If claiming the high ground is important to you – or you find some perspective helpful – the Sky Garden might be for you. There are plenty of places that will charge you for seeing London from their dizzying height – but the Sky Garden does it for free.
The Sky Garden is at the top of the building affectionately known as the Cheese Grator. It’s on Fenchurch Street near Monument Tube but it’s an easy 10 minute walk from Bank Tube (and a few others).
You need to book your free ticket on their website – Sky Garden website – and give them all the details for security and a bag search airport-style on arrival. I didn’t have my water or apple/snacks confiscated so I don’t think they are too strict.There is a small walkway on the south side (that’s the Thames side) open to the outside, though the staff monitor the wind speed and will close it if it gets dangerous. There are some lovely fern garden beds to walk and sit amongst that are constantly sprayed with mist to ensure the humidity and moisture stay constant.
There is a reasonably priced cafe – the coffee wasn’t too bad for London! – but if you go up late in the afternoon, the cocktails are a little pricey.
There are also some more pricey restaurant options up on alternate levels – but as you’ll see in the photos – these are set back from the main windows of the building. Check their website if that is more your style. There are other options to get high in London – but they will all cost you something. The Shard is considered the best – 69 floors up and £25. You can go for a spin on the London Eye (£20 plus) or the Emirates Air Line back from Greenwich will set you back around £5 one way. You can climb Primrose Hill just off Regents Park or Parliament Hill in Hampstead Heath – they are free excepting a little sweat. But then they are miles away and will give you a view of the city skyline, not a view down to the winding Thames.