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The Sky Garden at the Walkie Talkie tower, 20 Fenchurch Street, London – photos

The Sky Garden in the Walkie Talkie tower at 20 Fenchurch Street has now opened to the public, so I took a stroll around yesterday.

The tower’s curious top -heavy appearance swiftly split opinion when it was announced,  and led to it acquiring the nickname of the Walkie Talkie tower.

Construction was completed in spring 2014, with the Sky Gardens opening last week.

Designed by architect Rafael Viñoly and costing over £200 million, the 34-storey building is 160 m (525 ft) tall, making it the fifth-tallest building in the City of London

Entrance to the Sky Gardens is via an entrance on a pedestrianised stretch on one side of the block.

Visitors have to go through airport-style security to get into the lift, with metal detectors and bag inspections. You also need your passport or driving licence to get in.

Starkly modern and gleaming bright, I was mightily impressed when I got out of the lift at the top and walked into the cafe area, even if the finished product bears little relationship with the original renders:

The views are spectacular – in some respects they’re better than those from the much taller Shard because you’re right in the middle of the city.

St Paul’s and Telecom Tower.

Panoramic view across London.

London Eye.

The Sky Gardens are on two levels, with another viewing area and restaurant in the top area.

Looking south.

The cafe is surprisingly affordable – coffee, cake and sandwiches are priced the same as any other regular cafe and the setting is truly spectacular: the only problem is that you need to book a pass every time you want to go.

Telecom Tower and Wembley Stadium.

Top deck view.

Top of the adjacent Cheesegrater skyscraper.

Old and new: Tower 42, Cheesegrater and The Gherkin.

Top of Tower 42 (formerly the NatWest Tower), which stands 183 metres (600 ft) high. Opening in 1981, it was the tallest building in the United Kingdom until the topping out of One Canada Square at Canary Wharf in 1990. []

Canary Wharf to the east.

Top of the Gherkin at 30 St Mary Axe, which boasts 41 storeys, and is 180 metres (591 ft) tall.

Designed by Norman Foster and Arup Group and was erected by Skanska, the building has become an iconic symbol of London and is one of the city’s most widely recognised examples of contemporary architecture []

River Thames view.

Looking east towards Canary Wharf.

Tower of London.

Looking down at the cafe area.

There’s nowhere near as much greenery as was originally promised, but it’s still pleasant to walk around.

Winter shadows in the Sky Garden.

The restaurant.

The Open Air terrace was not open, unfortunately.

Work was still going on at the roof, with several workmen scuttling around above.

The top of the Shard.

Relaxing in the cafe.

The cafe bar.

A Chinook rumbles past.

Looking south with the St George Wharf Tower to the right.

Bridges across the Thames.

I took one more circuit of the Sky Garden – here’s the rest of the photos.

In 2014, reflections from the curved building started fires and caused damage to nearby businesses, and, famously, managed to melt parts of a parked Jaguar car.

It’s free to visit the Sky Gardens, but you need to book a slot online (it’s currently fully booked until March 2015).

More: Discuss the Walkie Talkie tower and sky gardens on the urban75 forums.