Everyone who knows me – or has ever had to travel in my company – knows that I’m always on the lookout for scenic views and viewing points with great photo opportunities. Whether I’m hiking or visiting another bustling metropolis, towers, mountains, and rooftop cafés are always the first ones to make it onto my itinerary – and it’s no different when I’m back in the UK. I’ve spent the last 3.5 years living relatively close to London, and since most of my friends live here, I usually spend my weekends wandering around the capital. During these 3.5 years, I’ve been to some amazing places both in and outside of London, and I want to share some of my favourites with you today.
So, if you’re like me, and you’re looking for the best spots to admire the London skyline or take great photos from, today’s post is for you. In no particular order, here are 9 of my favourite places with the best views of London – some of which are free!
1) Greenwich Park
One of the things I love about London is the sheer amount of green space we have scattered around the city. Hyde Park and Epping Forest are two of my all time favourite places, and I love the fact that you don’t have to go far (or even leave London) for a bit of peace and quiet. Just hop on the tube for half an hour, and you’ll find yourself in a completely different environment.
Speaking of amazing views though, Greenwich Park is unbeatable. Greenwich itself is by far one of my favourite areas in London which could be a whole post in itself, but the view from the top of the hill, near the observatory, is fantastic! You can (and I would strongly recommend you do!) even make a day trip out of it or combine your trip with a visit to the Royal Observatory, Cutty Sark, or get some yummy street food from Greenwich Market before heading back to central London.
- Price: Free
- Opening times: 6am – 9:30pm
- Nearest tube station: Cutty Sark
2) Sky Garden
My most recent favourite and the newest addition to the list is Sky Garden, located on the 35th floor of London’s famous “Walkie Talkie” building (less commonly known as 20 Fenchurch Street). I managed to visit and check out the view at the end of last year, but was stupid enough not to take my DSLR with me. I still managed to take some decent pictures, but I desperately want to go back again – with my camera this time! – sometime this year.
Although Sky Garden is free, you must book ahead online at least 3 days before your arrival, and spaces – especially for the weekend slots – are extremely limited. I’m looking at their booking form as we speak, and all their weekend time slots are sold out for the next 3 weeks. So if you know in advance that you’ll be visiting, I’d recommend booking your tickets as soon as you can – or visiting on a weekday, as these days are usually less crowded.
If there aren’t any free tickets left for the date of your visit – which was the case when I went – you can still visit if you book a table at one of Sky Garden’s restaurants or bars. The downside is that your visit won’t be free as you have to pay for the food, but if you’re determined to get in or you were planning to grab a bite somewhere anyway, it might be worth it. Of course, if you have a reservation to either of these places, you can still visit the Sky Garden and the outside viewing platform for free.
If you decide to go for this option, I’d suggest arriving about an hour or so early to give yourself plenty of time to admire the view, take some pictures, and wander around the indoor garden area before going to the bar or restaurant.
- Price: Free
- Opening times: 10am – 6:00pm on weekdays, 11am – 9:00pm on weekends
- Nearest tube station: Monument
3) Primrose Hill
Similarly to Greenwich Park, if you’re visiting in spring or summer time, Primrose Hill is an absolute must! After Greenwich, it’s one of my favourite outdoorsy places for admiring the London skyline – not to mention that it’s a great spot for watching the sunset as well. Another bonus is that it’s relatively close to the Camden area, so I often combine a trip to London’s famous Camden Market (which is unbeatable when it comes to yummy street food from all around the world) with a stroll to Primrose Hill.
- Price: Free
- Opening times: Always open
- Nearest tube station: Camden Town or Chalk Farm
4) The London Eye
An iconic London landmark that needs no introduction, the London Eye is probably one of the most well-known viewing points in the city. At 443 feet (135 metres), it’s the tallest observation wheel in the world, which gives you an unmissable bird’s eye view of the River Thames, the Houses of Parliament, and Big Ben.
The gradual rotation in one of the London Eye’s 32 glass capsules takes about half an hour, and takes you high enough to see up to 40 kilometres on a clear day! (Which, as you can see, definitely wasn’t the case when we visited a couple of years ago.) The fact that it’s one of London’s most popular tourist spots means that the queue can get quite long, however – especially if you’re visiting in summer or during school holidays – so if you can, try to book ahead online.
