Britain’s highest observation deck, the Shard, today opened to the public.
When building work was completed on the latest addition to London’s skyline, it was marketed as “Europe’s tallest building”. However, that title was short-lived and soon went to Moscow’s Mercury City which stands 31m higher.
Nor can there be a claim that the Shard contains the highest observation deck on the continent. That honour still belongs to the Eiffel Tower which allows visitors to reach heights of 275m, compared to the 244m lookout from the 80th floor of the Shard.
Despite the fact that earlier boasts no longer apply, the views over London and the surrounding areas will no doubt be spectacular. On a clear day, visibility is said to extend for 40 miles across the city. It’s just unfortunate that the nature of Britain’s weather make it impossible to predict a clear day!
And the weather may not be the only factor in keeping a lot of tourists away. Admission prices are also typically British, and purchasing a ticket on the day will cost adult visitors £29.95.
The cost would seem expensive even if the Shard was the tallest structure on the planet, but the prices become almost impossible to justify when compared to similar attractions around the globe.
The rooftop observation deck of Guangzhou’s Canton Tower is the highest in the world and twice the height of the Shard, yet the cost (¥150/£15.63) is around half as much. A 370m trip to the 86th floor of the Petronas Towers would set a tourist back a similar amount (RM80/£16.28).
In North America, the Empire State Building offers visitors the choice of ascending to viewing points situated on two levels. Rising 320m to the main deck on the 86th floor costs $25.00 (£15.75), while a ticket that includes the addition of elevation to the top deck is priced at $42.00 (£26.46).
Toronto’s CN Tower gives visitors a similar choice. A purchase on the day for standard admission costs $32.00CAD (£20.20). Arriving at an initial height of 346m it includes the chance to step on the tower’s glass floor, and is a height that most people would be satisfied with. If not, an extra $12.00CAD (£7.58) will pay for access to the Skypod – situated a further 80m above the ground.
Chicago’s Skydeck is arguably even better value still, with admission costing $18 US dollars (£11.34).
Nothing in Europe compares to the much higher structures of Eastern Asia or North America, but value for money can certainly be found in similar attractions within some of the continent’s biggest cities. The Eiffel Tower is amongst the most visited tourist attractions in the world, and views over Paris from the tower’s summit cost just €14.00 (£12.10). Cheaper still is entry to Berlin’s iconic Fernsehturm which at €12.00 provides 360 degree views over the German capital.
Britain doesn’t do value for money quite as well as many other countries. So, while the Shard may not be as tall as many of its global rivals, it could at least be marketed as one of the highest priced observation decks in the world.