist budget than many of the other options available. But you might want to resist the overpriced gift shop!
Another stop-off on the day took us journeying back up into the clouds – 114.5m to be exact – to the top of the ArcelorMittal Orbit.
An elevator ride to the top of one of the city’s newest attractions brings views of up to 20 miles before experiencing the city’s landmarks from the outside observation walkway suspended 80m above the ground.
There’s loads to see from the ArcelorMittal Orbit’s two viewing platforms from St Paul’s Cathedral, the O2 and
Wembley to a bird’s eye view of the iconic London Olympic 2012 venues. You can even get up close to London’s landmarks with innovative and interactive touchscreens that allow you to zoom into the view and learn more about the city.
Designed by Sir Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond for the London 2012 Games, the ArcelorMittal Orbit perfectly combines city views with fun and contemporary art.
But, the fun element comes into play when it’s time to descend – for those who choose to of course – down The Slide.
If it’s hair-raising experiences you’re after, this is for you. Kitted out with protective arm and headwear, you’re sent sliding through the twists, turns and drops of the world’s tallest and longest tunnel slide as it weaves its way around the UK’s tallest sculpture.
The 40-second descent down the 178m long slide – through light and dark sections at speeds of up to 15mph – is exhilarating indeed and so, not for the feint-hearted. In which case, a gentle descent of the 455 steps accompanied by distinctive London sounds might be more to your liking.
Whatever your mode of descent, the ArcelorMittal Orbit is worth a visit. It is interesting on many levels and will tick numerous boxes for all those hard to please family members. Art lover – TICK; sightseer – TICK; thrill-seeker – TICK. But, if you’re travelling in busy periods, including weekends, be sure to pre-book your slides.
If you get addicted to the adrenalin rush and want to dash back to the top for more- you may be left disappointed. It was fully booked on Saturday, so always worth booking a spare or two for the repeat slides some members of your party will inevitably crave.
A truly unique experience and an ideal new stop of a much-trodden tourist route.