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Sky Garden: perhaps (not) a must on your London must-visit list?

It was barely my second week as a Londoner, and I still had no idea what my first post would be about. I wanted it, of course, to be mind-blowing; something that will urge people to book the next flight to London as soon as they read about it. That’s why I was ecstatic when my colleague mentioned a public rooftop garden in the City.

I mean, think about it: how awesome is that! According to his description, it was a little paradise in the heart of the concrete jungle. Situated on the rooftop of one of London’s most recognisable architectural achievements – the Walkie Talkie building – the garden was meant to wow its visitors. And while it seems that this was the initial intention, the final result doesn’t quite stand up to one’s expectations.

Booking your free ticket to Sky Garden

I don’t know how you feel about it, but when I hear the words “Public”, I don’t imagine booking a slot for two weeks in advance. Yet if you want to visit the Sky Garden, this is a must-do. You can’t just pop in there. The booking process is quite simple. Go on their website, select the date and time of your visit, enter your details and print the ticket.

Visiting the Sky Garden

Finding the place is easy – just open Google Maps, type “Sky Garden”, and follow the directions. There’s really no way to miss it – the colossal cue you’ll see just outside the entrance will be a perfect indicator you’ve found it.

After you wait and wait, and then wait some more in line, you’ll have the pleasure of reliving an airport-like security check. I kid you not – plastic boxes for your belongings, scanners, a blinking security door you need to walk through – it’s all there. The only difference is that they don’t ask you to take your shoes off.

Then you get on the elevator,

or the lift. I can never remember which is the English and which the American version of this word. The ride is quick and unmemorable unless someone steps on your shoes.

And once the elevator door opens up, you find yourself in,

an airport lobby. Yes, there are plants. A few. But unfortunately even Ljubljana’s roadside gardens have far more greenery that the “public garden” does. Everyone around will take out cameras and start posing and taking pictures as if they’ve found heaven on Earth. And you can’t blame them – people really want to be impressed by the place.

Sadly, though, there’s not much to be impressed about. The pretty view is well hidden behind thick glass, and only a true professional can take a decent photo without any glare. The sight is lovely, yet it is much like the view of any large city: concrete + concrete, topped with some glass and metal frames. Don’t get me wrong – London is amazing. But it’s the life in it that’s awesome. The skyline isn’t something you’d spend hours staring at.

Sky Garden does, however, offer really good muffins

If you’re decided to visit the Sky Garden then by all means – do. If you have a bunch of friends with you and you’re looking for a place to goof around and have a chat and a glass of something bubbly it might turn out to be a really cool experience. My personal opinion of it should not destroy your holiday plan. You’ll have an hour and a half to spend there, and if you catch the sunset, it could be stunning. They do offer good coffee and some fab muffins, so if you’re quick enough to grab a table (not many of them), you could end up having a great time.

How about a fancier experience?

The Sky Garden, as you will notice on their website, isn’t just a spot you can visit during the day. It is meant-to-be-very-fancy place with two restaurants and two bars which open at night. I will admit that despite my initial reaction to my daily visit, I was ready to give it another chance and stop by at night for a cocktail or two, or even for a burger. While planning my visit, however, it was made very clear to me that a) there’s a minimum spend regardless of your appetite or desire to have a drink and b) you only have an hour and a half to enjoy this. You need to know just how hungry or thirsty you’ll be when you’re going. And, as the architecture implies it: the more you pay for your 1.5h stay, the worse the view as it gets you farther away from the windows (restaurants are located in the boxy structure you can see on the pictures above).

I do understand the concept with the minimum spend, but I most certainly dislike being timed, so as you can imagine I had to say goodbye to my plans of visiting again. If you decide to go ahead, please do drop a comment below and let me know how your experience was – I’d be curious to hear a different perspective.

A summary of what you need to know about visiting the Sky Garden in London during the day:

  • It is noisy;
  • There’s no place for smokers;
  • Once people get in there’s an immediate line for drinks – if you wait for about 20 minutes you’d be able to get a coffee and a muffin without waiting in line for long;
  • The nicest area is up the stairs, technically at the back of the restaurants;
  • You may be able to book two consecutive slots which could mean you’d have 3 hours;
  • It’s best to visit with friends.

By Nina Alexander

Nina is the big sister. She's a marketing professional by day, traveler by heart, tech geek, bookworm, beer lover and an amateur photographer. Her motto is Friedrich Nietzsche's famous quote "And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

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