What is it about humans and our obsession with the extremes? From the deepest parts of the sea to the tallest mountain on land (Everest, of course), we love to go as high up or down low as possible – and the same is true when it comes to towering buildings in popular cities across the world.
While London is no longer home to accolades when it comes to the tallest buildings in the world, or even in Europe, the tallest buildings in London are still impressive – and astonishingly diverse in both their uses and styles. Some of them boast the best views in London, and I can’t deny that I’ve been among those London travelers who seek to ascend to the tippy top of one (or several) looking for an incredible view across my favorite city.
So whether you’re planning your first trip to London and want those sweeping views or are returning with an eye for a different perspective, consider visiting one of these tallest London buildings. They’re literally at the “top” of the list!
The Shard (1016 ft)
Since 2012, The Shard has been the tallest building in London and the seventh tallest in Europe, standing 1,016 feet (309.6m) tall. Previously known as “London Bridge Tower,” this 95-story skyscraper was designed by Renzo Piano to look like it was emerging from the Thames River and is made from 95% recycled construction material!
There is a (ticketed for 30 minutes) observation deck that is open to the public called “The View From The Shard.” From there, visitors have 360-degree views for up to 40 miles (on a clear day). If you’re fit enough, you can attempt the 306 flights of stairs up the tower. For regular folk like myself, there’s also an elevator that will take you to the 68th floor in a mere 60 seconds. On the 69th floor, you can enjoy some bubbly along with the view, or take in the fresh air on the open-air deck at Level 72.
22 Bishopsgate, or Twentytwo/ 22B as it is also known, is a primarily-office building standing at 912 feet (278m) above the City of London. Consisting of 61 levels and home to over 20 companies, it has a restaurant, gym, as well as bar and organizes regular events. (In 2022 alone, 139,000 people visited Twentytwo!)
Visitors are obviously welcome at the public amenities, such as the bar and restaurant. In addition, 22 Bishopsgate has the honor of being London’s highest free viewing platform, Horizon 22. (Note that you still have to book tickets though, which are non-transferable. You will be asked to show your ID on arrival. If you’re in the area and want to try your luck at one of the tallest buildings in London, there are a few spaces allocated for walk-ins.)
One Canada Square (770ft)
Photo courtesy of Thomas Ackroyd via Flickr
Designed by César Pelli and located in Canary Wharf, One Canada Square was the tallest building in London (and thus the UK) for 21 years at 770 feet (235m), until The Shard was completed in 2012. It’s best known for its pyramid roof, which has a flashing aircraft warning light to help aircraft navigate safely in low visibility conditions.
While there is no observation floor/deck in One Canada Square, there are retail units on the lower floors of One Canada Square so you can just walk into those. Unfortunately, you will not be able to take in the view from the top of one of London’s tallest buildings here. (The 50th floor was open to visitors in 1992 but public access was discontinued after the IRA tried to bomb the tower.)
Landmark Pinnacle (765ft)
Photo courtesy of Images George Rex via Flickr
Formerly known as City Pride, the 75-story, 765-foot (233m) tall Landmark Pinnacle is Western Europe’s and London’s tallest residential building. It offers the residents of its luxury apartments almost uninterrupted 360-degree views of London from Canary Wharf.
As Landmark Pinnacle is meant to be a residential building and not one of the tallest attractions in London, the Sky Terrace is for residents only and is not open to the public. However, you can see the views from the 27th, 56th, and 75th floors on the website. In addition, if you have the budget, you can make an appointment to see show flats located on the 41st, 42nd, and 65th stories here.
Salesforce Tower/110 Bishopsgate (755ft)
At 755 feet (230m) tall, Salesforce Tower or 110 Bishopsgate (formerly called Heron Tower )is also worth visiting for its 70,000-litre fish aquarium which has a sustainable ecosystem, housing over 1200 fish. The building itself also generates solar energy, so it’s a cool piece of modern architecture and engineering, even if you don’t ascend to the public spaces higher up.
There are two popular restaurants (open to the public, obviously), Sushi Samba (38th & 39th floors) and Duck & Waffle (40th floor) from which you get amazing views. Sushi Samba actually has the highest outdoor dining terrace in all of Europe, if you’re not afraid of heights.
122 Leadenhall Market (738ft)
The Leadenhall Building at 122 Leadenhall Street, or The Cheesegrater (as Londoners affectionately call it) stands at 738 feet (225m) and 48 stories high. One of the tallest buildings in London, it is home to financial companies and a restaurant (Bob Bob Ricard‘s City location). Interestingly, unlike other skyscrapers, the building does not have a central core but uses a tube structural perimeter envelope to externally support the building. Engineering nerds will get a kick out of that!
You can obviously visit the restaurant, Bob Bob Ricard City, but that’s only on the third floor so not very exciting. On the ground floor, there is a 30m high atrium that visitors can access.
