The Seduction of the Shangri-La at The Shard London
From the very first moment, the experience at The Shard London is an impressive one. Winding corridors lead to the first set of lifts that ascend so fast–13.4 miles per hour to be exact–that my stomach drops and is left behind many floors below. We then take the second lift up to the 69th floor at a speed of two to three floors per second (ear-popping style) and step out into The Shard London Viewing Gallery.
The views are breathtaking. Floor-to-ceiling three-tiered windows frame panoramic 360-degree views, that stretch across a vista of sights covering more than one thousand years of history. The tallest building in the European Union and 800 feet from the ground, The Shard is London’s best view. The afternoon skies are clear and cloudless and the city looks absolutely magical.
Standing on the Shoulders of Giants
One of the first sights that catches my eye from the top of The Shard London is the River Thames. It winds beautifully around the city as the late afternoon sun sparkles on the water and boats of all different sizes and shapes chug past. The entire city is a hub of movement and activity and I am totally entranced. It seems as if there is something new every time I blink my eyes. Over to the east, Tower Bridge stands proudly as one of the most striking images in the landscape. As a red London buses drives across the bridge, it creates an iconic postcard image of London. This was my personal favourite view from The Shard London, even though I am reliably informed that most native Londoners prefer the view of St Paul’s Cathedral.
The Shard London is situated directly above London Bridge station and the trains below look like they are from a toy set. This gives some idea of quite how high up I am standing. The fact that I almost need to squint to see the flocks of birds flying far below enhances this majestic feeling. I feel as if I am literally and metaphorically on top of the world. People look like ants and the roads look as if they are populated with toy cars. The city is so awe-inspiring and exacting, it’s a hub of movement and exudes so much life.
Up in the Clouds
From every vantage point there are world-famous landmarks and iconic views. Touchscreen telescopes highlight the sights that can be seen in greater detail with some fascinating factoids. I zoom in on Great Ormond Street Hospital and learn that this hospital holds the rights to the Peter Pan books. Looking out to the North, I can make out Hampstead Heath and St Pancras. Another interesting sight is the Rose Playhouse–built in 1587 and recently reopened to the public; it was the first ever theatre to stage a production of any of William Shakespeare’s plays. One of the most beautiful sights is the old and new parts of London in juxtaposition, such as St Paul’s Cathedral situated just across the Thames from Bankside Lofts–the modernist apartment block most renowned for its twisting yellow terraced tower.
The open-air viewing gallery is situated on floor 72 where the sounds and smells of London flood the area. With the breeze whipping through my hair, I feel totally immersed in the experience. Planes descending into City Airport fly eerily close and all of the landmarks look even more incredible when you can really feel the city around you. The Gherkin stands amongst a collection of tall city buildings while City Hall, the Tower of London and Canary Wharf are just some of the other structures that stand out against the landscape. There is an almost secretive, yet exciting behind-the-scenes feel to the experience as I peer into the private gardens enclosed in some of London’s most beautiful buildings that are impossible to see from the ground. As I am absorbing all of this in, the sun starts to set, and the city takes on a mystical appearance.
The Shangri-La in The Shard
When I manage to tear myself away from the views, I head down a few levels to the Shangri-La at The Shard London. From the moment I enter the foyer, I feel relaxed. Tables covered in fresh hyacinths fill the air with gorgeous fragrance while the reception area is home to elegant, plush sofas with cushion backs framed by unusual square chandelier lighting. Located from the 34th to the 52nd floor of The Shard London, the entire hotel boasts stunning 360-degree panoramas with every area framed by the city’s landscapes. Every bedroom even includes a pair of binoculars and a map to make the most of the experience.
As we walk through the restaurant, the sophisticated atmosphere is enhanced by the friendly, welcoming staff and the open-kitchen style that offers a modern, enticing ambience. We take the lift up to G?NG on level 52 to enjoy a sunset cocktail. From our snug corner table by the window, I am entirely dazzled by the views of the city. Despite the early hour, the bar is filled with fashionable, beautiful people who blend in perfectly amongst the stylish Chinese architecture and striking design scheme. The views are majestic all over again, but this time it feels almost up close and personal as the sun descends below the horizon and the night sky wraps itself around the city.
The barman explains the story behind the cocktail menu and how it encapsulates the entire essence and identity of Shangri-La. Their signature drinks are designed to highlight the hotel’s main journeys–China, India and so on–and there is also a local section that emphasises the hotel’s enviable location. Cocktails such as the ‘Romeo and Juliet’ give a nod to London’s theatre scene while other drinks highlight how the hotel is close to both historical and modern pockets of London.
I choose a cocktail inventively named ‘Koala’s Main Course’, with amaretto, sherry and cucumber foam. It comes with a slice of cucumber wrapped in cellophane, which gives off a lovely aroma to create a real sensory experience. Sitting in a beautiful and glamorous bar with the glittering lights of the city spread out before me, The Shard London is a truly spectacular experience that I’m not going to forget in a hurry.