So, after many months of waiting since buying tickets, The View from the Shard has finally opened to the public. I had pre-booked tickets for the opening day, which will come as no surprise to those who follow my work as you will likely know that I just love a good view over London.
I must say that I was pretty underwhelmed by my visit, however, so will go over a few items here.
Well, I obviously have to start with this. It’s the tallest building in Europe so you’re guaranteed to be towering over everything else and be able to see for a long way while up here. You can certainly see all of London sprawled out in front of you, and with 360 degree views you can pick out pretty much any landmark you want (not that there’s much to the south). There are a couple of levels you can go to, though at the height you’re at there is no real difference between the two, and even though I was there on the first day (which was sold out), there didn’t seem to be very many people up there and I was easily able to get to any of the window spots that I wanted to. I was also very lucky with the weather as the rain that had dominated the morning seemed to go away as I was leaving work and I had lots of clouds and a bit of blue sky for my visit. Phew.
The Photographer’s View
Well, I do sure love a view but, for me, the main point of visiting places is to take a few photos. I’ve been fortunate to take in many different views of London from the top of many buildings, some public and some as part of Urbex trips. As such, I’ve been behind glass for many, but with a clear and unrestricted view for others. I have problems with places like the Gherkin, Centre Point and the BT Tower – some are simply the fact you’re behind extremely reflective glass, some because the building design prohibits a clear photograph, others are simply too high and away from the things that you want to shoot for them to be a great spot.
Unfortunately the Shard falls into all three of these categories. It’s certainly too high to view the things you want to in detail, the double paned glass is way too reflective of the bright interior, and when you do get a clean bit of glass without reflections you’re often then faced with a bit of the awkwardly shaped building popping into the view.
Perhaps I’ve been spoilt by the fact I’ve stood on some amazing rooftops without any glass in the way, but I feel somewhere like St Paul’s is of the right height and has a nice view that surpasses the Shard, especially when it comes to taking photos. Of course one of the main problems with being up the Shard and looking out is that you can’t actually take a picture of the Shard itself, which is one of the things I seek out in the London skyline now.
Speaking of the windows, they were shockingly dirty on the opening day. There were plenty of guys who were doing the window cleaning on the building as well…but they certainly didn’t seem to be cleaning up the windows the public would be viewing out of. The whole area seemed to be dirty, and sure the top floors are open to the elements but the layer of dirt that was visible there was also visible on the stairs and other levels in a way that I doubt is quite what it should be – especially on the opening day. Note also that the top level, when I say is open to the elements, still restricts your view behind glass. A glass design closer to Rockefeller Centre in New York where there are gaps to shoot through would have made much more sense to me.
Prior to going up the cost of £25 for my adult advance ticket didn’t seem like an issue. When it comes to cost it’s all relative to the individual and what some find reasonable, others find expensive. I do feel getting just £5 off for a child as young as 4 is poor, however, as is the ludicrous queue jump fee of £100.
I will certainly not be handing over £25 in the near future for a return trip, but then I’m not too sure I would be rushing back at £5 either to be honest.
No tripods or monopods are allowed up to the view. That’s not just ‘not allowed to be used’ but simply ‘not allowed up’. I wanted my tripod for the evening so took it anyway, and as it fits into my rucksack (which was within the size limits) I thought there would be no harm in trying. This was taken by security upon entry, and so the only way I could proceed was to leave the tripod with them at their security desk and rely on my ability to identify it, assuming it was still there, on the way down.
That’s cool though, as it does state in the terms and conditions that they aren’t allowed and, as the woman at the security desk stated, ‘they’re the rules’.
Imagine my surprise and frustration when I then got up there and found three people using tripods and nobody caring about it. It’s possible they could have been press and got a pass to do so, but they certainly didn’t appear to be press. I would imagine the non-tripod rule is also due to ‘health and safety’ – it normally is – and no press pass would prevent an open tripod being a safety hazard (it’s not a safety hazard, I hear you say, oh yes – I very much agree there).
The saving grace for me in this place were the staff. Every one I came into contact with were very nice. Everyone was professional, happy, and full of enthusiasm. I’m pretty sure they must have been trained in the US. It was a delight to interact with them and I hope their levels of good will for the Shard and those who pass through it every day continues for the life of this attraction.
Highlights of the trip
Watching the trains navigate their way around London on the winding tracks below.
Watching the window cleaners climb around and wishing I was doing the same.
Lowlights of the trip
Lack of ‘one rule for all’ when it came to tripods.
The dirt that was clearly visible throughout, even though it was day one.
The design of the building not really fitting together in the way I feel a viewing platform should.
Will I return there?
Not in the near future.