Last week the Beard and I celebrated his 30th Birthday at the latest addition to London’s Skyline, the Sky Garden. This new and curvaceous sky scraper – nick named the walkie-talkie – has had mixed reviews from both the press and the people of London. Some say it’s a big hype over not much at all and is pretty crappy compared to The Shard, others say it’s absolutely wonderful, mostly because it’s absolutely free to get up there, meaning anyone can pay a visit.
Wanting to do something a little different for the Beards Birthday, but also a with a touch of class, I decided that drinks overlooking the wonderful views of London sounded pretty Awesome! And because it costs £35 per person just to get into The Shard, let alone order a drink, I decided to go investigate the Sky Garden, and so booked myself and the Beard onto a 2.30pm weekday slot – for free.
I have never been to The Shard so unfortunately I can’t compare the two. But, considering the Sky Garden is completely free to book onto and was such an interesting experience, with a hint of holiday airport thrown in (read on to find out why) I just had to write a blog post about it.
In case you’re thinking of taking someone for a special occasion, or maybe you just fancy a little London outing with a difference or some breath-taking views, I wanted to share with you everything you need to know about visiting the Sky Garden…
(… but first lets look at how Hair + High Wind = Photo Fail)
Opening Times & Details
20 Fenchurch Street, EC3M 3BY
Level 35, South Terrace
Weekdays: 10am – 6pm
Weekends: 11am – 9pm
Sky Garden update the sunrise & sunset times on their homepage, handy to know if your wanting to enjoy drinks with a beautiful city sunset.
Planning, Booking & Getting There
It’s completely free but you need to book in advance, and you can do so here. I only had to book two weeks in advance, but it no doubt has its super busy periods such as the Summer holidays and I imagine Christmas time will be hectic. There are a limited amount of places available each day, so maybe book quite a few weeks in advance.
When booking you will need to not only put your name down as the ticket holder, but every guest that is accompanying you (maximum per group is 10 people). If you’re planning it as a surprise like I was, don’t worry, they only need one email address to send the tickets to, so no surprises will be ruined.
The Sky Garden is at 20 Fenchurch Street, which is just a quick walk from both Monument station (District, Circle, Central, Northern & DLR lines) and Bank station (District, Circle, Central, Northern & DLR lines) they are essentially the same station but with different exits. It’s also only a 10-15 walk from London Bridge (Jubilee & Northern Lines and National Rail).
Make sure you take your ticket with you, which you can either print out or download to your phone, PLUS photo ID. This is very important as they check your ID against the name(s) on the ticket. If you don’t have photo ID then you can use a bank card as a one-off, but no ID no entry. And they are very strict about this.
When visiting the Sky Garden you really do feel like you’re about to jet off on holiday; after the passport and ID checks you are then lead to an airport security style queue, where you must put your jacket, bag, keys, phone, and everything else into a tray before walking through the airport style weird alarmed door frame (that clearly I do not know the technical name for).
After security you enter a lift that automatically takes you up to the top, zooming up 35 floors, so no need to press any buttons. Also, prepare yourself for the fastest elevator experience ever – my ears actually popped!
There are very few signs around the Sky Garden, and when you do see them they are tiny, so just a heads up, the loo’s are right by the lift and foyer area.
The Sky Garden
Coming out the lift, you enter the Sky Garden and are immediately greeted with stunning views of the Shard and the River Thames. There is the inside area, where you can grab some food or drinks from the Sky Pod bar whilst admiring the views. Then there is the outside area which is purely for viewing and photo opportunities (and no doubt many a wedding proposals). It would be lovely to enjoy a beverage on the balcony but unfortunately no food, drinks, smoking (or selfie sticks!) are allowed outside.
There is not only the front view to check out, but the back too. You can walk up the stairs and go around the back of the Sky Garden – where the Garden itself is – and treat yourself to even more views including the British Museum, the top of the Gherkin and the Tower of London, until you have come full circle.
If you love Gardens, have been to many a Botanical Gardens and fancy yourself a bit of a plant novice, I’m not sure if this one will impress you, so don’t get your hopes up. Despite it flowering plants such as the African Lily and Bird of Paradise, it’s not a huge garden really, this isnt helped by the vast empty space around the back. To me it just looked like lots of bushes and ferns, and was nothing compared to other Gardens I’ve seen. But that’s just me, and I wasn’t really there for the plants anyway.
But do look out for the cute little stools amongst some of the platforms of the Garden, allowing you to take a perch with a slightly higher view of the city.
Once you’ve done a full walk around, been outside and got as many pictures as your camera will allow, it’s time to sit back with a drink or a bite to eat at the Sky Pod Bar which is in the centre of the room. Because the Sky Garden is open most of the day, they offer everything from coffees and croissants to both trendy and classic cocktails. We opted for a cider each (obvs) and paid £5.75 for each. Yup, it’s expensive, although no more expensive than it’s surrounding London area…
Cocktails – £11.50
Bottles of Wine (Red, White, Desert) £33 – £72
Beers (Draft & Bottled) £5 – 7.50
Soft Drinks – £3.75
If you just want some water but don’t fancy paying an arm and a leg for a bottle, the Sky Pod Bar do offer free water. They have a (rather beautifully trendy) jug of water available for everyone to help themselves to at the bar that is constantly refilled by the staff. There are also range of snacks and light bites available at the bar, no doubt mildly expensive too, however we skipped as we had dinner plans at Flat Iron.
Your ticket states you are only allowed one full hour there. However, there seems to be no system in check to ensure this and we over stayed by about five minutes and we weren’t dragged out or barred from the Sky Garden; there was no consequence. But depending what you plan to do up there – I’m guessing just enjoy the views and maybe have a drink – I think an hour is plenty of time. If you wanted longer, or you fancied having a meal, you would be better off booking to go the Fenchurch Restaurant or the Darwin Brassiere. Both look beautiful, and I’ve heard good things about them. But if your on a budget, I’d stick to the free Sky Garden.
If you want to do more than just eat and drink, then keep up to date with Sky Garden’s latest news and events here or on their twitter account @SG_SkyGarden as they do sky high yoga classes and music sessions too.
And Voila! That is everything I know about the Sky Garden. I hope I haven’t missed anything. If I have, just let me know by popping me a line or question in the comments below.