Boris Johnson, alongside architect Renzo Piano, cut the ribbon to open The Shard on February 1, 2013 in London. Then the tallest building in Europe (a title that has since been swiped by a more recent design in Moscow), it’s still almost twice as high as any London viewpoint. And while it boasts one of the city’s best places to take in the skyline, there’s a lot happening on those 73 stories. Here, our favorites.
There’s a sense of playfulness to what could otherwise be an austere property—and plenty to entertain the crowds that come to enjoy it. Earlier this year the Shard launched a series of silent discos for weekend parties, and on Saturday mornings, you can book a class to downward dog with a panoramic view, hosted by Yogashere’s Mandy Jhamat.
Last year the five-star Shangri-La Hotel opened—and promptly made T+L’s own It List—boasting telepathic service, heated bathroom floors, and unassuming mirrors that double as television screens. In a world where five-star can sometimes fall flat, the Shangri-La (floors 34 to 52) has approached hotel design with super-hero strength. Gong, its bar on the 52 floor, is London’s highest licensed venue—a Romeo & Juliet (Dodd’s gin, raspberry purée, Earl Grey tea and citrus), tastes even better with sweeping city views. On that same floor, guests will find a 24-hour fitness studio with its very own celestial infinity pool.
But it’s not all about where to lay your head. Several stand-out restaurants reside in the Shard. Rainer Becker’s Oblix (Level 32) is a firm favorite for a centrally located wood-fire oven turning out rotisserie chicken and duck, and a grill serving up an array of beef and fish.
AquaShard (Level 31) is as slick as the Mayfair original, popular for its elegant cocktails, brunch and tea service. On the same floor there’s Hutong, which first made a name for its cuisine in Hong Kong. The Northern Chinese fare is incredibly chic (crystal prawn dumplings with addictive XO sauce; sautéed cuttlefish with green beans, red bell peppers, leeks and chicken broth) and mouth-wateringly good.
While all the restaurants have great bars and unstoppable views, it’s still worth zipping up to Level 68—the futuristic elevator transports guests to the top floor in just over a minute—for the famous viewing platform, which allows you to gaze upon 40 miles of London and its landmarks.
And while the weather’s still warm, don’t miss the skydeck on Level 72, which has been transformed into an English summer garden with more than 2,000 plants and flowers—and is the site of popular but rotating seasonal programming while summer remains.
Bridget Arsenault is the associate editor, print and digital at Vanity Fair UK. and the co-director of the Bright Young Things Film Club. She covers the U.K. beat for Travel + Leisure; follow her on Twitter at @bridget_ruth.