Visiting the Shard with kids is high up on the list of many families coming to London. But is it worth it? The Shard experience, or “The View from The Shard”, the official viewpoint name, is the highest viewing platform in London. Visitors can see London’s mesmerizing full circle of views reaching up to 40 miles from The Shard’s observatories on Floor 68, Floor 69, and Floor 72. It is 840 feet tall, making it twice the height of any other viewing platform in London.
What should kids expect at the Shard?
On a clear day, nothing much beats The View from The Shard. However, foggy weather is quite common in London, especially in the morning, so don’t forget to check the weather forecast before you go. Also, even though the reflecting glass panels enhance the view of the city during the day, these may make taking photos a little tricky.
Because of the illuminated skyline, the view from the Shard at night is quite different. Buildings such as Tower Bridge and the London Eye have lighting effects that visitors can only see at night. However, iconic structures in the vicinity may not be readily visible, making taking pictures difficult unless you have a good camera.
One activity that the kids will surely enjoy is The Slide which is The Shard’s virtual reality experience. Here, you can swoop and slide through the city’s skyline, reaching speeds of up to 100 mph past London’s iconic landmarks. The adrenaline-pumping 360-degree virtual reality experience is a multi-sensory adventure that appeals to children and adults. It will make you feel like you are sliding from the top of The Shard. The Slide is not included in the regular ticket price, and added fees apply.
Visit all three observatories at The Shard and participate in their activities to enjoy breathtaking views of London. It is highly recommended to use the “tell-scopes” as this is a beautiful way of seeing all London views throughout the eras, may it be the Victoria times, Georgian times or 21st century. This will take at least two to three hours. If you go during off-peak hours, you can skip the 30 to 45-minute wait and finish the experience in two hours. Allocate extra time if you plan to eat at one of the many excellent restaurants in the building.
There are more activities in The Shard during the holiday season. There will also be face painting, balloon modelling, and activities for the whole family to enjoy. It is the ideal way to kick start your Christmas holiday with the entire family at the highest viewing platform in London.
Because London Bridge and Tower Bridge are close to The Shard, some visitors add them to their itinerary.
Fun things for kids at the Shard
- The lift: Riding the lift to the top of the Shard can be a thrilling experience for kids, especially if they haven’t been in a skyscraper before. The elevator is one of the fastest in Europe, reaching the observation deck in just a matter of seconds. The ride itself can be exciting, with a video display showing the history of London’s skyline as you ascend.
- The view: Children will be amazed by the panoramic views of London from the Shard’s observation deck, The View. They can spot some of the city’s famous landmarks like the Tower Bridge, London Eye, St Paul’s Cathedral, and more.
- The Skydeck: The Shard’s open-air Skydeck on Level 72 provides visitors, including children, with an exhilarating experience that they won’t soon forget. The Skydeck is a platform that extends outside the building and allows visitors to feel as though they are standing on top of the city. The platform is enclosed by glass walls that protect visitors from the wind and weather, but still, allow for unobstructed views of the city.
- Interactive Displays: The View at the Shard has several interactive displays that kids can engage with. They can use touchscreens to zoom in on different parts of the city or explore the history of London’s skyline.
- Virtual Reality: For older children, The View offers a virtual reality experience that takes them on a journey above and beyond the Shard, exploring London’s history and culture.
- Sky-High Dining: Kids will enjoy dining at one of the Shard’s restaurants, which offer spectacular views of London. However, some restaurants may not be suitable for younger children.
- Special Events: The Shard occasionally hosts special events, such as seasonal activities or celebrations for major holidays. Be sure to check the events calendar to see what’s happening during your visit.
Is it worth it?
If you’re planning a trip to London with your family, you might be wondering if it’s worth the steep ticket price of £32 per person. Is it really worth spending £128 for a family of four to see London from above? Here are some pros and cons to help you decide.
- You’ll get to see London from a unique perspective, with a 360-degree panorama that covers up to 40 miles on a clear day. You’ll be able to spot landmarks like the Tower of London, Big Ben, London Bridge and Buckingham Palace, as well as the Thames and the surrounding countryside.
- You’ll most likely have a great experience that will make your trip memorable. The Shard is more than just a building, it’s an attraction in itself. You’ll enjoy the high-speed elevator ride that takes you to the top in less than 60 seconds, the interactive touchscreen telescopes that let you zoom in on different parts of the city, and the open-air skydeck on level 72 that lets you feel the breeze and hear the sounds of London.
- You’ll have to pay a lot of money for a view that might not be worth it. The Shard is expensive compared to other attractions in London, especially for families. For £128, you could visit several museums, galleries and theatres that offer more cultural and educational value. You could also take a ride on the London Eye, which is cheaper (£27 per person) and offers a similar view of the city.
