CK Travels

16 best views in London – top spots for panoramic views

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From Royal Parks to rooftop bars, London has an incredible choice of perfect panoramas and charming views – we’ve lived in and around London for most of our lives so after many weekends of exploring the capital, this is our list of all the best views in London. 

As you’d expect, some of London’s best views are free whilst others require an admission fee or a food / drink purchase – either way, you are spoilt for choice so the time to explore London’s best lookouts is now:

Best views in London

1. Sky Garden (Free)

London’s highest public garden sits on top of the ‘Walkie Talkie’ building (the nickname derived from its unusual external shape). The Sky Garden is free to visit but you must book at least a couple of weeks in advance – honestly, it is easier to get an invite to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen than get a free admission ticket (don’t even think about turning up without a ticket or reservation).

Things to do in the Square Mile London

At the top, enjoy ‘lush’ views of both the garden and London plus enjoy some time in the Skypod bar and cafe. Read more in our Sky Garden guide >

CK Travels Tip – if you missed out on tickets you can guarantee admission by making a booking for their Fenchurch Restaurant or City Garden Bar.

FURTHER READING – Things to do in the Square Mile City of London >

2. Frank’s Cafe, Peckham (Free)

Although a car-park roof in Peckham may not sound like the most salubrious of places, Frank’s Cafe is a hip hangout and incredibly busy at the weekend – perfect for an alfresco summer’s evening. Frank’s Cafe has changed a lot over the years (it first opened in 2009 as a wooden shack) and has various rooftop sculptures. Admission is free but best to buy a drink from the bar and enjoy the view. Nearby Bussey Rooftop Bar also has great views.

CK Travels Tip – pack your sunglasses; the walk up the shocking pink staircase in the lower level carpark up to the rooftop is always a bright delight.

Frank’s Cafe
Frank’s Cafe
Bussey Rooftop Bar

3. Primrose Hill (Free)

We start our list of London’s best views with the vantage point on top of Primrose Hill Park, around a 10 minute walk away from Camden High Street. Offering incredible panoramic views over Regent’s Park (including London Zoo) and possibly the widest, free, unspoilt views of downtown London anywhere in the city, this is one to relish and make an afternoon of.

CK Travels Tip – pack your picnic blanket and Pimms and enjoy Primrose Hill’s downtown vistas; the best place to get supplies is nearby Regent’s Park Road.

Things to do in Camden Town, North London

4. Greenwich Park and Observatory (Free)

Gorgeous Greenwich is always one of our favourite riverside spots to visit, and also provides South East London’s best vantage point. One of the most popular spots on this list, Greenwich Park proffers unspoilt views of historic Greenwich and the River Thames, alongside the shiny and modern metropolis that is Canary Wharf and Greenwich Peninsula. One of London’s Royal Parks that has oodles of green space, you can also combine your trip with a visit to the Royal Observatory which is located immediately next to the main Greenwich Park viewpoint or nearby Blackheath.

CK Travels Tip – Fancy a picnic? Grab gourmet gems on your way to the park from either Greenwich Market or the M&S Food hall, which is handily located right next to the main Greenwich DLR station.

FURTHER READINGTop things to do in Greenwich >

Top things to do in Greenwich, London | travel guide

5. Parliament Hill, Hampstead (Free)

High up in Hampstead, Parliament Hill is home to one of London’s most iconic views, enjoyed by locals, joggers and day trippers alike. On sunny and clear days, you can see for miles and make out all the main attractions including the Shard and the Gherkin. Parliament Hill is popular too with kite-flyers which often make for a delightful distraction.

CK Travels Tip – There are several benches at the top to make the most of the view and the whole Hampstead area has heaps going on, including historic pubs such as the Holly Bush, good shopping and also alfresco swimming at Hampstead bathing ponds.

6. The London Eye

Originally intended to be a temporary attraction that ushered in the year 2000 (why it is also known as the ‘Millenium Wheel’), this is now one of London’s most popular attractions and Europe’s largest observation deck wheel  – as you’d expect, the views from the top are terrific (there are 32 observation pods in total, particularly of the Houses of Parliament and the River Thames).  The rotation lasts 30 minutes and they sometimes do special events in the capsules like yoga sessions, pop-up pubs or comedy sets.

CK Travels Tip – book your timed London Eye tickets in advance to save having to queue for tickets – you’ll still encounter a queue to get on but it will save you a lot of time overall.

Book a London Eye ticket with GetYourGuide >

7. Alexandra Palace (Free)

Opened in 1873 and now a Grade II listed building that also plays hosts to various concerts and sporting events, Alexandra Park is situated on top of a hill in North London between Wood Green and Muswell Hill (this is also the reason why it is known as the ‘birthplace of television’ as the BBC used to broadcast from here using the massive transmitters). As well as a boating lake and museum, one of the best free things to do in Alexandra Palace is simply look back at the views over London – it is the highest point as you look back towards the city so you feel on top of the world!.

CK Travels Tip – Try and combine your visit with the weekly Alexandra Park farmer’s market, held every Sunday.

8. Monument

A world away from modern and sleek nearby Sky Garden, the Monument to the Great Fire of London (which started in nearby Pudding Lane) was finished in 1677, to commemorate the rebuilding of the city.

Designed by Sir Christopher Wren, you can climb the 311 steps all the way to the top to see views of London and the Thames – space is quite limited though so if you aren’t a big fan of heights, this may be one to avoid.

