30 Of The Best Panoramic Views Of London

Date post added: 17th December 2023

We’re often asked where to get the best views of London, and it’s a tricky one to answer quickly. In this guide, we’ve highlighted the top 30. To help us list the greatest spots for views of the London skyline, we spoke to two of our most experienced London Walks guides. Fiona really knows her stuff and she’s decorated with the highest accolades a guide can receive. David is Mr London Walks and loves to find those lesser known jewels of the city.

Whether you’re looking for a panoramic view to provide a stunning backdrop on a special occasion or a reward at the end of an uphill walk, we’ve curated London’s best viewpoints – the obscure ones as well as the achingly obvious.

Where is the highest free viewpoint in London?

There’s a new viewpoint in town, named Horizon 22. It’s taken the mantel of ‘highest free public viewing platform in Europe,’ in its lofty position on the 58th floor of 22 Bishopsgate. Step inside the express lift and you’ll be whizzed up to the top floor in 41 seconds where you’ll have incredible, bird’s eye views across the Square Mile and beyond. There’s not much there at the moment, but in 2024 a cafe is due to open up. You’ll also be able to hire it as a pretty impressive venue for a party with a view.

Exquisite dining with a view to match

This is the luxe list. A swanky restaurant with an incredible view of London comes with a hefty price tag. But if you’re after somewhere special to make an impact, these have the wow factor.

1. London Hilton Bar on Park Lane

Ascend to the 28th floor of the London Hilton Hotel on Park Lane to find award-winning Galvin at Windows restaurant. The 360 degree views of London are jaw-dropping, as are the prices of the food and drinks. There’s also the 10° Bar if you’re after swanky cocktails in lavish surroundings. Look carefully and you can peek into the Buckingham Palace Gardens from your vantage point.

2. The Shard

There’s no doubt that the heights of The Shard offer breathtaking views. But so is the price tag just to step onto the viewing platform. Fiona‘s tip is to spend the money on a delicious afternoon tea halfway up The Shard instead. It’s still expensive, but better value than simply splashing out on a trip to the top.

3. OXO Tower

Why is it called the OXO tower? Look up! You’ll see the so-called pattern of the letters in the design of the windows. Situated on the South Bank, the OXO tower has beautiful restaurants overlooking the river and onto Westminster.

4. Tower 42

The old NatWest tower (now Heron Tower) was the tallest building in the City until other buildings grew higher. You’re spoiled for choice in Tower 42 when it comes to exquisite food with stunning views. There’s Jason Atherton’s City Social on Floor 24, SushiSamba on the 38th and 39th floors, but it’s the Duck and Waffle that takes the top spot on the 40th floor – an amazing destination for weekend brunch.

Recommended rooftop bars

Continuing the theme of venues in the sky, these are some of London’s best bars with panoramic views of the city.

5. The Rooftop at the Hilton Trafalgar Square

This rooftop bar is a real find in the West End. It’s an al fresco spot on the seventh floor, overlooking the majestic London skyline. Bookings are encouraged, and the prices soar at weekends. David’s tip is to visit on a weeknight.

6. CloudM rooftop bar

If you’re after spectacular views over the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, The Shard, London Bridge and HMS Belfast then CloudM is the place to head. It’s the Citizen M hotel bar. Located above Tower Hill underground, you’ll drink in views of Tower Hill, the City, the river and across to the South Bank. It’s open afternoons and evenings for a great bit of people-spotting in a sensational setting. And the “fit” with the London Walks Jack the Ripper Walk is perfect. The walk goes nightly from Tower Hill Underground Station at 7.30 pm. If you arrive early for the walk there’s no better place to chill for a few minutes than the CloudM rooftop bar. The Citizen M Hotel is right there, just five yards from the meeting point for the walk.

Views from famous landmarks

It’s not all about skyscrapers and impressive hotels. London is steeped in history and some of its centuries-old buildings and iconic landmarks provide brilliant platforms for stunning views.