Because the Leadenhall was built in a tapering fashion to conserve the views of St. Paul’s Cathedral, access to the top floors is limited. For better views from the 42nd floor, you will need to be invited to an event at Landing Forty-Two, the highest event space in the UK.
You may have noticed that many of the tallest buildings in London are found in Canary Wharf – the 720-foot-high (220m), 58-story Newfoundland building is another one of them! This residential building housing 636 apartments was opened in 2021 and has won several awards, such as a commendation in the Evening Standard’s New Home Awards.
Like Landmark Pinnacle, you can make an appointment to view apartments that are available for rent at Newfoundland.
Crystal Palace Transmitter (719ft)
Officially known as Arqiva Crystal Palace, Crystal Palace Transmitter is a 719-foot-tall (219m) broadcasting and telecommunications site that is the main television transmitter for London (and thus the most important in the UK, in terms of coverage.) It was constructed in the mid-1950s, with its tall tower only having been erected in 1990.
Unfortunately, this is one of the tallest buildings in London that you cannot climb/ascend.
One Nine Elms City Tower (709ft)
The first residential building not located in Canary Wharf, One Nine Elms City Tower is a mixed-use development with 2 residential towers (housing over 400 apartments) and a Park Hyatt hotel. The taller tower will be 58 floors high, standing 709 feet (216m).
As of publishing this post, you cannot currently visit One Nine Elms City as it will only be completed in November 2023. If you’re keen on visiting every tall building in London, be sure to check out the project’s website.
South Quay Plaza 1 (704ft)
Designed by Foster + Partners, South Quay Plaza is the 3rd tallest residential building in London on this list; it’s also in Canary Wharf – surprise, surprise. It is a development with three towers, the highest (Hampton Tower) being a glass and steel 704-foot (214.5m) tower with over 68 floors of luxury apartments.
Whilst the entire development will only be completed in 2028, the tallest Hampton Tower has already been finished. If you’re very interested in the building, you can make an appointment to view one of the apartments on the market (but, of course, it may or may not be on a high floor!). Otherwise, the same rules apply to Hampton Tower as other residential buildings on this list.
One Park Drive (673ft)
Photo courtesy of Images George Rex via Flickr
Designed by Herzog & de Meuron, One Park Drive is another residential building (again in Canary Wharf), but this time with a cylindrical design. It houses 484 apartments in a 57-story, 673-foot-tall building. As with the other residential buildings that are amongst the tallest buildings in London, you can make an appointment to see a show flat at One Park Drive, but there isn’t a viewing platform open to the public.
8 Bishopsgate (669ft)
8 Bishopsgate might look unremarkable compared with some of the other fantastical skyscrapers that have popped up over the City of London 51-story office building has the highest solar panels in London as well as a lush 7,600 square-foot communal garden terrace. (It also promotes urban planting in its accessible roof terraces and tries to be more sustainable by using light-responsive blinds that reduce its cooling demand by 5%.)
8 Bishopsgate releases (free) tickets every Monday for The Lookout, which is wheelchair accessible and located on the top floor; each entry is valid for 45 minutes. You can bring in bottled water but no food, and children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult over 18 years of age.
8 Canada Square (656ft)
The headquarters of HSBC (at least, till 2026), 8 Canada Square is also known as HSBC Tower – who knows what it will be called after the primary tenant vacates in a few years! Also located in Canary Wharf, it was designed by Norman Foster and completed in 2002 and has 45 floors, reaching a height of 656 feet (200m).
This is the only other building on my list of London’s tallest buildings that you cannot currently visit or view from – unless you are an HSBC employee between now and 2026, I guess!
25 Canada Square (656ft)
Ready for another Canary Wharf skyscraper? 25 Canada Square is a 42-story, 656-foot-tall (200m) building that houses Citigroup’s EMEA Headquarters. It was designed by César Pelli & Associates and was completed in 2001.
This building is currently undergoing a three-year refurbishment project (which will be one of the largest workplace refurbishments in Europe.) During this time, you cannot visit, though it’s uncertain whether that might change once the project wraps up in 2025.
The Scalpel (624ft)
The Scalpel is an award-winning, 623-foot (190m) tall, 38-story commercial building designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox. It was completed in 2018, and houses offices, restaurants, and retail units; since then it has become one of the most iconic buildings on the London skyline – though as with all modern skyscrapers, Londoners themselves are divided on whether it adds or detracts from the city’s profile.
Like 122 Leadenhall, The Scapel is built at a slant: The Scalpel leans away from Leadenhall so that it will not interrupt the view of the St. Paul’s Cathedral’s dome when walking from the west on Fleet Street.
As for visiting/ascending The Scalpel, the shops and restaurants are on the lower floors and open to the public. The upper floors are rented out as offices so you won’t be able to enjoy the view here.
Have any questions about the tallest buildings in London, or how to visit those which are open to the public? Let me know in the comments below!