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Climbing the Monument for Great Views of London

With a million and one things available to keep you busy in London, how do you choose which ones to fill your time with? If you’re a traveler just passing through, you’ll probably try to hit the most famous sites like Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and St Paul’s Cathedral. These places, while historically significant and popular for a reason, aren’t always easy on your wallet. If you’re budget conscious like us, you’ll tend to stick to the free or really, really cheap options. That’s why I felt like I’d struck gold when I happened upon the Monument one morning on an outing to Borough Market. The Monument is both historically significant and dirt cheap to get into. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that it offers some pretty spectacular views of London and the Thames!

Climbing The Monument For Great Views Of London And The Thames

Climbing The Monument For Great Views Of London And The Thames

Climbing The Monument For Great Views Of London And The Thames

History of the Monument

The Monument was erected on Fish Street Hill to commemorate the rebuilding of the city of London after the Great Fire in 1666 that destroyed 13,000 homes and numerous churches and buildings including St Paul’s Cathedral. The fire began in the bakery belonging to Thomas Farynor on Pudding Lane around midnight on 2 September and continued to burn for three days spreading rapidly across the city before it was finally extinguished, in part due to the efforts of the garrison at the Tower of London while official firefighters were busy elsewhere.

Christopher Wren, the architect in charge of rebuilding St Paul’s, was also commissioned to construct this memorial near where the devastating fire broke out. It stretches 202 feet into the sky, the exact distance the Monument is from the bakery on Pudding Lane where the fire began. Placed at the top of the giant column is a copper urn from which flames reach out, symbolizing the Great Fire, and a viewing platform encircles the memorial 160 feet from the ground where visitors can look out and enjoy panoramic views of the city.

Climbing The Monument For Great Views Of London And The Thames

Climbing The Monument For Great Views Of London And The Thames

Getting to the Top

For a paltry £3 for adults and £1.50 per child, visitors can enter the Monument and climb the 311 steps up the winding staircase to the viewing platform at the top. Compared to other places in London that offer great views of the city, like the London Eye and the Shard, £3 is pocket change. Totally worth it, in my opinion.

The staircase is pretty killer, though. I don’t remember there being any spots to pull off and rest, and the visitors going up and those going down both use the same staircase, so it’s not very convenient to stop and rest anyway. I was feeling the burn by the time we reached the top! (It doesn’t matter what shape I’m in or whether I’ve climbed 30 or 300 steps – by the time I reach the top I’m always out of breath!)

Climbing The Monument For Great Views Of London And The Thames

Climbing The Monument For Great Views Of London And The Thames

Climbing The Monument For Great Views Of London And The Thames

The View from the Monument

The view from the top is outstanding, particularly of Tower Bridge and the Thames. The Shard is also quite close to the Monument, so this is a chance to photograph that up close as well. On the opposite side of the column from Tower Bridge, I could just make out the top of the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral, but most of it is hidden behind other buildings. The reception desk at the bottom of the Monument has maps available pointing out the particular sights you can see from the top so you’ll know what to look for.

Climbing The Monument For Great Views Of London And The Thames

Climbing The Monument For Great Views Of London And The Thames

Safety at the Monument

I felt quite safe at the top of the Monument thanks to the stone floor that I couldn’t see through and the protective railing. Metal fencing surrounds the entire structure where it extends out from the column making it impossible to fall off. This, of course, makes it a bit tricky to get photos without fencing lines in them, but it’s not impossible. I’d rather have to get creative with my photos than risk plummeting to my death below because they weren’t there!

We visited the Monument on a Saturday morning around 10am, too early for most Londoners to be out and about, allowing us to have the place practically to ourselves for awhile. On our way back down there was a much bigger crowd coming up, so I’d recommend getting to the Monument as early as possible for the best experience. The viewing platform isn’t very wide, so I could see it getting uncomfortably crowded pretty quick!

If you want to go up in both the Monument and Tower Bridge, there is a deal on the Tower Bridge ticket website offering a discount if you purchase both together, making the Monument visit practically free!

The Monument: Website
Address: Fish Street Hill, London EC3R 8AH

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Climbing The Monument For Great Views Of London And The Thames

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  • Tina @ Girl-Meets-Globe
    March 18, 2014 at 10:10 PM

    Great price! Ok, might have to do this one! I am so cheap!! ;) I’ll have to think hard if I really want to climb 311 steps though!

  • Vanishing Point
    March 3, 2014 at 3:08 AM

    Ive walked up past monument so many times and heard the stories…never been up. You post has put it on my to do list!

  • Emmymom
    March 2, 2014 at 11:34 PM

    Yes gotta love that price. I didn’t even know London had a big fire like that.. shows what I know.

  • Angie
    March 2, 2014 at 8:33 PM

    I adore wandering Borough Market…

  • Katrin
    March 2, 2014 at 8:56 AM

    Such a great view! And thanks for always sharing some historical facts, I love to learn about things like that. And it would be awesome to live in Pudding Lane. :) What a great name for a street!

    • Sarah Shumate
      March 2, 2014 at 9:46 AM

      If you knew why it was called Pudding Lane, you might change your mind about that. It’s definitely not talking about the yummy sweet snacks you buy at the supermarket! It actually gets its name from the “puddings”, the leftover organs and entrails, that carts carried down this street from the butchers to the barges that carried away the waste. Yuck, right?

