At the beginning of December, I learned via Twitter that the owners of the Shard, the EU's tallest building which has recently being completed, had donated 4000 tickets to access The View from the Shard, the viewing galleries on the 68th and 72nd floors of the giant to Southwark residents. All we had to do was go to our local library with proof of residence and collect our tickets.
I did and this Saturday, a week before the viewing galleries open to the public, I got to admire the views over London. Luckily, after a week of snow, the weather had turn to a more sunny disposition and we were treated to the extra spectacle of window cleaners abseiling the southern side of the building and playing to the gallery.
As can be expected the views over London are unparalleled and my worry, based on the pictures I had seen so far, that we may end up being too high and therefore at the wrong angle were unfounded.
From the entrance on Joiner Street, we queued to have our bags scanned and our picture taken in front of a green screen before taking a lift to the 32nd floor where we got on a second lift to the 67th floor. The lifts, travelling at 6m per second, are very fast and very smooth.
From the 67th floor, we are free to wander to the floors above; the windows directly opposite the lift doors are partially blocked with images of clouds to avoid a bottle neck effect.
An hour and half and several dozen pictures later we made our way back to the ground where we were offered the possility to purchase the picture taken on the way in superimposed on a view of the city from the top. Prices seem to vary according to the options available by £20 seems to be what people are being asked for this.
There is a small souvenir shop on the 67th floor and a bigger one on the ground floor. It's quite clear that the owners are gearing up to milk the opportunity as much as possible. Tickets are £25 if you book online, £30 if you book in person and £100 if you book on the day!
For those not willing to pay so much another option may soon become available on the 31st floor, where the lobby of a posh restaurant will offer viewing opportunities. They plan on enforcing a cover charge to deter tourists but it may still be cheaper.
Otherwise the staff were very friendly (though they may get tired very quickly in repeating the same things all the time) and it's good that the visit does not seem to be time limited.
Of course I brought my camera with me. My images can be viewed on flickr here.