Get ready to be wowed at the best views in London. Whether you’re peeking at the skyline from a Royal Park or a secret viewing platform – here are the best spots to see the city’s skyscape.
London is a striking city – a glorious hodgepodge of centuries of architecture, punctuated by the meandering Thames and lots of green spaces.
But where do you go to see London at its very best? Scattered all over the city, these spots boast the best views in London.
Best Views in London
The views from the top of Greenwich Park are renowned for being some of the best in London – not least because they offer a different perspective to the viewpoints in central London.
First, there’s leafy Greenwich itself – the gorgeous buildings of the Queen’s House and the Old Royal Naval College from which you can catch a peep of the Thames.
Then there’s the glittering skyscrapers of Canary Wharf – between them you can look at centuries and centuries of London development and history in one view.
Richmond Park is one of the best parks in London. Full. Stop. It’s got deer, it’s got trees, it’s got nature trails aplenty – what more could you want?
Well, not many people know that if you find the right spot, it also offers some of the best free views in London – one vantage point is from Sawyer’s Hill where you can see Central London in all its splendour.
The second spot is King Henry’s Mound, reputed to be the very place where Henry VIII waited for a signal to show that the beheading of his second wife, Anne Boleyn, had been successful.
These days it offers much gentler pastimes, including the perfect tree-framed view of the London skyline.
Spread out to the north of the prim and proper Regent’s Park, Primrose Hill has a less manicured feel about it that, along with its views of central London, attracts people from all over the city.
The view sweeps south straight to central London, with much of the modern architecture that dominates the skyline today visible. From The Shard to the Walkie Talkie, and much more besides, this is a view to savour at least once.
Speaking of the Walkie Talkie, the stunning Sky Garden is housed at the top of the building – prime real estate for soaking up some pretty fantastic views of London, not to mention being one of the city’s most majestic spots.
Take a peek at the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf to the east and the meandering Thames leading to iconic attractions like the London Eye and Parliament in the West.
Want to beat the crowds? Go up to Sky Garden early in the morning when there’s barely anyone around and you’ll get the best of the view without having to jostle for position.
The Oxo Tower Viewing Platform
Many of central London’s viewing platforms are ridiculously expensive (cough * a view from the Shard*) – not so with the Oxo Tower’s viewing platform, which offers you gobsmacking Thameside views across St Paul’s Cathedral and the Square Mile for free.
Just head up to the terrace, where there’s an area the public can enter for free. Even better, it’s a bit of a hidden secret, so the chances are you will get it all to yourself.
It’s one of the most iconic panoramas in London – the rolling grasslands of Hampstead Heath Park provide the perfect foreground for the skyscrapers of the city beyond. If you’re unsure of the buildings you’re looking at, there’s a helpful plaque that matches the city’s skyline you can look at and work out which highlight is which.
The history of the Hill’s name is hotly contested – our favourite story is that Guy Fawkes’ buddies gathered here to watch the Houses of Parliament blow up – obviously it never did, but the name stuck nonetheless.
Queen Elizabeth II Garden Southbank
The Queen Elizabeth Hall Garden on the South Bank might not be one of the highest points in London, but, thanks to its uber-central location, it offers a pretty banging view of the city all the same.
It’s an unusual haven amidst the concrete jungle of the Southbank Centre, where wildflowers and fruit trees frame views of the Thames and the relentless hustle and bustle beyond.
Viewing Level at the Tate Modern
Head atop the Tate Modern’s Blavatnik Building for another of the best free views in London.
The viewing level at the Tate Modern is smack-bang in the middle of the action when it comes to London’s skyline. Housed at Level 10, the viewing platform has recently reopened with one or two adjustments.
The southern side of the viewing platform has been roped off to stop you from gawping at the neighbours, but that’s no loss. The best of the view is elsewhere. Be warned, photography is not allowed, and you can expect a stern tap on the shoulder if you’re spotted sneaking in a pic!
Instead, peek over to the instantly-recognisable dome of St Paul’s, glance over to The Shard – you can even see the arch over Wembley Stadium if you look hard enough.
One Tree Hill
It’s hard to imagine when the Great North Wood covered huge swathes of South London, but it left its mark on contemporary London if you know where to look.
One Tree Hill (no, not the TV programme) is one such spot. The hill is a high point in Honor Oak where Queen Elizabeth I is said to have once rested under a tree (hence the honourable oak).
