With the mighty Thames winding through its heart and iconic buildings popping up in every direction, London is a fine-looking city. But it’s also a relatively flat one in terms of terrain, so it’s not always easy knowing where to get a capital view of the capital.

Capsule on the London Eye rises above the Thames
The London Eye offers some of the city's best views © Doug McKinlay / Lonely Planet

The 20 spectacular views listed below all offer totally unique vistas, some from within the centre of the city, others from the various parks and green spaces that surround it. Most are free, but where there’s a charge, it’s definitely worth it.

Frank’s Cafe

South London’s coolest rooftop bar, located atop a multi-storey car park in Peckham, offers superb views of the city skyline, which – we can attest – are further enhanced by an ice-cold negroni on a summer’s eve.

  • Get there: short walk from Peckham Rye Overground station
  • Charge: free to get in, cocktails £6-7
  • More info: Frank’s Cafe
View of the Tate Modern tower with the City of London behind it, as seen from the viewing balcony of Tate Modern
Enjoy the art then enjoy the views from the terrace at Tate Modern © Mike Kemp / In Pictures / Getty Images

Tate Modern viewing terrace

Tate Modern’s Switch House is as popular for its viewing terrace as the artwork within (possibly even more so). The covered, outdoor balcony surrounding the entire 10th floor gives great views in all directions – the most impressive is north across the river, to St Paul’s Cathedral and the City.

  • Get there: 5-minute walk from Southwark Tube station
  • Charge: free
  • More infoTate Modern

Parliament Hill

Crowning handsome Hampstead Heath in North London, Parliament Hill presents sweeping views of the city and is a popular spot for summer picnics. If you want to cool off, the Hampstead Heath Ponds are handily nearby.

  • Get there: 5-10 minute walk from Gospel Oak Overground station
  • Charge: free
  • More info: Hampstead Heath
A view looking up at the Monument
London's original 17th-century skyscraper, the Monument still offers fine views today © Doug McKinlay / Lonely Planet


Erected in 1671 to commemorate the Great Fire of London, which had decimated the surrounding area a few years earlier, Christopher Wren’s 60-metre column today provides an interesting perspective on London, its once unparalleled height having been superseded by most buildings around it. The spiral staircase to the top has 311 steps – a certificate is your reward (as well as the views).

  • Get there: next to Monument Tube station
  • Charge: £4.50 adult, £2.30 child
  • More info: Monument

The Garden at 120

London’s newest and largest garden roof terrace sits in the heart of the financial district. Lower than many surrounding skyscrapers, its 15th-floor location is still plenty high enough to offer good views of Tower Bridge, the Tower of London and St Paul’s Cathedral.

  • Get there: 5-10 minute walk from either Monument or Bank Tube stations
  • Charge: free
  • More info: The Garden at 120
The dome of St Paul's Cathedral against a bright blue sky
Marvel at Wren's religious masterpiece then climb the dome to marvel at the views © Peter Zelei Images /Getty Images

The dome at St Paul’s Cathedral

An entire day could be spent exploring Christopher Wren’s masterpiece without leaving ground level, but if you want to combine your visit with a spectacular vantage point over the capital, make your way to the dome. The climb to the top is divided into three stages: the Whispering Gallery (30 metres); the Stone Gallery (53 metres); and the Golden Gallery (85 metres). The latter two are outside and provide immense views of the city.

  • Get there: short walk from St Paul’s Tube station
  • Charge: dome included in general admission fee
  • More info: St Paul’s Cathedral

Emirates Air Line cable car

Technically part of the London Underground network (yes, we can see the contradiction), the Emirates Air Line cable car, which crosses the Thames at a height of 90 metres, presents truly incredible views of East London, particularly the O2 and the towers of Canary Wharf.

  • Get there: 5-10 minute walk from North Greenwich Tube station
  • Charge: round trip £7 adult, £3.50 child
  • More info: Emirates Air Line
People mill around inside the Sky Garden among the plants, looking at the view
The spectacular Sky Garden is on the top floor of the Walkie Talkie skyscraper © Drima Film / Shutterstock

Sky Garden

London’s highest public garden is an impressive venue, with three levels of landscaped greenery, an open air terrace, restaurants and bars, and great views of The City from its 35th-floor location at the top of the Walkie Talkie skyscraper (officially 20 Fenchurch St).

London Eye

Okay, so a rotation on the London Eye is about the most ‘touristy’ thing you can do in London, but as the old saying goes, it’s popular for a reason. London and the Thames are laid out before you, with particularly fine views of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, as you gently take a turn in one of the glass capsules, reaching 135 metres at the highest point.

