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When it comes to finding the best views in London, some people automatically think of the major sights, the ones listed in the tourist guidebooks, but in this article, I’m covering a few extra!
There’s a good mix of types of views in here, including free views of London and paid views of London, as well as views of London for people who are scared of heights and don’t really feel like standing on top of a billion story building and looking down.
The Absolute Must-Knows (from a Londoner)
Perhaps the best free view in all of London is that from the SkyGarden, located in the funnily named “walkie talkie” building.
Not only is the view free, but the surroundings are gorgeous, living up to its name as London’s garden in the sky.
You’ll find it on the 35th floor, with an entrance on Philpot Lane, and public tickets for viewing are time limited to one hour (but if all you’re doing is looking at the view, that’s all you’ll need).
You can get drinks from the bar or snacks, as well as actually booking a table at one of the restaurants to really take in the view for a longer period of time.
In addition to the indoor garden, there’s an outdoor terrace that can be enjoyed when the weather is nice.
While you do need to book in advance (and should make sure to do so 3 weeks in advance), there are a few walk-in slots available from Mondays to Fridays before and after the timed tickets close.
When you tally up all of the money you can spend on the view up the Shard, this is truly a great suggestion for seeing London on a budget and soaking up that sunset.
From the Skygarden, you can actually see out to the Shard, as well as a great view of the Thames, Tower Bridge, and more.
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2. Primrose Hill: one of the best views of London
So you’re afraid of heights, but you still want to see a gorgeous London skyline?
Primrose Hill has you covered.
This beautiful part of Regent’s Park is not too tough to climb if you take your time (it is a relatively steep incline, but we’re not talking real hiking here, just a bit of huffing and puffing if you’re out of shape!)
It’s common to take a blanket to sit out on the hill and watch the sunset over London.
Of course, since it’s in a park, it’s completely free!
From here, you can a stunning view of the London skyline featuring the BT Tower, the Shard, and the London Eye.
Afterwards, head to the London Zoo in Regent’s Park or nearby Camden for some of London’s best markets.
3. The Shard
Perhaps one of the most expensive views in London and one of the most famous is the “View from the Shard.”
Finished in 2012 right before the London Olympics, this is the tallest building in the UK.
You can buy tickets to experience the view of London from up here, as there are two viewing areas (one indoors and one partially outdoors).
The cost is £25+ for a standard ticket, which mostly just includes the view.
There are also other ways to enjoy the view from the Shard, like booking afternoon tea or a champagne experience at one of the restaurants.
While the view from the Shard is spectacular and I encourage anyone using the London Pass to check it out (it’s included as a London Pass attraction), I don’t think it’s a London must-do if you’re on a budget or looking for other ways to see the city.
4. London Eye: best views in London
If you want a truly 360 degree view over the Thames and out to all areas of London, the London Eye is your best bet for one of the best views of London.
I’ve written an entire guide on whether the London Eye is worth it, and while I don’t think it’s worth it when it’s grey and drizzly out (as you won’t get to see much), on a clear day, it’s truly awe-inspiring to be able to see everything from Tower Bridge to the Houses of Parliament to the BT Tower to St. Paul’s Cathedral from above.
In fact, it’s a great thing to do to really see where things in the city are in relation to each other.
When you’re seeing London from underground or on street level all of the time, it can be really hard to figure out the lay of the land.
The London Eye has glass viewing capsules that mean you can stand on all sides and make your way around during the 30 minute ride, so the “view” itself is mostly up to you and where you’d like to look!
5. Millennium Bridge looking Towards St. Paul’s
This is the one London view that’s closer to the ground, but I’ve included it because I think it makes a magnificent photo and is one of the best views of London even if it’s not from a bird’s eye vantage point.
All you need to do is get to the Millennium Bridge and look in the direction of St. Paul’s Cathedral.
The buildings on either side have framed it perfectly, as well as the Millennium Bridge itself with its steely appearance contrasting wonderfully with the historic architecture of St. Paul’s.
And while you’re there…you might as well move on to the next view!
6. View from St. Paul’s: jaw dropping views in London
Did you know you can walk up the steps of St. Paul’s and actually take in views of London from up there?
Not many people know about it, but it’s included in your St. Paul’s entrance ticket and while it does involve a lot of steps and some really narrow passageways, you could be standing at the very top of this London landmark in what’s known as the “Golden Gallery.”
There are 528 steps to get up there, but once you do you’ll be treated to amazing views of Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe and plenty of tiny London visitors milling about below you.
This view wins out for many because it’s a historic view, not just a view from a purpose-built modern building.
