Exploring London for Under £5

We are excited to introduce our brand new dott contributor Melissa Lawford. In this incredibly helpful article she uncovers the little known London - the cheap London (and it includes having a drink).

The Sky Garden

A relative newcomer to the city, I only discovered the little oasis at the top of 20 Fenchurch Street fairly recently – 160m high in the London skyline is an enormous domed conservatory overlooking the city, and it is gloriously free to visit.

Places are limited and are released three weeks in advance – a booking system that feels a little anti-Londoner, but there are no penalties for missing your slot and the view is well-worth the forward planning. The 360-degree city panorama is breath taking, but what makes the Sky Garden view unique is the weird shape of the Walkie Talkie. The Shard might be a lot higher, but it is also wider at the bottom than at the top – only the Walkie Talkie can offer the vertiginous sense that you’re floating above the city.

The greenery is a little underwhelming - there are some beautiful tropical plants, but they sit on a steep bank, so it’s not quite a walk in the park – there are enough, though, to create a distinct sense of calm. There’s a bar on hand if you need it but you don’t need to buy a drink to justify your presence. It’s a relaxing place to be and there is a huge amount to be said for being able to watch a burning sunset framed by a palm frond on a cold Monday night. As the airport-style security at the bottom might suggest, it’s a little bit like going on holiday.

Make sure you book to watch the sun go down: http://www.timeanddate.com/sun/uk/london

Monument

Build to commemorate the Great Fire of London that began in Pudding Lane 61 metres (the height of the building) from the base of its tower, Monument is on hand for a view that’s more spur of the moment. I’ve never seen a queue there – it costs four pounds to venture up, or 2.70 with a concession, and a 311-step workout is included in the fee.

The view is open air and Monument is not that high – the effect is more like taking a stroll around a well-placed tree-house, with the Gherkin and the Cheesegrater on one side and the London Eye turning slowly in the distance. It’s the perfect destination for a breezy lunch-break or a pre-dinner sunset aperitif (bring your own hip flask).

Frank’s Café

In the heart of Peckham High Street, just moments away from the grannies with their groceries and overflowing barbershops, is a multi-story car park. I was sceptical at first when a friend suggested we venture into the Peckham wilderness to find the exclusive ‘Frank’s’ and led me to the side entrance of an abandoned car park. However, after passing the stern man on the door, and wandering through a couple of floors of art installations we emerged on the 10th floor to find a hipster paradise with a killer view.

Protected from any unwelcome elements by a sweeping red sheet, Frank’s is the ideal combination of South London grit and perfectly mixed Bloody Mary’s. The onsite DJ syncs his music with the London sunset and everybody drinks overlooking the industrial jungle sprawling in front of them. If you’re feeling peckish then you can always grab some kind of haloumi-aubergine-parma ham based nourishment, or an entire artichoke to refuel. Later in the night the bar turns into a summertime solstice as people drink until 11 before rolling onto the next, less panoramic, venue. Although you need to wait until the summer months, the toilets are medieval and by floor 8 I was ready to trade in my arm for an iron lung, or camel, it was worth effort.

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