The Shard, London’s Tallest Skyscraper, Opens To Public Today


Today London officially opens its newest landmark, a 1,016-foot skyscraper that has been under construction since 2009. As you can see above, the irregular pyramid-shaped building is entirely covered in glass, and resembles an icicle or chip of glass – hence the name, The Shard.

At 87 stories, the building is the tallest in the European Union. From the 68th to the 72nd floor, the new skyscraper has a viewing gallery and an open-air observation deck called The View from the Shard. Thanks to the fine folks at Visit London, I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek of the new attraction just a few days before it opened to the public. Although it was a snowy, overcast morning, the panoramic views from the top were impressive. From the 72nd floor, it was easy to let your eye follow the dramatic curves of the Thames River and spot many of London’s famous landmarks. Officials said on clear days, visibility could reach up to 40 miles.

For those who are not familiar with London’s cityscape, The Shard has made things easy. Several telescopic viewfinders not only let you zoom in to various spots around London, but have also been programmed to point out historical and otherwise important places and monuments. As you point the viewfinder in any direction, the names of certain landmarks pop up on a screen. If something is unfamiliar, just tap the name to learn more. It’s a great way to orient yourself and learn more about the city – and even if it ends up being an overcast day, the markers can indicate what isn’t visible beyond the clouds.

Besides the observation galleries, the building will house 600,000 square feet of office space, 10 luxury residences valued at $50 million each, a Shangri-La hotel, and three floors of restaurants and retail space.

The building marks a new phase for an improvement plan in the surrounding area, which will soon be known as the London Bridge Quarter. In addition to The Shard, a shorter building called London Bridge Place will be built nearby, and major updates are underway in the London Bridge rail and Underground station.

Reports from London say Mayor Boris Johnson officially cut the ribbon for The Shard earlier today, and a couple has already gotten engaged at the top. Now that it’s open, the attraction is expected to draw more than two million visitors a year, and comes with an entrance fee of £24.95, or about $39, for adults.

[Photo credit: blogger Libby Zay]

10 best bridge walks around the world

sydney harbour bridgeAround there globe, there are many amazing bridges that combine interesting history, incredible architecture and breathtaking views. Crossing a great bridge, especially on foot, can be quite a memorable experience, not to mention it’s completely free. While it is hard to choose only ten, here is a list of some of the best bridge walks around the world that everyone should experience.

Sydney Harbour Bridge
Sydney, Australia

When it comes to the Sydney Harbour Bridge you have a few options. You can either walk across the arch-shaped structure from one end to the other, taking in views of Sydney Harbour and the Sydney Opera House, or you can climb to the top. In 2010, climbing the bridge was actually rated one of the World’s Top Ten Experiences by Lonely Planet. During the climb, which takes you up more than 300 feet, you will be given protective clothing to aid against the weather and will be secured by a wire lifeline. Beginning at the eastern side of the bridge, climbers will ascend to the summit and go down on the western end.Charles Bridge
Prague, Czech Republic

The historic Charles Bridge crosses the Vltava River and is about 1,700 feet long. Its construction began in 1357 under the sponsorship of King Charles IV. Today, the bridge is a lively attraction, with artists, entertainers, and marketers catering to tourists during the day. In the evening, the setting is a bit more peaceful and the bridge and Prague Castle are lit up, giving the structure an entirely different vibe. During both times, you will get great views of the city and its sites.

Brooklyn Bridge
New York, USA

One of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States, the Brooklyn Bridge connects Manhattan to Brooklyn and goes over the East River, giving walkers spectacular views of the New York City skyline. The main span of the structure is about 1,600 feet and is not only an icon of New York but also a National Historic Landmark. The bridge has been used during many situations by New Yorker’s to leave Manhattan on foot, such as during the blackouts of 1965, 1977, and 2003, as well as after the infamous 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

henderson waves bridgeHenderson Waves Bridge
Singapore, South East Asia

The Henderson Waves Bridge is an 899-foot long pedestrian bridge that connects Mount Faber Park with Telok Blangah Hill Park. It is the highest pedestrian bridge in Singapore, sitting 118 feet above Henderson Road. What makes this bridge so special is it’s unique curved design, making it look similar to a roller coaster, with hidden alcoves and seats inside. Make sure to experience this bridge at night in between 7PM and 2AM when the LED lights are on.

Ponte Vecchio
Florence, Italy

The Ponte Vecchio is a Medieval arch bridge that spans the Arno River. It’s most famous for still having shops on it, as was once very common. Stroll across the bridge while perusing the goods of artisans, jewelers, and souvenir sellers while taking photos of Renaissance architecture. The bridge also has a bit of an ironic history. After being destroyed by floods and being rebuilt multiple times, it is the only bridge in Florence not destroyed during WWII.

