Saturday 7 March 2009

The Monument, Monument Street, central London

Commemorating the Great Fire of London and designed by Sir Christopher Wren, the Monument is a grandiose, seventeenth century Doric column crowned with a gold flaming urn just visible above the surrounding office blocks. You can climb the 311 black, polished steps up a narrow spiral staircase inside the column to a small 360 degree viewing gallery. Despite the mesh cage preventing visitors from jumping or falling off, there are good views of nearby Tower Bridge, distant Canary Wharf and particularly the high-tech cluster of office blocks dominated by the distinctive rocket-shaped Gherkin. On an overcast day, the City of London looks very grey from here with only the red buses providing splashes of colour. On the way down, the vertiginous should avoid looking over the heavy iron railing around the staircase. Admission for adults is three pounds and you may have to queue for 15 minutes or so at weekends, but you do get a certificate on the way out. 7/10