My 5 Favourite Views of London

The view from Parliament Hill - a classic

In terms of iconic cityscapes, London is unrivalled in terms of the unique nature of its skyline. It may not have the tallest or most dense skyscrapers, but what it lacks in height, it makes up for in eccentric variety: from the historical sights of Parliament and St. Paul's to the unique modern leviathans of the Shard and the Gherkin, with plenty of quirks thrown in such as the Oxo Tower and the London Eye - London has easily one of the most recognisable skylines in the world. If you're hankering to get an eyeful, here are 5 great spots to take it all in:

1. Alexandra Palace

North London is famous for its two spectacular views from the top of Parliament Hill on Hampstead Heath and its smaller but sweeter compatriot, Primrose Hill at the north end of Regents Park. But for my money, Ally Pally offers the most stunning view of the city at nighttime in the whole of London (though maybe I'm slightly biased as the first time I visited, I was treated to a view of the Olympic Park lit up by fireworks during the closing ceremony in 2012). Unless you live close by, it can be an epic adventure to get there as you have to get an actual train (not even a tube) to get to Alexandra Palace Station. Then you walk up a wooded boulevard in the shadow of the palace topped by that mighty transmitter. But make sure you make your first trip at nighttime to enjoy the city unfolding beneath you like a carpet of stars. 

P.S. Alexandra Palace does have a spectacular fireworks display and laser show on Bonfire Night - if you're happy to pay it's well worth a visit. If you're after cheap thrills though, head up to Primrose Hill where all of London's cheapskates (myself included) go to commit eye theft of all the best displays.

P.P.S. if you're heading up to Ally Pally, why not combine your trip with an ice skating disco?

Nearest station: Alexandra Palace (a few stops on the train up from Finsbury Park on the Victoria and Piccadilly Lines)

2. The Monument

It may not be the highest viewpoint in London, but climbing the 211 steps of The Monument, which commemorates the Great Fire of London of 1666, is a unique historical experience. 

After a slightly dizzying ascent, the viewing platform at the top offers a panoramic sweep of the City and Tower Bridge and allows you to wonder at how this view must have changed over the last 340 or so years. I like to imagine Sir Christopher Wren gazing out across his city from his monument and still feeling very much at home.

Nearest station: Monument (Circle and District Lines)

3. Stave Hill

This cute little hillock sits tucked a way a few stones' throws away from bustling Canada Water and is surrounded by the glorious Russia Dock Woodland and Stave Hill Ecological Park (I used to live on the edge of the Woodland, which is as pretty much as close as you'll get to living in a fairy tale in London). 

The hill was made from rubble from the transformation of the docklands in the 80s and now offers a stunning view of Canary Wharf across the water. It's also a great spot for sun bathing in summer and sledging when it snows. It's also a short walk from Surrey Docks Farm to the east and The Mayflower Pub to the west with a glorious stretch of riverbank in between if you want to go for an excursion.  

Nearest station: Canada Water (Jubilee Line and Overground)

4. Horniman Museum Gardens 

The Horiman Museum is one of the most intriguing and rewarding museums in London, with amazing collections of natural history, musical instruments and cultural artefacts. It also has an exquisitely designed garden and sundial trail as well as a magnificent Victorian conservatory and small menagerie.

The view from the bandstand also offers an incredible vista of South London looking towards the Thames skyline, as well as - for fans of the belle epoque of LCC municipal housing - views of the grand ocean liner-esque design of the Dawson's Heights housing estate opposite.

Nearest station: Forest Hill (Overground)

5. London Building Centre

London's skyline may be breathtaking, but unless you have a helicopter there's no way that you can take it all in from one place. That is unless you visit The London Building Centre, which houses a miniature scale model of London that includes all the most up-to-date developments across the city. Exhibitions on each of the areas undergoing development give you the head's up on how your local area will change over the next few years, and different lighting modes allow you to recreate the perfect London sunrise. It's completely free to visit (it's run by the Built Environment Trust) and a great place to indulge the urge to pretend to be a giant looming over the city. Visit the website:

Nearest station: Goodge Street (Northern Line) 

Looking for the best view of London while drinking champagne? Check out The Sky Garden