5 Places to Visit for the Best Views of London
Updated: May 9, 2020
When I first came to London, THE place to go to for panoramic city views was London Eye, so of course I had to try it out. Having paid a substantial sum of money for the ticket, I was left disappointed with the experience. The moving pods make panorama shots difficult and even if they didn't move, the reflections off the glass are often in the way. And, to be honest, I didn't think the view from there was particularly impressive. Since then I have discovered several other London photo spots that offer fantastic panoramic views:
1. Alexandra Park
Entrance fee: Free
How to get here: The park is located in Haringey, North London. The closest station is Alexandra Palace (National Rail, direct trains from Moorgate) or Wood Green on the Piccadilly Line.
What to expect: 80 hectares of landscaped park with views towards central London, a boating lake and a skate park. Alexandra Palace, a beautiful sporting and entertainment venue is also located here, offering, among other things, an ice rink open throughout the year. Just imagine, you could combine a walk in the park with disco on ice (on every Saturday night, online price £9.50)!
2. Horniman Gardens
Entrance fee: Free
How to get here: Located in Forest Hill, South London. The closest station is Forest Hill (National Rail trains from London Bridge and Overground Highbury and Islington to West Croydon/Crystal Palace line).
What to expect: Compact landscaped gardens (16 acres) with panoramic views towards central London, botanical displays and a nature trail. Horniman Museum is also located here and offers both free and paid for exhibitions and a cafe with indoor and outdoor seating. One to visit in the spring/summer months on a good weather day to enjoy the outside seating or a picnic.
3. Greenwich Park
Entrance fee: Free
How to get here: The park is located in Greenwich, Southeast London. The closest station is Greenwich (National Rail from Cannon Street or DLR to Lewisham). Alternatively, you could use the Riverboat services from Westminster, Embankment or Tower to Greenwich Pier or get here on a hop on hop off river cruise.
What to expect: One of the eight Royal Parks, Greenwich Park covers 74 hectares and, apart from offering beautiful views over Canary Wharf, is home to the Prime Meridian Line, Royal Observatory and The National Maritime Museum. The view over Canary Wharf from the hillside is quite iconic and it's one of the top non-central London photo spots.
4. St. Paul's Cathedral
Entrance fee: £18 on the door (£16 online).
How to get here: Located in Central London, St. Paul's Cathedral is within walking distance from numerous stations (St. Paul's on the Central Line is the closest one).
What to expect: The ticket allows you to explore the inside of the cathedral before starting your climb into the dome. There are two outside viewing platforms encircling the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral: Stone Gallery is at the height of 53 metres from the floor and Golden Gallery is at the height of 85 metres. Please be aware that access to the viewing platforms is via stairs only and to get to the Golden Gallery you will have to climb 528 steps, so it is not recommended for visitors with mobility difficulties or fear of heights and confined spaces. On the bright side, you a get a workout and a photo opportunity, so a two for one deal! If you do manage to get to the top, you will be rewarded with unobstructed 360-degree views over London - perfect for taking panoramic photos and, in my opinion, well worth the £18 entrance fee. This is probably one of my all-time favourite London photo spots.
Since the viewing platforms are open to the elements, they may get closed in poor weather conditions, so do check that everything is open before heading over.
5. Sky Garden
Entrance fee: Free - booking required. The timeslots are limited and fill up very quickly, so the quickest option might be to book a table at one of the bars or restaurants that the Sky Garden also has (there are a few options to choose from, for different tastes and budgets). Yes, you will then obviously have to pay for drinks and/or food, but you can bypass the queues to get in and can enjoy a meal in a stunning environment, so this is my preferred option of getting into the Sky Garden.
How to get here: The Sky Garden is located in the City of London at the top of 20 Fenchurch Street (also known as the Walkie-Talkie). It is within walking distance of several stations, both Tube and National Rail (Monument on the Circle and District Line is the closest).
What to expect: After going through a security check, you will be whisked up in an elevator to level 35 of the Walkie-Talkie, a controversial skyscraper built in 2014. Due to its curved shape, the building found fame while still under construction for managing to melt parts of a Jaguar car parked nearby (yes, it's true, google it!). The promise of a public garden on the top level was used by the developers of the Walkie-Talkie to get planning permission.
I have to say that for something that's called a garden, I was expecting a lot more greenery, but the panoramic views over London in all directions certainly deliver - you will get up close and personal to the other City icons like the Gherkin and the Cheesegrater, see the Shard from a different perspective and get a brilliant view of the Tower of London from above. Unfortunately, the conditions for taking photos are not ideal due to reflections off the windows, but we still managed to get some fantastic shots.
You will notice I haven't included The View from The Shard in this list. Whilst I am sure the views are fantastic, I have been put off by the sky-high ticket price - £26 for an advance online ticket or £31 on the day. That is pretty steep in my opinion, so I'd rather go to the Walkie-Talkie and spend that money on food and drinks there.
Do you know of other Instagram worthy places in London for far-reaching views? Please do share them with me - I am always on the look for new places to photograph in London. Also do check out my other London posts below.