Answers from Our Experts (3)
Before the opening of The View from The Shard in February, London's best view was undoubtedly the one from the top of Parliament Hill on Hampstead Heath. One of the highest points in the city, this gorgeous location overlooks nearly all of the capital. It's also a lovely place to hang out for a while – people come here to walk their dogs and fly kites all year round.
But though Parliament Hill is still my overall favourite, I have to admit that in terms of the panorama itself, The View from The Shard (pictured) has the edge. At £24.95 for an adult ticket it's not cheap, but there's something quite extraordinary about seeing the whole of this great city laid out before you in every direction. On a clear day you can see up to 64km from the 244m viewing platform. Entrance is timed, but once you're up there you can stay all day if you like. Just remember to go to the loo before your visit – there aren't facilities at the top of the attraction.
There are many places to get a great look at London. Here are just some of them.
A natural view
If you want to stretch your legs and get some air in your lungs, head to Primrose Hill at the northern side of Regent's Park. It's the perfect place to enjoy a picnic while looking out over the center. Alternatively, for a similar (but slightly more distant) panorama, with fewer tourists, try Parliament Hill in Hamstead Heath.
A tasty view
If you prefer some light refreshments with your city vista, try one of these two superb options. First, the evocatively-named Restaurant at Tate Modern is on the sixth-floor of the gallery, and serves delicious afternoon teas while offering exquisite views over St. Paul's Cathedral. Or secondly, there is Vertigo 42, a super swanky champagne bar with an unparalleled scape of the city's skyline.
An iconic view
Until February 2013, the highest and most famous public viewing point in the city was the London Eye, which remains an enjoyable way to see the attraction-packed Westminster. But now there's a structure down river which offers a whole city vista from almost twice the height. The View from The Shard is located on the 72nd floor of the EU's tallest building, and offers a city panorama like no other.
Since this February the undisputed answer to this question is: the Shard. Western Europe's tallest building commands views of up to 40 miles in every direction, making the Eye look like a toy and London like a map spread out at your feet. But it's £24.95. Ouch.
For free views, try these instead:
Walk up to the Observatory in Greenwich Park for views north across the river to Canary Wharf, plus the Royal Naval College sprawled across the green landscape in front of you.
In the southeast corner of Hampstead Heath is Parliament Hill, where cosy couples sit on benches to take in the view over the city to the south. Spot the Gherkin, the Shard, Canary Wharf and the cranes that hint at skyscrapers to come.
The Oxo Tower
Catch the elevator to the top floor of this iconic building and immediately as you exit you'll get a panorama of the city to the south. All the landmarks you'll recognise though are to the north so you'll either need to sweet talk to bar staff to let you take a quick peek, or buy a cocktail and sit and soak it all up.