Best places to see the capital from above
Getting up high is a great way to understand the geography of a place and see the city from a different viewpoint. There are lots of ways to do this in London, whether you have a head for heights or would prefer a more gentle look at the landscape.
A trip on the London Eye is an activity that the whole family will enjoy, as the tallest observation wheel in Europe never fails to impress. You will be able to get the children to spot famous sites, such as Big Ben, Tower Bridge, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Shard. Beyond them, the 360-degree views stretch out for up to 40 kilometres on a clear day. Travelling at 26 centimetres per second and taking half an hour to do a full rotation, there is plenty of time to take in the view.
Commemorating the Great Fire of London in 1666, the Monument is a fantastic vantage point in the heart of the City of London. If you come from the nearest Tube station, you will spot the infamous Pudding Lane, where the blaze began. Climb the 311 steps up the spiral staircase to a height of 160 feet for panoramic views of London and a particularly good view of the iconic Tower Bridge.
London Helicopter Tours
If you are in London for a special occasion, such as a family birthday, then you could opt for the ultimate view of the city in a helicopter. The London Helicopter offers a number of packages, including a 12-minute trip above central London’s most famous sights and an 18-minute journey that follows the route of the Thames, taking in the likes of the Royal Albert Hall, Westminster Abbey and Tower Bridge.
The View from the Shard
Standing at 800 feet high, the Shard is the tallest building in Western Europe and nearly twice the height of any other viewing platform in London. Take the lift up to level 68 in just one minute, travelling at a speed faster than one floor per second. On level 69, the adults in your group can enjoy a glass of champagne on the enclosed observation deck. Step up a gear to level 72, where you will be exposed to the elements, with nothing between you and the view.
St Paul’s Cathedral dome
Protected view status means that St Paul’s Cathedral can be seen uninterrupted from all over London, but what about the vista available from the church itself? There are two sections above the Whispering Gallery that run around the outside of the famous dome. The first of these is the Stone Gallery at 173 feet, which takes 378 steps to be reached. A more daring excursion, however, is one that goes up to the highest point of the outer dome and is known as the Golden Gallery. After climbing the 528 steps to get here, you will be at a height of 280 feet, where you can Shakespeare’s Globe and the Tate Modern.