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Get High in London: The Posh Modern

London, England, United Kingdom
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God bless the architects and scientists who developed the principles of high-rise construction works. With materials growing lighter and more endurable the designers’ fantasies can go galore, allowing wild experiments with shape, form and style that might seemingly defy the laws of physics. Here are some metal and glass edifices that have good offers for a bird-view-craving tourist.

Sky Gardens

Walkie-Talkie from the Tower of London. Credit to awsloley

Known locally as the Walkie-Talkie, the $0.5 bln 38-storey building is the fifth tallest completed building in the City of London. It provides 690,000 sq foot of office space with floor plates that get larger in size as the floors go up, occupied by some of the world’s leading-edge businesses, at a landmark address for London. It was designed in 2004 by Rafael Viñoly, the world-renowned Uruguayan architect based in New York City. With his distinctive design, it is stunning on a purely aesthetic level.
Should you wish to visit this architectural wonder, make sure you plan in advance. The admission is free, however limited. Tickets are released every Monday for 1 week in advance, and you have to be quick to grab them. Also, the official site has the timings of the sunrise and sunset, so you can plan to see some spectacular natural phenomenon as well, providing the weather permits.

A quick overview of what you can see from high up above

What to see
Apart from a good bird-view panorama over the Tower, Tower Bridge, the rival Shard and many more landmarks, there is a nice sun-lit Sky Garden spanning over a territory equalling a football field. The Garden was designed as a public park by award-winning landscape architects Gillespies and installed by Willerby Landscapes.
It features a series of richly planted terraces each with a different theme. Tree ferns and fig trees recreate a lush prehistoric forest, whilst Mediterranean and South African flowers suggest a sinuous mountain ravine. The garden includes flowers, shrubs and ferns that flourish year round.
There are several restaurants and a bar where your regular bill will be 20-50 pounds, e.g. a glass of Prosecco is about 10 quids with a usual ‘down-to-earth-city’ price tag for the same brand starting at 5 quids. Yet what is definitely a forte of the Sky Garden in comparison with the Shard is a lot of seating place, including nice wooden benches that run along the windows.
The open viewing platform has quite good glasswork, so your camera does not pick up too much of a sunfleck.

Francis Golding Terrace at Sky Garden, a tribute to a great architect

The open terrace, protected from winds by a thick plexiglass is named after Francis Golding who was a renowned architectural townscape advisor whose expertise brought specialist skills to 20 Fenchurch Street and many other world class City of London developments. Francis' involvement in 20 Fenchurch Street began in 2005 with the selection of Rafael Vinoly as Architect and continued with the various planning schemes that followed, culminating in the significant contribution he made when supporting the scheme at the Planning Inquiry in 2007. Land Securities and Canary Wharf Group chose to name this terrace after Francis as a mark of respect for a man who was passionate about architecture and urban landscape in the City and consistently improved the quality of the developments on which he advised. In a previous role, Francis had been Secretary to the Royal Fine Arts Commission and oversaw its transition to the Commission for Architecture in the Built Environment (CABE). Francis Golding was tragically killed in a cycling accident in November 2013.
A tip. If you are too late to snatch that booking as a walk-in guest, you can reserve a table at Sky Pod cafe, have a cup of coffee for 3-5 pounds and walk the gallery after that as much as you want. However, if you change your mind and don’t come, there may be a charge of 25 pounds for the deposit per person.
If we compare Shard and Walkie-Talkie, the latter is much more pleasant.
Opening Hours
Seven days a week
Monday: 7am - 11pm
Tuesday: 7am - 12am
Wednesday to Friday: 7am - 1am
Saturday: 8am - 1am
Sunday: 8am - 11pm
Access is FREE: The Sky Garden has a dedicated entrance on Philpot Lane, on the south-west corner of 20 Fenchurch Street. There are signs at ground level around the building. Be ready for airport-style security check.
Tube: Bank, Aldgate, Tower Hill, Monument.
Address: 20 Fenchurch Street

The Shard

The credit to sopwithxiii1918

A 95-storey skyscraper The Shard is adorned with titles: the tallest building in the UK, in the European Union, the 4th tallest in Europe, the second-tallest freestanding structure in the UK. It opened to the public in 2012, after 3 years of construction. Now the public can enjoy great views from the open-air observation deck on the 72nd floor, at a height of 244 metres (801 ft).
The Shard has already starred in Dr Who, when he was riding up it by bike to set the world to rights.

