Ten years ago, standing in this very spot, bricks crumbled from walls, window frames gaped open, and dusty cables dangled like vines in a concrete jungle. Above me, where a roof had once been, was a ceiling of fluffy clouds, pierced by four soaring white chimneys which have defined south London’s skyline for more than 90 years.

For millions of Londoners – including myself – Battersea Power Station has always been a familiar and comforting backdrop to daily life. Standing on the banks of the River Thames, its distinctive silhouette has greeted me from train tracks, signposted late night taxi rides and – on clear days – signalled a homecoming on plane journeys arriving into Heathrow.

As cherished an icon as Big Ben or Buckingham Palace, for decades, fond memories filled its empty shell.

Great British Life: Shops inside Turbine Hall A of Battersea Power Station.Shops inside Turbine Hall A of Battersea Power Station. (Image: PA Photo/John Sturrock)

The structure today retains its trademark Art Deco edifice, but inside it’s almost unrecognisable from the building I visited as part of a one-off Open House hard hat tour in 2013. Shops such as Space NK and Lululemon fill spaces where tonnes of coal were once shovelled into boilers, while beer taps sit alongside dusty decommissioned dials in fancy bars fashioned from former control rooms.

Following an ambitious eight-year restoration, the new look Battersea Power Station finally opened to the public at the end of last year, accessed by a new tube stop on the Northern Line extension. Developments in the £9bn masterplan are ongoing, with more shops and attractions set to fill the turbine halls between now and 2033.

When a private consortium of Malaysian investors initially purchased the Grade II listed building, there were mutterings of understandable concern. But even though a large chunk of the site has been set aside for yet more ‘luxury flats’, much of the original building – which once provided 20% of London with electricity, including The Houses of Parliament – is open to the public.

Despite the glitz and glam of designer stores, many of the building’s original details have been carefully restored: cogs and chains hang from rafters and plaques on the walls remain. The facade designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott has also been painstakingly restored, with 1.75 million new bricks made using traditional clay and hand throwing techniques by one of the family-owned companies involved in the original 1930s build.

Great British Life: The newly restored Battersea Power Station and the Lift 109 attraction in the front right chimneyThe newly restored Battersea Power Station and the Lift 109 attraction in the front right chimney (Image: PA Photo/Backdrop Productions)

One major change, however, has been inside the north west chimney, where a glass elevator now whisks guests 109-metres skyward as part of new attraction Lift 109.

While waiting to make my ascent, I spend some time learning about the history of the power station in a mini interactive museum.

Along with providing electricity to residents, the building has performed far greater cultural and even political functions in its time.

In 1940, RAF fighter pilots used the chimney’s plumes of white vapour to guide them home in the mist. In the 70s and 80s, as its electricity output dwindled, the site became a popular photoshoot location for album covers such as The Who’s Quadrophenia and Pink Floyd’s Animals.

Knowing all of this makes my journey to the top of the chimney even more thrilling. Soaring upwards through a neon-lit spiral, we emerge above rooftops to avidly pinpoint popular London sights. The BT Tower and The Shard race to reach the highest clouds, while train tracks snake below. But it’s being at eyeline with Battersea’s mighty white pillars of power that’s truly special. From £15.90 for adults; £11.50 for children. Visit lift109.co.uk.

Great British Life: The new bar Control Room B at Battersea Power StationThe new bar Control Room B at Battersea Power Station (Image: PA Photo/Johnny Stephens)

Where to drink

In 1946, the late Queen Elizabeth was given a behind the scenes tour of the dials and switches used to control the power station. Several years after her visit, Control Room B was completed, which now operates as a smart cocktail bar. Tables are set against a wall of the original machinery, with 20-minute audio guide tours (£12) available on request. Drinks also follow an industrial theme. I’d recommend The Smoke Stack, made with El Jimador Blanco tequila and agave syrup (£13.50), or The Synchroscope, made with Oxley gin and lemon verbena liqueur (£14). Visit controlroomb.com

Great British Life: Tozi Grand Cafe in BatterseaTozi Grand Cafe in Battersea (Image: PA Photo/Matthew Shaw)

Where to eat

There are dozens of restaurants to choose from, but Bread Street Kitchen is a great all-day dining option straddling casual eating and finer cuisine. Plush turmeric leather banquettes sit below an exposed silver industrial ceiling in the Gordon Ramsay franchise, where steaks are a speciality (from £40). Every weekend, a Bottomless Brunch features 90 minutes of free-flowing cocktails (£28 for two courses and £20 for drinks). Visit gordonramsayrestaurants.com

Great British Life: The lobby of the art'otel London Battersea Power StationThe lobby of the art'otel London Battersea Power Station (Image: PA Photo/Ben Broomfield)

Where to stay

Turbine halls make great spaces for art installations, as demonstrated by the Tate Modern, but Battersea’s best creative displays can be found outside the power station. Head over the road to the art’otel Battersea, which only opened in February this year, for a collection of modern pieces displayed in a fun and vibrant setting designed by Spanish artist Jaime Hayon. Throughout, fun photographs and paintings playfully reference London: from an image of a white-gloved hand popping a tea bag into a pot below an umbrella, to a rose held above a bowler hat. On the rooftop, an infinity pool invites Instagram shots against the station’s white chimneys. Downstairs, the light-filled Tozi Grand Cafe is a delight at any time of day. From £300 per night with breakfast. Visit artotellondonbattersea.com.

Great British Life: The rooftop infinity pool at the art'otel London Battersea Power StationThe rooftop infinity pool at the art'otel London Battersea Power Station (Image: PA Photo/Mathew Shaw)