Looking Down on London


London is a large but distinctive city so there is much to be gained by viewing it from above. The ideas on this page are grouped into three categories: freeview, reasonably priced and expensive. All the places listed are generally open to the public. There are lots of others available if you have friends in high places (excuse pun!). Unfortunately threats of terrorism closed many venues. If you know of any good vantage points I haven't included I would be interested to hear about them. Please use my Guestbook.

Tip: when visiting 'lookouts' you will probably want to take your camera and binoculars are useful.
If you are not familiar with London it is helpful to have a map of the area you are viewing.


The OXO TOWER has viewing galleries on the 8th floor (accessed by lift). [website]

There is a public terrace (also a restaurant) on the 6th floor of One New Change shopping centre with views over the city and across to St Paul's Cathedral. [webpage]

The SKY GARDEN at 20 Fenchurch Street is a unique public space that spans three storeys and offers 360 views across the City. Visitors can wander around landscaped gardens, observation decks and an open air terrace. Timed slots must be pre-booked. These are limited to one hour and require security checks. There are also various restaurants which are open to the public. [website]

There are good views from the upper floors of TATE MODERN especially the new Switch House which is open daily with late nights (until 10pm) on Fridays and Saturdays. Tel 020 7887 8008. [website]

Look down on Covent Garden from the upper terrace of the Royal Opera House (also gives a view of the costume making workshops). Open to the public 10am - 3:30pm Monday - Saturday. Tel 020 7304 4000. Check opening. [website]

London can be viewed from vantage points away from the centre. To the south try Point Hill in SE3 and One Tree Hill & Wolfe's statue (by the Observatory) in Greenwich Park. To the north try Alexandra Palace, Primrose Hill or Hampstead & Highgate. To view Docklands climb Stave Hill (an artificial mound with steps) at Surrey Docks.

View the OLYMPIC PARK from the John Lewis store in Westfield shopping centre at Stratford. [webpage]

The MUSEUM IN DOCKLANDS has the Rhinebeck Panorama - an 80' long watercolour showing London from above in the early years of the 19th century. [website]

Google maps enable you to view London from above and as street view [website]

Panoramas of the city (including as seen from The Shard) [website]


One of London's most popular attractions is the LONDON EYE. Glass capsules on the 450' high wheel rotate slowly to give splendid views. Tickets are bookable but you chance the weather or turn up on a clear day. Open daily but closed for maintenance in January. Tel 0870 500 0600. [website]

The MONUMENT (202') has a viewing gallery, enclosed after it became popular with suicides, but you have to climb 311 steps to reach it! Open daily. Tel 020 7626 2717. There is a webcam both on site and online. [website]

WESTMINSTER CATHEDRAL however has a lift to its 284' bell tower. Open daily. [website]

The Golden Gallery of ST PAUL'S CATHEDRAL overlooks the city and is included in the Cathedral admission. Tel 020 7246 8348. [website]

The walkways of TOWER BRIDGE give views up and down stream and are included in admission. Open daily. Tel 0845 166 4377. [website]

WELLINGTON ARCH, in the care of English Heritage (check opening times) has a 82' high viewing platform. Admission charge for non-members. Tel 020 7930 2726. [website]

Travel on the upper deck of a bus or ride the Docklands Light Railway to look down on the streets/docklands. Check out the Transport for London website for details.

Cross the Thames on the Emirates cable car between North Greenwich (Jubliee) and Royal Victoria (DLR). Ten minute journey time. Fare payable. [website]


Take the lift up the 80m ArcelorMittal ORBIT at QE Olymic Park to view the park and beyond from a 360 viewing platform. Interactive screens provide information. Descend through Anish Kapoor's sculpture via 455 steps or re-use the lift. There is also the option of going down the slide! Additional charge for this. [website]

For armchair study Jason Hawkes has produced
a number of books featuring aerial photos of London.

London From the Air
London 360 degrees
London Landmarks From the Air
Over London: a century of change

Check out the Amazon website for details


Dine in one of the elevated restaurants

TOWER 42 (former Nat West Tower) has a champagne bar [website]
The OXO TOWER has a Harvey Nichols restaurant [
NO 1 POULTRY offers French cooking at Coq D' Argent [

The View From the Shard near London Bridge is open daily to visitors [website] but even the reduced online price is 25.95 per adult. There is a 360 panorama online [webpage]. Note: the restaurants on floors 30-32 will take a cover charge on arrival (redeemable against food purchased) to stop free viewing!

Take a helicopter flight over London [website]

london-footprints.co.uk 2016