My brother came down from Norfolk yesterday, and after work we went up the Sky Garden. That's the glass box at the top of the Walkie Talkie, or 20 Fenchurch Street as this inelegant beast is officially known. The public viewing platform opened two years ago this week, and you can go up for free so long as you're awake enough when booking opens three weeks in advance. What's more, it's over 150m up, which is higher above sea level than every single building in Norfolk.
We went up at sunset, which is the best time to go because you get to see the city in daylight and then after dark. The Sky Garden hasn't changed much since I was last there, except it's busier than it was, and the open terrace out the front is now open. That had the best views, but also the coldest weather, so most of the French schoolchildren massed inside for warmth. The 36th and 37th floor restaurants were quiet, but the 35th floor Sky Pod bar was raking in the cash, which isn't difficult when a bottle of Coca Cola costs £3.75. Hot drinks are cheaper, but a pork pie is £4.50, and nowhere near the size of the two quid monster I bought in Leeds at the weekend. You too could visit.
Meanwhile, other things in London are also fun to go up.
Good news from the Shard. Last year they issued a Love London card which for £20.16 allowed you to go up to the viewing platform as many times as you liked during the year. This year they're doing it again, but for £20.17. Given that a single visit currently costs £25.95, this is phenomenal value. Cards go on sale from Monday morning at 7am, and must be claimed in person because you need to show photo ID. Last year the queues were very long, but cards didn't run out on the first day and you could have popped back weeks later and still picked one up. Also be warned that last year you had to be a London resident to qualify, which is probably still the case, even though it's not specified in the terms and conditions. I went up nine times last year, at an average cost of £2.24 per visit. Phenomenal value. [UPDATE: you don't have to be a Londoner this year, anyone can apply] [UPDATE2: all the cards sold out on the first day]
Also, news from the Orbit. This is the red sculpture in the Olympic Park with the viewing platform up top, and now a corkscrew slide in an attempt to make the place more exciting. Slide aside, the viewing platform is often ridiculously quiet, and in January especially so. Which is why there's a special half price offer on tickets bought this month, for visits up to and including 10th February. That means £5 for adults, £2.50 for children and £3.50 for senior citizens, which is a bargain. The Slide is not included, neither is there discount on the annual Local Resident offer, and you have to pre-book at least the day before you visit. But if you've always thought about going up and been put off by the price, now's the time.
And news from the Dangleway. Now that TfL have published ridership figures for the last week of the year, it's possible to tot up passenger numbers to see how this cross-river link is performing. In 2016 the Dangleway had 1,490,000 passengers, its lowest annual total to date, but only slightly down on 1,540,000 the previous year, and 1,520,000 the year before that. In fact the annual passenger total has been astonishingly consistent since this tourist attraction opened, as the graph below shows.
It should be pointed out that the 2012 total was achieved in just six months, back when the Dangleway was still a novelty, so isn't technically comparable. But since 2012 the data shows very clearly that the cablecar has had approximately one and a half million passengers a year (an average of 4000 a day), with ridership not really growing nor in decline. For a more detailed overview, see this line graph of cumulative dangles. This would be a good place to remind you that the Dangleway covers its operational costs each year, so isn't losing money, other than the millions poured into building it in the first place. But it is noticeable that TfL have stopped promoting it quite so heavily recently, and so it continues to carry tourists across the Thames, out of sight, out of mind.
Finally, in news that isn't news, the Dangleway is considerably better value than Up At The O2, the neighbouring attraction where people go for a hike over a millennial tent. This pseudo-mountaineering challenge costs £28, or £35 at the weekend, whereas the cablecar costs only £3.50. What's more, Up At The O2 takes you only 52m above ground level, whereas the cablecar reaches 90m so the panorama's considerably better, relatively speaking. And seriously people, if you really want to go hill climbing in the capital try Parliament Hill, which is steeper and higher and free, and arguably has a better view to boot.
Some of the best things to go up in London cost nothing at all.