It’s free of charge but you need to book ahead, make sure you come on time and bring your ID. But leave the picnic basket, wine, Frisbee, chewing gum and your dog at home because none of those are welcome. There is an airport security like scan to make sure you don’t sneak any of those in. It was the same security treatment I received at the Reichstag in Berlin … which was understandable since it’s the government building.
(The smell of overcooked burgers welcome you, but there is no happy group of people around a barbecue, no laughing kids, no one seems afraid of stepping into dog shit or being overwhelmed by pigeons. We were greeted by a young man who got his job just for his looks and made me feel like I was about to walk in the exclusive suite at an airport.
The place was soulless and nothing like the floating gardens of modern Babylon they initially kept talking about – unless the Gardens of Babylon were designed by fourth graders for their Treasure Island play. The only sincere smile I saw was a young child running around oblivious to where they were and a women sipping on what looked like her fourth glass of wine.
To quote a fellow traveller: ”Even the staff hovering around looked like they wanted to hang themselves, but they wouldn’t be able to because the trees aren’t real and wouldn’t be able to hold a noose let alone their own weight.”
And on top of that, the lift music, cheap looking plastic panelling and decidedly boring decor go in no way to make up for the promise of a public space. It’s more of a viewing platform you go to if you are not bothered to pay £25 for the Shard or £17 for the London Eye. And what about the view? London looks stunning but it’s not presented brilliantly.
The maximum you can stay up there is an hour and a half, but depending on how quick you can do your photo pose you’ll be done in 20 minutes and that’s including a quick stop in the toilets.
I did however enjoy the Art Deco inspired entrance sign on the ground floor which I noticed as I was leaving, amid a crowd of eager, excited faces ready to board the lift to disappointment.
At least the Shard didn’t pretend to offer a public space, it doesn’t care if it invaded the skyline and tore a hole in the sky, this forgetful Walkie Talkie bribed its way into the crowd of buildings like a fake friend wanting to join in the fun the Gherkin and Cheese Grater were having, but it could only get in by offering to give them its lunch money, and the promise of a public access space – which requires booking in advance of at least a three days in advance (but it’s booked out weeks in advance). But at least you can take a selfie, which was the entire purpose of the trip for everyone I saw.