We had a bit of a private joke going on between us and our friends as we had been spending a number of weekends in central London and both Mo and I had never come across the Shard against the London skyline. We were beginning to think the tallest building in London didn’t exist. So we were really excited when we were given the gift of an afternoon experience to go to the top followed by afternoon tea at a nearby hotel.
The gift voucher was from Buyagift.com so we had to book our dates and time slots in advance. Once that was sorted, Mo and I waited for one of the Virgin train seat sales (highly recommend, but you need to get in there early) and booked day trip return tickets from Manchester to London Euston at the bargain price of £19 return.
We got to London early, so we decided to go to the V and A museum and have a browse beforehand, which resulted in us losing track of time and being late for our slot to the Shard. We sped through tube stations and eventually got there half an hour later than we should have. It was a Saturday and the queues were HUGE. As we had booked a time slot we were able to avoid the queue and go straight in to the ticket desk. We were nervous as all the screens were flashing with the word ‘full’ and we weren’t sure how sympathetic they would be at us having showed up late. Luckily the lady at the ticket desk was understanding and helpful and we were heading to the lifts in no time at all.
The lift ride itself is quite exciting, the visual screens on the ceiling are really creative and kept me entertained and distracted from my vertigo issues. When you get to the top the views are incredible. It’s always nice to be in a high rise and look out over a city, but with London having so many iconic buildings in such different styles, I think the views from the Shard are really exciting whichever window you choose to look out from. Aside from the view, there’s not much else to do there. There is a bar and a number of gift shops, but as expected they are quite overpriced (small bottle of water £3!?!) We got our usual key ring souvenir and I picked up my postcard (both expensive) before we headed off to enjoy our afternoon tea.
Usually the afternoon tea would have been hosted by the Hilton, but the hotel was under renovation at the time so we were booked in at the Novotel down the road. A short walk from the Shard, I wasn’t expecting much as I’ve not had any experience with Novotel hotels but Mo and I were both pleasantly surprised. The hotel was lovely we went straight through to the restaurant and we were seated straight away. Waiting staff were all really nice and helpful and were happy to substitute the (non halaal) meat sandwiches with others that we requested.
Tea was served promptly; it was delicious and incredibly filling. Whilst it wouldn’t have been our first choice of places to go for Afternoon tea, we would definitely consider staying at this hotel in the future as the customer service, quality and the location were all great.
The Shard isn’t really one of those places you keep going back to, however this summer the Shangri La opened its doors on the upper levels of the building, boasting a great restaurant, bar and an infinity pool with a view. Now that I would probably return for!
The whole experience was approximately 3 hours for us, and that included spending some time casually walking around outside by the Thames (the weather was beautiful), I wouldn’t have thought you need any longer than that. Main tip of the trip, make sure you book your tickets in advance, those queues did not look like fun! When time is of the essence, why waste it unnecessarily.