London is built for great views. It has enough tall buildings and hilly parks to keep a vista hunter busy for a week. This list of the best views in London tells you how to find thirteen sky high spots for seeing the city from viewing platforms, bars and parks.
Get the Best Views in London
On my most recent trip to London, I attempted to visit as many of these spots as possible, but a girl only has so much time. I was also busy running around doing everything in Shoreditch and also scoping out street art for you.
So- I’ve collaborated with other travel writers to compile these London city views for you. Scroll the whole thing, or use this handy table of contents to skip to your preferred option:
Sky High on London’s Viewing Platforms
The Shard explodes out of London’s south bank seventy two stories into the sky. The building is sited just a few blocks south of the Thames and has three floors of 360′ views that, on a clear day, allow you to see for forty miles. I timed my visit for sundown and my husband and I were able to hang out with a glass of wine and see London change color from bright to blue over the course of an hour.
This utterly modern building was completed in 2012 and houses offices, a hotel and some retail. In addition to several floors optimized for viewing, they also have two bars and a gift shop. The Shard offers a premium view, but also at a premium price. Advance price tickets are £18.95 and go up to £30.95 on the day of. They do offer a weather guarantee, so if your advance ticket gets rained out, they will try to squeeze you into a different day.
Tip for visiting: Check the weather and then book your ticket in advance. Be sure to go to the bathroom while you are there because the toilets all have the best views I’ve ever seen while “in disposed”.
Nearest tube stop: London Bridge
The Sky Garden
From the Shard, you can see the Sky Garden looming across the Thames. This thirty four story building has a glass-domed viewing area on the top of the building. You can get 360′ views by walking around the outer edges of the garden and, unlike the Shard, they also have an exterior viewing balcony on the south side of the garden.
The Sky Garden has a full service restaurant in addition to a small bar and lots of random seating scattered around. The price is right at the Sky Garden because you can score these fab views of London for free. You do need to book your free ticket in advance and even then, you’ll need to wait in a queue outside of the building before you can get in.
Tip for visiting: They book tickets two weeks out. Unless you are doing sunset, try to book the first slot at 10am and you’ll avoid the worst of the line.
Nearest tube stop: Monument
The Tate Modern
The Tate Modern is my favorite museum in London. I love their innovative contemporary art exhibits, their cool industrial re-design of the old power plant and, of course, their viewing platform. It offers London city views from the 5th floor of the boiler building.
I am fond of the north facing view of St Paul’s cathedral and the Millennium Bridge. This is an ‘easy win’ for views if you are already visiting the museum. The Tate is a quick fifteen minute walk to the Shard so you can combine the two spots into a view-stravaganza of an afternoon.
Tips for visiting: The museum is free (except for special exhibits) and the platform is open when the museum is open.
Nearest tube stop: Either London Brudge or Mansion House (if you are planning to cross the Millennium Bridge).
The Millennium Bridge got walloped by the Death Eaters in Harry Potter. You can learn that and more on this Harry Potter tour of the UK.
(In the interest of full disclosure, Ferris Wheels terrify me. I know that I need therapy for it, but in the meantime, take Valerie’s advice on how to do the London Eye)
Recommend by Valerie from Valerie and Valise
The London Eye gets an unfair reputation as a tourist trap, but it’s one of the best ways to see London from ‘on high.’ Yes, you’ll encounter plenty of tourists as you line up to board a capsule on the 443-foot wheel — you’ll likely share your capsule with many of them as you spend 30 minutes on a single rotation of the wheel (the standard length for a ride aboard the Eye).
To see London from the London Eye at the best time of day, research in advance when sunset will occur on the day you want to ride the Eye. Book your tickets in advance for 30 minutes before sunset, and you’ll get to see London in many different lights: pre-sunset, sunset, and after dark. The city will come to life beneath your feet, a swirling sea of twinkling lights, as your capsule soars gracefully around the Eye. You’ll also see the boat traffic moving along the River Thames and the Houses of Parliament beautifully lit.
Tips for visiting: If you want to skip as much of the lines and crowds as possible, it’s worth spending more for the ‘Fast Track’ option. Ticket prices start at £24.30, but they offer several packages on their ticketing site.
