I was ambivalent about The View from The Shard. I’d already experienced a thrilling late-night ascent to the Top of the Rock in New York City, taking in Manhattan’s starlit topography with wind-blasted eyes and a pounding heart. How could peering down at London’s chunks of grey concrete compete?
The discount ticket price (thanks Time Out promotions) put me in a kinder mood, and as I made my way towards Joiner Street with the 306m glass pyramid looming above I started feeling excited about getting up amidst its spiky point.
Entering The Shard’s base took me into a slick corporate environment – all neutral colours, displays screens, and hushed efficiency. The ticket lobby appeared gleamingly new since the official opening in February 2013.
There were no queues, in fact there barely seemed to be anyone there – perhaps because it was a weekday morning. Cheerful staff were present at every turn to politely get me to my destination and perhaps stop any wandering off towards the swanky office and apartment spaces.
As the lift glided upwards my initial cynicism dissolved, my throat dropped into my stomach and I reached Floor 69. Stepping out onto the observation deck took me into the promised 360-degree world of glass and towering visions.
The vast windows sucked me up close until I was peering imperiously at the moving toy-set below: tiny boats moving along the Thames, miniature trains running along tracks, midget cars travelling along the roads, ant-people dotted along the embankment.
With no time constriction I inched my way around the deck, trying to take in every aspect of London laid out all around me, squinting towards its furthest green-belt reaches and the Thames snaking its way east.
There were digital telescopes but I preferred seeing it in the raw, through the thick angled glass.
It was heady stuff: I wanted to strut around with a flapping business coat, clutching a brick-like mobile aloft in Gordon Gekko-style as though I were a real estate magnate buying up London.
Taking the edge off this ‘80s madness were the determinedly eerie monk-like chants being piped in from hidden speakers, adding further detachment to the world below.
Drunk on power, I greedily headed up on to Floor 72 where I found the glass tips of The Shard exposed to theatrical effect, the sky rushing in and wiping out my ability to move normally.
Instead, I darted about on comedy legs, giggling and managing to reach an edge of the platform to touch the cool glass, look briefly down at some warehouses and stagger backwards with breeze whipping around my ears. A crazed gleam stayed on my face long after I descended back to the Southwark pavements.
London’s grey skies and relatively flat sprawl may not be everyone’s idea of a breath-taking view. The thrill comes from being as high up and exposed as you’re ever likely to be in a city, within a soaring glass construction that makes you feel like you’re in Willy Wonka’s Glass Elevator.
Is it worth £24.95? If that’s the price you’ll spend down the pub in an evening or blow or a take-away binge then yes. But it’s much better experienced at a discount price.
The View from The Shard
Joiner St, London, Greater London SE1 9EX