Written By Chris Young
At the Sky Garden in London you can get a breathtaking bird’s eye perspective on the capital – without spending a pound.
Visiting the stunning bright and sunny observation deck of 20 Fenchurch Street, called the Sky Garden, is completely free and it offers one of the best views of the city. Compared to the Shard, which costs £15.95 just to get in, this is a budget-friendly way to admire London from above.
20 Fenchurch Street is known as the Walkie Talkie building due to its unique shape. Construction was completed in the spring of 2014 and the garden on the top floor was opened in January of 2015. It stands a towering 160m high, making it the 6th tallest building in the City of London. The top-heavy form of this building makes it appear that it is bursting upward and outward – the upper stories are wider than the lower stories.
The enlarged glass dome at the top is filled with three stories of superb restaurants, an observation deck and an open air terrace. You can wander through the beautifully landscaped spaces, alive with greenery and light, and enjoy the highest public garden in London.
Visiting the Sky Garden
The experience of getting a visitor spot at the Sky Garden and going through the queues and security can feel a little bit like going through the check in and security at an airport. It isn’t too much fun but it’s worth it for the stunning view.
Here are some important tips for visiting the Sky Garden:
- The Sky Garden is open from Monday to Friday 10am until 6pm and on weekdays from 11am-9pm.
- The entrance isn’t on Fenchurch Street itself, but around the corner via Philpot Lane.
- If you get lost and need to ask for directions, remember that the locals refer to the building as the “Walkie Talkie” more often than its real name.
- You need to book your slot ahead – you can’t just turn up. The tickets are free and they can be booked online.
- The tickets for the third week in advance are released every Monday morning on the website.
- You don’t have to bring your paper ticket, you can show it on your phone as well.
- The weekends are the busiest times and they are booked up months in advance. Your best bet is to visit on a weekday after 6pm.
- When you book your ticket online it will be tied to a specific time slot and you will be allowed to stay in the Sky Garden for one hour. This helps to make sure that safety protocols are followed and the observation deck is not too crowded.
- You will need to know who is visiting with you in advance. When you book the tickets, you will need to state the full name of each ticket holder and everyone will be required to show valid ID when they arrive.
- You are also not allowed to bring large luggage up to the Sky Garden and no lockers are available.
- Selfie sticks are also not allowed – which is kind of a good thing as you won’t have any sticks blocking your photos.
- There is also a restriction on liquids over 100ml (unless it is medication or baby food). Just pretend you’re packing your purse or backpack for boarding a flight – the restrictions are pretty similar.
What You’ll Discover at the Top
Once you get through the queues and have taken the lift up to the top, you’ll step out into a bright atrium with huge windows and plenty of sunlight streaming in. It feels a little bit like an airport terminal crossed with a greenhouse and there is very little to get in the way of the striking vistas. There is a lot of space to walk around and plenty of spots to sit and admire the view.
You’ll enjoy a stunning panoramic view of London with all its most iconic landmarks stretched out beneath you, including the Shard and London Bridge. The huge floor to ceiling windows frame the landscape in an amazing way.
When you take the staircase to the back of the building you will find tranquil gardens and views of Canary Wharf, the Gherkin, the Cheesegrater and Tower Bridge. The small but beautifully designed gardens feature flowering plants such as Bird of Paradise and African Lily as well as fragrant herbs such as rosemary and French lavender.
The terrace is covered, so you can enjoy the views even if the weather turns typically British. It can be quite windy up there due to the height, so you might want to bring a jumper even if it is a warm day. Your toddlers and young children will be safe, as the glass balustrade is very high and there is no risk of falling.
You’ll also find a lovely little cafe called Sky Pod, which is a great place to grab a coffee, sandwich or cake. If you want to enjoy some higher end dining, there is also the Fenchurch Restaurant and the Darwin Brasserie – but note that a sit-down meal in any of the restaurants needs to be booked in advance.
The Sky Garden website is updated with current sunset times and if you book your visit at the right moment you can savour the unforgettable view of the sky changing colour over London and the lights of the city beginning to sparkle in the twilight.