London index
London Panorams

We didn't ever make it up in the London Eye, supposedly the best place to see panoramic views of London. But I'd been told that the top of St. Paul's was just as good, and I can't imagine the views being any better than what we saw there.

I found out later that Anna Quindlen agrees, in Imagined London, and even derives a profound idea from the comparison:

"It is a grand panorama, the view from this great engineering marvel, this new colussus. But it is no better than the view of the city from St. Paul's enormous gold dome, an icon that has stood the test of an additional three centuries of time. The only difference is that to get to the dome you must take the steps. We are accustomed now to being carried."

I'm glad we were able to take the steps, and the view was certainly wonderful, especially given the good weather we had that day. Not to mention a bit cheaper, and with the glorious interior of St. Paul's included in the price.

Here are three samples of St. Paul's views, first looking east, then east-south-east, then southeast. And these views aren't even from the topmost gallery, but from the middle distance.

looking east from St. Paul's

The tall buildings in the farthest distance are the Canary Wharf development


looking east-southeast

Canary Wharf is at the far left here, too; and note all the construction cranes


looking southeast

the bridges you see here are Southwark, Cannon Street (railway) and London Bridge

There are other places to get good views, too, including Westminster Cathedral, whose charge to climb to the top of its tower is substantially lower than St. Paul's.

looking east

looking east: London Eye, Gherkin, Westminster Abbey and Victoria Tower all in view

looking north

looking north: BT Tower in the distance

I got panoramic views of a completely different part of London—the Canary Wharf area —from the top of Observatory Hill in Greenwich. The handsome older buildings are the Royal Naval College and the snazzy new buildings across the river are part of the rapidly expanding area that will be hosting much of the 2012 Olympic activities.

looking toward Canary Wharf Naval College & Canary Wharf
And here is a view of Greenwich Pier from across the river:
pier from across the river

London parks are also good places for panoramic views, especially Parliament Hill in Hampstead Heath, a view from which is on the left below. On the right is a long shot of some notable London landmarks— specifically Westminster Abbey and the Victoria Tower of the Houses of Parliament—along with some lovely clouds, from the Serpentine in Hyde Park.

from Parliament Hill

St. Paul's dome is about a quarter of the way in from the left

looking east along Serpentine

Westminster Abbey's towers and the Victoria Tower are beyond the trees

Smaller panoramas are just as photogenic in London. Here are a couple of views of Trafalgar Square. On the left the National Gallery and St. Martin in the Fields are highlighted, while on the right the pride of place goes to Nelson's column.

Trafalgar Square Nelson in Trafalgar Square

The Thames provides the location for the most famous, and memorable, panoramas, however. Here are some, clockwise from upper left:

London Eye

London Eye, with County Hall in the background

December noon on embankment

riverside scene from the Victoria Embankment at noon (note height of sun) in December


City from across the river

handsome skyline of the City (including the iconic Gherkin) from the South Bank

downstream from London Bridge

looking downstream from London Bridge, toward the much prettier Tower Bridge and the HMS Belfast (on the right)

I'll close with some more views from St. Paul's:

Tate Modern & Millennium Bridge

Millennium Bridge and Tate Modern, along with other
riverside buildings, from the Stone Gallery (mid-way point)

Millennium Bridge

a closer look at the Bridge (being inspected),
the Globe, and some river traffic


crowded view from St. Paul's

another Stone Gallery view, which is, I believe, looking due west


Old Bailey

the Old Bailey tells us this is looking due northwest,
so the hill in the distance might be Hampstead Heath

looking northwest

The London (BT) Telecom Tower in this shot
means it's looking almost due west


looking upstream from St. Paul's

looking back upstream from the topmost gallery—isn't London beautiful!?

These panoramic photos, and more, are in this Flickr set.

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