It has purpose, meaning, and is really incredible to be standing where so many famous London names have stood.
7. View of the Thames from Tower Bridge
There are a few views of London that include a great view of the river, but one of the best is the view of the Thames from Tower Bridge.
You can walk across Tower Bridge as a pedestrian and look out to the Tower of London and the Thames for a really gorgeous view of boats floating up and down lazily in the London sun (okay, who am I kidding, it’s probably grey but still).
8. Alexandra Palace
Situated among stretching parkland, Alexandra Palace offers sweeping views of north London.
With the huge famous ornate building behind you, which started being built in 1865, you can see all of the city’s skyline from here.
The peak of the park is the highest point in London, and eager eyes can make out all of the city’s landmarks north of the Thames, from the new Tottenham Hotspur stadium down to The Shard.
Known now for its live music events, there’s a café/bar here with outside seating. There are few better ways to spend a summer’s day in London than with a cold drink sat here, looking out over everything.
9. Hampstead Heath: free views of London
A stretching oasis of calm only four miles from the city center, this sprawling park is the place to go for a woodland walk or a moment’s respite from the hustle and bustle of the capital.
Benches are scattered around its highest point (322 feet high) and offer clean views of the center, with the towering skyscrapers of London’s financial district and all the famous landmarks visible.
For the adventurous, there are swimming ponds here.
Both mixed and ladies only, they are the best place for wild swimming in London, letting you refresh and immerse yourself in well-maintained clean water, and re-connect with it all while the city trundles along outside this green space.
10. Greenwich Observatory
The home of Greenwich Mean Time, this hilly park offers fantastic riverside views.
While the Royal Observatory, the center of Britain’s long history of astronomy, offers you the chance to look up at the stars, this park is free to enter and offers sweeping views of the East of the city.
In the summer, ice cream vendors and coffee stalls offer refreshments where you can sit back and watch the parkland flow down to the riverside.
Surrounded by quality pubs and restaurants, it is a brilliant place to get some space before immersing yourself in the city.
Impressive as it is from below, with its images of the Great Fire of London, the true views await you at the top.
Climb up the 311 steps and you are treated to panoramic views of the city.
The Monument’s proximity to Tower Bridge means it’s the best view of this iconic landmark.
Tickets to the top are currently £5.80 for adults and it’s a great value price for one of the best city center views London has to offer.
Designed and built as a lasting legacy of the Great Fire that gutted London in 1666, this 202-foot viewing point is a great portal into the city’s long past and sweeping present.
12. Tate Modern Rooftop
Combine world-leading art collections with glorious views of London’s city center.
The viewing area is on the top floor of the Blavatnik Building and is free to center via an elevator.
There is a bar to give you something to sip or snack on while you look out from this riverside spot, offering great views along the Thames as well as being directly opposite St Paul’s Cathedral.
Looking down the river, you can even see the financial district of Canary Wharf and the world-famous Wembley Stadium.
It’s an amazing place to catch a sunset, as the historic buildings over the water are painted fading-orange by the setting sun and the city’s light start to come to life.
13. Duck & Waffle
A great view should be enjoyed with some great food and great drinks, and there are few places in the world where the three come together as well as at Duck & Waffle.
Nestled high up on the 40th floor, this sleek modern dining space offers panoramic views of the London skyline, particularly an up-close shot of the famous ‘Gherkin’, a twisting tower of carved glass reflecting the light, with all the comforts you could ask for.
Even better, it’s open 24 hours a day.
Grab a window-side table at sunset and watch the daylight wash over the city as the sun goes down, seeing street after bustling street fill with the lights of the capital’s thriving nightlife.
Nestled among the sleek modern looks of Canary Wharf are three floors of luxury (with a rooftop to top things off).
With the views to match, Bokan is a slick, modern restaurant and bar that serves up some of the best cocktails and food in the city.
The walls are floor-to-ceiling windows, offering you some of the finest views you can get of this end of London.
Once the thriving docklands that helped build the ships that built Britain, Canary Wharf is now the heart of London’s world-leading business district.
The views here are of a forest of glass, glinting, while the Thames twists around below.
Grab a table around sunset, a cocktail or two, and relax under ambient lighting while the city sprawls around below you.
15. Madison’s Rooftop Bar: great views in London
There are rooftop bars, and then there are rooftop bars.
Madison’s is firmly one of the latter, a wide-open space of comfortable seating, premium drinks, and some of the best views in London.
You get a sweeping view of the skyline here but when people’s eyes aren’t scouting for the next cocktail they are firmly fixed on the oh-so-close sight of St Paul’s Cathedral.
