It’s always the way… when you are born and bred in a place you don’t explore the area as much as you do when you are a tourist. That’s exactly how I approach London now, returning as a visitor and finding all the hidden places that I haven’t been to before.
The City of London is very different to when I was growing up in the capital. Skyscrapers dominate the skyline, and despite the pandemic, applications have been put in for ten new tower blocks in a sign of investor confidence.
If you want to check out some amazing views, there are no shortage of buildings to ascend. The Sky Garden is located in the heart of the city’s financial district at 20 Fenchurch Street in the ‘Walkie Talkie’ building, nicknamed because of its distinctive shape that is said to resemble a two-way radio handset. Access to the Sky Garden, London’s highest public garden with lush greenery and landscaped gardens, is free of charge, but you must book in advance. The good news is that there are plenty of benches and places to sit down. It’s worth a visit just for the incredible 360-degree views and there is also the opportunity to grab a drink at the Sky Pod Bar or get a bite to eat at the Darwin Brasserie.
The Shard, named because of its resemblance to a shard of glass, was once the tallest building in Europe (now the seventh tallest) but still has the accolade of being the tallest building in the UK. The Skydeck offers unparalleled views over the city, but unlike the Sky Garden you have to buy tickets to take the high-speed lifts from Level 1 to Level 68 in sixty seconds to access the viewing platforms on the 68th, 69th, and 72nd floors. The sunset time slots are understandably popular but a night visit is a fantastic experience to see London lit up in all its glory below you.
Tower Bridge is an iconic London landmark that is a feat of Victorian engineering and one that is known the world over, but did you know that you can go inside? Opened in 1894, the bridge spans the Thames from Southwark to Tower Hamlets but due to lack of use it closed in 1910 and didn’t reopen until 1982. Another interesting fact is that any vessel more than 9m (30ft) tall, can request the bridge to open at any time, day or night.
You have to buy tickets but this is definitely a must-do visit for the family where you can visit the Engine Room, view London from a high-level glass walkway between the towers, and also learn more about the construction of the bridge inside the Tower Bridge Exhibition Room.