Since opening in January 2015 the Sky Garden is still one of London’s most popular attractions and boasts seriously long queues. But, there is a way to get fast tracked to the top. Read on to find out…
No matter how good you are at scanning Time Out for new openings, waiting up until midnight and then logging on to bag a ticket, sometimes the hottest new restaurant or attraction just passes you by.
When it first opened tickets for the Sky Garden at the top of the Walkie Talkie seemed to vanish in minutes. The fact that they were free made them all the more appealing and people went mad for them!
Over two years on its still as popular as ever but there’s a common theme when reading reviews – people hate the queues.
Access to the Sky Garden is completely free of charge – which is pretty rare for attractions in London (other than museums of course). Only a limited number of tickets are available each day and so you have to book them online before visiting.
Tickets are only valid for the date and time stated on the ticket. What they don’t tell you is the time is only a guide as if you arrive at 11am as your ticket states, you’re probably going to face a big old queue and before you get anywhere close to the garden!
Beating the queues
But, if you really don’t want to wait there is another way: simply book breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner or a drink in the City Bar, Sky Pod Bar, Darwin Brasserie or the Fenchurch Restaurant.
Sure, you will have to pay for your drink or meal but you will get fast tracked straight up to floor 35 . You will also have unlimited time to enjoy the gardens.
Whether you buy a ticket or make a reservation one thing you won’t be able to avoid is airport-style security, complete with bag checks. If you’ve bought a ticket there’s an extra step where they check to see ID that matches the name of the booking.
Luckily, if you’ve made a reservation there is, again, a special fast-track queue for you.
You do get a few funny looks and the women who had to wait for another lift as we were ushered in in front of them didn’t seem to happy but hey, we had a reservation to keep!
The restaurants and bars
If you visit on a Saturday morning you’d be forgiven for missing the Sky Pod Bar because it also serves up coffee and pastries for those who are still a little glazed from the night before. When you leave the lifts on the 35th floor it’s the first bar you will come to.
If you’re visiting in the evening then you will definitely want to book a spot here for a drink. It’s right in the heart of the garden and offers fantastic views across the river towards the Shard. You can also choose from a range of sharing boards and bar snacks if you get peckish.
The City Garden Bar is on level 36, again set amongst the gardens. They have a fantastic range of soft drinks, spirits, beer, cider and wine which is genuinely served all day long.
If it’s a bite to eat you are after then you can order sharing boards at the bar.
But, don’t worry if you haven’t bothered to book, walk-in’s are welcome.
Darwin Brasserie is perhaps my favourite spot in the Sky Garden. It’s a chilled out restaurant serving up seasonal grub made from home-grown ingredients. Rum is the liquor of choice on the exhaustive cocktail list at the bar.
It’s a really light and bright space and, in my opinion, offers the best views in the Sky Garden!
To find out what we thought of the unlimited brunch at the Darwin Brasserie you can read more here.
If you want to really splash the cash while you’re up there then why not book a table in the plush Fenchurch Restaurant. It serves up top quality British Contemporary cuisine and is becoming one of the hottest tables in London!
It’s ideal for special occassions and even has a private dining room if you’re celebrating something special.
Any other way of getting in?
Of course the queues aren’t always half way round the building. If you pick a quieter time – for example after 6pm on weekdays- you’ll find it a lot easier to head up for a drink or a bite to eat.
I for one will be going back to check out the skyline at night!
Worth the visit?
I’ve enjoyed dinner in the Gherkin, Shard and 110 Bishopsgate. All of them boast epic views over the city but the Sky Garden is by far my favourite.
Seriously, do not waste £24 on a ticket up the Shard when you could visit the Sky Garden for free, or the price of a cocktail! The views are just as good and you get to spend your time in a cool garden space too!
Whichever route you take to get in, it’s well worth a visit.
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