‘Do you ever get bored of the view?’ I asked the lady from guest relations who came to our table during breakfast to check that everything was satisfactory.
In retrospect, it may have been a silly question. Because we were at London’s Shangri-La The Shard, where the panoramas, in every direction, have potent boredom-zapping qualities.
It’s a veritable hotel in the clouds, occupying floors 34 to 52 of The Shard, which at 309 metres (1,016ft) in height, is the tallest building in the UK and in Western Europe.
You don’t have to stay at the 202-room hotel, of course, to experience sensational Shard vistas – there’s an observation platform at the top you can visit from £32, where the views extend to 35 miles (55km) on a clear day.
But I discovered during an overnight stay with my partner and five-year-old daughter, Emma, that having breathtaking views ‘on tap’ as a hotel guest was decidedly more thrilling.
Ted Thornhill checks in to London’s Shangri-La The Shard, which occupies floors 34 to 52 of The Shard skyscraper, which at 309 metres (1,016ft) in height, is the tallest building in the UK. On floor 52 is the hotel’s jaw-dropping infinity pool (above)
The Shard is served by 44 lifts, some of which are double decker, and contains 11,000 panes of glass
The hotel’s Asian-themed cocktail bar – Gong – which is located on the 52nd floor
Before we checked into our room we had afternoon tea at the hotel’s restaurant on floor 35, Ting (which derives from the Chinese word for ‘living room’).
Amid American tourists and groups celebrating birthdays and anniversaries, we were served a selection of delicious finger sandwiches, scones, and desserts including elderflower sponge with strawberry cream and pistachio profiterole. But the crowning glory was a showstopping miniature white chocolate replica Shard served on a base out of which poured dry ice that spread spellbindingly across the table.
After a quick game of hide and seek (you know what five-year-olds are like), we ascended to floor 43 to our Deluxe City View King Room, a quietly lavish affair, with lots of quality wood panelling, an epic bed and soothing blossom-tree motifs reaching out across the back wall.
And oh my, the view.
We faced roughly south-west, floor-to-ceiling windows framing Tower Bridge, Canary Wharf and the lines from London Bridge railway station.
The piece de resistance lay in wait by the en suite’s floor-to-ceiling windows – a huge standalone bathtub.
Emma was particularly taken with the set-up and had a Beaufort-scale-12 meltdown when we insisted we had to go to the theatre to see a ‘surprise’ show.
‘I want to stay in the room,’ she wailed.
The high life: Ted’s Deluxe City View King Room (room type pictured above) on the 43rd floor featured a standalone tub next to floor-to-ceiling windows
Ted describes his room (similar to above) as a quietly lavish affair, with lots of quality wood panelling, an epic bed and soothing blossom-tree motifs reaching out across the back wall
She wailed her way through the lobby, where a sympathetic member of staff gamely offered her a colouring-in book, sobbed as the lift – one of 44 in the building – whizzed to the ground floor and sulked in the taxi.
Then her mood flipped when the taxi pulled up outside the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and she saw the posters for Frozen the musical.
Suddenly, we were the world’s best parents.
Ted and his family enjoyed afternoon tea at the hotel’s restaurant on floor 35, Ting. The crowning glory was a showstopping miniature white chocolate replica Shard (above) served on a base out of which poured dry ice that spread across the table
Ting is popular with American tourists and groups celebrating birthdays and anniversaries
Sensational views are available at Shangri-La The Shard in every direction. This image shows the view north across the River Thames, to the famous Walkie-Talkie skyscraper
The Shard has been designed to move by up to 50cm (20 in) in high winds
Next to the pool on floor 52 is the amazing ‘Sky Sauna’ (above) – yet another place in the hotel where a superb view comes as standard
Ted was hosted by Shangri-La The Shard, London, where rooms start from around £570 at the time of writing. For reservations and more information, visit www.shangri-la.com/london, e-mail [email protected] or call (44 20) 7234 8088. To book a table at Ting visit ting-shangri-la.com.
PROS: Stunning views at all times, impressive dining and drinking options, breathtaking swimming pool, slick friendly service, luxurious bedrooms.
CONS: If you don’t have a head for heights this obviously isn’t the hotel for you.
