London has some amazing attractions that give you some spectacular views of the city skyline but I for one don’t always believe that you have to pay to get what you want. This is my guide to seven of the best places in London to see the city skyline for free.
1. Greenwich Park
My first free viewing point is in a lovely part of the city, Greenwich. Take the path in Greenwich Park up to the Royal Observatory and you’ll be rewarded with the most incredible view. St Paul’s Cathedral, the BT Tower, the Gherkin, Canary Wharf and the O2 Arena are all there to see. While you’re there don’t forget to find the Prime Meridian and stand in both the eastern and western hemisphere’s – you don’t have to pay to enter the Royal Observatory to do this as the metal marker can be seen just outside of it. Greenwich is also a wonderful place to spend some time exploring with its many other historical buildings and its famous market.
Best way to get there: DLR to Cutty Sark station.
2. Hampstead Heath
My second free viewing point is Parliament Hill on the beautiful Hampstead Heath. Once at the top of the hill you can see for miles across London with views of the City to the east and the Shard, the London Eye and the Houses of Parliament to the west, although this view has been slightly obscured by newer buildings. The area once known as Traitor’s Hill acquired its current name during the Civil War in the 17th century as it was defended by troops loyal to the English Parliament. It is also rumoured to be the spot from which Guy Fawkes and Robert Catesby planned to watch the destruction of Parliament in the Gunpowder Plot on November 5th, 1605.
Best way to get there: Overground train to either Hampstead Heath or Gospel Oak.
3. One New Change
My third free viewing point gives wonderful views of the City of London and one of the best views of St Paul’s Cathedral without paying. One New Change is actually a shopping centre but it has a fantastic roof terrace that’s open to the public with some amazing close up views of St Paul’s. If you fancy a break there’s a great restaurant and bar up there where you could enjoy a drink whilst admiring the view.
Best way to get there: St Paul’s Underground station (Central Line).
4. Primrose Hill
My fourth free viewing point is Primrose Hill, it is part of Regents Park and offers what many believe to be the best view of London. When you reach the summit almost 63 meters above sea level you’ll see why its spectacular view is protected with the London skyline laid out in front of you. When you’ve finished admiring the view you can either walk in to Primrose Hill itself where you’ll find numerous trendy cafe’s, bars, shops and restaurants or walk back down to the canal and walk the tow path along to the ever popular Camden Lock.
Best way to get there: St John’s Wood Underground station (Jubilee Line).
5. Oxo Tower
My fifth free viewing point is the public viewing terrace in the Oxo Tower building on the South Bank of the Thames. The terrace is on the 8th floor of the building and sits between the two Harvey Nichols restaurants that occupy the rest of the floor. The terrace itself is quite small but is completely free and offers some fantastic views up and down the river and across to the City and St Paul’s Cathedral.
Best way to get there: Blackfriars Underground station (Circle & District Lines / Mainline Rail)
6. The Sky Garden at 20 Fenchurch Street
My sixth free viewing point is in my opinion the most amazing one on my list. 20 Fenchurch Street also known as the Walkie Talkie because of its shape is a newish skyscraper in the City. Its viewing area called the Sky Garden sits on the 35th floor of the building and offers 360 degree views across London. Its been built over three floors and has landscaped gardens, observation decks and an outdoor terrace. Iconic attractions like the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, St Paul’s Cathedral, the London Eye and the Shard can all be seen clearly from here. To visit tickets must be booked in advance from the Sky Garden website but they are completely free. Read my post on the Sky Garden to get more detailed information and see more pictures.
Best way to get there: Monument Underground station (District & Circle Lines).
7. Tate Modern
My seventh and final free viewing point is the new Switch House viewing terrace at the Tate Modern on the South Bank. Offering 360 degree views of the London skyline this new addition os often busy but is well worth the wait to get up there. As well as some amazing views up and down the river you can also see as far as Canary Wharf and Wembley Stadium. When you’re done with the view why not enjoy some of the free artwork on offer in the Tate Modern or finish up with a walk along the South Bank.
Best way to get there: Southwark Underground station (Jubilee Line).
Well that’s it, that’s my 7 best free views of London, I hope you enjoy them. Let me know if you have any other suggestions, I’d be really happy to hear from you.