I love climbing high above a city to gain some perspective, whether it’s from the cliffs of Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh or the man-made beauty of Florence’s Duomo or the Arc de Triomphe of Paris. While London has no cliffs looming over it, there is no shortage of fantastic spots from which to admire the spread of the city. Here’s my Top Five – and some honourable mentions!
For a cheap, cheerful and amazingly central view of London with a bit of history thrown into the mix, head to Monument. The tallest isolated stone column in the world (thanks internet for that fact), it stands 62m tall and 62m from where the Great Fire of London started in 1666. Designed by Christopher Wren (the beginnings of a theme here…) when it was built in 1677 it would have towered above its neighbours, but it is now tucked between the high-rises of the City. Nevertheless, for just £3 you get great views of Tower Bridge and the Thames – with a certificate of achievement for climbing the 311 stairs!
If leafy green walks are more your thing, or you enjoy a spot of naval history or clock watching, Greenwich is the place for you to get your viewpoint fix. Starting at the Thames, you can wander through the beautiful old Naval College, where some of the showpieces were designed by Christopher Wren. Head up the hill you can gaze north to central London. I’d also recommend heading west along the top of the hill for some gorgeous westerly views.
Emirates Air Line
As allegedly only four commuters use it a day, the Emirates Air Line needs all the extra passengers it can get! It’s a shame this little cable car doesn’t get more regular visitors, as it’s a fantastic way to jump the river and get a great view. You can see all the way to the Thames Barrier and beyond, gaze down on the O2 arena, and admire (or shudder) at the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf. And all while using your Oyster card!
Primrose Hill and Parliament Hill
The beautiful view from Primrose Hill (and yes, those are my lovely friends and not just smiley randoms!)
More wonderful park options, both these hills provide lovely views over the city. Primrose Hill is in Regent’s Park and lies just off the Regent’s Canal walk, which I can’t recommend highly enough. In summer it’s covered in picnickers, families playing games, and everyone enjoying the chance to grab some Vitamin D. Parliament Hill is a little further north in Hampstead Heath, and is likewise incredibly popular. When I first moved to London I was amazed at how much green space there was in the middle of the city, and both these parks are great to get a bit of fresh air and a wander – as well as these beautiful views!
Spot the teeny people up near the top? Now go there!
I have saved the best til last, as in my opinion there is no better building to admire London from than St Paul’s. While entrance is pricier than the rest (currently around £15), you get to see the beauty of its interior, including the stunning nave and fascinating crypt. Then you can climb to the Whispering Gallery and spook your friends from opposite sides of the dome, before finally ascending to the very top for the best views in London. Located in the City, traditionally London’s beating heart, it’s easy to pick out icons like Westminster, Southbank, and the Tate Modern, while tracing the thread of the Thames through the metropolis.
Night view from AquaShard
Close, but not quite cutting it, these are some more great options to admire London:
- Duck & Waffle at the Heron Tower: worth it for the food alone, but this is also currently the highest dining spot in London. Bonus is that you can visit any time of the day or night – it’s open 24 hours!
- The View from The Shard / The Shard Restaurants: I haven’t made it all the way to the top of the Shard yet, so haven’t been able to experience the panoramas from the 72nd floor. I have been to AquaShard and Oblix several times, and they are great spots to enjoy a tasty cocktail overlooking the river
- The London Eye: mega busy in summer, I felt like my ride on the Eye was over all-too-quickly (even though it’s half an hour), but you certainly can’t beat those amazing views from the bubbles
Have you visited any of these viewpoints – or all of them? Where are your favourite viewpoints to admire your hometown?