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, 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 the best time to go for the best photo opportunities.
26 Best Views 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. It’s right across the bridge from the Tower of London and I think I mention this place in pretty much all my London posts.
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.
Another great view of the Tower Bridge is actually from the water – the boat to Greenwich goes right under the bridge and the view is incredible.
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.
Keep in mind the bridge lifts several times a day to let the larger boats go through, so that may be another nice view to check out. You can see the schedule here.
From the Tower Bridge
The views of the Tower Bridge from the South Bank are impressive, but you can actually get fabulous London views from the bridge itself! To do this, you’ll have to climb the 42 meters (138 feet) North Tower of the bridge, and get on the walkway over the river before you cross to the South Tower and walk back down.
From the walkway, you can spot famous landmarks of London such as the the Tower of London nearby, London Bridge, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Gherkin (one of London’s most unique skyscrapers), and the Monument to the Great Fire of London.
Unfortunately, this is not a free attraction and you are actually better off booking tickets in advance as there can be quite a bit of a line at the ticket counter. You can get your tickets here.
The official website also sells tours to the Engine Rooms, in case you want to have a more complete experience.
On a cruise along the River Thames
I only did this once and to be fair it’s quite a touristy thing to do in London, but if you are all about the views this one is hard to beat!
A river cruise is a great vantage point to experience the city and admire its most famous landmarks. You’ll see (and go under) the Tower Bridge and London Bridge, the Tower of London, the Houses of Parliament and the Big Ben, the London Eye and so much more.
There are various kinds of cruises that depart on a regular basis – smaller boats, larger (and more comfortable) boats where you can also move around a bit in search of the best photo opportunity.
Cruises last anything between 45 minutes to 1.5 hours. With so many on offer, it’s just a matter of picking the best one for your budget. I have selected the best ones for you:
London: Westminster to Greenwich River Thames Cruise – the most budget friendly and also the most popular cruise along the river. It lasts up to two hours.
London: River Thames Hop-On Hop-Off Sightseeing Cruise – this is actually a great way of going around the city. You can get on and off at several places around town in the course of 24 hours.
London: Canary Wharf Speedboat Tour – if you prefer something a bit more fast paced this is an excellent option.
Le Pont de la Tour
If you are planning a romantic evening in London, or just enjoy restaurants with a stunning location, you’ll appreciate a meal at Le Pont de la Tour. This restaurant offers incredible views of Tower Bridge from its fabulous terrace.
It’s a brasserie style restaurant – so expect French style food. You should definitely book in advance, especially if you would like to sit on the terrace for a fabulous dine-with-a-view experience. Oh, by the way: it ain’t cheap.
Another classic – and beautiful – view of London is the one you get from Westminster Bridge, right outside the Houses of Parliament and the Big Ben.
For the longest time, the clock tower was being renovated so the view was a bit of a disappointment, but now it shines again in all its glory and since these are places that you should not miss during your time in London, make sure to take time and stop for a photo.
The only issue with Westminster Bridge is that it is crowded. If you are into photography, you may want to go really early in the morning (before sunrise) to avoid the crowds. Otherwise, it’s a matter of having to wait for someone to move to be able to snap a decent photo.
Make sure to look on both sides – cross the bridge once you are done admiring the Big Ben, as the views are pretty on the other side too. And go across the other side of the river for more photo opportunities.
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 the UK tallest building: 300 meters (1,000 feet) tall, with 72 floors it was designed by famous Italian architect Renzo Piano.
With its 11,000 glass panels, it 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. There now are viewing platforms also on the 66th and 69th floor, and a sky deck on the 72nd floor (yes, that’s the top floor), which is the highest viewing platform in Western Europe.
The views from the Shard are magnificent, to say the least. On a clear day you can see up to 60 km in the distance (that’s 37 miles). And as if the experience was not enough in and of itself, you can also enjoy a dining experience in one of the four restaurants inside – two of them are actual bars that don’t require reservations. More about the restaurant below!
The Shard is open every day but you will need to book your tickets well in advance to get to the viewing deck – it can get pretty busy, especially at the weekend. You have the option of getting them from the official website or here (the price is the same).
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 the 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!
I first went up the London Eye at the end of 2010 and quickly decided that this is my favorite attraction in London. The ride lasts about 30 minutes and it’s nice and slow, so you have plent of chances to take photos.
Honestly, the views from up there are just out of this world – the Houses of Parliament and the Big Ben are in full sight, you can see the Tower of London and Tower Bridge, the area of St. Paul and St. Paul’s Cathedral and on a clear day you can see as far as Windsor Castle.
The opening times of London Eye vary depending on the season. Make sure to check the official website for more information.
You will also need to get skip the line tickets for this attraction as it can get sold out and there may be a line at the ticket counter (when I visited last time the waiting time at the ticket counter was more than one hour!). You can get tickets on the official website.
