The perfect way to experience the wonderful effect that the summer has on London – from the blossoming of the parks to the filling of the beer gardens – could possibly be from the windows of Western Europe’s highest hotel.
The Shangri-La at The Shard is part of the eponymous group of Shangri-La hotels whose main base is in Asia. Founded in 1971, the group now has 99 hotels and more than 38,000 rooms around the world. It is named after the mythical place of Shangri-La, coined in the 1933 book Lost Horizon by the British author James Hilton (also where Glastonbury took the name for its fields from). In 2012, the hotel took up a London residence in the skyscraper building known as The Shard, between floors 34 and 52, offering the highest hotel rooms in the capital.
Upon stepping away from the bustle of London Bridge, guests enter a lobby that offers tranquil calm, friendly smiles, and a distinctly Asian feel of hospitality. It is also home to Lang, the hotels artisanal café and bakery. From here, visitors are whisked in one of the fastest elevators in the world up to the 34th floor where the second lobby, along with the signature restaurant Ting, can both be found.
Ting offers meals throughout the day that combine European and Asian influences in elegant surroundings. The staff are like a well rehearsed ballet ensemble as they turn around each table, and the food is contemporary and refined. For breakfast there is either a modern English style menu, an Asian fusion menu, a ‘Summer health' menu, or British, continental and Asian buffets – so no one starts the day hungry. Lunch and afternoon tea are eased in to one another with menus that draw on the same global traditions, with stunning results. Dinner becomes a more romantic affair set to the dusk backdrop of London's lights turning on, and the world-class food is accompanied by a world-class wine cellar.
From this floor, only the lucky few who have been graced with a key card for their overnight stay can re-enter a second set of lifts and venture yet higher. From here there are several floors of rooms, each individually decorated with Asian touches including silk wallpapers, hardwood lamps, and of course robot toilets, alongside the usual five star trappings of Bluetooth docks, plasma televisions and welcome chocolates.
The rooms are sumptuous and refined, and feel discreet, modern and suited to a certain type of discerning world traveller. You’re certainly not paying for boutique, but for privilege and comfort. And of course – the views. Each room has giant floor to ceiling glass walls that offer unrivalled views across London and beyond. The sight becomes a work of art that changes from day to night, and can be gazed at (through the in-room binoculars) for hours on end from the comfort of your bed, or bathtub.
If guests can manage to drag themselves away from the room then further up there is a gym, swimming pool and spa on the 54th floor with each offering the same panoramic views, as well a bar with a menu currently theming their cocktails around great Hollywood movies. Although at this height, the view changes little from floor to floor, the view, as well as the internal architecture, is breath-taking in accomplishment.
Shangri-La at the Shard is the hotel everyone has heard of but no one seems to know anything about. It is famously exclusive and secretive – perhaps it's unique position affords it an air or mysticism, or maybe even ‘Bond villain'-ism. It's the city's best known secret.
The hotel is currently offering the perfect package to summer visitors with an overnight stay for two in a luxurious guestroom or suite, bottle of house champagne served in room upon arrival, a delicious afternoon tea to be enjoyed in the privacy of your room with captivating views over the capital, complimentary WiFi, complimentary use of the gym and the infinity Skypool, and English breakfast served in TING restaurant and lounge, located on the 35th floor. The offer starts from £615 for one night based on two people sharing a room. Details here.