At coffee one day my friend spontaneously booked us both free tickets to the Sky Garden at the top of the famous Walkie Talkie building. You may have heard of it for melting cars in the summer, or perhaps this Fenchurch Street venue is now 100% about the cafe view.
155metres up, the views of London are panoramic and amazing, even when you get a cloudy day, and you can see everything from my sister’s workplace to Shakespeare’s Globe.
With free entry it really is priceless and goes to show you don’t need to pay to get a great view of the capital. Here’s how you can plan your own visit and everything you need to know about visiting the Walkie Talkie:
Booking your slot
As a popular place you need to book a few weeks in advance. The online booking system allocates you an hour’s slot. Seems stingy? The hour is just a guide for your arrival time; if you book for say 10-11am, you need to have queued, been through security and ridden the super fast elevator to the top in this timeframe. Once up in the cafe and gardens, how long you’re there is completely down to you.
We arrived bang on our allocated time, give or take 10 minutes as we walked along the Strand, where we queued for fifteen minutes. A bit like boarding at an airport you give your ticket to a member of staff and show your ID before going through security with your luggage. Don’t stress about this process, the staff are all lovely and they’ve made it really efficient.
Once past security, all in the open downstairs lobby, you briefly queue again to get into the lift. Large, well-lit and the fastest elevator I’ve ever been in, it’s a quick trip to the top! After maybe 40 seconds the doors then open to your left and you’re hit with that first glimpse of the cityscape.
The Sky Garden
Naturally, you rush to viewing deck which runs along the cafe to take in the city. You can quite literally see everything from up here and as you peer across to London Bridge and the Shard, you appreciate it’s all for free and more or less like for like to the Shard.
Here is where you’ll find most of the selfies being taken and you’ll probably get asked to take a couple of photos while you’re out there. Overall though, you can find moments of quiet on the balcony that are super relaxing if you catch a breeze.
When you pull yourself away, the garden part of the Sky Garden awaits inside. It’s very green with exotic, warm loving plants and fauna which gives the impression of being somewhere altogether tropical. Two staircases lead up either side of the garden, as well as routes through the plants and into little seating areas.
Doing a loop through here takes you all around the space, rewarding you with even more views as the entire building is glass. A few useful signs tell you exactly what you’re looking at and you feel very free to explore. We loved seeing an artist painting in watercolours in the garden; it’s a tranquil, creative place for the right person.
Once you’ve explored, I’d recommend spending some time just sat in the cafe with a coffee; the sweet treats looked great but as you’d expect, are overpriced. I sat with my friend for the best part of an hour chatting and taking in that lovely view. Something you’ll notice is how incredible the light is and how fresh and revived it can make you feel.
I visited floor 35 of the Walkie Talkie building in October but can guess it would be great viewing all year round. For a free venue in London, you can’t really go wrong and it’s just about doable in a lunch break if you work in the area and fancy something a little different mid-week.
Visit skygarden.london to book your free tickets. Just make sure you book in advance and check your travel route. London Bridge is the nearest train station and the best tube stops nearby are Monument or Tower Hill.