London Drum

Stay overnight at The Shard, in the 5-star Shangri-La Hotel by London Bridge

Shangri-La at The ShardPhoto: Craig Cross
Star rating: ★★★★★ Address: Shangri-La at The Shard, 31 St Thomas Street, Southwark Contact: Tel: 0207 234 8000 Web: Facilities: Restaurant, bar, concierge, valet parking, laundry, gym, swimming pool, room service, minibar, tea & coffee, Wi-Fi, TV, movies, telephone, binoculars, hairdryer, ensuite bathroom, air-conditioning, safe Parking: Car parks near London Bridge Buses: 43, 48, 141, 149, 521 Bus fares Trains: The closest station is London Bridge Jubilee Northern Other nearby stations: Borough Train fares

Craig’s review… The Shangri-La is halfway up The Shard, spaning floors 34-52 of 72, and my room is on the 45th. When you first enter the building you have to introduce yourself to the little welcome desk downstairs, where you’ll get met by a receptionist who’ll whisk you up 35 floors in a lift. Then you have to do a load of form-filling at a desk before another member of staff whisks you up another load of floors to your actual room.

Inside a room at the Shangri-La

Inside a ‘City View’ room at the Shangri-La ShardPhoto: Craig Cross
Inside a ‘City View’ room at the Shangri-La Shard

The room is a bit of a knockout. But before I describe the view let me just rattle off the amenities (all you’re interested in is the view, right?) The first time I entered the room they had a warmed-up a pot of tea for me which I thought that was a nice touch.

You also get a Nespresso machine with a load of complimentary coffee capsules, plus a few tubs of nuts and shortbread and an oriental Pot Noodle (but with a much posher sounding name than Pot Noodle – but it’s basically a Pot Noodle). I daren’t eat any of this stuff because I don’t know how much it costs – I haven’t found the minibar menu yet.

TV and desk inside a Shangri-La Shard roomPhoto: Craig Cross
TV and desk inside a Shangri-La Shard room

There’s also a little school set in the desk drawer with a pair of scissors in it, a stapler, pencil, pencil sharpener, plus some Tipex tape in case you make a mistake. And here’s something strange: I’ve just discovered a big chunky torch in the drawer as well. My immediate thought is that we’ve all been supplied with that in case we need to evacuate 45 flights of stairs in total darkness, à la The Towering Inferno.

Okay, I’ve found the minibar now… here we go. Have a listen to these crazy prices: £7 for nuts; £7 for a packet of ready salted crisps; £4 for a normal sized can of Coke; £5 for a tiny little bar of chocolate about the same size as a credit card, and £9 for a little minibar-sized bottle of Jack Daniels.

Ensuite bathroom with electronic toilet

Ensuite bathroom at the Shangri-La Shard HotelPhoto: Craig Cross
Ensuite bathroom at the Shangri-La Shard Hotel

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like staying in a 5-star hotel then let me just say one thing: heated toilet seats. The rim has warm jets built into it that you can angle with a computerised control panel on the wall – it’s a very hi-tech toilet. I’ve never sat on a toilet that has to be plugged into the mains before.

TV floating inside the bathroom mirrorPhoto: Craig Cross
TV floating inside the bathroom mirror

They’ve also got a space-age telly that seems to be floating inside the middle of the mirror. It’s a bit like one of those hologram screens you sometimes see on Star Trek. This is probably why the room costs £450 quid a night – you’re paying £200 quid just for all the electronic gizmos in the bathroom.

View of London from a ‘City View’ room

London’s skyline from a ‘City View’ roomPhoto: Craig Cross
London’s skyline from a ‘City View’ room

I paid for a ‘City View’ room and I can see everything from Big Ben and Parliament in the west, St. Paul’s in the middle, right round to the Gherkin and Sky Garden in The City.