  • Get there: 5-10 minute walk from either Waterloo or Westminster Tube stations
  • Charge: £27 adult, £22 child
  • More info: London Eye
The tall, red ArcelorMittal Orbit is in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Sculpture + views + a slide = ArcelorMittal Orbit © Ron Ellis / Shutterstock

ArcelorMittal Orbit

A striking legacy from the 2012 London Olympic Games, the ArcelorMittal Orbit in East London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is the largest sculpture in the UK and has a top that doubles as a 360-degree viewing platform. Perhaps the best part though is that you can whoosh down to the bottom via the world’s highest and longest tunnel slide.

  • Get there: 10-15 minute walk from Stratford Tube station
  • Charge: £12.50 adult, £7.50 child (£5 more for slide)
  • More info: ArcelorMittal Orbit

King Henry’s Mound

On the western edge of Richmond Park, King Henry’s Mound presents a direct (and protected-by-law) view of St Paul’s Cathedral, over 10 miles away to the northeast. You should be able to see the great white dome shimmering on the horizon on a clear day, but there’s a telescope on the mound to assist if you need it.

  • Get there: 30 minute walk from Richmond Tube/train station
  • Charge: free
  • More info: Richmond Park
Evening view of the Tower of London and Tower Bridge from the top of the Shard
Day or night, the views from the Shard are breathtaking – and the highest you can get in London © Enrique Jorreto / 500px /Getty Images

The Shard

Piercing the sky at a height of more than 300 metres, The Shard, Western Europe’s tallest building (at the time of writing at least), unsurprisingly offers rather decent views of the UK capital. Try to time your visit with sunset, if you can, to see the day-to-night changes in the city's character.

  • Get there: London Bridge Tube/train station
  • Charge: £32 adult, £25 child
  • More info: The Shard

One New Change

The rooftop terrace of the One New Change building, open all day every day, offers spectacular, close-up views of St Paul’s Cathedral and the surrounding area. There is a bar onsite, if you want to enjoy the view with a cold beer.

  • Get there: short walk from St Paul’s Tube station
  • Charge: free to get in, drinks £5-6
  • More info: One New Change
Looking up a hill towards the Royal Observatory in Greenwich Park
The Royal Observatory in Greenwich Park sits on top of a hill that offers sweeping views of the city © mkos83 / Shutterstock

Greenwich Hill

One of the loveliest views of London can be found on Greenwich Hill, next to the Royal Observatory in Greenwich Park, right beside the Prime Meridian where east and west meet. Look out for the Queen’s House at the foot of the hill (Britain’s first neo-classical building) and beyond to the Thames and the rest of the city.

  • Get there: 10-15 minute walk from Greenwich DLR/train station
  • Charge: free
  • More info: Greenwich Park

Millennium Bridge

Whichever way you walk over this beautiful, elegant Thames bridge, you’ll be treated to excellent views: south, the enormous Tate Modern looms; north, St Paul’s Cathedral.

  • Get there: short walk from either Mansion House or St Paul’s Tube stations
  • Charge: free
  • More info: Millennium Bridge
View of the London Eye and Big Ben from Waterloo Bridge at sunset
Thanks to its position on a bend in the Thames, Waterloo Bridge has some of the best views in the city © Charles Bowman / Getty Images

Waterloo Bridge

Unlike the Millennium Bridge, Waterloo Bridge isn’t much to look at itself, but the views from it on both sides are outstanding. Looking west, the Thames arcs past the London Eye and the Houses of Parliament; east, it meanders off towards St Paul’s Cathedral and the steel and glass skyscrapers of The City beyond.

  • Get there: short walk from either Temple, Embankment or Waterloo Tube stations
  • Charge: free

One Tree Hill

Probably the least known on this list, the view of London from this green space in the Honor Oak neighbourhood in South London is surprisingly epic, and well worth the climb to the top.

  • Get there: short walk from Honor Oak Park Overground station
  • Charge: free
People sitting on benches next to Alexandra Palace
Park yourself on a hilltop bench and take in the views from Alexandra Palace © David Cabrera / Getty Images

Alexandra Palace

Located in North London, Alexandra Palace – or ‘Ally Pally’ as the locals call it – is a huge entertainment and sports venue, with great views of the city skyline from its hilltop location.

  • Get there: 15-20 minute walk from Alexandra Palace train station
  • Charge: free

The Point

This tiny park with superlative views is like a local secret that sees few visitors, despite being just a short walk from Greenwich Park and its more famous hill. Bring a picnic, enjoy the solitude and keep the secret to yourself.

  • Get there: 10 minute walk from Greenwich DLR/train station
  • Charge: free
People sitting on Primrose Hill in the summer sun with London in the background
Primrose Hill – perfect for picnics and panoramas © Simon McGil / Getty Images

Primrose Hill

Just north of Regent’s Park, Primrose Hill offers a view of the capital that sweeps down to London Zoo and Regent’s Park and then widens out to take in most of the rest of the city.

  • Get there: 15-20 minute walk from St John’s Wood or Chalk Farm Tube stations
  • Charge: free
  • More info: Primrose Hill
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