You can get impressive views of London from many places, and many of them are actually free.
London is an incredibly photogenic city; the kind of place where you just turn around a corner and find yourself gasping for the incredible view that spans out in front of your eyes. Whether you are a professional photographer or just an amateur or simply a tourist that loves a good view, this is a city that won’t disappoint.
Just make sure to always carry a camera when wandering around or else you’ll regret not being able to capture such breathtaking views.
This post highlights the best viewpoints in London, suggesting their exact location, whether there is an entry fee to pay and suggesting the best time to go for the best photo opportunities.
Where To Get The Most Breathtaking Views Of London
ACROSS THE BRIDGE FROM THE TOWER OF LONDON
Let me start this list of places to visit to get the most amazing views of the city with one that is 1) 100% free to visit and 2) my absolute favorite: the South Bank. I think I mention this place in pretty much all my London posts. So much I like it that this usually is the first place I go for a walk whenever I am in town. It’s a fantastic place to go on any sunny day – whether in the summer or in the winter. When the weather is good, pubs and cafés will have the tables outside so you can enjoy the views with a drink at hand.
For the best views just go on the other side of the Tower Bridge from the Tower of London, and from there you will obviously be able to see the Tower of London and the nearby shiny modern buildings. You will love it because it will give you a good idea of how eclectic London can be.
This is a view you can enjoy at any time of day. I personally love it in the early and late afternoon – right around sunset time.
32 LONDON BRIDGE STREET
There is no doubt that among the best, 360 degrees views of the city there are those from the Shard – in fact, I quite like the view of the Shard too. This skyscraper is now one of the most iconic buildings in town. The Shard was completed in 2012 and the viewing deck, which is located on the 59th floor, opened in 2013.
The Shard is open every day from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm in the summer time, and from 10:00 to 7:00 pm Sunday to Wednesday and from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm Thursday to Saturday in the winter time. You will need to book your tickets to get to the viewing deck in advance from the official website or here (the price is the same).
32 LONDON BRIDGE STREET
If you are looking for a place to have dinner and to get incredible London views, book a table at Aqua Shard. As you can gather from the name, this restaurant is located inside the Shard – at the 31st floor to be precise.
During the day, views span from London Eye to Tower Bridge. At night, the city will appear completely illuminated. Mind you – the view has a price so this is not a place to go if you expect a cheap meal!
ACROSS THE RIVER FROM THE HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT
I first went up the London Eye at the end of 2010 and quickly decided that this is my favorite attraction in London. Honestly, the views from up there are just out of this world – the Houses of Parliament and the Big Ben are in full sight, but you can also see the area of St. Paul.
The opening times of London Eye vary depending on the season. The usual opening time is 10:00 am and it closes between 6:00 and 8:30 pm. You will need to get skip the line tickets for this attraction. Get them here.
For incredible and completely free views, go to Primrose Hill. It’s on the other side of Regent’s Park across Prince Albert Road and the London Zoo. Londoners like to keep this place a secret so that they can enjoy it without the tourist crowds – but I thought I should spill the secret. If you go on a very clear day, you can see all the way to the Shard and even the London Eye.
TOWER BRIDGE ROAD
For stunning and unique views, head to Tower Bridge and visit Tower Bridge exhibit, so you can walk across the glass walkway.
Tower Bridge Exhibit is open every day from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm. You can get tickets here.
Le Pont de la Tour
36D SHAD THAMES
This restaurant offers incredible views of Tower Bridge from its fabulous terrace. It’s a brasserie style restaurant – so expect French style food. Oh, by the way: it ain’t cheap.
20 FENCHURCH STREET
For incredible and completely free views of London head to the Sky Garden. This attraction, at a short distance from the Tower of London, is one of the newest in town and – since visits must be booked in advance – is never crowded. For the best views opt to go at sunset – you don’t need reservations if you plan to visit after 6:00 pm, but keep in mind that there is a strict dress code so you need to look somewhat fancy.
For an even better experience, you may want to grab a drink at the bar. Keep in mind that it is not cheap!
The Sky Garden is Mondays to Fridays from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm; Saturdays from 11:00 am to 10:00 pm and Sundays from 11:00 am to 9:00 pm. Book a time slot here, unless you plan to go after 6:00 pm.
20 FENCHURCH STREET
In case you can’t get reservations to get inside the Sky Garden, opt for plan B and book yourself a table at Darwin Brasserie – the restaurant inside. The views from there are stunning (they are the same you get from the Sky Garden after all) and it is easier to get a table than to get inside the attraction. One word of warning though: it’s expensive. So here’s a tip: if you are keen on admiring London views from the Sky Garden plan it well in advance.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
ST. PAUL’S CHURCHYARD
St. Paul’s Cathedral is one of the most popular attractions in London. Together with the church – which was destroyed by the Great London Fire in 1666 and soon rebuilt – you can visit the crypt and the dome. That’s where you need to go for beautiful London views.
St. Paul’s Cathedral is open Mondays to Saturdays from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. Admission is £17 British Pounds (little over $21 USD) with that you also get an audioguide. Get your tickets in advance here.
OXO TOWER WHARF, BARGE HOUSE STREET
If you want food with a side of London views, this is one of the best places to go in town. You will get stunning views of St. Paul’s and more. Oh and in case you are wondering, it is not cheap. But not nearly as expensive as the other restaurants mentioned in this post.
If you want some really unique views of London (think about areas that most don’t explore) go to the O2 for views of Canary Wharf.
The O2 is open daily from 9:00 am to 1:00 am. You can get tickets here.
Emirates Air Line
EMIRATES CABLE CAR TERMINA, EDMUND HALLEY WAY
Not far from the O2 there is cable car that crosses the river and from where you can get really great views. If you have an Oyster Card (London transportation card) it is even cheaper than usual to ride.
A ride costs £3.50 for Oyster Card holders. The cable car opening time vary with season and day of the week – opening between 7:00 and 9:00 am and closing between 9:00 and 11:00 pm.
QUEEN ELIZABETH OLYMPIC PARK, 3 THORNTON STREET
The ArcelorMittal is a statue that was created for London 2012 Olympics. You can get incredible views of London from the East End. The statue honestly is less than pretty to look at – but when you actually are on it, the views are great (and you don’t get to see it). You can even slide down from it – which surely is a plus.
The ArcelorMittal Orbit is open Mondays to Fridays from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm; Saturdays from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm and Sundays from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. You can get tickets here.
Duck and Waffle
HERON TOWER, 110 BISHOPSGATE
There are many reasons you should enjoy a meal at this restaurants. First of all, food is actually very good. Secondly, by London standards, it is not that expensive. Thirdly, as it is located on the 40th floor of the Heron Tower, you get impressive views of London (and especially of the Gerkin). Finally, it is open 24/7 – which means you can get sunset or sunrise views just as easily.
Make sure to check out my other posts about London:
- How To Make The Most Of London In A Day
- 15 Amazing Day Trips From Paris
- The Best 5 Days London Itinerary
- An Easy To Follow Itinerary For 4 Days London
- A Perfect Itinerary To See London In 3 Days
- How To See London In 2 Days
- 15 Great Day Trips From London
- How To Get Tower Of London Tickets
- 5 Easy Ways Of Getting London Dungeon Tickets
- 7 Easy Ways Of Getting London Eye Tickets
- How To Get Madame Tussauds London Tickets And Skip The Lines
- Where To Stay In London: The Best Areas And Hotels
- The 20 Best Museums In London