London in Focus: A bird’s eye view of the Capital
There’s always been prestige from being up above the rest, and London is long-famed for its changing skyline of tall buildings both to admire and visit for their commanding viewpoints.Offering breathtaking views of London, The View from the Shard has been the capital’s tallest building, set beside the River Thames, since 2012. GTO readers voted this The Best Attraction for Group Visits in London in the 2018 Group Travel Awards, and this multi-sensory experience offering inspiring 360-degree views of the city high above the hustle and bustle of the streets below is a unique setting.
On arrival, visitors are whisked up in high speed elevators, travelling at six metres per second to London’s highest observation decks situated over two floors – the indoor viewing platform and the open-air Skydeck.
Your members can take in the view of the city while sipping champagne or artisan cocktails at London’s highest champagne bar. There are exclusive rates and one free place for GTOs for groups of 10 or more people, plus fast track entry and guest ambassadors are on hand on the viewing decks to bring the view to life with their insights about the skyline.
Recently refurbished, the Tower Viewing Gallery at Westminster Cathedral is perhaps a less known place to take in London views. The gallery is 210 feet above street level and visitors can take as much time as they like to experience the city’s sounds and sights and there’s an exhibition of beautiful drawings illustrating the design and heritage of the Cathedral in the Viewing Gallery and Ground Floor Lobby.
With its dome visible from many vantage points across the city, St Paul’s Cathedral is one of England’s architectural masterpieces and place of national celebration. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren, the present cathedral is now over 300 years old.
Visitors can discover the Crypt, the monuments, works of art, the Whispering Gallery with its amazing acoustics while another fantastic view of London can be admired from the Golden Gallery in the dome – 528 steps up. Included in a visit are touch-screen multimedia guides for self-guiding or Group Tour System technology for groups with tour leaders.
Sir Christopher Wren is best known for St Paul’s Cathedral, however in 1666 following the Great Fire of London, which destroyed much of the medieval city, he was appointed Commissioner for the rebuilding of the city. To commemorate this significant event, The Monument was erected just 200 feet from the bakery where the fire had started.
Today, it offers its own unique view of the City’s skyline and visitors can climb up all 311 steps of the world’s tallest free standing column to the unique public viewing platform 160 feet above ground. From here, they will experience 360-degree views with each successful climber rewarded with a certificate to mark their achievement.
The Monument offers group tickets with Tower Bridge, where visitors can step inside this famous bridge to explore its iconic structure, views, exhibitions and Victorian Engine Rooms. From the high level walkways 138 feet above the Thames, your members can take in panoramic views and see London’s river life through the Glass Floor before exploring the brand new ‘Two Towers’ exhibition.
For something special, groups can experience a behind-the-scenes tour allowing access to Tower Bridge’s control rooms and the immense bascule chambers, a fine example of Victorian engineering.
In 2019, groups visiting the Tower Bridge Exhibition can join in its 125th anniversary celebrations with special events taking place throughout the year.
Nearby, groups visiting the Houses of Parliament are treated to a lovely view overlooking the River Thames when they opt for afternoon tea, a popular addition to their tour of this iconic building. All tours include the majestic Lords Chamber, the Commons Chamber with its famous green benches, medieval Westminster Hall and Central Lobby – the scene of many news broadcasts – and there is a choice of guided or audio tours available on Saturdays all year round and most weekdays during parliamentary recesses. Group rates are available for parties of 10 or more.
The iconic faces of the Great Clock – known familiarly as Big Ben – are surrounded by scaffolding as the Elizabeth Tower as a whole undergoes restoration. The clock itself is being restored to its original colourful appearance with re-gilding and repainting of emblems of the United Kingdom and restoring the cross of St George to six shields above each face. The clock should chime regularly once again in 2021 and tours of the tower will then resume.
Across the river, another spot to enjoy the views is from the Coca-Cola London Eye as it gracefully rotates over the Thames opposite the Palace of Westminster. The experience showcases 360 degree views and famous landmarks and has been a popular group experience in the city for the past decade.
The London Eye caters for a wide range of groups of 10 or more people and prices are available online for a 15% discount when booked in advance or over the phone and will guarantee your entry.
Also located on the south bank of the River Thames, Tate Modern features international modern and contemporary art and offers free admission to visitors except for special exhibitions. Tate Modern is currently taking bookings for the exhibition ‘Pierre Bonnard: The Colour of Memory’ (23rd January–6th May 2019), showing how this innovative and much loved French painter captured fleeting moments in time with his beautifully coloured landscapes and intimate domestic scenes.
Not to be missed, while visiting Tate Modern, is the open viewing terrace on the top floor of the Blavatnik Building, which offers spectacular views of the London Skyline. Visitors can enjoy a drink and snacks from the bar as they look across the River Thames towards St Paul’s Cathedral, and as far as Canary Wharf and Wembley Stadium.
At the Queen Elizabeth Park at Stratford a different perspective of London’s skyline can be gained from the ArcelorMittal Orbit. The floor to ceiling windows on the observation walkway allow great views over the city and two huge concave mirrors can allow you to flip the horizon and change the view. Having made it to the top you can walk down the 455 steps or take the fast route on The Slide – a 40-second adventure on the world’s tallest and longest tunnel slide.