London is one of the most architecturally diverse cities in the world, spanning thousands of years of history over 1500 square kilometres of land. The city’s Georgian townhouses, Gothic revival churches and brutalist cultural centres all lie under the shadow of the city’s many skyscrapers. Just looking out of the window from the Montcalm at the Brewery will have you face to face with many of the city’s most iconic buildings.
From centuries old to under a decade, London’s distinctive skyline provides visitors with an easy way to navigate the city centre. From the BT Tower to St Paul’s Cathedral, the city’s many landmarks stand out on its skyline and provide first time visitors and guests of spa breaks London with easily identifiable points with which to orient themselves. This blog will provide insight into some of the key buildings you’ll probably see on your first visit to the city.
St Paul’s Cathedral
Though it was rebuilt in the late 17th century by famous architect Sir Christopher Wren, St Paul’s Cathedral actually dates back far further than that. The original Christian cathedral on the grounds could date back as far as AD 600. The present Cathedral however, was built to replace the old one that was burnt down after the Great Fire of London. Many famous events have taken place at this beautiful cathedral on Ludgate Hill, establishing it as the go to for royal weddings, state funerals and the burials of influential figures. The Cathedral’s iconic domed spire can be seen from many viewpoints across the city, indeed its sightline being a compulsory feature at hills such as Primrose Hill and the Greenwich Observatory hill.
Houses Of Parliament
This Victorian era Gothic revival structure represents the confluence of national power in England. As the meeting place for Members of Parliament, it is where many of the key decisions concerning the country are made and daily guided tours are available of several main rooms in the complex. Visitors can also enjoy tours of Big Ben, the clocktower dubbed Elizabeth Tower in 2012 to mark Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee which is visible from the River Thames. Elizabeth Tower – or Big Ben – rises to 96 metres above the London skyline, but has no lift system for tourists, who must climb up 691 steps to reach its peak.
The Shard is currently the tallest building in London and was opened in 2012 at a height of nearly 310 metres. Now consisting of a series of offices, hotels and restaurants to rival that of the Montcalm Restaurant, the Shard’s striking shape stands out amidst the tall skyscrapers of the City of London. Public visitors can only enjoy views from up to the 35th of the 94 floors in the shard though, and that’s with a booking at one of its restaurants.
The Walkie Talkie Building
Another City of London skyscraper known for its distinct shape, the Walkie Talkie Building – or 20 Fenchurch Street has a top-heavy looking design that houses one of the most unique tourist attractions in the city – the Sky Garden. Free to visit, guests can enjoy beautiful panoramic views of the London Skyline from the 35th-37th floor of what is mostly office space. Furthermore, an indoor garden and rockery provides welcome greenery amidst the high end urbanisation of the City of London.
Situated behind the restaurants on the SOuth Bank of the central Thames, the OXO Tower was originally a power station but was bought by the Oxo beef stock cube company in the 20s and rebuilt in the art deco fashion of the time. The prominent “Oxo shaped” windows were a response to the ban on advertising the company’s products in lights. When the building was rebuilt and advertising permission denied, the windows “accidentally” took the form of the company’s name! Nowadays the 53 metre tower and its surrounding complex holds a number of arts and crafts shops and restaurants, though the tower itself is off limits to the public.
One Canada Square
One Canada Square is a defining feature of the Canary Wharf and Isle of Dogs skyline thanks to its flashing pyramid shaped top. The building was the tallest in England at one point at 240 metres high, but was overtaken by the Shard upon its construction. Clad in stainless steel, it is completely taken up by office lettings, companies occupying the floors including Clydesdale Bank and the Swiss Stock Exchange. This means that unfortunately, there is no viewing platform or public access to the building. Guests of the Montcalm Hotels can still appreciate its architectural majesty from across the river, from the viewpoint at Greenwich Park.
Once shrouded in secrecy during the Cold War, this open secret of a communications tower was bought by BT from the General Post Office, who used it for microwave communications. Nowadays, the microwave aerial links have been replaced with fibre optics, and this Westminster based landmark still plays an important role in communications throughout the city. Like Canada Square, this 189 metre building was once the tallest in London throughout the 70s and isn’t open to the public. An exception to this is during London’s Open House Week which takes place every September.
122 Leadenhall Street
225 metres high, 122 Leadenhall Street – or the Cheesegrater is in the City of London and is easily reachable for guests of the Montcalm at the Brewery. The tapered architecture makes for a striking appearance, helping it to stand out across the skyline. The reason for this design was not to be edgy though, but to preserve views of St Paul’s Cathedral for the rest of the city. The Cheesegrater is again, not open to the public, tenants including the MS Amlin, Bfit Insurance and a range of other financial companies. The building represents the forward thinking ethos of the City of London’s Square Mile and its business district, as well as its roots in the city’s history. Visitors can reach the Cheesegrater via nearby stations Liverpool Street, Fenchurch Street and Aldgate.