HOT London tip: visit the Shard for free

By Hannah Silverman

I’m very fortunate that I seem to have some fabulous travelling friends who occasionally like to drop by London Town and say G’Day (they are mostly Australian, after all). During said travel, at a certain point they also like to visit places much more exhilarating than my terrace (go figure). My go-to POI is The Shard, but not just because it’s Europe’s tallest building and flaunts the wow factor like nobody’s business. My reason is far less cliched and will delight all Champagne travellers on a beer budget.

I’ve visited The Shard more times than I have any other London icon – with the exception of Top Shop, naturally – and I’ve never paid for it. Excitingly, if you like cocktails, you don’t have to either. One of my favourite London tips is this: buy one cocktail, get the Shard view for free. And that sounds like a very happy hour to me.

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View from the Shard. Not bad, if like views and London and things.

So, how does she do it, you must be asking. You see the Shard has a rather fancy cocktail lounge, Oblix, located on the 32nd floor (that’s halfway up the mightly tower for the mathematians playing out there). If I’m dishonest, I’m so much of regular that all the bar staff know my name and my favourite settee is reserved with my name on it. Suffice to say, I kind of love this bar.

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Caution, when visiting during live music session I was asked to pay to use a seat, but standing was still free.

As you sip your drink perhaps the pianist is playing or some gentle tunes serenade the chatter around you as you enjoy an evening of London watching. Meanwhile the waitresses glide through the bar in floral Ted Baker dresses while the tailored cocktail makers chip through giant ice cubes to perfect a menu of cocktails. There isn’t a feeling of pretentiousness either. I’ve visited wearing a LBD and once, during a spontaneous stop over, in jeans and heels. Do me mindful of the dress code, I’ve had friends been turned away because they wore the wrong shoes. Besides, it’s much more fun to dress up, obviously. So with a cocktail in hand, there you are enjoying spectacular London views acoross the Tower of London, the Gerkin, Canary Wharf and beyond.

Totally wearing jeans, but hey, happy hour has definitely begun. That’s my best friend Sherree on the left there.

Ok, so there are a couple of obvious omissions. You don’t see Big Ben, St Paul’s or The Eye, but for a happy hour with a view, you can’t not delight in this option. I have travelled to the top of the Shard (it was for a silent disco, as you do) and this is absolutely magnificent. 360 degree views at night overlooking a glistening city is definitely a recommendation, but if you’re strapped for cash and would literally rather put your money where your mouth is, this is pretty special way to spend a classy afternoon.

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Cocktails start from around £10, so you’re also not paying through the roof – just practically looking through it.

It’s the ultimate welcome to London, and at the very least you’re inside Europe’s tallest building.

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