A quick count reveals eight river bridges and three different cathedrals – St. Paul’s, Southwark and Westminster. Plus Westminster Abbey as well. Imagine being able to see all of that plus the Bank of England, Buckingham Palace, Tate Modern and Nelson’s Column all in the same view.

View of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Southwark Cathedral and Tate ModernPhoto: Craig Cross
View of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Southwark Cathedral and Tate Modern
View of London Bridge and the Sky Garden from a ‘City View’ roomPhoto: Craig Cross
View of London Bridge and the Sky Garden from a ‘City View’ room

I like the way they provide you with a pair of binoculars and a comfy armchair by the window so you can just sit and relax if you want, watching the trains snake their way into London Bridge station. I can follow their entire journey from Waterloo to Cannon Street station from my seat in the sky – if you’re a train spotter then this is your dream come true.

The view at nighttime is absolutely amazing. It makes you realise how big the city actually is when you see bazillions of lights come to life. In between the office lights you can pick out trails of cars and buses, and little thin lines of commuters walking home across the bridge. I feel like a spy satellite sitting here, nosing down on people’s lives whilst they’re wandering along oblivious.

Night-time view of St. Paul’s CathedralPhoto: Craig Cross
Night-time view of St. Paul’s Cathedral
Looking down on London Bridge from the Shangri-LaPhoto: Craig Cross
Looking down on London Bridge from the Shangri-La

Bar and restaurant at the Shangri-La Hotel

But here comes all the bad news… I’ve been here for two nights now and I’ve decided that I don’t like the restaurant and bar very much. I assumed that because it was a 5-star hotel it would always be available to guests, but it’s not. It turns out that you need to book all your bar and restaurant appearances in advance because it’s always packed out with people they let in off the street. If you decide to go down there on a whim then you’ve basically got no chance of getting a table. I got turned away myself, and heard another guest complaining at the desk when he suffered the same fate. Another couple had to keep their eyes on the clock because they’d been given a deadline to leave. Who’s ever heard of booking time slots in a hotel bar?

They also do that cheeky thing of pre-authorising a load of extra money on your credit card when you check-in, just in case you decide to make some overseas phone calls or order a few bottles from room service. And it’s a very hefty charge as well: 200 quid a night (on top of the £450 a night that you’ve already paid for the room). That 200 quid a night then becomes frozen money that you can’t spend until your holiday is over. Why are they confiscating money for something that you might not even buy? Why can’t they just charge you at the end, like everyone else?

So here’s my summary: this hotel is all about the view, which is absolutely fantastic, but I don’t think it’s worth staying overnight for… not when you can just visit The Shard on a normal admission ticket.

Worth a stay? Value for money? Nice rooms? Good location?

London Squire bookThe owns and has spent the last decade reviewing the capital’s landmarks, attractions and hotels. His guidebook is available from Amazon

Your comments and questions

GField Hi, Is the hotel at the top of the shard? Can you visit the public viewing floor for free if you're staying at the hotel?

Craig Hi GField. The hotel is on floors 34 to 52, about two-thirds of the way up. The public observation levels are on floors 68 to 72. You don't get to use the public ones for free, but I thought the view from my room was every bit as good. The only difference is it's not a 360 degree view all the way round, but you can see plenty of landmarks from a 'city view' room

Pete&Sue Hi Craig. Do you think it's worth staying here for the view. I would quite like to try it because there's no other hotel like it, but my wife would rather stay somewhere else (somewhere closer to ground level!) I'm trying to convince her to stay here for our 30th anniversary

Craig Hi Pete. I think I'm going to side with your wife... sorry! This place is all about the view. If you take that away then it doesn't come close to some other 5-star hotels I've stayed at, like Threadneedles or the Royal Horseguards. If really want to see the view then you can always go up The Shard as a tourist. Maybe you could stay in another hotel and book a meal in one of the restaurants up the top (or even in the hotel's restaurant?) Then you'll be getting the best of both worlds.

Mary I am worried about the height and worry that I won't be able to sleep. Knowing that I am so high up will keep me awake!

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