Fresh back from a great weekend in London here are my tips for booking a visitor slot at the Sky Garden and having a good time when you get there. The arrival experience at the Sky Garden completely reminded me of the painful process of going through check in and security at an airport (not particularly pleasant) but, just like jetting off on holiday, it’s worth it in the end.
1 Firstly, the good news, the Sky Garden is free. Yay! So my number one tip is don’t worry about the price.
2 Secondly you have to book, you can’t just turn up. Tickets are sought after, especially at weekends, so they get snapped up months in advance so get your organisational hat on.
3 Tickets are tied to a specific time slot and to a specific individual. Each visitor is allotted an hour within the Sky Garden unless you book a meal at one of the restaurants, which naturally may take longer. I’d planned to get two tickets for a Friday afternoon and then see which of my mates would come with me. This isn’t possible. You have to state the full name of each ticket holder when you book and they require to show valid ID to security when they arrive.
4 Children must be booked in too. Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult aged 18 years of over. One adult may bring a maximum of 3 children with them. I contacted the SkyGarden to find out the ID policies for little ones and thankfully under 18s do not require identification.
5 Think about your Luggage – I was heading straight from the airport to the Sky Garden but there’s a strict luggage allowance and no lockers so ensure your baggage not only fits their current criteria of bagggage size but also that you’re happy dragging it around with you.
6 Remember your ID!
7 Finding the Sky Garden – don’t follow the street numbers as they make no sense whatsoever, just look up and find the iconic building and walk towards it. Secondly, the entrance isn’t even on Fenchurch Street, it’s round the corner, so ignore the street numbers and street name!
8 Over and Out – The building is also known as the Walkie Talkie building, and if you do get lost this name resonates far more with locals than the Sky Garden when asking for directions.
9 Arrive Early – I arrived at my allotted time and saw a snaking queue at the door. As my paperwork said I’d been given an hour to visit I did worry that I’d waste fifteen minutes queuing but don’t panic. Once inside the actual garden I never heard or saw anyone rounding people up, there isn’t an armband system etc. or tannoy announcements so you’re trusted to stick roughly to your visit time. It was very chilled once you were inside.
10 If it’s raining bring an umbrella, the snaking queue often goes right out the door into the wonderful British weather.
11 An Hour is Ample – Once inside the Sky Garden you’re free to explore the gardens and take in the views. An hour may not sound much but it does actually suffice so relax.
12 Don’t Expect too much Garden- To be fair the gardens aren’t exactly extensive, but it’s lovely to see greenery (any greenery) in such a modern building.
13 Don’t Expect Sunshine but Do Feel Safe with your Kids – The rooftop terrace offers great views of the city, London Bridge and fantastic views of the Shard. The terrace is covered and very safe for children so feel confident bringing toddlers to visit, but if you’d hoped to catch some rays having a drink on the open air terrace then this isn’t the place for it as terrace is, to all intents and purposes, completely covered and it can naturally be very windy due to its height, so I’d class a visit to the Sky Garden as an indoor activity.
14 Eat & Drink – If you haven’t booked a restaurant the Skypod is the place to grab a coffee, cake, salad or sandwich. It’s not overly expensive considering we’re talking about a key tourist attraction in the city of London. The cocktails are beautiful and delicious – including the alcohol free ones. The Skypod operates like chain coffee shop i.e. you queue, order, pay and collect your goods, there’s no table service. Therefore if you’re travelling alone or on your own with your children and you want seconds you pretty much have to abandon your seat/table, queue with all your coats/baggage and then find a new table so it’s worth trying to order what you want in one go.
15 Crowd Control – due to the strict ticketing the numbers of visitors within the Sky Garden at any one time are regulated. This means there’s usually enough tables and chairs for everyone and the queue for the Skypod isn’t particularly long. It never feels overly crowded and there’s no such thing as a lunch time rush, which is always a relief in a busy city like London. Blankets are provided at the tables as sometimes the gusts of wind that blow in from the terrace are quite powerful and chilly, so it’s very snug to wrap up if required.
16 Lastly make sure you have your phone fully charged for taking photos. This is a wonderful spot, for free, in the heart of London. It could be a novel place for a hen do to kick start a weekend, a great spot for a proposal, I explored on my own (nae pals) and loved it, a school trip was visiting when I was there so it’s fantastic for youngsters and I’d thoroughly recommend getting the organisation in place to make this trip happen for you.
[And I’ll just say it again, remember your ID.]
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