Elegant, and huge, its pillars, dome, and spire are the perfect backdrop to all the fun that Madison’s offers.
During the summer, DJs play rooftop sessions and you can dance through the days and nights surrounded by a view difficult to replicate anywhere else.
16. Cable Car
Nicknamed the ‘Dangleway’, this is easily the most exciting way to cross the Thames.
Not only does it get you from the Greenwich Peninsula over to the Royal Docks, it offers far-ranging views of the city on both sides.
As you enjoy its leisurely progress, you gain a vantage point that is impossible to replicate anywhere else in London – the Thames flowing below you, the city open on all sides with no buildings to obstruct your view.
Hanging there over the city, this might be the only opportunity you get to see the skyline completely free of crowds.
At only £5 for an adult ticket, it’s a combination of practicality, leisurely travel, and a great view.
17. Horniman Museum Gardens
While they aren’t the highest point in London, the Horniman Museum Gardens still offer some great views into the city.
You can see The Shard standing proud, the skyscrapers of the financial district, and all of it is cushioned by the lush trees of the gardens.
There is plenty of space to relax and enjoy the view here, with benches and wide open grass making it the perfect spot for a day spent soaking in some nature in the city.
And if you’re looking for some of the best natural history displays in the city, the Horniman Museum is the place to be.
Particularly if you’re a huge fan of taxidermied animals.
18. Brockwell Park: one of the best free views in London
South London is patterned with parkland, stretching areas of green that provide space for people to rest and soak in some nature in this thriving half of the city, but Brockwell is one of its finest.
Set over 126 acres, even though 4 million people come along here over the year you can still always find some space to yourself to soak in the views that the park offers.
And what a view.
Lush green woodlands frame the city, skyscrapers towering up over the river.
The park is home to a few hills, and at the top you can look out to signature landmarks like the Houses of Parliament and the ever-rotating London Eye.
19. Forest Hill
This charming, leafy residential area of south London is a bucolic place to spend some time.
Thanks to its general elevation, you can get some great views out over London.
This is home to the previously discussed Horniman Museum Gardens, with its tree-lined views, but there is also the Blythe Hill Fields park, which has gorgeous views that look out over the city.
20. Parliament Hill
Nestled away in the southeast corner of Hampstead Heath, nearly 100 meters high, Parliament Hill is one of the finest views of London.
There are benches here and stretching grass to relax on in the summer months, and trees that fall down into city as the urban sprawl spreads out in front of you.
On a summer’s day, the city can be at once clear and hazy, the Shard and skyscrapers emerging from the distance as the city is a pattern of blockwork below you.
Bring some snacks, drinks, maybe the full picnic, and pass the time looking out to the distance.
21. Archway Bridge
Not all views come from sweeping parkland and river-crossing transport.
Sometimes, they come from a bridge over a motorway.
Archway bridge itself is a lovely thing to look at, all patterned metal, but if you look to the London side you get a perfectly framed view of the city’s skyscrapers.
There is the Shard, the ‘gherkin’, all the greatest highlights of the city’s skyline.
In the foreground, you can see how the suburbs grow into city, as cars trundle down into it below you.
22. Dome at St. Paul’s
St Paul’s Cathedral is an imposing sight from all over the city, its beautiful dome a reliable point in the skyline.
And it can be beautiful just to see it from the outside, with the bustle of the city to your back and this classic, old building in front of you.
But the view can become even better, visitors can enter into the cathedral and head all the way up the dome to see a view that is genuinely special.
It requires some legwork over the 1,161 steps that cover all of the different galleries and once up there you see views of the most historic parts of London and how they blend into the most modern, looking out from this core part of London’s history.
Car parks don’t normally scream glamor.
Yes, they may be high up, but do you really want to climb up there to savor the view?
When it comes to Franks, the answer is an unequivocal yes.
The views are pristine.
There are no cars up here, only unimpeded vistas over the river to the absolute peaks of the city’s skyline.
You can gaze at the ever-present Shard, the Walkie-Talkie and all the other skyscrapers that pattern London with ribbons of fluorescent light as the night draws on.
And you can do it all with one of the trendiest crowds in London for company, great music, and as many drinks as you like.
24. Balcony at Royal Festival Hall
Royal Festival Hall offers views of many kinds.
Inside, you can watch the famous acts that come to one of the world’s leading performance spaces.
The finest classical music venue in London, the stage space has seen some of the musical greats play.
And you can see them too.
But step outside and there are some brilliant views as well.
Located on the fifth floor, this balcony’s position in Southbank means that you are basically on the river.
