In February last year, The Garden at 120 in 120 Fenchurch Street in the City of London opened to the public. It is the largest roof top in London, operates on a first-come first-serve policy and it is completely free.
You simply rock up, enjoy the digital art installation by Vong Phaophanit and Claire Oboussier on the ceiling of the lobby (psychedelic, rotating flowers on multiple levels, when we visited, but there are different themes at different times), go through the airport-like security check, then make your way to the elevators, which will take you up to the 15th floor.
The 360 degree views are magnificent and very different to the views from the tops of the surrounding skyscrapers. Apparently some people are upset that the Gherkin, Cheesegrater, and surrounding buildings ‘block the view’… I was just blown away by the beautiful views onto those skyscrapers right in front of you, probably my preferred view from the rooftop.
From the top of buildings like the Shard, Heron Tower, and Tower 42 many of the smaller buildings are already so far away that it’s difficult to appreciate the details of the architecture and the life that goes on in the streets. From The Garden you are much closer to the action and get some really unusual angles on fabulous sights such as Leadenhall Market and the Lloyds Building.
The botanical side of things will presumably take another year or two to grow up to expectations, but we did spot the odd vegetable. The little stream of flowing water zigzagging across the main part of the platform adds a nice touch of zen and tranquillity.
For photos it is perhaps not ideal that there are glass walls all around the building and – especially on a sunny day – reflections of the wooden canopy in the panes, but with a bit of care you can still take decent photos and fully enjoy the views. Safety has to come first.
The rooftop is closed on weekends and bank holidays. During winter (1 October to 31 March) it is open from 10am to 6:30pm, which is not ideal, if you work typical office hours and are not based right next door. However, during summer it’s 10am to 9pm, so even if you’re staying late in the office, you should be able to make it.
We enjoyed our visit tremendously and will definitely be back soon. 4 out of 5 in our book.