Today it’s one of the best London skyline views in the south of the city offering straight-up views of the Gherkin, Cheese Grater, and Walkie Talkie among some lesser obvious beauties.
Alexandra Palace Park
Ally Pally, as it’s nicknamed, is many things – concert venue, home to a farmer’s market, a boating lake, an outdoor adventure course, and much more. Bit of a shame then that more fuss isn’t made over the spectacular view you get of London from Alexandra Park.
Parliament Hill might get all the attention, but Alexandra Park offers an equally awesome and widespread London view – particularly at night when the city’s lights twinkle in the distance.
One New Change
For a while, One New Change’s viewing terrace was a bit of a secret. A free viewing terrace with views of St Paul’s so close that it feels like you can reach out and touch it? The secret was never going to last long.
That still doesn’t stop it from working its magic – pop up here for sunrise or sunset for a view that will make you fall in love with London all over again, or book a spot on one of the yoga classes or film screenings held in the space.
Who said you have to go high to get great views? The River Thames isn’t short of a bridge or two, but it’s the views from Waterloo Bridge that make even the most battle-hardened Londoner stop and take a photo.
What’s the appeal?
To the west, the London Eye and Houses of Parliament set the scene, while to the east, the former riverside palace of Somerset House vies for your attention with The Shard and The City’s skyscrapers.
Great views across London from a railway station? Pull the other one! Well, if you’ve ever travelled on the Thameslink Core between St Pancras and Blackfriars, you’ll have found yourself stopped at a station across the Thames at the southern end.
We love London’s expansive transport network, and Blackfriars is one of our favourite spots. Indeed, it’s not unheard of for us to get a train earlier than necessary, jump off here and grab some cool pics across the Thames.
Eastward or Westward, the views are simply awesome with all of London’s riverside charms there to picture.
Lift 109 at Battersea Power Station is part of the new development at this London icon offering incredible views from beside the Thames in southwest London out towards Surrey, West London, and eastwards.
Take a lift up one of the power station’s trademark chimneys and arrive 109 metres from ground level to enjoy incredible 360-degree views of London where you can see for miles on end in all directions.
With some awesome shops, bars, and eateries as part of the regeneration, this is an excellent choice for a fun day out combined with stunning views across London.
Ah, the London Eye. You can’t have a piece on the best London viewpoints without mentioning the London Eye.
Even now, over 20 years after it opened, it still gives us a thrill to jump on the Eye to spend 30 minutes stuffing our eyes with views of London’s iconic spots.
From the top of its 135m high wheel, you’ll be able to see about 25 miles of London sprawling beneath you in all directions.
Its central location also means that you’ll be able to see pretty much everything, including fantastic views of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben just over the river.
You don’t have to cram yourself in with all the other people if you don’t want to, either. You might not know, but the London Eye has plenty of deals on VIP spins around and private pods too – and they make a brilliant place for a little romancing – just sayin’.
Londoners and visitors alike spend so much time gawping at and photographing Tower Bridge that they sometimes forget you can actually go inside. It will cost you (this is London after all) but The Tower Bridge experience is quirky, interesting and comes with some fabulous London views.
You can even walk on the glass floor over the Thames… if you dare.
Arcelormittal Orbit Slide
Any mention of the UK’s largest sculpture is pure Marmite to Londoners – some love it, others hate it – whichever way you swing, you can’t deny that it offers a cracking view of London and, if it’s your thing, the Thames estuary.
The big attraction is, of course, the world’s biggest and largest tunnel slide. Still, given its size, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that you can see for 20 miles from the top of the structure – something to take your mind off the fact that it’s a long way down.
Emirates Cable Car
The Emirates Cable Car is probably one of the cheapest things you can do with a great view thanks to the fact that it actually forms part of London’s public transport network.
As such, it will cost you a mere snippet on your Oyster card to hop on board and take the 10 minute journey (20 mins return) journey between North Greenwich and Royal Docks.
The 17th century Monument built to commemorate the Great Fire of London sometimes gets overlooked when it comes to London skyline views. However, we absolutely love it.
Although the view is a little obscured by the newer towering buildings of The City that surround it, it’s still worth taking a peek and thinking about what London’s skyline might have looked like in year’s past.
