What Is Sky Garden?
Sky Garden is a panoramic viewpoint/plant-filled atrium on the 35-7th floors of London's controversial Walkie Talkie tower. From it you can see the Shard, the Gherkin, St Paul's, Tower Bridge, the whole city pretty much.
Since opening in 2015 it has received its fair share of both praise and criticism. Google 'Sky Garden' and you'll find no shortage of bloggers raving about the beauty of 'London's highest park', but a look at the early reviews tells a very different story.
The Guardian panned it, saying it had 'all the finesse of a departure lounge'. Many debated whether it should call itself a park at all.
These criticisms did not come out of nowhere, however, and perhaps weren't really to do with the garden at all. For years prior to this the Walkie Talkie as a whole had been a target of hatred.
The Sky Garden's Building: The Walkie Talkie
The tower had only been completed the previous year, in 2014, but it had been in the pipeline for almost a decade. Originally it was meant to be 200m tall, but it was objected that this might negatively impact the views of nearby St Paul's and the Tower of London. In 2006, a reduced, 160m version was approved, to much complaint.
Nevertheless, construction went ahead and in 2015 it opened to great fanfare. It even won an award: the Carbuncle Cup for the worst new building in the UK.
This (dis)honour was likely earned in part by the solar glare problem, which had become apparent during the building's construction. In the right conditions, its glass amplified the sun's rays to such an extent as to melt nearby objects. In 2013, several vehicles were damaged in this way. A witty reporter even managed to cook an egg in the heat.
Naturally, the building's architect blamed global warming. 'When I first came to London years ago it wasn't like this...' he said. 'Now you have all these sunny days.'
The tower was subsequently covered in a non-reflective film, but the damage to its reputation had already been done.
Our Verdict On The Sky Garden
After all this, it's hardly surprising that the Sky Garden was critically panned. As far as we're concerned however, it's a nice enough space with great views of the city, well worth a visit if you're in the neighbourhood and there is a slot available.
Its best perk by far is that it's free. You can book a 90 minute visit on the website. After 6pm, however, it's paying guests only, which, to be honest, don't bother.
There are some nice looking restaurants up there, and a couple of bars, but you'll find the 37th floor location makes its way onto the bill. Better to come during the day and grab your dinner somewhere else, maybe Mercato Mayfair or Seven Dials Market.
Interested in finding more places like this? Try one of our Treasure Hunts in London - untangle cryptic clues as a team, as you are taken on a journey to the most unique, unusual and bizarre corners of London.
Or discover another London garden that couldn't quite save the reputation of the controversial building in which it is housed in our article on Barbican Conservatory.