The Shard: The Tallest Building in London

Tallest Buildings in London

The city of London is a city of magnificent buildings erected in various historical as well as modern architectural styles. You will find buildings built in Victorian, Neo-Gregorian, Modern, and many other styles of architecture here. 

Eclectic is the one all-encompassing word that best describes London’s architectural makeup. 

While most of the buildings in London don’t stretch very high, you should also look up at the London sky while walking because you will see beautiful skyscrapers that are incredibly remarkable! They stand tall among the other buildings and give London – a city characterised by historic buildings – a modern look. 

Many skyscrapers now adorn the London skyline, but one stands out among all the skyscrapers in London because of its incredible height and structure.

What is the Tallest Building in London?

The tallest building in London is The Shard, standing taller than other skyscrapers at a height of 309.6 metres.

Did you know people formerly knew The Shard as London Bridge Tower? That is one of many reasons that makes this building so iconic!

Nowadays, people refer to the giant glass building as the Shard London Bridge or the Shard of Glass. It actually received its name somewhat less gloriously than the architect – Renzo Piano – intended. But we will come to that later.

Now let’s move on to the features of the building that make it eye-catching.

The Shard’s Features

You can judge The Shard by its exterior because it is as beautiful inside as it is outside. Let us give you a tour!

The Shard, London, UK


As you already know, the building is 309.6 metres (1,016 feet) tall, which makes it Europe’s 6th tallest building. It is a 95-story skyscraper with a spire-like structure that just seems like it’s emerging from London’s Thames river.

Can you guess how many glass panels The Shard has? The building has a whopping 11,000 glass panels, which accounts for 602,779 sq. feet of total surface area.

The architect decided to use glass panes so that people could easily view the beautiful city of London. Renzo Piano also angled the glass panes to reflect light and bring out the seasonal changes in the city.

Moreover, it has 72 inhabitable floors with a vast open gallery and a viewing deck on the topmost floor. Just imagine the view of London from a height of 244 metres! It’s simply spellbinding! 

Fun Fact: It takes 17 window cleaners three months to finish cleaning the windows of The Shard. They must be really brave!


The interior of The Shard structure is as stunning as its outside. It has 26 floors, with the lower floors designated for offices. The beauty of the interior lies in the fact that each floor design efficiently capitalises on the huge available space. 

On top of the office space, there are 13 floors reserved for residential purposes, and there are some really amazing penthouses in the building. It also contains a five-star hotel, bar, and restaurant.

The Shard’s Architect

At this point, let us tell you a little bit about The Shard’s extraordinarily talented and knowledgeable architect, Renzo Piano. He is known for his extraordinary creations like the California Academy of Sciences, Zentrum Paul Klee, Centro Botin, and many more.

Before The Shard, a 24-storey office building erected in 1975 stood on the site. Near the site, there were railway lines that inspired Piano.

That led him to design the building in a way that captured the mundane beauty of the railway lines. Moreover, he was inspired by the London spires in some 18th-century paintings and the masts of old sailing ships. 

However, the English Heritage soon criticised his designs and said that it would be like “a shard of glass in the heart of historic London.” Piano took this comment as a compliment and viewed it rather positively, later giving the structure its name. That’s a great example of turning something negative into something emblematically positive!

Renzo Piano has all this confidence because he knew the structure would complement the London skyline and be reminiscent of the historical engravings on church steeples.

While designing The Shard, he also kept it energy efficient and equipped it with a Combined Heat and Power Plant.

Now, the system efficiently provides the building with hot water produced by in-house electricity.

The Shard’s Construction History

The Shard’s history started with the approval of the project in 2003 and the demolition of Southwark Towers in 2008.

Sellar Property Group handed over the building contract in 2007 to contractor Mace with a hefty award of £350 million, which increased to £435 million the following year.

Then the construction finally started in 2009 by bringing cranes, steam beams, construction supplies, etc., to the location.

Little by little, The Shard began taking shape and surpassed the tallest building in London for 18 years, One Canada Square, in November 2010. 

Just to give you some perspective, at that time, One Canada Square, i.e., the tallest building in London, had a height of 235 metres.

By 2011, the exterior of the building became more prominent with the assembling of its spire.

Finally, in March 2012, the cherry on the top, the 500-tonne spire, was put in its designated place at the top of the building.

The Shard opened its gate to the public the following year in February for everyone to enjoy the majestic views of London one can get from the building. 