CK Travels Tip – if you are in London as a tourist, you can save money by buying a combined Monument / Tower Bridge Exhibition admission ticket; although if you only want to see the Monument views, tickets are quite cheap at £4.50 per person, as at June 2020.

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9. View of St Paul’s Cathedral from One New Change Shopping Centre (Free)

Bear with us – we know you can witness world class London views from St Paul’s itself but the admission fee is quite steep (£20+) and your vista doesn’t actually include the architectural magnificence of the building itself. So a cheaper (i.e. free alternative) is to head next door to nearby One New Change Shopping Centre and get a lift to the top floor, to enjoy the dedicated viewing platform where you can see all of St Paul’s Cathedral up close from the rooftop.

CK Travels Tip – Don’t be put off by the security guards that sometimes man the lifts or greet you as you exit on the top floor – they are just there to manage the bar patrons at Madison rooftop bar and restaurant.

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10. Tate Modern (Tate Modern Terrace Bar or Blavatnik Building)

Located in an old power station, Tate Modern has transformed into a world-class modern art museum with an ever growing number of permanent galleries and temporary exhibitions. It is free to get in, but some of the exhibitions do charge entrance fees unless you are a Tate Member (the large scale installations in the entrance hall are usually incredible and free to visit).

Check out the upper balconies for stunning riverside views of London  – the Terrace Bar is one of our favourites (with reasonably priced beer and wine – bonus!). Head on up to the top floor of the Tate’s new Blavatnik Building for panoramic views of Southbank and Southwark.

CK Travels Tip – make a night of it and watch the sunset over the Thames whilst in the Tate Modern Terrace bar – they also often have special nights such as tap takeovers whereby breweries showcase their best beers and offer tastings.

11. Netil 360 Rooftop (Free)

Located near to London Fields and Broadway Market is a low key rooftop bar, where you see everyone from Hackney hipsters through to city types and old men reading newspapers with their dogs (which we like!). After grabbing a drink or bite to eat at the bar, head out to the rooftop and grab a chair or beanbag and enjoy the city views. One of London’s original rooftop spaces, make this part of your next East London itinerary.

CK Travels Tip – the rooftop isn’t as big as say Frank’s Cafe in Peckham so if you want to guarantee a seat outside, get there early.

12. The Emirates Air Line

East London’s most eccentric mode of transport, the Emirates Air Line is a cable-car affair that opened to much fanfare in 2010, ready for the 2012 London Olympics, as a way to get to and from the Royal Docks / Greenwich Peninsula over the River Thames.

Things to do in East London - travel guide

As you’d expect, the views are nice (especially off the Millenium Dome / O2  arena) but compared to other cable cars of the world (say in Langkawi or Queenstown), the viewpoints are nothing special – after the initial flurry of curious and inquisitive locals, the Emirates Air Line never really ‘‘took off” (pun intended) and seems to be a bit of a quirk in the capital. Still, if you are in the area and fancy a novel form of London transport, this will be the cheapest Emirates ‘flight’ you’ll ever encounter.

CK Travels Tip – use your TFL Oyster card to get reduced fares – if you are only in London as a visitor, it is still worth investing an Oyster card as you’ll save lots of money on transport fares in the long run.

Things to do in East London - travel guide

13. Shard (Aqua Shard / Oblix / Viewing Gallery)

No trip to London is complete without visiting The Shard, the UK’s tallest building and visible practically from most of the London viewpoints already listed in this blog (meaning locals either love it or loathe it – there is no halfway measure).

Things to do in London Bridge | Aquashard in the Shard
Aqua Shard

There are several ways to visit including the viewing gallery at the top (expensive though), or a special night event such as a Silent Disco. On our last visit to the Shard we decided to save ourselves the hefty viewing gallery admission fee and went for a drink in Aqua Shard, located on the 32nd floor. We hadn’t booked in advance, but luckily managed to locate a free table near to the bar (but not directly next to a window).

CK Travels Tip – book your Shard admission tickets in advance to save money and skip the line (or just head to one of the bars like we mentioned before, without booking).

Book a Hop-on Hop-off Cruise and The View from the Shard Entry >

Oblix restaurant
View from the Shard

14. The Gherkin (Iris / Helix / Searcys)

At the top of the Gherkin, 34 floors up, you’ll find a rather spectacular Iris rooftop bar (with stunning views of the city of London and the best vantage point in the whole of the Gherkin). We made a morning of it and went for Sunday brunch at the top – read our review with more pictures of the Gherkin view >

CK Travels Tip – head straight to the Iris Bar and try to time your tipple with the sunset light. You’re welcome!

Sunday Brunch at the Gherkin, London - a review and photos

15. Horniman Museum and Gardens

A 120 year old park comprising a fantastic, free museum with over 350,000 objects and beautiful gardens. It also offers one of the best views of London south of the river Thames, complete with a bandstand as a scenic backdrop, or just take in the views from the nearby cafe.

16. Waterlow Park, Highgate

High on the hill in Highgate is Waterlow Park, gateway to Highgate Cemetery and also Lauderdale House, an arts centre and former residence since the 1580s. This 26 acre park truly is one of North London’s hidden gems, with a wonderful walled garden, a large sundial (which many of the cafe patrons congregate around) plus the incredible view below, enjoyed by locals and picnickers – and unlike say Primrose Hill, it never gets too busy so you aren’t left fighting for space.

Check out our other London blog posts

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Best views in London

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