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London - Up at the 02

Taking grandson to London over spring break. All of you so helpful few days back - have just two questions:

  1. Up the 02 - have any of you done this? I watched video and yes getting all the gear on seems fun but not sure if
    70 year old grandma here should do though I am in good health? Views from the Shard a tad easier and better?? Even the Eye?

  2. Have any of you sat in on Parliament - to see real time debates in Commons or Lords? I have investigated and seems only on Wednesday is the Question/Answer with the PM which would be awesome but reserved for citizens only foreigners allowed only
    if room. Is there any time room left over for us non Brits? If not then a Thursday might book - just wondering if any of you experienced watching? My grandson 14 a history buff and loves government etc...

Thnxs a bunch! dane

Posted by
169 posts

I haven't don the Up the 02. If you are worried about an easier view look at Sky Gardens. It is free you just have to book your tickets in advance. And the view from what I am told (haven't seen it yet) is pretty good. You could also look at the Monument, it is to the Great Fire in 1666 (I think that is the year), you climb like 300 something stairs inside the Monument and then get to come out onto like a balcony and it has a pretty good view as well.

Posted by
73 posts

I just got back from London with my 15 year old. This wasn't our first visit so we had a different set of priorities. We did the Eye on an earlier visit and its great, often busy but definitely worth while for a first visit. This trip we went to Sky Garden and really enjoyed it (and its free!). A few highlights from this trip included Westminster Abbey, Churchill War Rooms and the National Portrait Gallery. Some others feel that the Portrait Gallery doesn't appeal to teens but it was at the top of my daughter's list and it didn't disappoint. On earlier visits we've been to the Tower and Hampton Court, both of which we really enjoyed. London Walks has great walks that we've enjoyed too, this trip we did 2. Take advantage of the Days Out 2 for 1 travel vouchers and pick up Oyster cards for both of you, the metro system is very easy to use. We had a great visit and look forward to visiting again.

Posted by
1353 posts

We've sat in on a Parliament discussion. We found it "mildly" interesting, but sounds like your Grandson may find it more interesting. It probably depends on what they are discussing. During our visit they were discussing the merits of staying in the EU which sounds really interesting, but it wasn't:) They put you in a box up above and you can stay as long as you like. I think we stayed for about 15 minutes. This was not during a question/answer session.

Posted by
88 posts

Thank you for your great tips!! I think I will pass on the 02 - as utubes of the view I agree, the actually hike up is more exciting than the views. Will save perhaps for him and his older sister who can do in summer on another London trip.

My other grandchild we did do the Shard - she loved it but I notice that on travel websites it is not listed. I think I will try to do even though a tad expensive - as he will always when seeing pictures of London future will see it towering and fun to remember he was at the top.

Confirmed we must do a sitting at the House of Commons or Lords - appreciate your mentioning the Lords as perhaps a tad more interesting - subject is the EU exit in Commons so will see. Doubt we could ever get in day before Easter Recess to see Question/Answer with PM as that is first for citizens and only foreigners if vacant seats which doubt this time of year.

Best to all of you - comments make all the difference in planning!

Posted by
1316 posts

I follow UK politics very closely. It is almost impossible to get admittance for Prime Minister's Questions, but there are also question times where other members of the front bench will take questions. These sessions are not usually as rowdy as PMQs but they're certainly more interesting for the outsider than some of the other debates. The House of Lords has a beautiful chamber, but the debates are certainly less lively. You can watch either chamber from the UK Parliament's website to get a taste of what they're like.

Posted by
31568 posts

The O2 being way out east beyond the horizon means that from above the roof you are only seeing bits of what was recently wasteland rather than anything like an iconic view of old London.

I won't go up the Shard as a matter of principle. When they were granted planning permission it was on the condition that they make free access for local residents to their viewing platform. That never happened. They built and then opened a viewing platform and made the locals pay the same absurd price for going up as tourists. For that same price I can fly to Rome or Munich.

Sometimes watching the debates in Parliament are almost as interesting as committee hearings on C-SPAN.

Posted by
3956 posts

Question for Nigel: Your opinion, please, on another head-in-the-clouds experience. I have read that the Sky Garden is a pleasant, green alternative, and even more pleasantly is free. What do you think?

Posted by
31568 posts

Love the Sky Garden, love the views, not completely sure about the slightly difficult booking in advance issues, but for the price of a drink or small snack you can go up to the bars with no reservation. I've always grunted through the reservation system. The webpage takes a bit of practice.

The rooftop at One New Change overlooks St Pauls Cathedral and the City. Absolutely free, absolutely trivial to achieve, out in the open so not so great if the skies open, the first floor has all sorts of restaurants including Nandos, Byron, Wasabi, Eat, Wahaca, and my favourite burrito place, Burrito Mama - a part of Wahaca.

I haven't been up there yet but the roof of Tate Modern - just across the Wobbly Bridge from St Pauls - gets excellent reviews. It is on my list. Free, too. Speaking of the Wobbly Bridge, since it is exclusively pedestrian (and the occasional bike) the views are great up and down the river and no traffic noise or hazards, but it is considerably lower down than a rooftop viewpoint. Good views from the glassed-in Blackfriars Station, if you have reached the daily cap on an Oyster it is free to visit, and you can even take a train somewhere.

The rooftop garden at John Lewis department store in Oxford Street gives a good view of that area.

It has been absolutely ages since I have been up there but you used to get a pretty good view from the Oxo Building.

Good view of Greenwich from the Observatory at the top of the - steep - hill.

Great views - a bit further out - from the Ally Pally, Alexandra Palace.

Or from the top of Primrose Hill, higher than any skyscraper, all the way down to the City and the Shard.

... and there are others....

Posted by
11294 posts

Thanks for those ideas, Nigel and Emma. I see that for the Sky Garden, bookings open up on Monday for the next 7 days, so I've set an alarm to try to snag a time.