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Permanent Tourist

A personal website by Mark Howells-Mead

The View from The Shard

Visitors to London can buy tickets to ascend The Shard by express lift and enjoy the views across London from near the top of Western Europe’s tallest building. I received a ticket as a gift last year and so when I was in London a few weeks ago, I organized to visit.

The Shard, London

The view from the largely glass building is spectacular and on a clear day (as we had) one can see across the whole of London and out to the surrounding counties: from the QEII bridge in Kent to the Surrey hills. The city at the foot of the tower is naturally breathtaking; the financial district of The City of London, Tower Bridge and the river Thames are at your feet, and St. Paul’s Cathedral and Canary Wharf seem a stone’s throw away from such a high vantage point.

Tower Bridge to Canary Wharf, London

I chose carefully when planning the visit, in order to make the most of the views, and so we arrived shortly before sunset before passing through the security scanners and ascending by way of two express lifts. Once you arrive at the top, you are free to remain as long as you like (within the opening hours), so I’d planned to be there long enough to take photos from daylight through dusk, as the daylight faded and the lights of the city came on.

This is by far the best time to visit, as you don’t just get to enjoy the view, but also the way in which it changes into the evening. As dusk settles in, photographs capture a lot more detail of the individual lights across the city, whilst the remaining light in the sky provides a lovely blue counterpoint to fill the frame.

The City Of London

The second piece of advice that I can give to the visiting photographer is to make sure and have a polarizing filter with you to cut out glare and especially the window reflections. The inside of the floor-to-ceiling glass is highly reflective and you’ll have the devil of a job photographing without getting the reflection of yourself (or the other visitors and the other windows) in the picture.

The Shard, London