- You’ll have to deal with crowds and queues. The Shard is very popular and can get busy during peak times, especially on weekends and holidays. You might have to wait in line to get your tickets, go through security, board the elevator and access the observation decks. You might also have to share the space with hundreds of other visitors, which can make it hard to enjoy the view and take good photos.
- You’ll have to depend on the weather. The Shard’s view is highly affected by the weather conditions, which can be unpredictable in London. If it’s cloudy, foggy or rainy, you might not see much at all, or miss out on some of the landmarks. The Shard has a weather guarantee that lets you come back for free within three months if you can’t see at least three of London’s top landmarks, but that might not be convenient for you if you’re only visiting for a short time.
Going up the Shard can be a great way to see London from a different angle, but it’s not for everyone. It depends on your budget, your preferences and your luck with the weather. If you’re looking for a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will wow you and your family, it might be worth splashing out on. But if you’re looking for a more affordable and diverse way to explore London’s culture and history, you might be better off spending your money elsewhere.
Cheaper alternatives to The Shard
So how does the Shard compare to other attractions that offer views of London? Here are two free alternatives:
- The Sky Garden: This is a public garden on the top three floors of the Walkie-Talkie building in the City of London. It has an indoor tropical forest, a terrace, and a bar and restaurant. You can enjoy views of the Thames, the Tower of London, St Paul’s Cathedral, and more. The best part is that entry is free, but you need to book online in advance.
- The Horizon 22: This is a new viewing gallery that will open in September 2023 at the top of One Bishopsgate Plaza, a mixed-use development in the City of London. It will be located on the 22nd floor, 105 meters (344 feet) high. It will have floor-to-ceiling windows, interactive exhibits, and a café. It will offer views of landmarks such as the Gherkin, the Cheesegrater, and the Shard itself. Free entry, but make sure to book well in advance.
As you can see, there are many options to see London from above. Depending on your budget, your preferences, and your availability, you might choose one over another. The Shard is certainly impressive, but it is also expensive and crowded. The Sky Garden and Horizon 22 are free, but it is also hard to get tickets and lower than the others.
So what do you think? Which one would you choose? Let us know in the comments!
Eat and Drink at the Shard
You can get amazing views of London from the iconic Shard while also enjoying great food and drinks, a relaxed ambience, and saving money. AquaShard, a luxurious bar and restaurant, is found on Level 31. The AquaShard Bar is only open for walk-ins and does not accept reservations.
Entry is limited due to space constraints. If you are visiting The Shard with children, please remember that children under 18 are not permitted in the bar after 6 pm, so the last entry time for children is 5 pm. Children are always welcome in the restaurant when accompanied by an adult.
Dress Code at The Shard
The Shard’s dress code is smart casual. Those wearing shorts, flip-flops, or sports shoes will be denied entry to Aqua Shard.
Best Time to Visit the Shard
The best time to visit The Shard is during the day when you can view London’s buildings and skyline and appreciate the beauty of the river Thames. You can also visit the observation deck at night to see the magical glitter of London’s lights.
Try visiting The Shard between 4 and 6 pm, when the viewing deck offers stunning views of the London skyline bathed in the colours of the setting sun. The Shard is crowded during these hours because most visitors prefer to arrive just before the sun sets and stay until the lights come on. It is best to go between 10 am and 2 pm for some quiet time with family and children.
Avoiding crowds on weekends and buying your tickets online is also preferable. Visiting The Shard will surely be a wonderful experience for adults and kids. You can expect to experience a hi-tech, multi-sensory journey with exhilarating wonderful views that stretch out across the city and beyond. Don’t miss the opportunity for an exciting experience, offering you and your family an unparalleled encounter with an incredible building and London’s creativity, history, and culture.
History of the Shard
The Shard is the tallest building in the United Kingdom and Western Europe. It is situated in Southwark, London. This skyscraper dominates the London skyline with its 95 floors and 11,000 glass panels. The total floor space of the building is around 11 hectares.
There are 306 flights of stairs and 44 lifts, including double-decker lifts. The average lift speed is 6 meters per second. Only 72 floors are habitable in the building, while the remaining 10 contain a power station and automatic radiators. This tower has 10 apartment floors, 27 floors of offices, three floors of restaurants, and 19 floors of hotel accommodation.
The Shard was designed by award-winning Italian architect Renzo Piano. It was conceived as a building with multiple uses, including a vertical city where people could live, work and relax. This building can be seen from 40 miles away, from the South Downs to the Thames Estuary. The construction of this building started in March 2009 and was completed on March 30, 2012. It was then inaugurated on July 5 of the same year by the Prime Minister of Qatar, Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani.
Approximately 95% of the materials used to construct the building are recycled. The irregular nature of the site influenced the first design of the Shard. It was designed to look like a sail. The building was also the setting for the Greenpeace protest in July 2013.