The Sky Garden, London.

London’s tallest garden offers a breathtaking view of the City and beyond.

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It has been one whirlwind of a time ever since I arrived in London a few weeks ago. In a style that is truly mine, I arrived at a new city having no place to live and was ready to push my luck once more in order to find a roof over my head in one of the most expensive cities in the world with the following criteria:

  1. No mould in the bathroom
  2. No hole in the wall
  3. No funny smell in the flat
  4. Window in the room for some fresh air
  5. Not be penniless after payment of the rental deposit

These apparently were too much to ask. While most of the flats that I saw fulfilled one or two of these criteria, one of them actually failed all five. And I would like to think my requests were reasonable, something basic that you would expect in a livable living condition in a first-world country.

Clearly, I was mistaken. Save for the first day, I spent most of my time gasping for air in the harsh realm of London property market – all while trying to adjust to a new city (again) and being enrolled in a new university (which was a different nightmare on its own).

Then with a stroke of luck, things suddenly fell into place. Or to be more precise, things suddenly trickled into place, bit by bit. My friend and I found a flat when we were only half-jokingly looking at the listing, decided to contact the person and it was love at first sight. Not only was there no hole in the wall, the flat was brand new – it wasn’t even done when we viewed it, but we knew right away that we had to get it. Then came the nerve-wrecking waiting period for the draft of the contract to be sent, the negotiation phase and finally the signing of the contract, where I had to literally run to meet my landlady. I swear I must have grown some grey hair in the process, but as if by magic, everything worked out really well. What was more miraculous was that we managed to get the place and figured out a way  to still have some money left for actually living in London.

To cut the story short, here I am, writing this post on the first Saturday I don’t have to spend flat hunting, using the house WiFi that is finally working.

After three weeks of sieving through Spareroom listings and saying no to various social activities, I felt that I had to make up for all the lost time. This was why I decided to book myself for a slot at the Sky Garden, a modern ‘garden’ at the peak of the Walkie Talkie building (or 20 Fenchurch Street, the building’s less known official alias), and began catching up with the past few weeks that I had missed out on London.

It turned out to be an excellent starting point.  Standing 155 metres tall, you get an unrivalled vantage view of the whole City and beyond.

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It was as if you got to admire all of London in one shot.

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As a garden, the Sky Garden did not live up to the second part of its name. Save for some plants covering a pretty large area of the floor, I doubt people come there to observe the different species of vegetation. Instead, the highlight of the place is the terrace with a spectacular view of London.

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While the terrace faces the Shard, Tower Bridge, etc, you could actually get a 360 view of the city if you walk around the whole perimeter of the floor.

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The Cheese Grater and the Gherkin were hidden at the back.

Let’s not forget one important detail about visiting the Sky Garden: it’s free of charge. You don’t have to book a table at a restaurant or anything like that. Of course if you feel like splurging a little, there is a bar, a cafe and a restaurant at the Garden for you to enjoy the view along with the finer things in life. But for most of us the lowly human beings with no cash to spare in this expensive city, all you have to do is book for a slot online and you are all set!

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Sometimes when some things are too good to be true, they probably are. This definitely isn’t the case with the Sky Garden at 20 Fenchurch Street.

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Some of London’s interesting skyscrapers as seen from Tate.

Tips for visiting the Sky Garden:

  1. Book in advance here. There is strictly no entry without a booking confirmation.
  2. It’s free of charge!
  3. Arrive at your allocated time slot. Expect to queue for around 20 mintues due to security checks.
  4. There is no limit on how long you can spend upstairs. Once you are up there, you are free to roam as long as you like.
  5. The website has a two-week booking window, and the slots get snatched up pretty quickly, so if you are going in a group, you should plan ahead.

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