Nearest tube stop: Waterloo
Bird’s Eye View of London from Historical Landmarks
The Monument to the Great Fire of London
Rcommended by Cassie from Mexico Cassie
The Monument is probably one of the most overlooked viewing points in London for both Londoners and tourists alike. This is possibly because it is 311 steps up a narrow spiral staircase rather than a speedy elevator. But you really shouldn’t let this put you off because the views are just stunning from the top of the 200 foot (61m) column. The precise size of the monument is the exact distance from the base of the column to the point at which the fire broke out.
The Monument was built between 1671-1677 to commemorate the Great Fire of London (1666) and to celebrate the rebuilding of the city. It is open every day, from 9:30am to 6pm in summer and to 5.30pm in winter. Last entrance is half an hour before closing time.
Compared to other viewing platforms, The Monument is also pretty cheap, at just £4.50 per adult and £2.30 per child over five. You can buy tickets at the base as you arrive and you can also buy a joint ticket to Tower Bridge and The Monument if you think you’ll be visiting both.
Tips for visiting: Your best bet is to get to the base of the Monument as it opens and be first up the stairs. If you can’t manage that then go on a slightly grey and chilly day when other people are too sensible to want to stand 61 meters in to the sky looking down at London! The Monument is just down the street from the Sky Garden and you can easily do both in one outing.
Nearest tube stop: Monument
If you like London’s history, check out this walking tour in the East End.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
Recommended by Ryan from The Opposite Travellers
St Paul’s is one of London’s most iconic landmarks, with hands-down one of the best views of the city. St Paul’s Cathedral has 360° views of London at one viewing gallery perched 173 ft (53.4m) from ground level and another scaling 280 ft (85.4m) above the beautiful city of London.
These unbeatable views don’t come easily though. To reach the first of the two viewing galleries, called the Stone Gallery, you will have to ascend 378 steps. The view from here is stunning, but it is partially impeded by the stone architecture. The real magnificence lies above the Stone Gallery, 150 steps higher on the Golden Gallery. To reach here you must climb a total of 528 steps, so wear comfortable shoes.
The tough climb is worth it in the end, as you get an absolutely incredible view of the city. On a clear day you can see several of London’s most famous landmarks including: The Shard, The London Eye, and Buckingham Palace, just to name a few.
Tips for visiting: Before visiting be sure to check the official website so that you can plan your visit according to certain events and avoid disappointment.
Nearest tube stop: St. Paul’s
Recommended by Constance of The Adventures of a Panda Bear
Tower Bridge has THE best bird’s eye views of the Thames. Aside from a magnificent view of the river Thames, you can also see the Shard, Gherkin, Walkie-Talkie, and Tower of London. You can look through the windows and see a glimpse of history through architecture ranging from the 11th century to present-day.
The Tower Bridge itself was completed in 1894 and uses a hydraulic system to open the bascules and allow boats to travel underneath. To learn more about it, I would recommend visiting the Tower Bridge Exhibition to go inside the bridge. There are interactive exhibits that explain exactly how the system works.
Tips for visiting: If you’re just interested in the views, you can walk on the Tower Bridge for free. However, you will definitely get a higher perspective if you pay for the ticket to go to the upper-level walkways and see London from 138 ft (42m) above the Thames.
Nearest tube: Tower
London City Views from Bars & Restaurants
Vertigo 42 Bar
Recommended by Sarah from Sarah Sees the World
Vertigo 42 is a champagne bar on level 42 of Tower 42 on Old Broad Street, one of London’s tallest buildings.
While they enforce a £15 minimum spend per person the result is a much much quieter establishment than other London sky bars. A photo ID and a reservation is required to visit (but it’s possible to make one on the spot during off-peak times).
Tips for visiting: The best time to visit is shortly before sunset so you can see London during both the daytime and also lit up at night. The panormaic views make it extremely difficult to choose a place to sit from which observe London from.
Nearest tube: Liverpool
Frank’s Cafe Rooftop Bar & Restaurant
Recommended by Matt from Hostel Geeks.
There are many great places to enjoy the sunset in London, but this one is quite unique. It’s a roof top terrace on top of an abandoned multi story car park. The place I am talking about is Frank’s Cafe rooftop bar and restaurant in Peckham, South London.
Since it’s located outside the city center, it’s definitely not the kind of place you run into by chance. This roof top bar is actually quite well known among locals. So, it gets busy here, but it has the London vibe you as a traveler are looking for.