Fun Fact: In between the construction, a fox decided to make The Shard its home. The workers named him Romeo. He was later taken to Riverside Animal Centre, Wallington, to live a safe and better life.

So, next time anyone asks you, “Who was the first resident of The Shard?” just say that it was a fox named Romeo!

Exploring the Different Floors of The Shard

The view of The Shard across the river

You must be curious now about what’s in this stellar building. Well, let us answer your questions and quench your curiosity. Come with us and take a brief tour of the different floors of The Shard.

Starting from the Bottom

The first level is mainly the entrance to the Shangri-La Hotel, The Shard restaurants, and the Viewing Gallery. Then on the second floor is the reception. Nothing too exciting here, so let’s move on!

From the fourth level to the 30th level, there are some truly vibrant business spaces. Thirty-two companies from different industries, such as retail, technology, media, healthcare, energy, finance, and education, occupy these designated floors.

Some of the most recognisable tenants in the building include HCA Healthcare UK, Tiffany & Co., The Office Group, Kraft Heinz, etc. Currently, you will also find some vacant floors.

Reaching the Middle Floor Levels

Mid-level floors are the main attraction. On the 31st, 32nd, and 33rd floors, you will find Aqua Shard, Oblix, and Hutong, respectively. They even have an event space on the 34th floor if you want to book a space for parties.

You will reach the five-star hotel, Shangri-La Hotel, on the 35th level. The hotel occupies all the floors from the 35th to the 52nd level, where they have an infinity pool.

You will absolutely love a stay at their suite, which is situated more than 125 metres above ground and provides a fantastic 40-mile view of the city. 

If you can’t stay at the hotel, you should at least consider eating at the restaurant there or even in some of the other restaurants in the building. 

Almost to the Top

Who doesn’t want to live in a magnificent and iconic building just near London Bridge? That’s why The Shard has 10 residential floors offering spectacular views of the city of London and top-of-the-line modern amenities. 

The apartment spaces start from the 53rd-floor level and stretch all the way to the 65th floor, which stands around 735 feet high! 

The Shard’s seven apartments are a total of 62,000 sq. feet in size. 

Reaching the Top

The main attractions of the whole building are the top floors, where people can pay £34 per person to enjoy the panoramic view of the city.

The 68th, 69th, and 72nd floors contain the publicly accessible viewing deck of The Shard. In particular, the 72nd floor is the Open Air Viewing Platform, where you can enjoy a drink while viewing the scenic beauty and the London skyline.

Moreover, you can take great aerial photos of London from these floors.  However, these floors receive approximately 6,000 to 7,000 visitors daily, so it gets pretty crowded at times. 

Here’s an idea! You can enjoy a drink and the view from the Aqua Shard. The entry is free if you buy one drink. You may be able to escape the crowds in this way. 

Viewing Some of the Other Tall Buildings in London

The Shard is the tallest building in London now, but there were others before it. 

Let’s get you introduced to some of the skyscrapers that were the tallest building in London before The Shard. 

1. One Canada Square

One Canada Square London

One Canada Square holds the record for being the tallest building for 18 years since 1990, until The Shard surpassed it. Cesar Pelli, along with Frederick Gibberd Coombes, and Adamson Associates, designed the 50-storey skyscraper. It stands at 235 metres (770 feet) in the Canary Wharf, London. 

2. Heron Tower

Heron Tower, London, England

Kohn Pedersen Fox designed the Heron Tower, now the third tallest building in London, falling just a few metres short of One Canada Square. It stands at a height of 230 metres in Bishopsgate, and it is the tallest building in London’s financial district.

3. Leadenhall Building

Leadenhall Building, London, United Kingdom

Affectionately or comically called “The Cheesegrater,” Leadenhall Building stands tall with a height of 225m (738 feet). It received the name because of its wedge-shaped building. The structure has 48 floors, which mainly consist of offices.

4. Citigroup Centre or 8 and 25 Canada Square

8 and 25 Canada Square, London, UK

These structures are another incredible creation of Cesar Pelli. The building is 200 metres (656 feet) high, with HSBC Bank’s headquarters at No. 8 and Citigroup Centre at No.25.


London skyscrapers are worth a visit. They add a modern and futuristic touch to a skyline characterized by low-rise historic buildings. And not to mention how awe-inspiring and startling many of them happen to be!

Among all skyscrapers, The Shard stands the tallest and that makes it the tallest building in London. With so many restaurants, hotels, apartments, and office facilities, it is a must-visit place if you are exploring the heart of London.

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