The Shangri-La at the Shard, Europe’s highest hotel, is unlike any hotel you will ever stay in. Why? Well, it all has to do with the extraordinary panoramic views. If you stay in a New York or Hong Kong skyscraper hotel the building will be surrounded by others of a similar stature – for the Shangri-La, housed in Western Europe’s tallest building, there is nothing else to compete with you for miles around. London is spread beneath you like a carpet, with views across the whole capital from east to west, north to south.
Having a conversation is almost impossible. Every few moments something else distracts you from outside the floor-to-ceiling windows, from the trains that glide slowly in and out of London Bridge and Waterloo – making you feel like a god with a giant train set – to police helicopters zipping past your window, and the sight of Tower Bridge slowly opening, much more regularly than you might have imagined.
The Shangri-La is located between the 35th and 52nd floors of the Shard – the 34th houses a stylish lobby area and the hotel’s signature restaurant, Ting. Ting serves a mixture of Asian comfort food, high tea and modern British cooking with an Eastern twist. Most of the ingredients are sourced from the stalls at Borough Market, in the evening shadow of the building, and the emphasis is very much on seasonal produce. Above Ting are 16 floors of rooms and suites, 202 in total, all with the ubiquitous floor-to-ceiling windows, comfortable beds, Acqua di Parma bathroom products, flatscreen TVs and iPads. Rooms also come with a pair of binoculars, so that guests can spend hours in some Olympian deistic fantasy spying on the drudgery of everyday life unfurling beneath them.
On the top floor (number 52) is Gong, a Champagne and cocktail bar with the best views in the hotel, where waiters helpfully point out the Bermondsey distillery below from where they source their gin. Also up here is the fitness area with an infinity pool looking westwards over London so that guests can glide weightlessly over the city.
The Shangri-La as a brand is a top-class Asian luxury chain with impeccable service, levels of comfort, and attention to detail. But this is not why you would want to stay at the Shard. There is just one reason, pure and simple – the views. From dawn to dusk and back to dawn again London spreads out beneath you under ever-changing skies, where millions of life stories are being created. Everyone should try and spend a night at the Shangri-La at the Shard, despite its £400+ price tag, just to experience a hotel unlike any other.
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