The Best Views from the Strand Palace Hotel

Though the skyline is changing rapidly, London remains a mostly low-rise city. Find a good vantage point and you can spot prominent landmarks for miles around, from Big Ben, Canary Wharf and the Wembley arch to big green spaces like Regent’s Park. But it isn’t all about getting up high – head for the bridges and balconies around the Thames and you’ll find fantastic, easily accessible vistas that cut through the heart of London. Grab a camera and get out there!

Waterloo Bridge

Painted by Monet and Constable and immortalised in song by the Kinks, Waterloo Bridge is a long-standing favourite among Londoners and visitors alike. Cutting across a sharp bend in the Thames, the bridge looks south towards Westminster and east towards the City, with Somerset House on one bank and the sprawling South Bank arts centre on the other. Simply put, you get Big Ben, the Eye, St Paul’s, the Oxo Tower and countless other landmarks in one great panorama. There may not be much to do here, but there’s plenty to look at.

  • Address: Via Lancaster Place
  • Walking time: 4 minutes
    • Exeter Street, The Savoy and Aldwych (see above)

Royal Festival Hall

After crossing Waterloo Bridge, head to the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank for another perspective on this stretch of the river. You have two options: the refined third-floor Skylon bar and restaurant, with two dining areas, great cocktails and floor-to-ceiling glass windows; and the simple bar on the fifth floor, where you can grab a bottled beer and stand on a balcony watching the Thames flow by.

  • Address: Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX
  • Walking time: 15 minutes
    • Exeter Street, The Savoy and Aldwych (see above)
    • Waterloo Bridge

London Eye

While young upstart The Shard can’t be beaten in terms of height, the London Eye has been offering stunning panoramas from the south bank of the Thames since 1999. What’s more, it trumps the Shard in terms of drama – the aerial view of London slowly reveals itself as your glass capsule rises to the wheel’s 440-foot pinnacle. Breathtaking stuff. Those with cash to splash can rent a private capsule, with priority entry and a selection of food and drink packages.

    • Address: Riverside Building, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, SE1 7PB
    • Walking time: 18 minutes
      • Exeter Street and The Savoy
      • Victoria Embankment Gardens, with the ‘Water Gate’ of the old York House (demolished 1672)
      • The Jubilee Bridge and the Southbank Centre

St Paul’s

Its huge, ornate dome makes Sir Christopher Wren’s 17th Century masterpiece one of London’s most recognisable buildings. And it is the Golden Gallery at the very top of the dome that earns St Paul’s a place on this list. Tackle the 528 steps and you’ll be rewarded with amazing views of Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe and the modern skyscrapers of the City, as well as a bird’s eye view of this remarkable cathedral itself.

  • Address: St. Paul’s Churchyard, EC4M 8AD
  • Walking time: 20 minutes
    • Aldwych (see above)
    • The old Strand tube station
    • The Royal Courts of Justice
    • Somerset House
    • The Ludgate dragon outside the Royal Courts of Justice, marking the site of a former toll gate outside the Roman city of London
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