I've been walking past the Monument daily for months and I cannot remember climbing up it. During lunch yesterday, I took the opportunity to go. It's possible that I've been up before when I was young, but if I have, I don't remember. And actually, it is unlikely that I would have been dragged up the long staircase at a young age.
The Monument was built over 6 years from 1671 to commemorate the Great Fire of London of 1666 that started nearby in Pudding Lane. The fire did not cause a large number of deaths but it damaged a substantial number of buildings. The ones that survived were mostly made of stone.
Sir Christopher Wren and Dr. Robert Hooke designed the column to be 202ft high (approx. 61m). This is the distance between the site of the column and the source of the fire. It is of the Doric style, as one would find in ancient Rome or Greece. Originally the site was used as a laboratory to house a large zenith telescope, but the horse-drawn traffic in the area caused too many vibrations to the equipment.
I have not delved deeply into the history of the fire. I don't think it is known what happened to the baker that started the fire. But when I was in Aachen, Germany some years ago, a tour guide told me about a popular legend. He said that some years after the fire of London, the baker moved to Aachen where he caused another fire. Whether or not this is true will remain a mystery of time.
It costs a small fee of £5 to enter and there are 311 steps to the top of the Monument. It took me 5 minutes to get up to the top. It feels like the staircase is never going to end. Once you are at the top, there is a small viewing platform where you can get away from the hustle of the city.
From the viewing platform, you can see in all directions. The neighbouring buildings do not obstruct the view. The most disappointing view is towards the west of London. There are good views of the city, Tower Bridge and Canary Wharf.
Coming down was obviously easier in terms of effort, but three-quarters of the way I became dizzy and slightly disorientated due to the circular staircase. It's just something to be aware of if you occasionally have trouble with heights.
There was a misty view so I will have to go up again in the summer, but the itch to get up the Monument has been scratched.