Skyscraper Bagging: How Many Of London's 20 Tallest Buildings Have You Been Up?

M@
By M@
Skyscraper Bagging: How Many Of London's 20 Tallest Buildings Have You Been Up?
Skyscraper bagging
How many can you claim? Images: Matt Brown

How many of London's tallest buildings have you been up?

London has hundreds of buildings that might be deemed 'skyscrapers'. You've probably been up a few yourself. The Shard, the London Eye and Walkie Talkie all boast internationally famous viewing platforms. Many of us have dined up the Heron Tower or the Gherkin. Keen London explorers might have zoomed up the Trellick Tower or Cheesegrater on an Open House weekend. And if you're fit and charitable, you could have done a stair climb up, for example, the BT Tower or One Canada Square.

It's a bit like 'Munro bagging', the hobby and practice of scaling Scotland's highest peaks. But how many of London's artificial peaks really are accessible? Let's take a look...

London's top 10 tallest buildings, 2024

22 bishopsgate at dusk
22 Bishopsgate, London's second-tallest building, dominates the Square Mile. Image: Matt Brown

The following list is drawn from Wikipedia's well maintained list of tallest structures, which we know to be pretty reliable from years of familiarity. We've left out the Crystal Palace transmitter (219 metres), as it's a mast rather than a proper building.

1. The Shard (310 metres/1,016 feet)
Publicly accessible via The View From the Shard (£) at 243 metres

2. 22 Bishopsgate (278 metres/912 feet)
Publicly accessible via Horizon 22 viewing platform (free), which is slightly higher than the Shard's viewing gallery.

3. One Canada Square (235 metres/771 feet)
Not publicly accessible, except occasional charity climbs and for Open House.

4. Landmark Pinnacle (233 metres/764 feet)
Residential tower at Canary Wharf, not publicly accessible (except for those who live there etc.)

5. Heron Tower (230 metres/756 feet)
Publicly accessible via Duck and Waffle and SUSHISAMBA restaurants (£)

6. 122 Leadenhall Street (225 metres/737 feet)
The Cheesegrater, not publicly accessible, except occasional charity climbs and Open House

7. Newfoundland (220 metres/722 feet)
Residential tower at Canary Wharf, not publicly accessible (except for those who live there)

8. Aspen at Consort Place (216 metres/709 feet)
Newly built residential tower at Canary Wharf, not publicly accessible

9. South Quay Plaza 1 (215 metres/705 feet)
Residential tower at Canary Wharf, not publicly accessible (except for those who live there)

10. One Park Drive (205 metres/673 feet)
The new loofah-shaped tower at Wood Wharf, not publicly accessible (except for those who live there)

So, of the 10 tallest, only three can be readily visited, with two more making themselves available during charity climbs and/or Open House (an annual event in September in which hundreds of buildings open their doors to the public). Even Londonist, with its knack for getting onto people's roofs, has only ascended five of these.

The next 10 tallest buildings

Three towers at Canary Wharf
London's third-tallest building poses with two playfellows who are equal-12th. Image: Matt Brown

11. 8 Bishopsgate (204 metres/669 feet)
Publicly accessible via The Lookout viewing gallery (free)

=12. 8 Canada Square (200 metres/656 feet)
The HSBC Tower, not publicly accessible

=12. 25 Canada Square (200 metres/656 feet)
The CitiGroup Tower, not publicly accessible

=12. One Nine Elms (200 metres/656 feet)
Residential tower, not publicly accessible

15. The Scalpel (190 metres/630 feet)
The one with the 'play' symbol. Not publicly accessible

16. Wardian Tower (187 metres/614 feet)
Another Canary Wharf residential, which is not publicly accessible

17. One West Point (184 metres/604 feet)
Surprise entry for North Acton. A residential tower not publicly accessible

18. Tower 42 (183 metres/600 feet)
In the 1980s, this was Britain's tallest building. Now it's 18th. Previously open to the public via the Vertigo 42 champagne bar. This has now closed. You can visit the City Social restaurant, but that's only half-way up.

19. The Madison (182 metres/597 feet)
Yet another Canary Wharf residential, not accessible to the public

20. St George Wharf Tower (181 metres/594 feet)
Residential tower on the Vauxhall/Nine Elms borders. Not accessible to the public.

So here we have just one further tower (or one-and-a-half with Tower 42) whose heights can be enjoyed by anyone. Of the top 20 tallest towers in London, only four let you go to the top without special permission.

BT Tower with blue sky
London's 22nd tallest building. Image: Matt Brown

Things do then pick up a little. Next in the list would be the Gherkin, whose dome-roofed Searcy's restaurant is open to the public these days. Then comes the BT Tower, whose famous rotating restaurant closed decades ago, but which still occasionally lets people up for charity events and other special occasions. In case you're wondering, the Sky Garden at the Walkie Talkie is way down in 31st place.

Any 'Munro baggers' of London's artificial heights are in for a struggle. Only specialist contractors get to visit more than a handful of the top 20. We ran our eyes down the top 100 tallest buildings, and could only manage a tally of eighteen. We'd love to hear your totals. Can anyone bag the top 20?

Last Updated 16 February 2024

Continued below.