I would like to visit a viewing spot in London, but I don't want to pay any entrance fees. Where is the highest spot to do so?

Note that restaurants and bars (or other freely accessible venues) are accepted as an answer, since their cheapest drink is usually less expensive than entry fees to "official" observation spots.

The tallest open view would also be interesting to find, as it's much better for sight-seeing.

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    For open views, see the protected views. – A E May 20 '16 at 10:20
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    lateral thinking: find out what companies are located on the top floors of either The Shard or One Canada square and then contact them for some kind of on-location interview. Could be a job interview, could be an interview for a blog or newspaper, could be a prospects interview,... You'll probably need to put in some efforts, but with the right amount of guts, it shouldn't be too much of an issue. – Nzall May 20 '16 at 11:23
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    @Nzall bonus credits: put the work necessary to make the reason for a interview a real one (a blog post as you suggested seems fine) so not to waste those folks' time. – Mindwin May 20 '16 at 12:57
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    @Mindwin Extra extra bonus points: actually get a job there, and then get to see the view every day from your office. – user23030 May 21 '16 at 7:40
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    @Michael reminds me of a skit: i.imgur.com/5OwAPdn.jpg – JonathanReez May 21 '16 at 10:13
up vote 38 down vote accepted

The Heron Tower (also known as the Salesforce Tower) is the 3rd tallest building in Greater London with a roof height of 202m, and has a restaurant & bar at 175m / 574ft called Duck and Waffle. Entry to the bar is free, and open to the public.

enter image description here

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    The views look fantastic at that restaurant and it features an open view and it's 24/7. Definitely on my list of places to visit now. – JonathanReez May 20 '16 at 10:47
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    The views from the Duck and Waffle are very good! Prices are a little high for London, but not stupid – Gagravarr May 20 '16 at 17:03

The Walkie-Talkie (20 Fenchurch St) is only the 13th-tallest building in London at 160m height, but it does have a free viewing gallery (height 155m):

The famous enlarged glass dome of 20 Fenchurch Street is dedicated to three storeys of exquisitely landscaped public gardens and London’s most exclusive social spaces, including observation decks and an open air terrace.

http://skygarden.london/sky-garden

Although it's free, you do have to book your tickets online in advance.

The Sky Garden Image © User:Colin, CC BY-SA 4.0

Be warned that the 'sky garden' has not found universal favour, so don't set your expectations too high:

The building was crowned with a Sky Garden, a babylonian jungle in the clouds that would be the pride of the Square Mile, framed as not just a place for bankers to drink, but a public space accessible to all. The reality is anything but. If you book three days in advance, or reserve a table at one of the overpriced dining concepts, you can go through airport-style security and be treated to a meagre pair of rockeries, in a space designed with all the finesse of a departure lounge. A hefty cage of steelwork wraps around in all directions, obscuring much of the view, while the restaurants rise up in a boxy stack of glass portable cabins. The more you pay, the worse the view gets: at the very top of the gourmet ziggurat, you’re as far from the windows as possible.

Carbuncle Cup: Walkie Talkie wins prize for worst building of the year, The Guardian, 2 Sept 2015


The fourth-tallest building in London (225m) is the Cheesegrater (The Leadenhall Building). It's not normally open to the public but is opened up for one weekend a year during Open House London.

Open House was started in 1992 as a small, not-for-profit organisation to promote public awareness and appreciation of the capital's building design and architecture. The intention was to open up London's splendid buildings to the general public who don't otherwise have access. We saw this as a way of helping the wider community to become more knowledgeable, engage in dialogue and make informed judgements on architecture.

The dates for Open House London in 2016 are 17 & 18 September

You'll need advance tickets - check the Open House website nearer the time (in past years info has become available in August).

Cheesegrater and Gherkin Image © User:Colin, CC BY-SA 4.0

I believe the Gherkin (30 St Mary Axe, 180m) also opens its doors for Open House weekend.

  • +1, worth noting any spectacular views that offer a restaurant if there are any. – Gayot Fow May 20 '16 at 10:34
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    Based solely on the picture above, there does appear to be a revolving door at the sky-garden that will let you outside for an unobstructed view. – FreeMan May 20 '16 at 20:37
  • @FreeMan, yeah, looks like there's a semi-enclosed terrace - outside the ironwork at least media.gettyimages.com/photos/… – A E May 20 '16 at 20:51
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    The Cheesegrater? The Gherkin? The Walkie-Talkie? Do all buildings in London have to have a sîlly name? – Oscar Bravo May 23 '16 at 13:39
  • @OwenBoyle Unfortunately it seems that way. I remember when the Gherkin was built its name didn't become set immediately. The main rival was the Pineapple although I tried unsuccessfully to popularize the Faberge Egg. The Cheese-Grater does look like a cheese-grater though. – TheMathemagician May 23 '16 at 14:17

If you don't mind being outside, you can get some good views over most of London from some of the hills that surround it. Two good spots are Parliament Hill, in Hampstead, and Alexandra Palace, in Muswell Hill.

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    Primrose Hill is pretty central, and the view from the top of Greenwich park is also very nice. They look at different bits of London though. – Marianne013 May 20 '16 at 10:07
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    +1, don't forget to add Telegraph Hill, which has a clear line to Yorkshire. So named for this distinction. – Gayot Fow May 20 '16 at 10:33
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    Telegraph Hill is only 50m high, which by my calculations gives it a view of 25km to the horizon. You won't even be able to see the Northhampton lift tower, let alone Yorkshire. – pjc50 May 20 '16 at 13:04
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    @pjc50 Yeah, to see 127 miles (which seems to be the distance from Telegraph Hill to the Southernmost tip of Yorkshire, judging from Google Maps,) you'd need an altitude of around 10,000 ft (around 3,000 m.) Of course, this is assuming you're looking at something which has the same altitude as London. If there's some high mountain peak in Yorkshire, you might be able to see that. You could probably also see an airliner flying over Yorkshire. :) – reirab May 20 '16 at 16:29
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    @alephzero: yeah, so by definition (no intervening higher ground) you have a clear line to Everest from the same spot. Or indeed from any spot :-) It just shouldn't be taken to mean you can see it. – Steve Jessop May 21 '16 at 11:52

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