Make sure to also read my post 7 Easy Ways Of Getting London Eye Tickets.
Hungerford and Golden Jubilee Bridges
These bridges are located in central London. Hungerford Bridge is also a railway bridge – it’s also known as Charing Cross Bridge; whereas Jubilee Bridge is strictly pedestrian. They are beautiful to see in and of themselves, but view from either bridge is actually stunning.
If you face South, you can see the London Eye, the Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and even Westminster Bridge. Oh, and they are completely free to access.
Mezemiso at the Hyatt Regency London Albert Embankment
I recently discovered this incredible rooftop bar in London as I attended a wedding party there – I was actually unsure about the location before getting there, but as soon as I caught a glimpse of the view from the terrace I know why my friends picked Mezemiso for their reception.
You will be able to see the Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Bridge, as well as Westminster Abbey and the River Thames. This is a restaurant / bar kind of place – the focus is on Lebanese and Japanese cuisine. Food is – needless to say – delicious; and there is an extensive drinks list and a shisha bar too.
As this is a fairly popular place, I recommend booking a table in advance. Getting there is super easy: take the Tube to Vauxhall and it’s a 10 minutes walk from there. Once you get to the Hyatt Regency hotel, the receptionists will point you towards the panoramic elevator that will whisk you to the rooftop bar in a matter of seconds.
For incredible and completely free views, go to Primrose Hill in North London. It’s on the other side of Regent’s Park across Prince Albert Road and the London Zoo, not far from Camden Town. Once used as a hunting ground by English monarchs, the hill is located at just 64 meters (210 feet) above sea level and offers a great panoramic spot in the city.
Plaques around the park will inform you of the many buildings you can see in the distance, which include the London Eye and the Shard.
Londoners like to keep this place a secret, but it’s actually quite crowded with locals, especially at weekend, since it’s a nice place for a picnic – so you may be better off going during the week. If you go on a very clear day, you can see all the way to the Shard and even the London Eye.
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.
The building isn’t the tallest in London – only 160 meters (525 feet) and 38 floors – but the experience there is unique. This is a sky-deck garden, beautifully kept, with a terrace and an observation deck.
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 availability may be limited so you may be better off going during the day and booking a time slot for your visit via the official website.
If you decide to go for sunset, beware there is a strict dress code so you need to look somewhat fancy. You can even grab a drink at the bar, but it’s not cheap.
In case you can’t get reservations to get inside the Sky Garden, or prefer going for sunset, 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.
The Garden at 120
Another beautiful rooftop garden that is free to access and from where you can get fabulous London views, the Garden at 120 is actually on the same street where you’ll find the Sky Garden (Fenchurch Street) – so you can see the area is actually a prime spot for panoramic views.
The Garden is located on the 15th floor, and it’s a beautiful green space from where you can see the Shard, the Tower Bridge, the Tower of London and more.
As I have said before, access is free. You can check out the opening hours on the official website.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
St. Paul’s Cathedral is one of the most popular attractions in London. To be fair, coming from Italy and being accustomed to the grandeur, art and lavishness of the Renaissance and Baroque churches of Rome, Florence and Venice, I never found Sir Christopher Wren’s masterpiece to be too impressive – it really is a matter of perspective. Either way, it is worth visiting.
Indeed 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.
The Dome is known as Golden Gallery and it’s 85 meters (almost 279 feet) tall, and getting all the way up means climbing 528 narrow steps, part of which on a spiral staircase (which I personally hate). But I promise you it’s worth it!
The views are marvelous. You can see the Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, Wren’s Monument to the Great Fire of London, the London Eye, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey and you can also spot the Shard and the Gherkin, London’s beloved skyscrapers.
St. Paul’s Cathedral closes daily at 4:30 pm so if you visit in the winter time and climb as late as it’s allowed, you may spot a bit of a sunset from up there. For up-to-date information on ticket prices and opening yours, make sure to visit the official website.
To visit the church, the crypt and the Dome make sure to get your tickets in advance here.
Monument to the Great Fire of London
Not far from St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Monument to the Great Fire of London (also simply known as The Monument) is a 62 meters (202 feet) column that commemorates the Great Fire of London that occurred in 1666 and that over the course of three days destroyed a large part of the city.
The monument, which sits in the exact spot where the fire started, was built between 1671 and 1677.
A viewing platform located at 49 meters (160 feet) and that you can reach via a narrow spiral staircase of 311 steps grants you gorgeous views of London, which include the Shard and the Tower Bridge.
The Monument is located about 10 minutes walk from the Tower of London – there’s actually a tube stop named after it (Monument). Tickets are sold directly at the door. For up-to-date opening hours, check the official site.