Rating out of five: *****
The show was an absolute triumph – deservedly receiving a standing ovation – and so was the nighttime view from our cosy floor-43 observation chamber.
We ordered room service – perfectly cooked (though slightly bland) honey-roasted cod with mushroom broth and sauteed wild mushroom (£36), a superbly fresh Vietnamese prawn salad with crispy baby gem (£35) to share and two decent glasses of white wine. With Emma fast asleep, we tucked in while sitting in the two leather swivel chairs by the window, transfixed by the carpet of twinkling lights below us. Though the fixed-in-position chairs are too far apart for the (movable) table to be within reach of both diners – so one person must eat from their lap.
The bedroom and ensuite both have blinds that can be raised and lowered at the touch of a button (and they automatically lower when you take the key card out of the power slot by the door to stop the sun heating up the space).
We kept them open for the sunrise – another magical moment, especially for us capital-city dwellers so used to views being hemmed in by buildings.
Breakfast was served in Ting – an impressive affair.
The service was slick and friendly, as it was during the afternoon tea, and the buffet food offering a veritable banquet.
The lady from guest relations arrived as we polished off the final coffees, patiently revealing that the view never gets boring because from up high, the cityscape canvas is continually repainted by the weather.
Fortunately, all guests have access to the hotel’s loftiest viewpoint on floor 52. Here, 597ft (181m) up, there’s an Asian-themed cocktail bar – Gong – and a stunning, Insta-heaven infinity pool and glass-walled ‘Sky Sauna’ from where huge swathes of north, west and south London are visible.
The money shot here is of someone lolling at the edge of the pool with St Paul’s Cathedral in the background (see the stunning image provided by the hotel).
This is, without a doubt, a hotel in the clouds… that will leave you on cloud nine.
FASCINATING FACTS AND FIGURES FOR THE SHARD
▪ The Shard, which opened in 2012, occupies over 30 acres of space – about half the area of The Vatican – developed on one acre of land.
▪ The construction of the four-metre (13-foot) thick basement raft was an operation of heroic proportions: at the time it was the largest concrete pour ever carried out in Britain. In a space of 36 hours, 700 truckloads of concrete were delivered, the trucks marshalled in a military-style operation.
▪ Total volume of concrete: equivalent to 22 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
The Shard, which opened in 2012, occupies over 30 acres of space – about half the area of The Vatican – developed on one acre of land
▪ The tower has been designed to move by up to 50cm (20 in) in high winds. To prevent the building becoming an inverted pendulum in such conditions, movement at the top of the building is dampened using steel tendons that are kept taut with hydraulic jacks.
▪ During the peak construction phase, 1,450 construction workers were employed on site, representing 60 nationalities.
▪ Although 95 storeys high, the highest floor accessible to visitors is level 72, the upper viewings gallery, which is 244 metres (800 feet) high.
▪ The building is served by 44 lifts, some of which are double decker.
▪ Glazing, by area: 56,000 sq m/602,800 sq ft – almost two-and-a-half times the size of Trafalgar Square, or the equivalent to eight football pitches.
▪ Number of individual glass panels: 11,000.
▪ Total length of wiring: 320km/200 miles – the distance from London to Paris.
▪ The building is naturally ventilated: small gaps between all the glazing panels are designed to allow a constant airflow.
▪ The glazed facade incorporates a number of elements that operate like up-and-over garage doors. From these openings cradles are released, and are guided down the building on stainless-steel tubes to facilitate not only window cleaning, but also external maintenance. The uppermost windows are cleaned by abseilers – a job that requires a good head for heights.
▪ The Spire, on levels 75 to 95, is tapered to disappear into the sky. It is constructed of glass and steel, and was assembled on site by a team of specialist constructors. To ensure a smooth installation, the structure was first assembled at a factory in Yorkshire where it was fabricated, taken to pieces and reassembled on site.
▪ The upper viewing gallery, on level 72, offers views that, on a clear day, extend to approximately 55 km (35 miles) in each direction – from Heathrow Airport to the west to the Thames estuary in the east. No other public viewing space in London offers views over such distances.
▪ 247 mainline destinations serve London Bridge railway station, which is situated directly beneath The Shard.