You might not think of the City, London’s financial district, as being the best place for a touristy visit. It’s true that there are a lot of people in suits pushing past you at the tube exit gates, and a Pret on every street corner, but we’d really recommend a trip to discover some more hidden secrets. It’s near to well-known historical sights, like the Tower of London, the Monument and site of the Great Fire of 1666, but also a more modern attraction, the Sky Garden. [It’s also quite interesting to walk around at the weekend when it’s almost surreally quiet!]
Located at the top of a skyscraper at 20 Fenchurch Street (nicknamed the Walkie Talkie due to its shape), the Sky Garden is on the 35th floor. Once you’ve whizzed up in the lift, there are three storeys of indoor landscaped gardens featuring plants from all over the world, observation decks (although these are sometimes closed depending on the weather), two restaurants and a bar.
If you book at the restaurants, that automatically gets you entry to the whole Sky Garden, and tables are located for brilliant views. However, you might want to save this for a special celebration – the food is delicious, but these are fancy restaurants with a price tag to match. You can check out the menus for the Darwin Brasserie here and the Fenchurch Restaurant here.
However, if you don’t have a restaurant booking, the good news is that entry is completely free! You can sit at stylish sofas or tables around the open areas and buy drinks and snacks from the bar. Whether you want tea, coffee and pastries, or cocktails and crisps, the bar offers lots of choice, and isn’t as pricey as you might think given its location. There’s also no obligation to buy anything if you’re just there to look around. The only caveat is that you have to be organised, and book your free tickets at least three days in advance of your visit.
While the space itself is impressive, and boasts London’s highest garden, the main reason to visit is for the incredible views it offers of the London skyline.
Given its position in the heart of the City, you get a full panorama across the city, looking out over Canary Wharf, the Thames, the Liverpool Street Station train tracks, the BT Tower, St Paul’s Cathedral and more.
Bear in mind there is some considerable security upon entry, so if you’re meeting friends then factor in some additional time. There is an open balcony which is closed in the case of high winds, but if you’re planning to spend time out there it’s worth coming prepared with an extra layer. There are also other special events such as sunrise yoga that might be of interest, particularly if you live or work in the city.