When I was in New York City for the very first time, I felt very overwhelmed by the tall buildings that ran for miles and miles on both sides of the street. It wasn’t until I got to the top of Rockefeller Center that I finally began to feel like I could understand the lay of the land. I could see where Central Park was situated compared to Wall Street, and I could finally see that NYC was, in fact, an island. Something that was hard to comprehend before getting to the top of the Rock.
Though I didn’t find London to be nearly as overwhelming as NYC, perhaps because there aren’t skyscrapers fighting for space along the winding streets, getting above the fray gave me a new appreciation of the city. I knew that London was a sprawling maze of neighborhoods and districts as evidenced by the tangled, rainbow-colored lines on the subway map. Taking the high-speed elevator up the Shard, the tallest building in Western Europe at 1,016 feet, and glancing out the windows from the top proved my suspicions.
The Shard, which is a new attraction on the London scene, is aptly named, as it looks like a shard of glass cutting through a city skyline that is dotted with palaces and buildings fringed with a historic fascade. At first, I found it to be a bit of an eyesore in this historic landscape, but then it grew on me. London is a modern city with a history, and the mix of old and new melds well in this metropolitan hub.
The Shard, though potentially distracting, actually is an interesting addition to the city, and it provides a vantage point like Rockefeller Center, the CN Tower in Toronto, the Space Needle in Seattle and similar attractions. For me, I most appreciated getting a feel for where my hotel was in relation to other city attractions, and I liked being able to finally understand how truly large London is. It’s no New York, but it’s definitely got some bulk.
Because it is so new, this attraction has not come completely to fruition yet, but it is supposed to encompass office space, restaurants, a hotel, residencies and, of course, the view, on floors 68-72. The Shard has a 360-degree view of London, and you can see all of the highlights—the London Eye, the Tower of London, the Olympic Village—by wandering around the various viewing platforms (one of which is an open viewing space, so hope for no rain!).
The Shard is open every day of the week. Book tickets in advance to avoid lines and save money. At the time this was published, advance tickets cost £24.95 per adult and £18.95 per child.