If you are after the best free view of London that the city has to offer, then look no further than the Sky Garden. Offering stunning panoramas from the top of the “Walkie Talkie”, advance bookings are free but essential.
Lush ferns and greenery, 360 degree London city views, fancy cocktails and a selection of bars – sounds expensive right? Well, the cocktails aren’t cheap but the garden and the view from London’s Sky Garden are 100% free.
High above 20 Fenchurch Street from the arched windows of the iconic Walkie Talkie building, you can gaze across London’s famous skyline and some it’s other ridiculously* named buildings like The Shard, The Gherkin, and The Cheesegrater. Due to its amazing city centre location, most other famous London landmarks are also easily spottable including the beautiful Tower Bridge, Tower of London, London Eye, HMS Belfast, and St. Paul’s Cathedral.
*personally we think it’s awesome and that more buildings should be named after pickled vegetables and household objects
The Walkie Talkie as it’s affectionately known, officially named 20 Fenchurch St, was designed by Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly and endured it’s share of controversy when it first opened. This was the building responsible for directing concentrated sunbeams down to the street below, causing cars to melt and headline hunting journos to cook up some fried eggs on the street. Designed by Gillespies, the top level sky garden is intended to feel as though you’re wandering across a mountainside. The tiered botanical landscape definitely has this effect, cascading down three levels of enclosed greenery and bathed in sunlight (on a good day)!
Visiting Sky Garden London
A visit to the Sky Garden is free, but you have to be organised. Tickets are limited and are released only 3 weeks in advance, with weekend afternoons and evenings the first to disappear. There are some limited walk-in tickets in the mornings and after sunset, but they are subject to availability and considering how easy it is to book online it’s not worth the risk.
Arriving feels more like checking in at an airport, with all visitors required to show ID that matches the names on the booking. Group sizes are capped at 10 people and all visitors are required to go through security screening before shooting up in the elevator. The whole process is smooth and quick, but something to be aware of in advance.
In our opinion, the best time to visit Sky Garden is in the early to mid-afternoon.
It won’t be as busy as it will be for lunch and sunset but you’ll still have some nice afternoon light to appreciate the view over the Thames. Then you can explore the nearby London nightlife for a budget-friendly dinner and drinks (literally anywhere else and your cash will go a lot further!).
Sky Garden Bars and Restaurants
For most people, we wouldn’t recommend relying on eating at the restaurants at Sky Garden unless it’s for a special occasion. Whilst the food is probably top notch, this is some high-class dining and not exactly for budget travellers. Plus you actually get better views from the public areas than the eating places.
Instead, opt for one of the excellent cocktails from either the Sky Pod Bar or City Garden Bar then fight for a table near the viewing platform. Drinks are still expensive, but damn if it wasn’t bloody delicious and one of the top 5 cocktails we’ve ever had – considering tickets are free it was totally worth it. The bars and restaurants have various dress codes for different times of the day, so be sure to check the website before your visit to avoid disappointment.
The garden is lovely and lush, with offshoot paths and little private benches to sit and peer through the ferns and Birds of Paradise out onto the expansive windows at the view. Though it’s a far cry from the open public garden it was touted as, Sky Garden is still very much worth a visit for the views alone, and is a great addition to the iconic London skyline.
Just remember to add it to your trip diary and plan to book in advance for a great afternoon enjoying a cocktail or two in this sky-high oasis.
Getting to Sky Garden and Opening hours
London Sky Garden, 20 Fenchurch St, London EC3M 8AF
Entry to the Sky Garden is via Philpot Lane, where you’ll go through airport-style security before you’re whisked up an express elevator.
The public area is open Mon-Fri 10am – 6pm, Weekends 11am – 9pm.
The restaurants have longer opening hours, approx 7/8am – midnight/1am.
The two nearest tube stations are Bank (7-minute walk) and Monument (3-minute walk – worth taking an extra few minutes to appreciate it’s namesake, the Monument to the Great Fire of London).
There are regular National Rail services from nearby Fenchurch Street, Cannon Street, and London Bridge stations as well.
Due to its central location, Sky Garden is serviced by most major London bus routes. It’s best to check the TFL website for your up to date options.
Things to see nearby
Leadenhall Market – Beautiful covered market used in the Harry Potter films as part of Diagon Alley.
Monument to the Great Fire of London – Climbable column monument designed by Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke.
30 St. Mary Street (The Gherkin) – Walk around another iconic London skyscraper and an impressive example of modern architecture.
Did you find this post interesting? Here are some others you might like!