When you come over to Frank’s, try to be here early…meaning 5:30 in summer. This way you can get a table. They don’t take reservations. And even if you end up with the beer in a hand and no place to sit, many guests just sit on the floor. Worth it!
Tips for visiting: Frank’s is not open in the winter.
Getting there: There isn’t a nearby tube stop but you can take the Peckham Rye overground stop or check bus schedules.
One New Change/Madison’s Rooftop Bar
You can get some of the best views in London by climbing the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral but don’t have to go far to get an even better one, this time including the iconic dome itself.
One New Change is a shopping center right across the road from St Paul’s. As you enter, turn around to see the dome reflected in the glass windows of the shops either side. But the best awaits you on the rooftop terrace. At six floors up, you’re level with the dome of St Paul’s, barely 325 feet (100m) away, and this is the best viewpoint of this enduring symbol of London, especially if you come for sunset in the spring and autumn.
David recommends looking to the south and east:
“The other views from around the terrace are pretty special too. As you scan from St Paul’s, you see the London Eye and the Victoria Tower of the Houses of Parliament on the horizon, and to the south the Shard dominates the scene, eight times the height of Southwark Cathedral below. And to the east, the ever-changing skyline of the City of London looks spectacular as the lights come on for the night.”
Greta recommends skipping the pricey cocktail at Madisons
“There are two outdoors lifts that will take you to the rooftop. One is for people that have reservations at Madisons, whilst the other is for those that only want to go see the view. If you’re only looking to check out the view without spending £10 on a cocktail to do so the latter is preferable. You just need to tell the bouncer at the front of the lifts that you’re only here for the view and they will call the second lift for you. The queue for the bar and first lift is usually at least half an hour so I recommend just going up for the view and then having a drink somewhere else, where it will also be cheaper. The best time to visit is just before sunset, when the light turns all the roofs of London and St Paul’s Cathedral golden.”
Tips for visiting: Mall hours are Mon-Wed, Sat 10am-6pm, Thu-Fri 10am-8pm, Sun 12pm-6pm.
Nearest tube: Bank or Mansion House
London Viewpoints from Parks
Primrose Hill as a grassy knoll located just north of Regent’s Park and the London Zoo. The hill has a wide 180′ view of London that scans southwest to southwest.
The best time to visit Primrose Hill is on a weekend day with great weather. All of London comes out to hang out in the park and enjoy the view. Unlike the viewing platforms above, the park is plenty large enough for everyone to find a patch of grass so you don’t need to worry about it getting too crowded. And the Sunday party atmosphere makes it a blast.
Tips for visiting: Stop at the bottom of the hill for an ice cream before heading up.
Nearest tube stop: St. John’s Wood (from the west) or Chaulk Farm (from the east)
Recommended by LC from the Birdgehls
London is a city that’s known for its parks, to the point where it seems as though there is one around every corner. While it is nice to visit the more famous parks in the city itself (such as Hyde and Regent’s Park), many of the green spaces in the south of the city offer up something the others don’t have – a view of the city itself.
If you’re ever in the south east (where there is a surprising number of things to do), head to Blythe Hill park in the Borough of Lewisham.
Tips for visiting: It’s a park for locals, so it’s usually very quiet. Pack a picnic and enjoy the beautiful view of the city.
Getting there: This is in the burbs and not near a tube stop. But it is well served by buses, look into the 122, 171, N199 or N171 (depending upon your start point).
Recommended by Allison Wong of Sassy Urbanite’s Diary.
Greenwich Park, one of eight Royal Parks of London and the oldest enclosed Royal Parks since the 15th century, offers fine panoramic views over the River Thames, the Isle of Dogs, Canary Wharf and the City of London.
This massive park with an area of 183 acres is also part of the UNESCO Greenwich Maritime World Heritage Site which includes The National Maritime Museum and Old Royal Naval College. To get the best view of the city, you have to climb the hill overlooking the River Thames. Picnicing is allowed here in Greenwich Park so it’s one of the popular activities during good weather days with the beautiful London city view as backdrop.
Tips for visiting: Greenwich Park is open daily from 6am for pedestrians and 7am for traffic all year round (closing time varies depending on seasons from 6.00pm-9.30pm).
Getting there: The park isn’t near a tube stop. But there is easy access to transportation from Dockland Light Railway (DLR)’s Cutty Sark Station or Greenwich Station.