Where Can You Get Views Cheaper Than The Shard?

News that the viewing gallery in the Shard could cost 20 of your English pounds to access caused us a slight intake of breath. Twenty quid! Don’t they know London’s got its austerity on? So we thought we’d take a look at what cities around the world charge for skyscraper access, and where else you can get views of London for what pence.

Tokyo takes top honours for allowing anyone up the 202m high Metropolitan Government Buildings for free. At 20 stories shorter than the Shard’s viewing gallery it’s still bloody vertiginous and also provides a quick lesson in going up tall buildings when the weather’s bad: don’t, you can’t see anything, and that’ll be really annoying if you’ve just paid (say) £20 and the top’s surrounded by clouds.

In New York, city of skyscrapers, it costs £15.48 to go to the top of the Empire State Building and £16.12 for the Top of the Rock(efeller Center), from which you can actually see the Empire State Building. (Though if you want to see sunrise or sunset they’ll sting you for £25.50.)

Paris‘s Eiffel Tower costs what now feels like a measly £11.19 to take the lift all the way to the 273m top floor.

In Kuala Lumpur, ascending the tallest (edit: twin) buildings in the world — the Petronas Towers — will relieve your pocket of £10.17.

Back in London, there are other ways to get a view of the city. The Monument is 62m high and costs £3 but you have to do all the legwork yourself (literally). The Golden Gallery at St Paul’s Cathedral is a bit higher at 85m, accessible via 528 increasingly tiny steps. It costs £14.50 get into St Paul’s but if you Gift Aid your admission you get free entry for 12 months. For £8 you can get into the Tower Bridge Exhibition and cross the 44m high walkways, while 30 minutes on the London Eye costs from £17.01.

If you prefer to be more laid back about your viewing, there are plenty of bars and restaurants offering vistas of the capital. If you’re organised enough to book ahead you could try the Paramount bar in Centre Point (£5 for a bottle of Bitburger); Galvin at Windows on the 28th floor of the Park Lane Hilton will offer you a Budvar for £7.50; there’s tea and coffee for £3 in the Oxo Tower Bar; the Heights Bar at the Saint Georges Hotel on Langham Place doesn’t have an online menu but from memory it’s not extortionate; and Tate Modern‘s 7th floor restaurant will knock you up afternoon tea for £10.95. The Shard will have similar arrangements, with restaurants on floors 31-33.

Alternatively, you could always wait for the cable car and O2 Skywalk to be finished. When the Shard’s viewing gallery price is officially announced we’ll bring it to you, if we can tear ourselves away from collecting 10p coins from down the sofa.

Incredible view of foggy London from the top of Canary Wharf by Tanya Nagar, from the Londonist Flickr pool

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  • Scott F

    The Tour Montparnasse in Paris Is 210m high, only costs €7 (£6?), has next to no queues, is fairly easy to get to (one of the main train stations) and not only as an observation deck but you can spend as long as you want on the helipad on the roofs. Great views.

    The Palace of Science and Culture in Warsaw is a Soviet era building which is still the tallest in Poland. At 188m (231m with the spire) it has good views of the city for 20 złoty (£4).

    And finally, Auckland’s Sky Tower, the tallest building in the southern hemisphere (top floor 222m, spire 328m) is NZD28 (£14) and has spectacular views. If you pay extra, you can jump off it too (typical New Zealanders!).

    • Dan Filson

      I imagine the advantage of looking out across Warsaw from the Palace of Science and Culture is that it is the one place from which you do not see the Palac of Science and Culture!

  • http://www.tanya-n.com/ Tanya N

    You should add that for free, just befriend someone who works in any skyscrapers ; )  I’ve taken most of my friends and family up to the top of the building I work in – cost? Zero. Views? Breathtaking, particularly on clear days. One of my personal favourites:

  • http://www.m4rkm.com/ Mark

    QUOTE –  (Though if you want to see sunrise or sunset they’ll sting you for £25.50.)

    That’s kinda incorrect. The more expensive ticket allows you go to up at Sunset, AS WELL AS daytime on the same day. If you arrive at the right time and only want to go up at Sunset, you only pay a normal price. (Plus there are always discounts on the day, so that makes it a few $ cheaper than the price you’ve listed!)