Dr Who going up the Shard in 2013 episode ‘The Bells of Saint John’

The Shard, alongside with the Gherkin, also appears in the 2012 remake of the 1982 cartoon ‘The Snowman and the Snowdog’.
The views from the three upper floors are truly breathtaking, especially from the opening deck, but for a true intake of breath, wait till you see what it costs to enjoy them.
The £2billion building’s viewing platforms were opened to the public in 2012 with tickets costing £24.95 for an adult and £18.95 for a child. Now there is a policy of varying prices, adults will pay £30.95 on the day and £22.95 if you pay in advance, whereas a kid ticket will cost £24.95 and £16.95 respectively. It's not just a fear of heights that might make visitors think twice. Good point is, tickets for the Shard are ‘queue free’ because they are booked in advance, with visitors choosing the time and date of their visit.
What do you get for the money?
All tickets include the following:
  • Admission to London’s highest viewing gallery 
  • Access to the indoor viewing platform and the open air Skydeck on Level 72 where you’ll be exposed to the elements and the sounds of the city below.
  • Access to London’s highest Champagne experience and Sky Boutique. London Landmark Guarantee – you’ll be walking on air amongst the clouds, but if they spoil your view, you can return for free! *T&C’s apply
  • Friendly Guest Ambassadors will bring the view to life with their in-depth knowledge of London’s skyline.
  • Drinks and snacks available to purchase on Level 72.
  • No time limit in the attraction.
You'll be able to test your balance on ‘Vertigo’ or enjoy the thrill of ‘The Slide’ travelling at up to 100 miles per hour. Tickets are priced at £10 per experience or £15 for two experiences.
Opening times do vary on occasion depending on the events that are taking place - please check the regular visiting hours before you visit in case we have any amendments to our opening times.
Tube: London Bridge
Address: 32 London Bridge Street

Heron Tower

Bishopsgate from the Liverpool Street Station 

The 230-meter high Heron Tower at 110 Bishopsgate is the tallest in the City of London district and the third tallest in Greater London and the UK, after the Shard and One Canada Square at Canary Wharf. It was completed in 2011 and initially struggled to attract tenants in the depths of the Great Recession, but now it is fully let. The good thing about it is restaurants open to general public, unlike those at the Gherkin.
Tube: Liverpool Street
Address: 110 Bishopsgate Street

Duck & Waffle

The view we had from the table on a rainy morning

The duck sits high on the 40th floor of Heron Tower, a glass lift will whizz you in a matter of seconds up to the sky so that you will enjoy a good view of the Gherkin (from the bar and the right part of the restaurant). Even though it claims to have spectacular views, the low ceiling styled to be a waffle and bad weather can spoil the drama.
Yet, the food makes up for it. It is posh British cuisine with a twist, like Aberdeen Angus beef tartare or smoked eel with creme fraiche, the spot-on three dense pollock balls in creamy lobster sauce, ox braised cheeks with eggs Benedict, a tiny burger of Herdwick mutton, with that funky meat-on-the-turn flavour you get from big-bollocked animals who have lived on a windblown hillside. And sweet waffles. If you are taking those, bear in mind that Elvis is really big and you’d better share it. Brunch here is an excellent decision, and it’s open 24 hours, so that is a great place to go after-partying next time after you’ve drunk a few too many.
Prices are as sky-high as the setting; breakfast with the main course, sweet waffles and tea/coffee went up to about £35,  it cost £8 for a harissa-tinged Herdwick mutton slider that was undoubtedly tasty but came unadorned and vanished in a mouthful. 

Service wavered between keen and offhand. We had a host coming up a couple of times and asking questions whether everything was to our liking, but the waitress brought the bill when we were still battling with the waffles. She accompanied that with the words “no haste, ladies” and what if we would like some more coffee? And one more word about the dress-code. When booking, you are reminded to dress with ‘casual elegance’ meaning nothing ragged, sprotish, no trainers, and no caps. There is a special notice about it on the website, but in fact, you see people wearing anything. And there are a lot of tourists with large suitcases, those are kept at the entrance at least. Apart from that off-putting experience, overall impression was favourable.

A breakfast for two, the sweet Elvis waffle was shared

Duck & Waffle is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Menu availability is as follows:
Monday – Friday
Breakfast 6am – 11am
Lunch 11:30am – 4pm
Dinner 5pm – 11pm
Late night 11:30pm – 5am
Weekends
Breakfast 6am – 9am
Brunch 9am – 4pm
Dinner 5pm – 11pm
Late night 11:30pm – 5am

Sushisamba

The view in a bit better weather

A bigger dining venue at Heron Tower is located on the 38th and 39th floors. It is SUSHISAMBA London, the highest outdoor dining terrace in Europe, offering unparalleled, 360-degree views of the City. Two panoramic glass elevators whisk patrons from the ground to the 39th floor, opening up London from inside-out as the lifts climb further and further upwards.
SUSHISAMBA’s main dining room overlooks views of London with floor-to-ceiling glass windows.  A grid of lights hung through the open bamboo ceiling at varying heights creates a magical experience during daytime and a truly intimate setting in the evening.
Indoor-outdoor elements weave throughout the space, most notably, the structural orange tree on the west terrace, visible from Duck and Waffle as well. A SUSHISAMBA icon, the tree sculpture reinforces the earth-to-sky motif while being an artwork in itself, reminiscent of great 20th-century art and creating a dialogue with the street art found throughout the space. Weather permitting, two outdoor terraces are open for sipping under sun or stars.
Opening hours
Sunday to Tuesday: 11:30am – 1:30am *last reservation 11:30pm
Wednesday to Saturday: 11:30am – 2:00am *last reservation 12:30am

