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5 July 2017

Sky Garden at Sunset

Soon after the Sky Garden opened on the 35th floor of 20 Fenchurch Street (AKA the Walkie Talkie) in the City of London in 2015, I stopped by for a post-sunset visit. Although the free tickets have become a little easier to obtain since the original limited batch since then, it's taken me over two years to return. I thought I'd write up another post, though, including some of my pictures of the Sky Garden by daylight.


You can book up to three weeks in advance on the Sky Garden website, and they also announce new ticket releases on Twitter. Of course, the popular weekend and evening sessions are the fastest to go, particularly at this time of year when sunset is rather late. I only found out recently that although the visiting hours are advertised as 10 am to 6 pm on weekdays and 11 am to 9 pm at weekends, if there is space, they take walk-ins throughout the day and after these times. This is particularly handy if you fancy a post-work sunset visit on a weekday in the summer months. I stalked the Sky Garden website for a few weeks until I found a 6.30 pm slot on Sunday, which I was eventually able to swap for a 7.30 pm ticket when that became available instead. It wasn't that busy when I went — even on a sunny Sunday evening — so you might well have been able to walk in without a ticket.


As before, I showed my ID (the named ticket-holder for each group must bring ID), went through the airport-style security scanners (this time, I left my selfie stick at home) and ascended to the 35th floor. My primary complaint about my first visit to the Sky Garden was that the emphasis was much more on the sky than on the garden — it felt like a very nice airport terminal with a great view — but it has become a little leafier over the past two years.

The Sky Pod bar on the 35th floor was also very beautifully decorated with pink and purple flowers including my favourite lavender. I thought about indulging a cocktail (£12.50) with a view, but ahead of my various upcoming travels over the next few months, I restrained. There were some nice-sounding drinks on the menu, though, and drinks there — or dinner at one of the two restaurants, which you can book and which give you access to the Sky Garden even without a ticket — would make a nice treat.


Instead, I circled the large space several times — climbing the stairs on the east-hand side, enjoying the views over Canary Wharf, Tower Bridge and Bermondsey and searching for my flat, before I eventually remembered that I needed to climb the stairs on the west side and then look down to the south-east to find my home. It was such a clear, sunny day that the distant verdant hills were clearly visible.




There's another public bar on level 36, on the north side, which allows you to get up close and personal with my favourite City of London building, the Gherkin. Unfortunately, ongoing construction works are already encroaching upon the Gherkin, as reported by Londonist last year, and it is already less visible than on my 2015 visit.



Walking down the west-side stairs, you can look out on the Thames, from Southwark Bridge to Waterloo, and enjoy views over St Paul's, the BT Tower and Wembley Stadium. There's also a small leafy terrace here, which is the best place to have your photo taken with the Sky Garden and the South London cityscape in the background. This is also where I can (sort of) see my home!






Unfortunately, the open-air Francis Golding Terrace on the 35th floor was closed; I read later that it shuts at 6 pm and so isn't compatible with a summer sunset visit. This is a shame as everywhere else in the Sky Garden requires you to take photos through the highly reflective and fingerprint-smudged glass. I did take the lift to the 37th floor where the Fenchurch Restaurant is located, though, which gave a slightly different perspective.




As the sun began to set, the crowds flocked to the western windows. I was glad I got there early to stake out my place. The sunset was nice that night, if not a blockbuster, but it was fun to watch the city slowly light up as the sun went down.



The Sky Garden too decided to welcome me by turning on its neon pink lights —my favourite colour — or perhaps they do that every night? I must really try to book a table at one of the Sky Garden restaurants — I've heard breakfast and brunch at the Darwin Brasserie is particularly good — for another experience. Let me know in the comments if you've dined at the Sky Garden and would like to report back.



The Sky Garden. 20 Fenchurch Street, London, EC3M 4BA (Tube: Aldgate). Website. Twitter. Instagram.

2 comments:

  1. I've only ever been to the garden and the Sky Pod Bar. I didn't realise there is another little bar area around the other side (not the terrace side) which is usually a bit quieter, next time I vsisit, I'll check that one out.

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    1. Yes, it's useful to know! There were no free seats or tables at the main Sky Pod Bar when I arrived. And I'm a fan of the Gherkin so I quite like the north-facing view too.

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