    Journalism, great when you do some research eh? 

    • Anonymous

      Well, the ticket purchase page on the Top of the Rock website lists the ticket as “Sunrise Sunset” with no further information, so I’m sure you can forgive the ambiguity,

      • That NYC Guy

        The Sunrise/Sunset ticket allows for two entries in the same day, a daytime viewing and a night time viewing.  Better (but more expensive idea) is to go up Top of the Rock during the day (Central Park at night is kind of a big black square, and the lights of Times Square are blocked by surrounding buildings) and Empire State Building at night (when the queues are shorter.)

      • http://www.m4rkm.com/ Mark

        But it does tell you here – http://www.topoftherocknyc.com/special-offers/combo-tickets/sunrise-sunset/ – 

        • Anonymous

          So it does – the page is pretty buried though and not accessible from the main ticket price page! It also doesn’t say anything about it being normal price to go up once at sunset, as you wrote, which I’m assuming you know about from local knowledge or personal experience rather than having to rely on an ambiguous description.

          • http://www.m4rkm.com/ Mark

            Yeah, personal experience. 

            I head out to NYC at least once a year. 

            As you’re not timed how long you stay up, you can get up before sunset, and get some good photos during daylight hours, as well then get the sunset and appreciate that. 

            If you attempt to book a ticket (normal priced one) on the TOTR website, and select 16:00, and hit next, you can select 16:20 on the website, which is 20 minutes before sunset today, which the times on that is the times you can head up in the lift. 

    • http://twitter.com/ebwilford E Wilford

      You know, you can offer additional information without sounding like a smug wanker. Or perhaps you can’t and I’m just being presumptuous…I haven’t the time to do the research.

  • http://twitter.com/WWalks Joanna Moncrieff

    I love the view from the roof terrace of One New Change even though it’s not very high and also the view of St Paul’s from the lift on the way there.

  • http://twitter.com/Akki14 Heather Sullivan

    The views from Tower Bridge aren’t so great, at least from the walkway, you’re far from the edges and they don’t clean the windows often enough (if ever?).

  • Anonymous

    The mention of the Petronas Towers is incorrect on one key point. Paying to visit the towers only allows access to the observation deck- which is about halfway up them. Much better to visit the observation deck at the top of the nearby Menara Kuala Lumpur instead for 45 RM- about £9.15.

    Includes a go on an F1 simulator as well.

    For the equivalent of £20, you can have a 2 hour buffet lunch in the revolving restaurant at the top.

  • http://twitter.com/adamawhite Adam White

    Worth adding – in Hong Kong you can get great views from the Peak, but that’s where everyone goes. You can get up to the 55th floor of the IFC2 building (the on Batman jumps off in Dark Knight), if you say you’re going to see the exhibit by the Hong Kong Monetary Association. It’s brill.

  • Patric_1m

    If you are in Toronto there is the 51st floor of the Manu-Life Building at 180 Bloor West, though I cannot tell you if the restaurant is any good as it’s been awhile.  Or you could get a great view and a great meal though on the expensive side at the TD Centre’s 54th floor!  Then there is the CN Tower with the highest vantage point and it’s spectacular for those who like sky topping views!

  • http://nsqsdkv.com/ Clément
    • Michael Jennings

      Actually, they never were. Even though the top of the spire of Sears Tower in Chicago is higher than those of the Petronas Towers *and* the top of the roof of Sears Tower is higher than the tops of the roofs of the Petronas Tower, the Malaysians somehow managed to persuade everyone to compare the roof of the Sears Tower with the spire of the Petronas Towers, and thus to conclude that the Petronas Towers were higher. This was a more impressive feat than building them, I tend to thing.

      Taipei 101 and then Burj Kalifa both them broke the record properly, of course.

      (And I know it is not officially called the Sears Tower any more. Everyone calls it that though). 

  • Daniel

    In fact the tallest building/viewing platform in the world is actually the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, 17.55£ for a timed ticket which does entitles to reach the 124th floor at 452m, with the top beeing at almost double that. (A true heaven for base jumpers o_o )

  • http://twitter.com/NatsiSixx Natascia

    wow this pic is so beautiful

  • http://www.vickieflores.com Vickie Flo

    Absolutely stunning and beautiful!