      • Katrin
        March 2, 2014 at 10:24 AM

        Eww, I have never heard that expression before! That is disgusting! I take everything back, I don’t want to live in Pudding Lane anymore. :)

  • Ashlee - I'll Love You Forever
    March 1, 2014 at 9:50 PM

    what a gorgeous view. i always fall in love with your photography! lex is still cute as ever!

  • Robert Wareham
    March 1, 2014 at 5:48 PM

    It’s amazing (and a little shaming) how many times I’ve passed this and never even considered going to the top. I always see people up there and I’m like “Wow, I should go up there, I bet the views are great” and then just carry on going wherever I’m headed. I’m going to Borough Market for lunch tomorrow, actually, so if it’s sunny maybe I’ll go early and finally go to the top! :)

  • rorybore
    March 1, 2014 at 2:59 AM

    those are some amazing views. well worth the climb up all those steps. I can’t wait for summer and some family trips with my camera — so I can take a picture of something other than snow.

  • Sammy @ Days Like This
    February 28, 2014 at 4:35 PM

    I went up Monument a few weeks ago! I was surprised by how cheap it was and how amazing the views were. I also nearly died climbing to the top haha

  • topchelseagirl
    February 28, 2014 at 4:10 PM

    This has been on my list for a few years. The climb puts me off a bit though, I know I’d need to rest and like you say there isn’t really anywhere.

  • Alyx
    February 28, 2014 at 9:38 PM

    “I’d rather have to get creative with my photos than risk plummeting to my death below because they weren’t there…” AMEN.

  • Jenn
    February 28, 2014 at 9:26 PM

    I’ve never even heard of this monument but it definitely has some spectacular views. And I feel like with the amount of stairs you’ve climbed during your travels, you should have thighs of steel!

  • Stacie Stamper
    February 28, 2014 at 2:55 PM

    I love the moss stained portion of the monument…and of course, that pic of you and Lexi!

  • Bonnie Rose
    February 28, 2014 at 8:04 PM

    I love your photograph of the bridge from so high up…what a great advantage point for that shot. x

  • Keith Wynn
    February 28, 2014 at 1:33 PM

    Your blog posts are SO going to come in handy someday when I finally visit London :)

  • Tammy Chrzan
    February 28, 2014 at 2:20 PM

    Girlfriend girlfriend girlfriend… So I went up this bad boy a couple of years ago… I looked down the hole… straight down the middle and I was like “Hells no”, and I ran back down in a near panic attack. But now, Oh I’m feeling if you can do it, well… I have to do it too!! RIGHT?!?!?!?!
    I’m on it. Thank you for encouraging me (and you didn’t even know you were :)
    Every day we must do something that scares us!
    See you in a week!

    • Sarah Shumate
      March 1, 2014 at 9:20 AM

      Wait, so you climbed all those stairs to the top and then didn’t even look at the view before running back down?!? Oh well, at least you got a good workout!

      • Tammy Chrzan
        March 2, 2014 at 2:32 PM

        I hang my head in shame.
        I had a mini panic attack and bolted my butt right back down those stairs!!!
        However, I will make it to the top this time! I don’t even know why I have a hotel room, I swear I’m not going to leave the streets of London, I’m far too excited!!!
        Tammy x

  • Dannielle @ Chicadeedee
    February 28, 2014 at 2:11 PM

    I guess I never realised you could go up there, what great views!

  • Flora
    February 28, 2014 at 1:39 PM

    Despite living here for years I’ve still not climbed the Monument. But I’ve heard great things about it as an alternative viewpoint to many of the better-known towers. Maybe I’ll have to give it a go. Fantastic photos too!

  • Alex Fahey
    February 28, 2014 at 12:05 PM

    I love that you always write a little history lesson- it gives the place more meaning. One of the greatest things about London is the memorials. My favorite are the women of WWII and the Battle of London memorial in bronze- it is stunning. If you are looking for a pretty unique experience I recommend Speaker’s Corner. Historical it was a place in London where people of all religions and beliefs could go and speak their minds and preach. Today it’s very similar and it is amazing to hear all the people talking and preaching. It’s only on Sundays I believe, and I think it’s worth checking out. If my memory is correct it’s near the Marble Arch so you could check that off your list as well.

    • Sarah Shumate
      March 1, 2014 at 9:13 AM

      I know Speaker’s Corner – it’s in Hyde Park! I’ve never been there on a Sunday, though, so I never knew exactly what it was! I’ll be sure to check it out – maybe this month when the weather warms up!

      Knowing the history of a place before I visit heightens the entire experience for me, that’s why I like to share it here. Most of the places we visit would still be neat to see even if I didn’t know the history surrounding them, but when you really know a place, you’ll get that “goosebumps feeling” more often. That moment when you’re like, ‘WOW. I can’t believe I’m seeing this…” :o)

  • Jamie | The Healthy Passport
    February 28, 2014 at 9:01 AM

    This is great! I love finding the inexpensive gems out there! And while I’m not fond of heights either, it’s always worth it when you get to the top.

  • Jacintha | Urban Pixxels
    February 28, 2014 at 8:26 AM

    Cool! I never thought of going up here. Not a big fan of heights either, so that might have something to do with it :-). But the view is amazing. I should plan a visit on a weekday when there are (hopefully) not that many visitors walking up and down the stairs.