5 Places to See the London Skyline – For Free!

Ally Pally viewfinder

What do you see!?

I won’t be the only person to tell you that riding the London Eye is overrated. Regardless, three million people ride the London Eye every year – three million! They can’t all be wrong… But do you really want to be like three million other people? No – you’re unique, you want to do things differently and you don’t want to spend 25 quid on a glorified Ferris wheel.

Surely, no true Londoner would do that.

Living in north London has taught me that there are way better places to see the London cityscape. You don’t need to go too high, you get a number of different vantage points and it’s a lot more active than standing around for a 30-minute rotation.

Here are my (not-so-secret) secret views of London:

City of London; view from Alexandra Palace

Alexandra Palace

Ally Pally has become a staple in my London experience over the last few months. I’ve been here for Bonfire Night fireworks, working at the Vans Warped Tour (totally 16 again), the weekly Farmer’s market in Alexandra Park, and buying a Christmas tree. With an ice skating rink, pub, and playground, Ally Pally is a true community hub for the north Londoner.

Besides the Pitch ‘N’ Putt across the way, there are also some great views into the City of London from here. You can also see what’s called the Harringay Ladder – so named because the streets form a ladder shape from above – which is just west of Green Lanes.

Harringay ladder, London

The Harringay Ladder

The Palace is a listed building, which means it’s on a list of buildings of special historical or architectural interest. There are different levels of listed status – some can never be destroyed or have interior changes made.

View to City of London from Parliament Hill, Hampstead Heath

Parliament Hill, Hampstead Heath

Parliament Hill is another place that I’ve visited often in north London. There is a Saturday morning farmer’s market and the newly refurbished Kenwood House. This Georgian home has just re-opened after a million-pound renovation. Inside are Rembrandt and Vermeer paintings, restored architecture with seriously elaborate embellishments, letters and a slavery and justice exhibition.

Playground at Hampstead Heath

Hey – I’m a kid at heart!

A short walk away are statues by Henry Moore, a pond, a playground, the rest of Hampstead Heath… The place is huge. There is even an extension into Golders Hill, which has animal enclosures and flower parks, and is like, a ten minute drive away.

City of London view from Primrose Hill

Primrose Hill, Camden

I really like this park, though Tom finds it a little bit “too American”. I don’t know what it is, but some Londoners (okay, maybe it’s just Tom) seem to have an aversion to extensively landscape parks. Apparently, it seems unnatural, so he prefers places like Highgate Wood with paths trodden by people rather than tractors.

I see his point, but the North American in me likes to see man’s triumph over nature – manicured lawns and perfectly placed trees. Not to sound anti-environment or anything. I love the environment. I recycle!

This hill is within walking distance of Regent’s Park, so it’s much closer to the city centre. A friend told me she thinks this is where you get the best view of London. The BT tower seems really close up, and you can see the Shard, though some monuments you can see from Parliament Hill – like the Gherkin – are obscured by buildings.

Primrose Hill is a really posh area, so while you’re looking at the skyline, keep an eye out on the joggers – you never know when a celeb might race by!

Greenwich Park, South-East London

This is the only green space with a view of London I’ve found that isn’t in north London. In fact, this view from the Royal Observatory is protected by city legislation – planners are not allowed to build anything that would further obstruct monuments that can be seen from this angle.

I think this one is awesome! The panorama is such that you can see from the BT Tower to St Paul’s Cathedral to the Gherkin to a close-up view of Greenwich Palace to Canary Wharf and the O2 Stadium. Rose gardens and ancient chestnut trees are easy to explore on the pedestrian pathways.

View from Frank's Cafe, London

Source: Katie Sadler

Frank’s Café, Southwark

Frank’s Café and Campari Bar in Peckham was voted one of London’s best rooftop bars by Condé Nast Traveller. Frank’s is essentially a ‘pop-up’ (what is this London obssession with the pop-up?!) on top of a ten-storey parking garage/car park that is a community project – build by local architects, sponsored by Campari and attended by Londoners.

From the roof you can see almost 360-degrees of London, from the London Eye and beyond. You can also drink any cocktail that has Campari in it, look at art, and hang out with bearded ‘artsy’ hipster types.

I was recommended this view by one of Tom’s brothers. He also informed me that they have really cool weekly concerts with good performers. I think it’s an awesome view since you can really make out all the new buildings with hilarious buildings named after appliances and household wares like the Cheese Grater and the Walkie-Talkie…

Before you go running to check it out because of this amazing description, just know that it’s only open during the summertime.

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21 thoughts on “5 Places to See the London Skyline – For Free!”

  1. Kirsten says:

    You’re back! The London Eye was the biggest waste of time & money ever. My parents took my brother & I on it when we were teens. There’s a chance I might be in London again this summer so I’ll keep these points handy!
    Kirsten recently posted…My Next Adventure!My Profile

    1. Alyssa James says:

      I’m trying, but keeping up with all the writing is difficult! I’m glad someone notices when I disappear! :)

      Let me know when you’ll be here!

  2. Corinne says:

    I’m always looking for good places to take city views, so I loved this post. Hoping to get to London for a weekend in the future…so hopefully I can check out a couple of these.

    1. Alyssa James says:

      Thanks Corinne!

  3. Hi Alyssa,
    You brought back some lovely memories with this post. I used to live in Kentish Town and went for the occasional run but mainly lots of walks in Parliament Hill and the odd time over to Primrose Hill also. Keep writing about the lovely London for those of us who miss it! Really enjoying your London adventures…
    Pamela Cahill recently posted…My Twenty ThirteenMy Profile

    1. Alyssa James says:

      Thanks, Pamela! :)

  4. I hadn’t thought about Alexandra Palace – that’s a great one. I used to go to Primrose Hill when I lived in Belsize Park and do some celeb spotting whilst looking at the view.

    1. Alyssa James says:

      Did you see anyone noteworthy? ha

  5. sojourner says:

    I love your photos for this post. London is such a hard place to see when you are in the middle of it, but you have managed to go not so far off the beaten path and capture the city perfectly. Thanks for sharing.
    sojourner recently posted…This is Crete (Greece)My Profile

    1. Alyssa James says:

      Thanks for commenting!

  6. Will ABSOLUTELY be checking Frank’s Cafe out when I go to London in March. And Greenwich Park is probably my favorite place in London.
    Matt Hershberger recently posted…In Favor of Racial ProfilingMy Profile

    1. Alyssa James says:

      I knew you were a Campari man. Let me know when you’re in town!

  7. Roma says:

    Nice post. Greenwich is lovely I’m a big fan of that area particularly.
    London Eye isn’t ideal but it does give you a birds eye view of key places like Big Ben. Great for tourists. I think it’s a bit pricey though so I always recommend people hunt online for vouchers, 2 for 1 deals etc.
    Roma recently posted…Eastern Euro road trip – Day 4 – Zagreb to PécsMy Profile

    1. Alyssa James says:

      Hi Roma,

      Thanks for commenting! I don’t think tourists should do anything differently when they travel though! :)

  8. Martin says:

    Try One Tree Hill near Honour Oak station. Gorgeous view

    1. Alyssa James says:

      Thanks for the tip, Martin!

  9. Sara says:

    Thanks for this! I’m on vacation in London and found this extremely helpful. I also like your writing. Cheers!

    1. Alyssa James says:

      Thanks, Sara — glad you liked it!

  10. Sandra says:

    Hello from Canada – thanks for the many awesome tips and comments! Sandra

    1. Alyssa James says:

      Thanks, Sandra! Hope you enjoy London!

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