  • http://twitter.com/tessdavies tess davies

    Agree with Scott F on the Montparnasse Tower.  You can go outside if it is nice, stay in if it is cold AND have cocktails!  Much better than being pushed and squashed at the Eiffel Tower.

    For lower views, the Georges Pompidou has a roof top restaurant and the Sacre Coeur has a lovely view and grassy area for picnics. Bonne Voyage!

  • http://jasonbstanding.com Jason B. Standing

    We went to Altitude 360 in the Millbank Tower a while back, although trying to look at their website to find out details seems to indicate some company’s passed it to another company to manage, who’ve turned it into something “new and exciting”, which will invariably be shit.

    Or, if you want something that’s just shit from the outset (but still quite high up in the air), http://www.qype.co.uk/place/2079237-Sky-Lounge-London

  • Dean Nicholas

    You can get a free, decent view of east London, and an extreme close-up of the Shard, by going to the top of Guy’s hospital tower.

    As Jason above says, there’s the Sky Lounge at Nido, but it’s shite. When it opens, the restaurant at the top of the Heron Tower should be a lot better — it’s a Peruvian-Brazilian-Japanese place called Sushisamba (seriously) — but I think dining there will set you back a little bit more than twenty quid…

    • http://twitter.com/sparticus Mark Walley

      You can also go up the new UCH tower for free, but only see West unless you have access to any ward.

    • Tom

       re: Guy’s hospital, Yes, floor 30, best on a weekday when the lecture theatre is open.

  • Daniel

    Not to mention the free of charge, open air, wide view from the top of Primrose Hill.

  • Guest

    You forgot Tower 42 (bar) and Pan Peninsula in C Wharf…

  • http://twitter.com/suicide_boi Suicide Boi

    How much will they charge for me to jump?

  • GM

    Not one of the tallest on earth but recommended is the TV tower in Berlin (Alexanderplatz) – I think it’s 12 euros, old East Germany in style and you can get beer and currywurst up there of similar price and quality to the rest of the city rather than getting ripped off as we would be here in the UK

  • David

    Though by no means as tall as the Shard for a cheap and different view of London try the 273ft tower at Westminster Cathedral. 5 pounds for an adult ticket, only 11 punds for 2 adults+4 kids. I did it a few years ago and remembering going up in quite a clunky lift

  • Erskine Berry

    Opening this Friday, 27th July, is the Viewing Gallery at Millbank Tower!!  360 degree views, surrounded by historic buildings, 130 meters high.  Epic photo opportunities, wifi, cafe/bar, and interactive guides.


  • ClaireS

    The cost of entry to the Shard is actually £29.95 so let’s say £30…per person. And what if it’s a cloudy day and you can’t see anything? Information is around for booking in advance online etc but nothing about how to book on the day – making sure it’s a clear day.

  • J

    Enjoying London’s amazing views shouldn’t cost anything, if you’ve got a bit of climbing tek its not hard to get up any of the cranes and construction sites our city has to offer! See for yourself!


  • Tigger

    And here’s the FREE views of London:-
    OXO Tower – viewing galleries on 8th floor (accessed by lift). [website] if you meet the bar or restaurant staff just say you’re there for the viewing platform, Stand out there as long as you like….

    One New Change shopping centre – public terrace (also a restaurant) on the 6th floor with views over the city and across to St Paul’s Cathedral.

    Tate Modern – good views from upper floors, open daily;, until 10pm Fri + Sat.

    Royal Opera House – see Covent Garden from upper terrace (also view of costume making workshops). Open to public 10am – 3:30pm Mon – Sat.

    Or, for a much smaller charge than the others shown so far –
    Tower Bridge walkway for views up and down stream, incl. in admission – £8 – lift. Open daily.
    Emirates Air Line (cable car) Nth Greenwich (Jubilee) to Royal Victoria (DLR). 10 mins journey. Fare £3.20 with Oyster or travelcard.

  • Zenon

    You can get chaper Ryanair tickets.