- Price: £22.45 if bought online, £24.95 on the day
- Opening times: 11am – 6pm
- Nearest tube station: Waterloo
5) The Shard
Officially opened to the public in 2013, the Shard is a fairly recent addition to this list, but a place that has since become one of the most well-known landmarks in London – and rightly so. Standing at 310 metres high, The Shard is the fourth tallest building in Europe, and by far the tallest one here in the UK. There are two viewing galleries in the building – an indoor viewing gallery on the 69th (!) floor, and an open air “Skydeck” on level 72, the highest public level of the building.
If visiting the Shard is on your list, I’d definitely recommend booking your tickets in advance, as tickets are 15% cheaper than getting them on the day!
- Price: £25.95 if bought in advance, £30.95 on the day
- Opening times: 10am – 10pm
- Nearest tube station: London Bridge
6) St Paul’s Cathedral
St Paul’s is one of my favourite places in London, and a great option if you’re looking for a cheaper alternative to the London Eye or The Shard, and don’t mind climbing a few (hundred) steps to the top. The Golden Gallery – the uppermost point of the building – stands 280 feet, or 528 steps, above the cathedral floor and offers gorgeous panoramic views of London that take in the River Thames, Tate Modern and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.
Climbing those 528 steps does take a while (I’m not gonna lie, most of us were out of breath by the time we got to the top), but it’s definitely worth the money and the effort – the view is amazing! (And so is the cathedral itself, by the way.) Make sure to go on a clear day if you can, though, and you won’t be disappointed.
- Price: £18 for adults, £8 for children
- Opening times: 8:30am – 4:30pm, Monday to Saturday only
- Nearest tube station: St Paul’s
7) The Monument
If you’re looking for an even cheaper alternative right in the heart of London, the Monument is your best bet. Built in the late 17th century to commemorate one of the most famous events in London’s history, the Great Fire of London, and to celebrate the rebuilding of the city, the 202 feet tall Monument offers stunning views over the city at a relatively low price.
For only £4.50, it’s about five times (!) cheaper than the iconic London Eye, significantly less crowded, and the view over the Thames and Tower Bridge is definitely worth the 311-step climb to the top! And, if you’re interested in visiting the Tower Bridge Exhibition after climbing up the Monument, you can also get combined tickets for the two attractions for £11.
- Price: £4.50
- Opening times: 9:30am – 6:00pm (last admission 5:30pm)
- Nearest tube station: Monument
8) Emirates Cable Car
If you’re visiting Greenwich during your trip (which you should) or are planning to climb the O2, I’d definitely recommend taking the Emirates cable car either to or from Greenwich station. Although the ride takes only about 10 minutes and it’s not as high up as the Shard or Sky Garden, it’s an easy way to get from the Greenwich Peninsula to the Royal Docks and admire East London from above.
The great news is that tickets are relatively cheap as well – at £4.50 for a single journey – and you can use your Oyster card or contactless payment card to pay for it, if you have one. They also do night flights after 7 p.m, so if watching the sun set over the London skyline is on your bucket list, taking the cable car across the Thames is a great option.
- Price: £4.50 for a single journey, £9 return
- Opening times: 7am – 11pm
- Nearest DLR station: Royal Victoria or North Greenwich
9) Up at the O2
If you’re feeling adventurous or are looking for a fun way to explore South-East London, I can’t recommend Up at the O2 enough. It’s kind of similar to the Sydney’s Bridge Climb experience (another thing I’ve yet to tick off on my bucket list!), but less challenging and the summit is probably not as high up as the top of Sydney Harbour Bridge. In a nutshell, it’s a 90-minute adventure that takes you on a guided climb across the roof of the O2 building, 53m above ground level. There’s an observation deck at the top, where you can stop and admire the 360 degree view over London, and stop for a couple of photos (no cameras / DSLRs are allowed for safety reasons, but you can take your phone with you).
Climbing the O2 is super fun and not as challenging as it might seem, either. Children over the age of 10 (who are at least 1.2m tall) are also allowed to go as long as they’re accompanied by an adult, so it makes for a great family adventure as well. I did one of their climbs back in 2014 but am dying to go back for a sunset or evening climb at some point!
- Price: from £28, depending on the day / time of your visit
- Opening times: They change from season to season but are generally 10am – 8:30pm
- Nearest DLR station: North Greenwich
Are there any other places you would add to the list? What are your favourite spots in London? 🙂