7. The Monument

It’s a 17th-century skyscraper in the heart of the City that’s a permanent reminder of the Great Fire of London. Can you climb The Monument? Yes! Those 311 steps provide a workout, but the 360 degree views from the top make a great pay-off. Given the structure’s age, it’s not accessible for all.

8. St Paul’s Cathedral

The dome of St Paul’s is such an icon of the London skyline. And you can actually climb up to that dome. The Stone and Golden galleries provide amazing vantage points for views across the city of London.

9. Westminster Cathedral

Not to be confused with the better-known Westminster Abbey, the Roman Catholic Westminster Cathedral can be found near Victoria Station. Take the lift up St Edmund’s Tower and marvel at incredible views of the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. This one’s a hidden gem that’s not really hidden at all.

10. Tower Bridge

You may have marvelled at this magnificent bridge from the riverside, but have you been to the top of it? It’s a strange feeling to be so high above the Thames, and stepping onto the glass floor can leave you a little queasy. But if you’re brave enough, it’s quite the experience.

11. Trinity Buoy Wharf

Now, this one is truly unusual. It’s an old, test lighthouse on the banks of the Thames in Canning Town, East London. It was used for training and development in the 19th century. Renowned scientist Michael Faraday worked there in the 1840s. Nowadays, you can climb the lighthouse and stand where the lamp would be. From there you can see for miles. Open weekends only.

Views of London with a side-serve of culture

Some of London’s wonderful arts venues are situated in prime-viewing locations. So get a dose of culture alongside a sensational panoramic sight of the surrounding area.

12. Tate Modern

The viewing terrace on Level 10 of the Blavatnik Building is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm. Grab a coffee and enjoy the amazing views across the Thames to the north bank. The platform was closed for several years after nearby residents complained, but it reopened in September 2023.

13. Frank’s Cafe

Arguably Peckham’s finest venue. Wind your way up the pink, spiral staircase to the architectural project – the rooftop bar. Then, draw breath as you take in those incredible, panoramic London vistas. The cool and interesting gallery below is worth a visit too.

14. National Theatre

The balconies at the top of this South Bank theatre provide lovely views over the Thames and beyond. Its rooftop, Buffini Chao Deck, is available for private parties and it would make a truly memorable place to say, ‘I do’.

15. Royal Festival Hall

The members area on the upper level of the Royal Festival Hall is a fabulous find. If you live in London, it’s worth paying the fairly modest £69 annual fee for access to the seating area, the bar, the wifi and especially the view out over the Thames and to Charing Cross.

16. Horniman Museum and Gardens

The gardens at the Horniman in Forest Hill are quite spectacular. The bandstand is the spot to head with a picnic (or a warm cuppa) and stop to admire the awesome views across London.

Views on the move

This is a mix of the unusual and famous tourist destinations. But they all involve some sort of transport and movement.

17. The Pullman London St Pancras Hotel

We almost didn’t include this one because we don’t want everyone to know about David’s little secret place for outstanding views. But we couldn’t do that to you! The Pullman in St Pancras is often overshadowed by other hotels. But there’s one major reason to go there, and that’s the view from the 16th floor.

After you’ve had a drink in the ground floor bar, ask the Concierge very nicely if you can take the lift up. Make sure to take the middle lift as it has a fourth wall which is a window. On your ascent, soak up the southerly view looking towards the London Eye.

Once at the top, take a seat in the pilot’s seat (literally) and stop to absorb the easterly view. You’ll see the British Library and nearby hotels, and away to the City, Docklands and East London. It’s simply stunning, and oh-so quiet.

18. Double-decker bus

It may not be as high as a skyscraper, but the top deck of a London bus is a wonderful way to see the city. Hop on board and soak up the sights. The front-row seat is the one to grab if you can. That’s where you get the best view.

19. London Eye

It’s an incredibly obvious destination, but the London Eye on the South Bank is an undeniably great way to see London from above.

20. IFS cloud cable car

Similarly, the Emirates Airlines cable car is another tourist destination. But it’s a relatively cheap way to travel between the Royal Docks and Greenwich Peninsula. Simply swipe your Oyster card and enjoy the 20-minute journey which allows you to view the City from the sky.

