In this blog post I will tell you how to visit the Sky Garden in London. Located at the 35th floor of the Walkie Talkie, it provides amazing views over London. And the best thing is, you can visit the Sky Garden London completely for free!
This article was originally posted in April 2015 and was last updated on 19 January 2020.
What is the Sky Garden London?
Like so many world cities, London is gradually transforming into an urban landscape of sky-high tower blocks carved out of metal and glass. Besides their wild design, they also stand out for their most imaginative names varying from the Cheesegrater to the Gherkin.
When the ‘Walkie Talkie’ building was approved to be built on 20 Fenchurch Street, the deal-maker was its public park at the top. This means that although it is a commercial building, the top floor is accessible to the general public.
Why visit the Sky Garden London?
I often have people on my guided tours in London who want to enjoy panoramic views over London. Their best-known options are The Shard and the London Eye. Located at 243 metres high, the viewing platform of The Shard will without a doubt offer breathtaking views over London. However, tickets will cost you at least £25 per person.
Tickets for the London Eye (135 metres high) will set you back at least £27 per person. Whenever I walk past it, I see long queues of people there, even for the fast track lane. I’ve never been to The Shard or on the London Eye. Having the option of enjoying a bird’s-eye view of London at 160 metres high from the Sky Garden viewing platform for free, I’ve never felt the need.
What is there to do in the Sky Garden?
As the name suggests, the top three floors of the Walkie Talkie are home to a landscaped garden in the sky. I’ve been here twice now and enjoyed both my visits. However, since its opening in 2014, there has been some criticism about the not so public park as initially promised. In the evenings only paying diners are admitted to the Sky Garden and the gardens are more like a patch of green with some trees than an actual garden. Or park for that matter.
I’m not sure what kind of jungle the skeptics expected to find here. I agree a considerable amount of space is dedicated to the bar area. It’s a bit cheeky they still want to make money from this otherwise free experience, but in the end it’s up to you if you want to spend extra money on a drink or meal here. For me, the main reason for visiting the Walkie Talkie is its outdoor viewing platform. Being able to wander through a lush green garden in the sky is a nice bonus in my opinion.
The Sky Garden is a huge dome at the top of the Walkie Talkie and the tall windows offer panoramic views of London from the inside. However, for even better views you can also access the outside observation deck.
I enjoy being at eye-height of the surrounding skyscrapers and seeing them from a completely different perspective. But my favourite sight from the Sky Garden is that of the iconic Tower of London and Tower Bridge.
Places to eat at 20 Fenchurch Street
Besides the observation deck and garden, there are also several places to eat and drink in the Sky Garden. All require a reservation.
After the super fast lift zaps you up to the Sky Garden, you will see the Sky Pod cocktail bar right in front of you. If you’re interested in a sipping a swanky cocktail in a futuristic setting, then this is the place for you. During the day you can also order a pastry or sandwich here. The evening menu offers bar snacks, sandwiches and sharing platters.
The City Garden Bar also offers an extensive drinks menu and small selection of food.
If you prefer to dine in the sky in London, then you have the choice between the Fenchurch Restaurant and Darwin Brasserie. At Fenchurch Restaurant you can choose from tasting menus with dishes to be shared by all dinner guests or meals from the a la carte menu. There are also vegan options available. If you want to make your dinner in the sky even more special, you may want to opt for the private dining space which accommodates up to 16 people.
In Darwin Brasserie you can enjoy unique views of the Thames while you relish in delicious breakfast, lunch or dinner in a more laid-back setting.
Combine your visit to the Walkie Talkie with…
Located in the middle of the historical Roman centre of London, the streets surrounding this ultra modern building are soaked in history. Explore some of the overlooked hidden gems in London with this Self-guided Historical Walk along ‘Secret’ London Landmarks.
Or make your way to close-by the hipster neighbourhood of Shoreditch in East London. To help you on your way, here are 10 Unique Things to See in Shoreditch.
Do you see the church tower in the photo below? That is one of the last remaining parts of St Dunstan in the East. This ancient Anglo-Saxon church was severely bombed during the Blitz in WWII and has now been made into a little public garden. You can see more photos of this magical location on my travel blog Miss Travel Clogs: St Dunstan in the East: From Saxon Church to secret London park.
Plan your visit to the Sky Garden
A visit to the Sky Garden London is free, but it’s highly recommended to make a reservation to ensure entrance. When you make the booking, you need to enter the names of all visitors. Make sure that these correspond with the names as stated in your ID as that will be checked upon entrance.
The booking system allows you to choose the date and time. From your entrance time, you will have one hour for your visit. This is more than enough to take in the stunning city views and wander through the garden.
Make sure to arrive in time as you need to go through security. Also remember to bring your ID with you.
If you decide to have a drink or meal here, beware that not only the dining venues but also the prices are pretty high. On the other hand, the temperatures can get painfully low. You will find that there is a reason the staff is clad in scarves and beanies for a reason!
How to book your ticket for Sky Garden?
You can book your ticket for a free visit to the garden to three weeks in advance. And restaurant bookings can be made 60 days in advance. This link will bring you to the official booking site: book your visit to the Sky Garden London. There’s also a link to Frequently Asked Questions on there.
Can you visit without booking?
Yes. On Monday-Friday there are limited walk-in tickets available for the Sky Garden and Sky Pod bar. However, if you’re really keen on visiting, I wouldn’t take the risk.
What is the best time to visit the Sky Garden in London?
This partly depends on your own preference. Do you want to see clear London views in the daylight or do you prefer seeing the city lit up in the evening? In case of the latter, you should be aware that the observation deck closes at 6pm.
Personally, for good views over London I would recommend to visit during the day. Depending on the season, I’d say not to visit too early because there’s more chance of cloudy skies in autumn for instance.
Obviously school holidays are peak times and booking a ticket for those periods might prove to be tricky. Outside of school holiday periods it’s usually fairly easy to reserve your spot. Just make sure to check the online calendar on the abovementioned booking page on time. Just to remind you, bookings are available three weeks in advance.
How to get to the Walkie Talkie
The closest Tube station is Monument. From there it’s a 5-minute walk. Alternative Tube stations are Tower Hill, Tower Gate, Aldgate, Bank and Mansion House. From either of these stations, it’s less than a 10-minute walk.
Alternatively, you can take a regular train to London Fenchurch Street, Cannon Street, or London Bridge.
Have you ever seen the skyline of London from above? Then tell me about your experience in a comment below!
Thanks, Zarina xx
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