Luke Macgregor / Reuters
The shadow of Western Europe's tallest building is cast across London's financial district as seen from The View from The Shard on Tuesday. Adult tickets to the gallery range from $40 to $160.
LONDON —Towering 800 feet above the U.K. capital, The View from The Shard provides a unique panoramic perspective of the city and — when the weather is clear – up to 40 miles beyond.
But getting a chance to witness the vista from The Shard, which last year became the tallest building in Western Europe, won't come cheap. When the public viewing gallery atop the London's newest landmark opens on Feb. 1, adult tickets will range from $40 to $160.
So will anyone be prepared to pay that much for the privilege of looking down on Londoners?
Andy Nyberg, The View's no-nonsense CEO, thinks so. He says visitors are in for an impressive sight — a "tapestry of history" far below. Its first two days have already sold out.
"This is the only place you can see the whole of London at once and, as such, is a natural starting point for exploring the U.K.'s capital," he said. "If we've got the room and if you've got more money than sense – or time – for £100 ($160) you can turn up at the box office and go up immediately. But that's just a pressure valve for people who bang on the desk."
When it is fully fitted-out, the building will include a luxury hotel, restaurants, offices and private apartments totaling more than 31 acres. The architect, Renzo Piano, has described it as a "vertical city."
The Shard, Western Europe's tallest building will be officially dedicated. The glass paneling and tapered design have already made it one of London's most iconic landmarks. ITV's Lewis Vaughan Jones reports.
A pre-booked, timed-entry adult ticket costs £24.95 ($40), a price the operators believe compares favorably with other "fast-track" entrance fees around London.
In comparison, entry to the main observation deck of the Empire State Building, 1,050 feet up on the 86th floor, costs $25. Going to the top of the Eiffel Tower feels like a bargain at less than $18.50 — and its third level observation desk sits 905 feet above Paris.
But unlike the New York or Paris icons, The View from The Shard's operators say the "visitor experience" is more about the city than the building.
In the entrance hall there was a humorous and irreverent montage of famous faces placed in London landmarks, as well as some of the city's less well-known neighborhoods. The lobby for the high-speed elevators, which whisk visitors skywards at nearly 20 feet per second, was awash with maps and quotations about the city.
"We've been allowed to be quirky by mixing fact and entertainment, but kept plenty of open space for people to enjoy, " Kevin Murphy, development director at Event Communications — the company responsible for bringing the concept to life — said as he looked around the vast viewing gallery on Level 69.
The Shard towers 1,016 feet over London's South Bank and will be officially opened in February. The top floor will provide stunning 45-mile views and will be the tallest building in western Europe. NBC's Michelle Kosinksi checks out the tower inspired by old church spires.
Apart from high-tech interactive telescopes dotted around its edge, the gallery is sparsely decorated, enabling the view to speak for itself.
"We could have three million people a year through here," Murphy added. "But we're not about treating visitors like animals and herding them through."
But although there was space to roam, the novelty of the viewpoint soon wore thin — at least on a cloudy January morning, with visibility limited to around four miles.
The London landmarks nearby, such as St Paul's Cathedral and Tower Bridge, were distinctive enough, and following the course of the River Thames as it weaved its way eastwards to the sea was intriguing. But after playing "Can I see your house from here?" and counting buses, there was little to hold the attention.
Even climbing up to Level 72, the partially open-air gallery at 800 feet, the narrowness of the city's streets kept many landmarks out of view. And when standing so close to the jagged pinnacle at the top of The Shard, the impression gained at a distance of broken glass simply disappeared.
There were two novelties that caught the eye at the summit: The highest — and probably smallest — gift shop in London; and the view from the restroom.
After all, who needs bathroom curtains 800 feet up?
Peter Jeary / NBC News
A restroom at The View from the Shard.