When looking across the London skyline, it’s pretty hard to miss The Shard; (it is 306-metres high and the second tallest free-standing structure in the UK, after all). The Shard, (also known as “The Shard of Glass” or “The London Bridge Tower”), boasts 87 stories, 12 floors of residence, three restaurants, an open-air observation deck, and a viewing gallery. But for visitors and tourists, The Shard offers an amazing viewing experience of the London skyline that you won’t be able to find anywhere else in the city – or even the world.

The Shard was built to resemble “a shard of glass through the heart of historic London;” (hence the name) and was first constructed in 2009. The building contains facades of angled glass planes which reflect both the sunlight and the sky, and in doing so its appearance miraculously changes with the weather and seasons. The Shard was also built to maintain stability under “onerous” conditions thanks to its post-tensioned concrete floors, load-bearing pillars, and a tapering shape which allows it to sway to a maximum of 400 millimeters.

Because of its unique and ground-breaking design, The Shard won first place at the 2014 Emporis Skyscraper Awards, which recognizes buildings over 100 metres completed in the previous year. The judges of the competition decided to award The Shard with the winning prize because of its immediately recognizable construction and its representation as “London’s new emblem.”

The Shard has appeared in several different movies, films and TV shows since its completion, such as The Snowman And The Snowdog, in a 2013 Doctor Who episode “The Bells of Saint John” and even a 2014 episode of The Simpsons titled “Treehouse of Horror.”

The Shard, close up. By Paul Wilkinson The Shard, from far away. By Davide D'Amico
The Shard, view. By Robert Trombetta The Shard, viewing platform 3. By Michael Broad The Shard, view platform. By Ray Wewerka

The View from the Shard Highlights

The View From The Shard (or The Shard’s main viewing gallery) is The Shard's primary highlight that shouldn't be missed by any visitor.

The View From The Shard is located at level 69 (spanning three levels of decks up to level 72) and it allows visitors to view a spectacular 360-degree view of the London skyline. On a clear day visitors can easily see up to 40 miles (or 64 km) of London’s skyline, including St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower of London, the Tower Bridge, London Bridge station and even the Houses of Parliament.

Visitors can also use The Shard’s digital telescopes (or “tell:scopes”) which have touch screens so you can zoom in on each tourist attraction, and read more on over 200 different tourist attractions in London. You can also view some pre-recorded time views of the city, so you can see what the tourist attractions look like during different times of the day or night.

At level 72, where the two separate panels of The Shard taper together, visitors can view the sky through the slanted glance and open-air tip, which provides a once-in-a-lifetime viewing experience.

On the ground-floor of The Shard, visitors can watch a screen play footage of London’s various attractions (like the Canary Wharf, London Eye and Mudchute Park and Farm), and view a panel illustrating some of the most recognizable faces of London (like The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Spice Girls, and many more).

Even taking the lift is a tourist activity in itself, thanks to a lightning speed which can take you up the higher levels of the building within seconds.

Special Tips

  • Dress warmly (even during the summer months) as you will be “exposed to the elements” when standing outside on the viewing platform
  • If you can, try and visit The Shard during sunrise or sunset; (you can view the sunrise and sunset times on The Shard's official website)
  • Be sure to make a pit stop at the toilets on the 68th floor!