The Shard, Western Europe’s tallest building, opens its doors to the public on Feb. 1 and tickets are already selling out at 24.95 pounds ($40) per adult.
The first two days are full and first evening entrance is available on Feb. 3 for the trip as high as level 72, the highest public floor of the skyscraper, at 244 meters (800 feet). On a clear day, you can see for 64 kilometers (40 miles).
“We’re aiming for a million visitors a year and I think we’ll achieve it,” Andy Nyberg, chief executive of The View From the Shard company, said in an interview at level 71. “We’ve been on sale since July and we’ve well surpassed our expectations. We’ve sold tens and tens of thousands (of tickets). We’re recommending people book about 10 days in advance because we don’t want them to be disappointed.”
The Shard, which stands at 309.6 meters on London’s South Bank, is owned by LBQ Ltd., which brings together the State of Qatar (the majority shareholder) and Sellar Property Group Ltd., with non-equity funding by Qatar National Bank. (QNBK) The building will house offices, homes, a hotel and three floors of restaurants.
Visitors take two separate lifts to reach the viewing galleries on levels 69 to 72. (These elevators are in the center of the building, with no view.) They travel at six meters a second, and you are in them for about 60 seconds.
Landmarks visible from the top include the Olympic Stadium, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Canary Wharf, the Thames Barrier, St. Paul’s, Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Battersea Power Station, the Oval, Wembley Stadium and Alexandra Palace.
“What’s so special about the view?” Nyberg asked. “London. No other viewing attraction in the world has the kind of vistas you can see from The View From the Shard. We’re a 21st-century tower right across the river from an 11th-century tower, the Tower of London. You don’t get that anywhere else.”
The closest rival as a viewing attraction is the EDF Energy London Eye, where a standard ticket starts at 17.28 pounds, while adults and children pay 29.16 pounds for fast-track tickets on the day. (The London Eye is closed for annual maintenance until Jan. 19.) It’s only 135 meters high. The highest point in London other than the Shard is Westerham Heights, in Bromley, 245 meters above sea level.
The 360 degree views from the Shard are impressive and it’s likely to become a popular attraction for visitors to London, even though the cost is hefty. Digital telescopes -- you look at the view on a screen -- identify places of interest and provide information on 200 landmarks in 10 different languages.
Nyberg has a head for heights: He was previously a director of the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, in Dubai, where the viewing deck is on level 124. Before that, he worked at the Skydeck, on the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower, Chicago.
An introductory ticket to the At the Top viewing area at the Burj Khalifa costs 100 dirham ($27.22). The Skydeck is $18, or $35 fast track. It costs 1,420 yen ($16.02) to get to the top of the Tokyo Tower. It’s $25 for the main deck of the Empire State Building and C$27.20 ($27.65) online for the CN Tower in Toronto. (Some attractions have a range of prices.)
With adult tickets for the Shard costing 24.95 pounds for an adult and 18.95 pounds for a child, a family of four might pay 87.80 pounds. The top of the Eiffel tower, by comparison, costs 14 euros ($18.56) for adults and 12.50 euros for kids.
View From the Shard representatives says tickets are in line with other crowd- and line-free London attractions. Tickets are for a timed entry so guarantee fast-track entrance.
I went up the Shard -- designed by Renzo Piano -- on a media trip on Jan. 9 and shall enjoy bragging rights for three weeks. There is nowhere else in central London where you can take in a 360-degree view from anywhere near the same height.
In future, I’ll head for the restaurants scheduled to open in coming months. Zuma owners Rainer Becker and Arjun Waney plan a rotisserie and grill and a bar on the 32nd floor, while Aqua Restaurant Group will open venues on the 31st and 33rd floors.
Diners will use a dedicated entrance on St. Thomas Street and two express lifts will take them to level 32. There will be a central triple-height atrium bar.
The 24.95 pounds I hope to save on admission might cover a Martini.
(Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. He is U.K. and Ireland chairman of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. Opinions expressed are his own.)
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