By day, you can watch the crowds and booksellers mingle on the riverside promenade.
By night, you can gaze out at the city skyline, as the lights from the classic and modern buildings of the riverfront dance and shimmer on the surface of the Thames.
25. Norwood Park
Sometimes to appreciate the city, you need to take a step back.
Norwood Park lies a little out of the center, but this distance lends a wide-lens aspect to its views, with the wide, flat horizon of London stretching away from you.
There are the usual showstoppers of the center – The Shard, the skyscrapers huddling around it – but you also get a real sense of the space, the size, and stretch of this amazing city.
26. Burgess Park
At around 140 acres, Burgess Park has enough space for everything.
Play areas for the kids, stretching areas of water.
You can find it in Camberwell, a sprawling borough of the city that is nestled just south of the river.
Its proximity to the center means that The Shard looms large over it, and it is an amazing place to lay back on the grass and see this feat of modern architecture there, sharp-edged and luminous against the sky.
After you’ve laid, relaxed, soaked in this mix of tree-lined sky and bright modern buildings, head on into Camberwell and try some of the city’s best food and drinks (Silk Road is particularly good).
27. One Tree Hill
Not everybody knows about One Tree Hill.
It doesn’t have the name recognition of some of the others on this list (we’re looking at you, St Paul’s) but it’s truly one of the finest spots to catch a view in London.
Its slight distance from the city, combined with its height, mean that this actually-fairly-densely-wooded hill in South London offers pristine views.
You can see over the ever-trendy Peckham directly through to central London.
And the area has some great bars.
Treat yourself to a trip south of the river and meander through the tree-lined paths, taking a deep breath in this southern oasis of the city.
What else should I not miss in London?
If you’re visiting London soon, here’s a very brief rundown of a few of my other favorites to make sure you don’t miss anything!
- Hidden London Walking Tour – this tour is the absolute best if you want to see London in a different light and uncover hidden nooks, crannies, and histories that you won’t get on your normal, run-of-the-mill London walking tour. Click here to check prices and book.
- Historical Westminster Walking Tour with Churchill War Rooms – if you’re a history buff or even mildly interested in all of the insane things that have happened in London, particular during the wars, you have to book this tour which is an absolute bargain for the tour + entry to the Churchill War Rooms (basically two must-dos in one). Click here to check prices and book.
Want more helpful London guides? Check these out!
- 45 Things to Do in London at Night
- 53 Things to Do in London for Couples
- 57 Quirky and Unusual Things to Do in London
- 11 Tourist Traps to Avoid in London
- 23 Best London Tours
- 41 Best Things to Do in London with Kids
- 21 Best Castles Near London
- 15 Best London Hotels
- 17 Best Street Food Markets in London
- 15 Best Areas to Stay in London
- 23 Best Afternoon Teas in London
- 25 Best London Museums
- 33 Free Things to Do in London
- 21 Best London Markets
- 21 Best London Apps
- 23 Best Pubs in London
- 35 Best Restaurants in London
- 21 Harry Potter Things to Do in London
- 35 Things to Do in London in the Rain
- 25 Best Art Museums in London
- 17 Famous London Filming Locations
- 25 Best Places to Shop in London
- 35 Best Day Trips from London
- 31 Best Parks in London
- 41 Most Instagrammable Places in London
- 27 Best Birthday Ideas in London
- 29 Best London Cinemas
- 29 Best Things to Buy in London
- 41 Things to Do in London Alone
UK Travel Planning Guide: the FAQs
🏥 Should I buy UK travel insurance?
Absolutely yes. Basic coverage is not expensive, and as a visitor you are NOT covered under the NHS. Compare policies and prices with Travel Insurance Master here, a big name in the travel insurance business, and cross that off your list.
🔌 Do I need travel adapters for the UK?
Yes, you do, otherwise you won’t be able to plug in your electronics/phone/lifelines. I recommend this one, which is all-in-one so you can use it in other countries.
🚗 What do I need to drive in the UK?
The first thing you need to check out if you’re planning on renting a car in the UK is this guide to driving in the UK for visitors – the roads, signs, and driving experience will likely not be what you’re used to and it’s essential to prepare yourself to stay safe and aware.
🛌 What’s the best way to book hotels in the UK?
📳 Will my phone work in the UK?
Yes – if you set it up right. Check out my guide on making your foreign phone work in the UK to ensure that you get the type of service you need.
🚿 Can I drink the water in the UK?
Yes, UK water is great and perfectly safe. But drink out of taps in any kitchen or use water fountains. Double check before drinking out of the taps in hotel bathrooms, though, as they may be on a different system.