The Drift

Another great ambience to visit at Heron Tower is The Drift, a sanctuary in the chaos of London. From short but sweet business breakfasts, through to working (or lazy if you can) lunches and crafted cocktails in the early hours, The Drift has it all. Return on weekends for bottomless brunches. Find a hidden alcove or discover the fine dining nook, here it's the little details that make the difference. It is one of the very few places with a dog-friendly policy. Time flies here.
Opening times:
Monday to Wednesday 7:30am until 11pm
Thursday & Friday: 7:30am until midnight
Saturday: 10am until midnight
Sunday: available for private hire

The Gherkin

Credit to 627389 

The famous Gherkin is closed for lingering walk-in idlers, but if you want to dine and enjoy the staggering views, you can do so at the second-highest restaurant in town: Searcy’s. It is an exclusive 70 seated fine dining restaurant open only to the members and tenants. Chef Daniel Loftin, formerly Head Chef at Royal London house leads the kitchen. Yet, if you feel like sneaking in, look out for 'open nights' that run frequently throughout the year, allowing paying members of the public an opportunity to dine beneath the dome of London's most famous pickle-shaped building. Keep your eyes peeled on the restaurant's What’s On page for public booking nights.
Tube: Aldgate
Address
: 30 St Mary Axe, EC3A 8EP

The London Eye

The London Eye with Aquarium in the neighbouring building. Credit to JordanHoliday

At 135m, Coca-Cola London Eye is the world’s largest cantilevered observation wheel. It was conceived and designed by Marks Barfield Architects and was launched in 2000. It has won over 85 awards for national and international tourism, outstanding architectural quality and engineering achievement. In fact, it has become the UK’s most popular paid-for visitor attraction.
A remarkable feat of design and engineering, the London Eye gave London’s skyline a dramatic new addition and has been offering guests a new perspective on London ever since. Originally, it was intended as a temporary structure, able to be dismantled and transported to a new location, and had planning permission for just five years. It got the backing of British Airways, who sponsored the project. Now with millions boarding it every year, its popularity has prompted its lease to be extended. Today it is a permanent fixture on the London skyline and a beautiful symbol of modern London.
Before you embark on a slow-moving wheel, you are offered to see London Eye 4D Experience, free with every ticket. London will come to life through unique perspectives and multi-sensory special effects, including wind, bubbles and scent. It is just four minutes and children usually love it.
Fun Facts about the London Eye
  1. The London Eye is not a Ferris wheel. It’s the world’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel.
  2. You can see up to 40 kilometres in all directions (that’s as far as Windsor Castle on a clear day). The record is broken by the Shard, which estimated visibility is about 60 km.
  3. On average the London Eye receives more visitors per year than the Taj Mahal and the Great Pyramids of Giza.
  4. The London Eye can carry 800 people each rotation, which is comparable to 11 London red double-decker buses.
  5. The 32 capsules on the London Eye are representative of the 32 London boroughs, and each one weighs as much as 1,052,631 pound coins.
  6. Despite there only being 32 capsules, for superstitious reasons they are numbered 1 to 33: for good luck, there is no capsule numbered 13.
  7. Capsules travel at a leisurely pace of 26cm per second, which is twice as fast as a tortoise sprinting!

The shots are taken on a nice sunny day.

Price: standard tickets start at £22.95 but there are good offers if you book online or opt for combi-tickets, where you get 5 attractions for £55. See the official website for offers.
Opening Times

1 October-31 March: 10:00 - 20:30 daily.
1 April-30 June: 10:00 - 21:00 daily.
1 July-30 September: 10:00 - 21:30 daily.
Closed Christmas Day.
P.S. It sometimes goes out of the operation, especially in winter time, so check whether the wheel is in service before booking your ticket. Last time I went to London in March 2018 and the wheel stood absolutely still.
Tube: Waterloo (the closest), Westminster, Embankment ( both offer good views on the wheel as they are across the river), Charing Cross
Address: Riverside Building, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road

A new idea for the app

Having used PeakVisor in the mountains, I find I now would love to have it in the urban terrain as well. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to take a picture and have all the skyscrapers identified in one go? After all, high-rise buildings are the metaphoric mountains of the city.
Let us know of your favourite places that can exhibit London to its full splendour.

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