One New Change
Not many tourists know, especially as this isn’t traditionally an area where tourists would go shopping in London, but One New Change, a shopping mall close to St. Paul’s Cathedral, offers stunning views of the city from its terrace (it’s actually the way it advertises itself on its website!), where you’ll find several nice bars and restaurants too.
One of the most iconic photos, however, is that of St. Paul’s Cathedral framed by the glass windows of the building – that’s actually at the street level. In other words, you don’t even have to walk inside for that perfect shot!
Last time I was in London I actually walked all the way from the London Eye to Shoreditch, where I was meeting a friend from dinner. Yes, it was quite a walk but the views were incredible! I walked along the south bank until eventually I could spot St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Millennium Bridge in the distance, and that’s exactly where I needed to cross.
The views are stunning from the bridge – in particular, you can see St. Paul’s Cathedral, which appears in a quite impressive way! I happened to be there at night and it was quite a sight!
Walking across this pedestrian bridge is completely free, and you are bound to do it at some point if you visit the Tate Modern, as the bridge actually connects the City to the South Bank.
Speaking of the Tate Modern, did you know that not only this is one of the best museums in the city (and one of the most interesting art exhibits in the world), but also a great panoramic spot?
Indeed, from its rooftop terrace located on the 10th you can enjoy views of the City’s skyline, and in particular of St. Paul’s Cathedral. You’ll also spot the Millennium Bridge, which you may cross to get to the museum if you are coming from the side of the river, the Thames River and even the Shard.
Once you are on the terrace, if you look to your right you can see the Shard too. However, taking photos of this view is prohibited for privacy reasons as there are quite a few residential buildings in the way.
There actually are two more spots inside the museum from where you can get nice views, other than the 10th floor terrace. Once is the Members’ Bar, and the other is the gift shop located on the 3rd floor.
The museum is open daily and visiting is free.
You should also read my post The 20 Best Museums In London.
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. It’s not a cheap restaurant – so you if are traveling on a budget you’ll want to give this a pass.
But on the bright side, it is not nearly as expensive as the other restaurants mentioned in this post. Just make sure you book a table in advance.
If you want some really unique views of London (think about areas that most tourists never get to explore) go to the O2 Arena in Greenwich, a world famous entertainment venue – it regularly hosts concerts and shows and can fit a whopping 20,000 people.
It’s rounded rooftop can be climbed: you’ll be at a height of 52 meters (170 feet) above the ground and once up there you can go on the walkway to take in the views of Canary Wharf, Greenwich and the Olympic Park. On a clear day you can even see Tower Bridge.
The O2 is open daily and you can even go at sunset for more impressive views. You can’t go up the rooftop by yourself – a guide will be taking you. Children are allowed only from 8-years old up. You can book your experience – which lasts overall 1.5 hours – in advance here.
IFS Cloud Cable Car
Not far from the O2 there is cable car that crosses the river and from where you can get really great views. Once known as the Emirates Cable Car, the IFS Cloud Cable Car is more of a hidden gem kind of attraction – not close to any of the most famous places to visit in London.
But it’s worth the effort of getting there for the views. The best time to go is sunset: the views at that time of day are special!
From the Greenwich Peninsula, you’ll get on a cable car headed to the Royal Docks (these are the only two stations. From the cable car you can see the Thames River below, and the skyline of the city, including a sneak peak of the Quantum Cloud, Antony Gormley’s famous sculpture on The Line walk.
There are 30 gondola rides, and the ride (one way) lasts about 10 minutes so you don’t really have to book in advance. For information about opening hours and tickets (they are a bit cheaper online) make sure to check their official website.
You should also read my post 24 Best London Hidden Gems.
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: it’s known to be the world’s longest tunnel slide – which surely is a plus.
Duck and Waffle
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 Gherkin). Finally, it is open 24/7 – which means you can get sunset or sunrise views just as easily.
Speaking of the Gherkin, I accidentally stumbled upon this lovely London view on my most recent trip to London. I was simply walking along Commercial Street on my way to Aldgate East underground station and as I looked right I saw a small square (it’s actually Old Castle Street) that had the nicest views of London skyscrapers, including the iconic Gherkin. Bonus point as it was completely free!
The largest park in South East London, Greenwich Park is a great place to go for a wander, a picnic, and to get incredible views of London.
For the best views walk up to the statue of General Wolfe, right by the Royal Observatory. From the hill in the park you will be able to see London’s most iconic landmarks, including St. Paul’s Cathedral, London Eye and the Shard.
You’ll also be able to see other important landmarks of Greenwich – among them the Queen’s House, the Old Royal Naval College, the River and Canary Wharf.
To get to Greenwich Park, you have the option of taking the boat from Central London, of the DLR to Catty Sark and then a train to Greenwich. For up-to-date opening times (they change seasonally) make sure to visit the official website.
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
- How To Get Madame Tussauds London Tickets And Skip The Lines
- Where To Stay In London: The Best Areas And Hotels