Most of us don't associate London with skyscrapers, yet every year it seems London is adding one or two to its ever-changing skyline, creating more and more places to go up high for an excellent view of the capital city. Other top spots for a view have been celebrated for centuries.
They call it a "flight" when you take one of the 32 glass-sided pods up and around London Eye on the South Bank near Westminster Bridge, the largest observation wheel in Europe. The full revolution to a height of 443 feet takes 30 minutes, during which visitors get a great bird's-eye view of Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, the River Thames, Tower Bridge and beyond. The giant wheel was erected for the millennium and now sees 3.5 million people enjoying the ride each year. A private capsule has become one of London's favorite places for marriage proposals. Book online to save 10 percent on the £18.90 ($30.25) adult ticket price.
St. Paul's Cathedral
Climb 528 steps to the Golden Gallery atop the iconic dome at St. Paul's Cathedral, the tallest point in London from 1710 to 1962. Views over London from 285 feet up inside Sir Christopher Wren's masterpiece are fabulous, with the one exception that the dome itself is missing from the landscape. While focusing on the view, don't overlook the rest of this magnificent cathedral and crypt. Save £2 off the usual £13.00 ($20.80) price for adults and get fast-track entry by pre-ordering tickets online at least a day in advance.
Take in a free panoramic view atop Primrose Hill. This is a pretty, small park in a charming residential area adjacent to Regent's Park in northwest London, near the London Zoo and Madame Tussauds. The 256-foot-high grassy hilltop is steep, offering a lovely clear-day view that features the London Eye, BT Tower, Hampstead Heath, Parliament Hill, and Canary Wharf beyond. Climb down to reward yourself with a pint in one of the atmospheric village pubs.
Near London Bridge in Southwark, London's newest skyscraper is shaped like a skinny pyramid of glass. The Shard has an 800-foot high observation tower that opens February 1, 2013. The Telegraph newspaper in London offered a sneak peek inside Europe's tallest building at 1,016 feet. The public viewing platforms, on levels 68-72, are twice as high as any other London viewpoint. On the building's ground level, an exhibition gives a taste of the various London neighborhoods you'll see from the top. Rather pricey tickets for "The View" are on sale in advance at £24.95 ($40) for adults. Valentine's Day is projected to sell out first.
Located at a strategic bend in the River Thames, painters John Constable and Claude Monet realized that Waterloo Bridge offered one of London's best views from ground level. Although the views have changed over 200 years, they're still great. The nearest tube station is Waterloo. Views are free and are especially striking at night, when lights are reflected in the waters of the Thames. Appreciate a walk across Waterloo Bridge after enjoying a theater performance at nearby Royal Festival Hall, National Theatre, the British Film Institute or Queen Elizabeth Hall.
by Laurie Jo Miller Farr
Top: The view from Waterloo Bridge takes in some of London's most famous sights, including the London Eye, another good viewpoint. (Photo by Britain on View/Visit Britain)
Right: Climb to the top of St. Paul's Cathedral dome for great views. (Photo by Eric Nathan/Visit Britain)
Left: Primrose Hill is legendary for its views of London. (Photo by Pawel Libera/Visit London)