City Life / Tourist Attraction / UK

The Sky Garden On The Walkie Talkie Building in London

THE JUNGLE AT 20 FENCHURCH STREET | Sharon Henry

A soft mist falls, leaving glistening beads clinging to the furry furls of the New Zealand tree ferns, 37 storeys high inside the Sky Garden at 20 Fenchurch Street.  Like a light shower of rain, it moistens clusters of waxy ginger flowers and dampens the leaves of 100-year-old palms whose roots once veined the soil at the foot of Mount Etna.  This is the Sky Garden on the top floor of 20 Fenchurch Street, aka the ‘Walkie Talkie’ building, in the City of London, and it’s pretty amazing.

First glimpse of ‘walkie talkie’ building as we emerge from the underground. The Sky Garden is right at the top.

 

I Can See For Miles…

Exotic plants were transported all the way here from South Africa, Australia and the Mediterranean to create this small tropical jungle up in the sky above London’s urban jungle.

My ears popped in the quick elevator ride up and I was awe-struck the minute the doors slid open.  We stepped out into a huge atrium, three-storeys high, entirely encased in glass (roof included) which looks directly across (not up) to the pointy top of The Shard skyscraper.  Behind us stood what looked like a slice of a mountain side, green, leafy and lush.

We made a beeline to the open air terrace, there was so much detail to consume of this iconic cityscape I didn’t know where to look first.  The Shard, HMS Belfast, More London, Tower Bridge, boats on the Thames, red double-deckers, ant people crossing London Bridge, the golden pinnacle of The Monument, down onto rooftops, Battersea Power Station…  Seen at this height and perspective with the wind in my hair, my spine tingled.  Suffice to say, umpteen photos were taken.

The three storey atrium is an impressive introduction to the Sky Garden space, overlooking London.

 

A Little Bit Of St Helena In London’s Sky Garden

It took a while before we ventured back inside.  There’s a café on the lower floor level of the Sky Garden and up above are two restaurants which are flanked by green slopes on either side.  To the far left and right are stairways leading to the gardens themselves and top-most floor where you can stand eyeball to eyeball with the ‘Gherkin’ and ‘Cheese Grater’ buildings.

Unfortunately, the gardens had to compete with the spectacular bird’s eye views of London and it took a while before we felt sated enough to turn away from the cityscapes below and follow the path under the tree fern canopy inside.

But now that I’m here I don’t want to leave.  The range of plants here in the Sky Garden reminds me of home; the tree ferns of our own cloud forest up on Diana’s Peak and the succulents, creepers, ferns and shrubs – the rest of St Helena.  Red hot pokers, agapanthus, birds of paradise, cockroach grass…  It’s so calm and peaceful here, light and airy and for a few moments the sun shines directly onto my skin.  Bliss.

Walking under the Sky Garden jungle.

 

The Sky Garden has its own microclimate and there are three planting zones, the shade tolerant forest at the top, sloping to the sunniest area at the bottom.  The plants are ‘drought resistant’ and were carefully selected to give colour and flowers throughout the year.  The misting units come on automatically to regulate the humidity to 75%.  I love the smell they generate; earthy, just like any garden after a shower of rain.

Can You Believe This Is FREE?

A visit to the Sky Garden is highly recommended.  Admission is FREE although places limited in availability and in one-hour time slots.  Unsurprisingly for such a brilliant attraction tickets are snapped up fast.  Although we got lucky, we booked our tickets online just last night.  It’s a simple and instantaneous process and you can either print a copy or bring it on your phone.

There are queues, and a security check but it’s reasonably fast moving, it took us just over half an hour to get in.  Come at least half an hour early.

Oh, and don’t do what we did and go into what is the actual front door of 20 Fenchurch Street.  This is the reception area for the corporate side of the building – not for tourists.  The Sky Garden entrance is around on the opposite side, to the right as you approach from the front.  The queue should’ve been a clue, eh… duh!

The Sky Garden is a relatively new attraction, only opened to the public in 2015.  The property developers were granted permission on condition that free admission was given to the public.

And even though we’ve been allotted an hour, there are no obvious signs of anyone monitoring this.  No one has tapped us on the shoulder to say, ‘time’s up,’ guess it’s self-regulating; some people who queued with us left a while ago.

We should go too, shouldn’t overstay our welcome.  Oh, but what a place, what views, we love it.  Let’s just take one last photo…

Viewing deck looking down on the River Thames and the More London area.
Sky Garden, London, an amazing experience and all for free!
Amazing views from the Sky Garden down over St Paul’s Cathedral and, away in the distance, the BT Tower, iconic sights of London.
Lunch at the top of the Sky Garden, London.
Stairways leading to the top level of the Sky Garden.
Misting units regulates the Sky Garden at 75% for the giant tree ferns and other plant life.
Super light conditions at the top of the Sky Garden ceiling, hard to resist taking pictures.
Green energy, what else for the Sky Garden. Solar panels line up right across the roof top.
Checking out the sky scrapers of London’s Canary Wharf from the top of the Sky Garden.
Looking up the side of 20 Fenchurch Street as we wait in the queue to go up to the Sky Garden.
Almost bumping into that glass ceiling! As high as we can go inside London’s Sky Garden.
The London Sky Garden offers an awesome view across to The Shard.

 

 

 

14 Comments

  1. Wow, this looks amazing. Didnt know about this, could have took the girls in 2016 on our day out to London 😊

    1. This would have made an amazing stop-off on your London day out. The queues are long which might be a problem keeping the girls entertained but once up inside it’ll feel like you have wings! 🙂

  2. Great text and photos as always, and what an interesting attraction. I have a technical question, do you use a polarizing filter to avoid reflections when shooting through Glass? Aside from the great shot of Sharon and the glass ceiling, I didn’t see many reflections.
    Cheers!

    1. Thanks Rick and Sally, great to hear from you. We do use a polarizing filter that is carried in the kit bag at all times, however, we didn’t use it for these photos at the Sky Garden. There wasn’t really an issue of reflections looking out, perhaps they have none reflective glass. 🙂

  3. Definately top of my list of thngs to do this year ,((nephew Nigel Henry )) is always Inviting us but sonething always get in the way after seeing your pic it got to happen this year having sat up Dianas peak since 2004 cant get home yet so London it is. ❤️😄

    1. Hee hee love it – going to London to have a sit on top Diana’s Peak! Make sure to take some bread ‘n’ dance with you to complete the feeling. 🙂

  4. Another ‘gem’ Sharon & Darrin- might inspire me to make the effort! – only 20 miles away but your expert description & photos leave little to the imagination. Thanks Chris

    1. Excellent thanks Chris! It’ll definitely be worth the effort, nothing like being there and seeing things in real-life. 🙂

  5. Amazing pictures and a wonderful read you have a way with words. I felt I was there .👏👏 .You have been to so many places I’ve lived in UK for 55yrs and only been to London twice.

    1. Wow thanks for that lovely compliment Shirley. But you made us laugh, fancy only going to London twice in 55 years! London is our favourite city. Suggest you remedy this with a trip to 20 Fenchurch Street. And you’ll feel a little bit like being up on Diana’s Peak sat under the tree ferns. 🙂

    1. Thanks so much Lawson! If you haven’t been already, we totally recommend a visit next time you’re in town. 🙂

  6. Took my family there in 2016 great experience and yes its free all you have to do is book via there website in advance

    1. It’s totally cool right? being budget travellers we’re always on the lookout for free things to do and the Sky Garden in the middle of London is a gem. Great place for a family outing. 🙂

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