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5) Visit the Frugal Man's Shard

Sky Garden: The Free Observation Deck Atop The Walkie Talkie

20 Fenchurch Street, The Sky Garden

The tallest building in the UK is The Shard, which at a height of 309.6 meters (1016 feet), looms over London like a giant glass dagger piercing the sky. The Shard has an observation deck on floors 68, 69, and 72, but it costs as much as £30.95 per person if booked the same day, which is a decidedly expensive observation deck. A discount is offered if you book in advance, and they're kind enough to have a "weather guarantee" so if the view is particularly bad you can try again within three months at no extra charge. However, for a city as cloudy and rainy as London, that still might not permit a good view for a tourist only in town for a few days. Besides, you can't see The Shard from The Shard, naturally.

Consequently, instead of going to The Shard, would recommend heading to the Sky Garden observation deck at the top of 20 Fenchurch Street, which is semi-affectionately known as the "Walkie Talkie" building because it resembles a bloated, top-heavy speaker. It won the "Carbuncle Cup" award for the worst building of the year when it was completed in 2015. Appearance can be subjective and many buildings have been despised when first built but go on to become loved worldwide years later. The Eiffel Tower is one of the best examples.

However, unlike the Eiffel Tower, the Walkie Talkie has created some awful wind tunnel effects in the neighbourhood that are quite noticeable when you're at the back of the building waiting to get into the Sky Garden. Even more extreme, because of its odd concave shape, the Walkie Talkie has dangerously melted and cooked items on the street below.

At a mere 160 meters (525 feet) tall, the Walkie Talkie only is about half the height of The Shard, but it has a great view of The Shard and the Sky Garden observation deck is free because the developer was required to provide a "public space" as part of the building's approval process.

Admittedly, the Walkie Talkie is a difficult building to love, but it's easy to appreciate a free and beautiful view over the Thames. Although there also are several expensive bars and restaurants on the premises, the City Garden Bar on the observation level has drinks for about the same prices as any other bar in central London. Please note that you cannot just show up, though. You need to book free tickets as much as three weeks in advance. Be sure to arrive on time for your specific booking and make certain to bring your passport or a photo ID for the security check. If it's too cloudy to see anything, well... at least it was free.

How to Get Here: Take the Circle (Yellow) or District (Green) line to Monument Station. Monument Station also is connected directly underground to Bank Station via a rather confusing knot of tunnels. You also could take the Central (Red), Northern (Black) or Waterloo & City (Aqua) lines or the DLR to Bank Station and walk underground to Monument Station, but it is time consuming. The best exit to use, from Monument Station, rather than Bank, is the Fish Street Hill exit. However, Bank and Monument are under heavy renovations until July 2021 so it is possible that some exits will be closed at any given time. From Fish Street Hill, you should be able to see the Walkie Talkie building up and to your left. If you don't see it, look behind you, you probably exited onto King William Street instead. Also note that the entrance to the Sky Garden at 20 Fenchurch Street is not on Fenchurch Street but rather on the back of the building (up the stairs) perpendicular to Philpot Lane and Rodd Lane.

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  • Writing & Photos By Brock Kyle. All Rights Reserved. Last Updated/Verified 13 April 2017. First Published 26 October 2016. Feedback.