21. Up and over the O2

Combining daredevil activity with sightseeing, the climb up and over the former Millennium Dome is just spectacular. Take in a panoramic view of historic Greenwich, the Olympic Park and Canary Wharf from the roof of the building.

22. Arcelormittal Orbit

Clamber up the 178-metre ascent of the world’s tallest tunnel slide in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Then, before you take the plunge to slide down to the bottom, make sure you breathe in the incredible views from the top.

Great garden terraces

There are a few places in the city where you can press pause, enjoy your surroundings and look out over the hustle and bustle below. These garden terraces are wonderful finds.

23. 120 Fenchurch St

A relative newcomer to the City, 120 Fenchurch Street offers something rather different – a stunning garden terrace. Head to the rooftop and enjoy the gorgeous planting in The Garden, seemingly miles away from the buzz of Leadenhall Market down below. You can walk around the perimeter of the building and take in the vistas in different directions. It’s accessible to anyone on a first-come, first-served basis.

24. Sky Garden

The Walkie Talkie is such a distinctive building as it towers over the City of London. Inside, you’ll find the Sky Garden, branded London’s highest public garden. Entrance is free, but it does get busy. It’s best to book 2-3 weeks ahead. If you’re going to chance it, then mornings tend to be quieter. That said, this place is pretty special at sunset.

25. One New Change

The lift up to the platform on One New Change is an absolute thrill. It’s not the highest vantage spot as it’s only six floors up. However, you’ll get an incredible, wide view of St Paul’s with no restrictions. It’s another great spot for sunsets. And if you’re after something a little different, book into a yoga class that you’re sure to remember. Imagine spying St Paul’s from your downward dog position.

Au natural and free

At the other end of the spectrum from the eye-wateringly expensive hotel bar is the natural, outdoor vantage point. Finding a spectacular view is such a reward after clambering up a hill. Best of all, these green spaces are all free to access too.

26. Hampstead Heath’s Northern Heights

Our Hampstead aficionado, David describes this as a “special, special place.” From the Skybox (David’s nomenclature) on Hampstead Heath, all of London is spread before you. On a clear day you can see all the way down to the Thames estuary and the pencil-like towers of Dartford bridge in Kent. Before that, you’ll see the Docklands, the Gherkin and the Emirates stadium. Located down a path near the top of Spaniards Road, the Skybox is a high point in London (and David’s Sunday morning) Hampstead walk.

27. Parliament Hill

This 98-metre high hill is the best place to see in the New Year (in David’s humble opinion). It’s the highest point in London and, as such, is an amazing natural vantage point for views of the London skyline. It’s set in the south-east corner of Hampstead Heath and it’s a must-visit panoramic spot.

28. Primrose Hill

Walking to the summit of Primrose Hill is highly recommended. It’s a gorgeous, green viewing platform over central London. It’s set at the north of Regents Park, but it feels so much further away from the hurly-burly than that.

29. Alexandra Palace

Still in North London, the gorgeous Ally Pally offers stunning views from every corner. Beauty abounds in this delightful park. It also boasts London’s largest beer garden, The Terrace, a perfect place to drink in the panoramic views.

30. Greenwich

From the high spot of Greenwich park near the Royal Observatory, you can look over to Canary Wharf, the River Thames and beyond into the City. This is a great way to end our historic Greenwich walk.

Want to know more? Join David on our Hampstead walk to discover local gems. Fiona leads the Hidden London walk and more.

Pippa Jackson

Pippa Jackson

Pippa is a word nerd and content aficionado with a background of working in TV on both sides of the globe. She loves to discover and share the diverse and wonderful stories of her much-loved London. When she’s not writing blogs and articles, you’ll find her walking beside the Thames or even paddleboarding on it (in the finest of conditions only!) or enjoying a coffee in the sunshine with a good book.

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David Tucker

David Tucker

David – the Seigneur of this favoured realm – broods over words, breeds enthusiasms and is “unmanageable.”* He’s a balterer, literary historian, university lecturer, journalist, logophile and lifelong thanatophobe. For good measure, he’s the doyen of London guides.

Read all articles by David Tucker