The Sky Garden is one of the best kept secrets in London, and best of all it’s completely free.
Located on the 35th floor of the “Walkie Talkie” building (or 20 Fenchurch Street to give it it’s actual name), the Sky Garden offers incredible 360 degree views from the floor-to-ceiling glass-walled public garden – “The highest public garden in London” apparently!
What to expect from a visit to the Sky Garden
Once you’ve reserved your free tickets, you head to the Sky Garden entrance which is around the back of the building. Staff on the door will check the date & time on your tickets to be sure you’re there for the right slot, and once through the door you join the queue for the ‘airport style’ security check. When we visited this only took about 5-10 minutes to get through.
Once through Security, you enter one of the two lifts that take you up to the 35th floor at 6 meters per second! Unfortunately they aren’t glass lifts, so you can’t see outside while you’re heading up, but once you get to the top and the doors open, the first thing you see in front of you is the enormous glass wall with the shard across the river Thames.
As you walk out of the lift, ahead of you is the bar and cafe, surrounded by sofas, tables and chairs for everyone to relax in, and beyond that are the doors out to the outdoor terrace.
Behind you are the staircases heading up to the 36th and 37th floors, which are surrounded by plants and trees on one side and glass walls the other.
The staircases are wide, so there’s plenty of room to stop and admire the views across London all the way up.
On the top floor of the Sky Garden there is plenty of space to take in the views to the back and both sides of the building (along with the entrance to the restaurant), before you head back downstairs again on the other staircase to complete the walk around the building.
You can access the outdoor glass-walled terrace from the 2 doors on the lower of the 3 levels in the Sky Garden, however this can sometimes be closed if the weather is too bad.
The air temperature is kept similar to outdoors throughout the Sky Garden, except for in the 2 larger restaurants, so if you’re visiting on a colder day prepare to bring warm clothes with you.
When your visit has come to an end, you head back to the lifts in the centre of the building. Queues can form here to get downstairs, but we noticed these seem to come and go, so pick a good time to leave!
Why is the London Sky Garden free?
20 Fenchurch Street was a controversial building early on. During the planning phase before the building was given permission to be built, the one of the reasons the planners used to justify the large new office building was that it would provide a large, free public park and viewing area at the top of the building.
This public space was one of the deciding factors for the building being approved, hence why it’s now free to the public.
How can I visit the Sky Garden?
Entry to the Sky Garden is completely free to the public, however to control numbers you will have to reserve a time slot online by booking a (free) ticket.
You can reserve your free Sky Garden tickets here.
A free ticket will give you access to most of the Sky Garden’s 3 floors, including the bar and cafe on the lower level of the garden, the full 360 degree viewing area, and the outdoor balcony. It doesn’t give you access to the Fenchurch or Brasserie restaurants though, they must be reserved separately. (If you’ve booked a restaurant you don’t need a regular Sky Garden booking as well)
You’ll need to show your ticket at the entrance when you arrive to gain entry to the building, where you’ll go through Security and in to the lift to the 35th floor where you can wander around the 3 floor Sky Garden.
Cafes and restaurants at the Sky Garden
There are several food and drink options available at the Sky Garden:
First of all is the cheapest and most popular option – the Sky Pod Bar is in the centre of the Sky Garden’s lower level next to the doors to the outdoor balcony. This bar serves surprisingly well priced coffee and cakes during the daytime, which are no more expensive than you’d find in Costa or Starbucks.
The City Garden Bar is next to the Sky Pod Bar and serves alcohol and cocktails.
These 2 bars are surrounded by sofas (with blankets!), tables and chairs for everyone to relax and take in the London views all around.
The Darwin Brasserie and Fenchurch Restaurant are upstairs and serve food with incredible views at a higher price point than the bars downstairs.
How to get to the Sky Garden
The Sky Garden is located close to London Bridge, and the nearest major landmark is the Tower of London.
Nearest Underground station is Monument, a 2 minute walk from the Sky Garden.
My tips for visiting the Sky Garden
- Book in advance to make sure you get a ticket. At the time of writing they’re releasing tickets every week, so you’ll need to be quick to get one booked for the date and time you want to visit.
- Make sure you arrive on time (or early) for your time slot, as they might refuse entry if you don’t.
- The public area of the Sky Garden isn’t heated, so the air temperature indoors might not be much higher than outdoors on a cold day. They do provide blankets in the seating areas, but you might need to wrap up even if you’re inside. The 2 restaurants are inside their own buildings however so should be warmer if you’re going to those.
- The outdoor viewing balcony may be closed if the weather is too bad, but you can still see the views from indoors as the walls are glass all-round.
- Make the most of the cafe on the lower level of the Sky Garden, their coffee and cakes are good and aren’t expensive, and gluten/dairy allergies are catered for.
- When you’re ready to leave, use the toilet upstairs first! There are no toilets for use downstairs on your way out of the Sky Garden.