The hotel’s Sky Lobby affords stunning views of London. // © 2017 Shangri-La Hotel, At The Shard, London
Feature image (above): Shangri-La Hotel, At The Shard, London is a striking focal point of the city. // © 2017 Shangri-La Hotel, At The Shard, London
After a mere minute standing before the imposing floor-to-ceiling glass windows at guest reception on level 35 of Shangri-La Hotel, At The Shard, London, all I could think was, “I’m in a glass case of emotion.”
Throughout my stay at the hotel, I couldn’t shake the silly phrase popularized by Will Ferrell in the film “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.” The tallest building in Western Europe, the skyscraper is also called the “Shard of Glass” for its pyramid shape and use of sloping glass facades.
Afforded a panoramic perspective over the whole city — including lofty outlooks over London Bridge and the Tower of London, which are located nearby — I felt overwhelmed by my near-celestial position. And, in fact, hotel guests and visitors alike can try to touch the heavens from floors 68, 69 and 72, known as The View From The Shard, London’s highest viewing platform, with 360-degree vistas for up to 40 miles.
The mixed-use tower was constructed by architecture firm Renzo Piano Building Workshop, which has designed iconic structures such as Paris’ Centre Georges Pompidou, Norway’s Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art and The New York Times Building and The Whitney Museum at Gansevoort in New York City, among others. And this project is no less iconic: The building is composed of offices, restaurants and public spaces at the bottom; the hotel, Shangri-La’s first property in the U.K., in the middle; private apartments at the top; and the viewing gallery at the pinnacle. The structure’s extra-white glass exterior is constantly changing, reflecting light in variable and whimsical ways, making the building the de facto star of London.
The formidable Shard is no less impressive inside: The hotel’s 185 guestrooms and 17 suites all feature floor-to-ceiling windows and a distinct shape due to the building’s irregular, tapered design. An infinity pool on level 52 makes guests feel as if they’re swimming in the clouds, and the 24-hour gym on the same floor gives new meaning to “walking on air.”
My Deluxe City View Room offered ample space (about 460 square feet of it) in which to revel in luxury. A pair of binoculars and a viewing guide kept me quite occupied — and a little late to dinner a few times — as I zoomed in on London’s landmarks.
From my spacious marble bathroom, I soaked in sights of Canary Wharf, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and the Tate Modern museum while in the large bathtub one night, and another morning took in the epic scene from the separate, walk-in shower. With heated flooring, Acqua di Parma amenities and an integrated television screen in the mirror, the bathroom was by far my favorite feature.
Guestrooms also include an iPod docking station, an LED television set, automated climate control, a Nespresso coffee machine and a Chinese tea set. Additional services include valet parking, complimentary Wi-Fi access, 24-hour room service, complimentary newspapers and shoeshines, a multilingual staff and hotel limousines equipped with complimentary Wi-Fi access and iPads.
While plenty of eateries beckon explorers to London, the Shard’s restaurant and bar do much to compete with the city’s offerings. Ting, open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and late supper, pairs European-Asian fusion with more stunning views, and also offers both English- and Asian-inspired afternoon tea. Clients can enjoy drinks at the intimate and sexy Gong, the highest bar in London. The striking space is decorated with dark wood and tones of deep red; its modern Asian design was inspired by the mythical aspect of “cinnabar,” a mineral historically used to paint the “dragon red” walls of Chinese imperial palaces. Additionally, guests can find Lang, the hotel’s artisan deli, on the ground floor of the building.
The Shard may go big when it comes to most things, but it still knows the little things count, offering thoughtful amenities that provide a warm and homey touch that is sometimes lacking at ultra-modern properties. These include complimentary services such as a cold towel upon arrival, a paperless and mobile in-room check-in service accompanied by a traditional Chinese welcome tea, flashlights for guests visiting nearby Bermondsey Antique Market in the early hours, a greeting service at London Bridge Station’s platforms for guests arriving by train and a jogging map.
As I stood stupefied at reception, taking in the bird’s-eye panorama of London while awaiting check-in, a concierge member gently tapped me on the shoulder to wake me from my trance and help me to my room. As I made my way to the elevator — tearing my eyes ever so briefly from the striking tableau — I decided I would happily remain in this glass case of emotion for as long as the Shard would allow.