Standing at 309.6 metres tall, with 72 storeys and countless offices and business hotels rooms for London’s workers and visitors, The Shard is not only the tallest building in the UK, but it has become an iconic structure gracing the London skyline.
For tourists and those visiting London, The Shard offers some of the best views across the city with a memorable ride up in the lift towards the viewing gallery which covers floors 68, 69, and 72. But what is the history of The Shard, why has it become such a focal point on the London skyline, and how can tourists maximise their experience and enjoyment of the attraction?
The Shard’s history
The Shard was first inspired by the vision of a single developer, who wanted to create something striking which would not only incorporate retail and office blocks alongside hotels and apartments, but which would offer a public viewing gallery at the top – leaning on the concept of a vertical city, where everything you might find in a square mile is contained within a single structure.
Mimicking the way that the accommodation in London City coincides and becomes integrated with offices, banks, workspaces, and restaurants, The Shard is more than just a building – encapsulating the vibrant community of a city in its construction.
And so, upon the acquisition of Southwark Towers in 1998, the design stage of the project began.
To construct The Shard, a number of innovative engineering methods were used including a top-down construction journey which saw the foundations being dug while the core of the building was built upwards. Eventually, The Shard was opened in 2012 by the Prime Minister of Qatar and has since become a staple on the itinerary of many city visitors, tourists, and locals alike.
The experience: riding to the top of The Shard
To look at from the outside, The Shard is a strange and incredibly modern building with a unique design which appears to disappear into the clouds above. The decision to combine eight sloping glass facades at the very tip of the building emanates the shards which give the building its name – providing natural ventilation to the building and defining the unique shape which allows the building to shine light in fractured beams and which ensures that the building is memorable for all who see and visit it.
The journey from entry to the top viewing platforms begins on the ground level where bags are checked by a security team. Visitors are then invited to enter a lift which carries them to their chosen floor, with most tourists opting straight for the viewing platform to take in the incredible views across London, before settling in one of the building’s bars or restaurants for something to eat and drink.
The Shard as a functional work space and hotel
The Shard is often marketed as the highest building in the UK and linked directly to the viewing platform and other experiences which tourists from all over the world can enjoy. But did you know that The Shard as a building is also home to a number of offices which are available to rent, shared workspaces, and a famously high end luxury hotel for families called the Shangri-La hotel?
With such height – and so many floors – The Shard offers plenty of opportunities for people from all walks of life to make the most of the building and become a part of this historical structure in London. And it’s not just inside the building itself where visitors can get involved and learn more about The Shard – the Shard Quarter outside the building offers more in the way of retail outlets, cafes, restaurants, and an HCA healthcare centre.
Visit in December and you might even witness the iconic Shard Lights in action – an annual display which sees the top 20 storeys of the structure lit up to celebrate Christmas.
Getting to The Shard
To get to The Shard from The Montcalm at the Brewery London City, you can either use the tube, the London bus network, or even jump on an overground train to London Bridge as the building is just a short walk from London Bridge’s main station.
Alternatively, with The Shard such a vast structure on the London skyline, you can walk to the building from your hotel – passing over London Bridge or Tower Bridge and making your way along the Southbank by the side of the river Thames before cutting inland through the Shard Quarter to the building’s entrance.
When is the best time to visit?
Generally, we would advise tourists and visitors to steer clear of The Shard at the start of the workday, as this is when the lobby and lifts are most likely to be full of workers heading to their various offices located across and throughout the building.
Another thing to consider is the kind of view that you would like to experience, with sunrise and sunset both beautiful times to visit the viewing platform and take in the skyline of London shrouded by the rising or the setting sun.
On a clear day, it is said that you can see up to 41 miles away from the top of The Shard, making this the kind of viewing experience you won’t want to miss. Because of that, visiting on a very cloudy or overcast day might leave you disappointed, which is why we would recommend waiting for a clear day if possible.
Is The Shard worth a visit?
There are plenty of different attractions and destinations located across London which combine views with London tourist experiences and things to do – however, The Shard is one of those unique spots which combines an interesting story and iconic presence with the great views over the city.
Because of this, whether you’re interested in architecture or sunset views, we recommend adding The Shard to your itinerary and saving up a few extra pounds to buy yourself a drink at the top of the viewing platform. You won’t regret it.