The London skyline at sunset, including Tower Bridge and The Shard
Stuart Bak

Observation Decks in London

Gazing across the London skyline now, it’s difficult to believe that St Paul’s Cathedral – a shrimp at 364 feet – held the title of tallest building in town for over 250 years, only being superseded in the 1960s when the likes of the BT Tower and Millbank Tower sprang up. Nowadays, of course (and especially following the noughties’ skyscraper boom), you can barely throw a stone without hitting some sort of superstructure. The race ever skywards may not look so pretty from ground level, but one happy side effect is the proliferation of observation decks it has spawned, from the View from The Shard to the ArcelorMittal Orbit and, of course, the London Eye. Got a head for heights? Climb aboard for our tour of the best observation decks in London.

The London Eye

View from the London Eye

The South Bank’s massive Ferris wheel requires very little introduction. Once the world’s tallest, it was later ousted from its perch by the likes of the Singapore Flyer, Las Vegas’s High Roller and, perhaps most notably the Ain Dubai, which stands at almost twice the London Eye’s 443 foot height. None of which diminishes its impact as one of the best observation decks in London (ok, so it’s a wheel, not a deck, but let’s not split hairs). Step aboard one of the 32 capsules for the half-hour rotation, which promises unparalleled views of Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace and, on a clear day, even the distant turrets of Windsor Castle.

Lift 109

Battersea Power Station

After years in decay and disrepair, Battersea Power Station has been reborn as a thriving community hub packed with green spaces and hip new shops, bars and restaurants. But the main event at this revived icon of the industrial age is Lift 109. Board the elevator in the stunning Art Deco turbine hall for a thrill ride that launches you to the top of one of the iconic chimneys faster than a puff of smoke. Your destination: a 360-degree glass observation deck with far-reaching views across Battersea, Lambeth and beyond from more than 350 feet up.

Up at the O2

Close-up of London's O2 Arena against the city skyline

If you prefer to work for your views, we have just the thing for you. Up at the O2 is a 90-minute experience that requires you to scale – yes, scale – the Greenwich landmark. A guide will ensure you’re suitably well versed in safety procedures, as well as being suited, booted and harnessed before you begin the ascent to a not inconsiderable 170 feet above terra firma. Intrepid climbers are rewarded with sweet views of Canary Wharf, the Olympic Park, Greenwich and Old Father Thames, which look particularly magical on sunset climbs, with city lights illuminating the skyline.

Tower Bridge

London's Tower Bridge

At over 130 years old, Tower Bridge is one of the oldest London observation platforms on our list – and also the most photogenic. Pap your souvenir snaps from the banks of the Thames then make for the glass-floored walkways up top of this extraordinary feat of Victorian engineering. Not only do these provide views of the red double decker buses and black London cabs crossing the bridge far beneath your feet; time it right and you might even get a bird’s eye view of the bridge’s bascules rising to let a boat pass through. You can also expect fine views of landmarks including the Tower of London, HMS Belfast and St Paul’s Cathedral. 

Entry to the glass platforms at Tower Bridge is included with The London Pass, which can save you money when taking in multiple London attractions, tours and activities over a few days.

ArcelorMittal Orbit

The ArcelorMittal Orbit illuminated red at night

Britain’s largest piece of public art, the ArcelorMittal Orbit is the looping, swirling Anish Kapoor-designed behemoth that forms the centerpiece of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford. Ascend 260 feet up to the observation deck for views that take in the Shard, Big Ben and the O2 Arena, as well as the very tracks where Olympic records were made back in 2012. But you don’t go to the top of the ArcelorMittal Orbit for the views alone. No! You can also take the fast lane back to ground level via the planet’s tallest and longest slide, an awesome 12-loop beast designed by maverick German artist Carsten Höller. Those of a more delicate constitution may of course choose to descend via the stairs or elevator.

The Sky Garden

The Sky Garden at the top of London's Fenchurch Building

London’s highest public garden is free to enter, but you’ll likely want to book your slot in advance to avoid disappointment. This one’s up top of The Fenchurch Building (better known as the Walkie-Talkie due to its distinctive shape), and couples lush greenery with panoramic London views that include Tower Bridge, St Paul's Cathedral, The Shard and many more. Grab a sundowner at the Sky Pod Bar or treat yourself to a posh fish dinner at the fine-dining Fenchurch restaurant, and note that guests with restaurant reservations need not book a time slot!


The Monument to the Great Fire of London

Built in the 1670s to commemorate the Great Fire of London, the Monument stands 202 feet tall, the same as the distance from its base to the spot where the devastating 1666 blaze began on Pudding Lane. Complete the 311-step climb to the observation platform near the top of of this Portland stone monolith, where you’ll be rewarded with fine views across the city and Thames, as well as an official certificate to prove you made it all the way to the top! Entry to this, London’s oldest ticketed attraction, is included with a London Pass.

View from The Shard

Man taking a photo of The Shard on his phone

Well, whaddya know: we’ve saved the loftiest for last. And what better way to conclude this list of the best observation decks in London than with one of the best on the entire planet? Scoot up to the 72nd floor of the UK’s tallest building in just 60 seconds and, once you’ve got your breath back, step out onto the partially open-air deck that towers an epic 1,000 feet (give or take) above the streets of Southwark. This architectural masterpiece (or monstrosity, depending who you ask) contains some 11,000 panes of glass and 36 elevators as well as boasting, on clear days, panoramic views that stretch for up to 40 miles, taking in the Thames Estuary, the South Downs and everything in between. Epic and also, it just so happens, included with The London Pass.

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