Jacques Cartier Bridge
Montreal, Canada

The Jacques Cartier Bridge is a steel truss bridge that gives people access to Montreal Island, St. Helen’s Island, and Longueuil. It spans the Saint Lawrence River and walking over it will give you spectacular views of Montreal, especially at night. In the summer the bridge closes to vehicular traffic for the annual fireworks competition held at La Ronde, with the Jacques Cartier being the best viewing spot for the show, sometimes drawing more than 50,000 people.

golden gate bridgeThe Golden Gate Bridge
California, USA

The Golden Gate Bridge in a suspension bridge that spans the opening of the San Francisco Bay into the Pacific Ocean (also known as the Golden Gate) and connects San Francisco to Marin County. It has been declared one of the modern Wonders of the World by the American Society of Civil Engineers and has been said to be “possibly the most beautiful, certainly the most photographed, bridge in the world” by Frommer’s travel guide.

Tower Bridge
London, United Kingdon

While the stroll across the Tower Bridge is short, the views make this a must-experience. Often mistakenly referred to as the London Bridge, the structure holds two towers that are connected by two horizontal walkways. For a bit of an adventurous experience, go inside the towers to explore the exhibits of film, photos, and interactive displays. Then, walk across via the upper walkway for photo-worthy views of the Thames River and London’s famous sites.

Pont D’iéna
Paris, France

Of course, a bridge that gives views of the Eiffel Tower and the Chaillot Palace would have to be included in this list. The Pont D’iéna spans the Seine River and connects the Left Bank, where the Eiffel Tower is, to the district of Trocadéro on the Right Bank. Where the bridge begins on the Left Bank you will get the feeling that you are at a small fair, with the festive atmosphere and carousel ride. As you walk along, you can also see sculptures of warriors that were put there in 1853.

magdeburg water bridge germany Magdeburg Water Bridge
Magdeburg, Germany

The Magdeburg Water Bridge is a navigable aquaduct connecting Elbe-Havel Canal to the Mittellandkanal. This unique bridge crosses the Elbe River and, at 3,012 feet, is the longest navigable aquaduct in the world. Basically, this bridge is a raised body of water that sits over another body of water, which can be a pretty interesting sight (as you can see in the photo on the right from Wikipedia). Snap pictures of the German countryside while watching the ships as they pass by.

The London homeless thrive as tour guides

I have hired some strange tour guides. One was a Balinese man that cackled like a quick fire dub step remix of the word “huh.” One was a spy for the Myanmar government whose eyes widened in the car’s rear view every time I fumbled with my iPod. One made me promise that I would marry my girlfriend when I returned home. Others still furthered strange agendas upon my explorations.

Never though, to the best of my knowledge, have I toured under the guidance of a homeless person.

Thanks to a group called the Sock Mob, the London homeless are taking to the streets and finding a calling as tour guides. The Sock Mob is a volunteer organization that interacts with the city’s homeless or “rough sleepers.” They engage the homeless in agenda-free conversations, distribute socks, and generally commit altruistic deeds. They also have spearheaded a tourism program called “Unseen Tours” that allows travelers to take in some of London’s sights with a homeless tour guide. The lens of homelessness provides a unique perspective on landmarks such as London Bridge, and the guides also showcase hidden corners of the city that a conventional tour may miss. The tours meet every Friday at 7pm and every Saturday at 3pm. Cost is roughly $10, “depending on your circumstances.”

Photo of the Day (8.22.09)

There´s something both totally fitting yet out of place in this photo. The London Tower Bridge, as I see it, is one of the most famous bridges in the world because of its age and history. While the bridge that stands over the River Thames today was built in the 19681894, I like to imagine it as a throwback to the days of old. And while the postmodern streams of red and purple lights add nice contrast to this image, it seems like London (just like any other place) has to find that nice blend between old and new.

Needless to say, this photo taken by jrodmanjr is quite stunning. The blur of pedestrians and the streaks of light make for a perfect image of the today´s London.

If you have some great travel shots you’d like to share, be sure to upload them to the Gadling pool on Flickr. We might just pick one as our Photo of the Day!

Gadlinks for Wednesday 7.15.09


Joyous hump day! I’ve never looked forward to Wednesday as I have this particular week. There’s a good deel to look forward to when it comes to travel stories as well. Take these, for example.

More Gadlinks HERE.