St Paul’s Cathedral
St Paul’s is such a dominant piece of London’s skyline – but it’s also a great spot to take in an eyeful of central London.
Climb the dome to The Stone Gallery (378 steps) and the even-higher Golden Gallery (528 steps) for far-reaching city views.
No, I’m not talking about Westminster Abbey. The lesser-known Westminster Cathedral is just down the road from Victoria Station (still in Westminster) and hides one of London’s best views in plain sight.
To reach it, just hop to the top of the Cathedral’s St Edmund’s Tower (thankfully, there’s an elevator). At 94 metres high, it’s in the perfect location to spot some of London’s most famous buildings, including The BT Tower, Westminster Abbey and The Houses of Parliament.
The Dare Skywalk
“To do is to dare” is the motto of North London football club Tottenham Hotspur and believe it or not, some of the best views across London can be found on their awesome/terrifying* Dare Skywalk.
Built as part of White Hart Lane’s transition from a run-down old-school stadium to a state-of-the-art experience, the Skywalk offers you an amazing opportunity to take in views across North London towards Ally Pally, Central London, Canary Wharf and Stratford.
It is high, and it is expensive, but the views are unmatched in this part of town. If you’re feeling super brave, you can choose to come down to terra firma much quicker than you got to the top by abseiling down to The Edge.
*delete as you wish!
Up at the O2
Or, if you’re wanting a similarly adrenalin-fuelled experience, albeit south of the river, then you can climb the outside of the O2 in southeast London, right next to the Thames in North Greenwich.
Up at The O2 offers you exquisite panoramic views across London once you’ve made the climb (you are attached to a rope and are given helmets and appropriate footwear). This awesome experience offers wonderful views across Greenwich Park towards Blackheath, and across the river to Canary Wharf.
Bars & Restaurants with Great Views
12th Knot at Sea Containers
Get to the bar early (or book ahead) to nab one of the terrace tables at the rather brilliant cocktail bar 12th Knot at the top of Sea Containers hotel.
What’s better than looking at the central London skyline at sunset? Answer = doing it with a rather tasty cocktail in hand.
I dithered about whether to include Radio Rooftop in this guide as the place is pretension defined… but the fact remains that it really is one of the best rooftop bars in London when judged by the view alone.
Take the elevator to the top of the Hotel ME and step out to see the bright lights of London’s glitzy West End spread out beneath you.
You can find better cocktails in the area, and you can certainly find nicer staff, but you can’t replace those views.
If Frank’s Cafe didn’t single-handedly elevate Peckham to one of London’s cool spots, it certainly played a starring role. Currently closed for winter, it’ll reopen in May 2024 to once again provide killer views across this beautiful city.
Wend your way up the iconic bubblegum pink staircase to emerge on the top – a cool panoramic view of London spread out before you. It’s busy, buzzy and lots of fun.
Hutong The Shard
London restaurants with a view generally come at a steep price and Northern Chinese restaurant Hutong in The Shard is no exception.
Inside, you find lanterns and silk curtains to transport you to the Far East, but it is really the view of London spread out beneath you (it’s on the 33rd floor) that will steal the show.
Duck & Waffle
The Heron Tower’s contemporary British-European restaurant has been a fixture on London’s dining scene since it opened in 2012.
And the Duck & Waffle is also one of the few 24/7 restaurants in London – so you can bag an eyeful of stellar views and a bellyful of delicious food whatever the time of day. It’s pricey, but worth it, especially at sunrise or sunset.
Also in the Salesforce Tower (better known as the Heron Tower), SUSHISAMBA brings the unlikely combination of Japanese, Peruvian and Brazilian food together and makes it work with spectacular aplomb.
Where else can you graze your way through a menu that zips from Brazilian moqueca to Japanese gyoza and Peruvian ceviche and excels on all fronts?
The views, from the 38th and 39th floor of the building are exceptional – and it just so happens to host one of the liveliest brunches in town too. The only wrinkle? Successfully nabbing a reservation at one of the hottest tables in town.
Portrait at the National Portrait Gallery
Portrait – a rather fitting name for the restaurant at the top of the National Portrait Gallery is one of central London’s little gems.
How would you like to sit down to dinner with views of Nelson’s Column, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey? Thought so.
Want to make the most of your money, there’s a set lunch menu (£34 / £39 for two / three courses) that makes it one of the more affordable options in Covent Garden.