It's possibly the best way to see all the London attractions at once, as long as you have a head for heights!
The London Eye is a relatively new major landmark that towers over the river Thames from it’s position on the South Bank and is instantly recognisable due to it’s sheer size and shape.
Maybe you have seen pictures of the fireworks exploding around the wheel at New Year? Although this is a fabulous sight, nothing actually beats the views and the experience of taking a ride on the Eye yourself….
Many people would consider the London Eye to be a Ferris wheel and some certainly do consider it as such, having given it the title of the fourth biggest ferris wheel in the world.
The difference from the Eye compared to a standard ferris wheel is that it is cantilevered - in other words, supported solely on one side at a single point in the centre.
It is classed as Europe’s largest cantilevered observation wheel and was pulled up into position after being constructed flat over the river in 1998 which was an achievement in itself.
Originally, the idea for a wheel in the centre of London was the brainchild of two architects, David Marks and Julia Barfield.
This was in response to a competition in 1993 to design a new landmark in the UK to mark the approaching millennium celebrations. The competition was a flop but the idea stuck and the pair pursued their dream of the wheel which they explain is a representation of the turning of time.
Once they had secured funding (the majority of it coming from British Airways) the next job was to find the exact location and refine the design of the wheel itself and the capsules that people travelled in. Much work and design was done, bringing together people from many countries in Europe to produce the final product.
The wheel’s construction was partly done in the Netherlands using British Steel, glass in the capsules produced in Venice, Italy, bearings from Germany, spindles and hub cast in the Czech Republic and the capsules formed in France by cable-car producing specialists.
The work to build the Eye started in 1998 and was officially opened by the then British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, just before the Millennium celebrations on 31st December 1999.
Sadly as it was slightly behind schedule, no passengers rode on the wheel until March 2000.
Originally given a five year lease to stand in its current position, the local council granted the Eye a permanent licence to be there. After some legal wrangling with the organisation who own the land that part of the wheel’s supports stand on, a 25 year lease was granted in 2006.
It is now the most visited paid tourist attraction in the UK with more than an astounding 3.5 million visitors each year.
The London Eye stands a massive 135 metres high on the banks of the River Thames and whilst riding the wheel you have 360⁰ moving views of the surrounding spectacular London scenery and buildings.
A full rotation takes 30 minutes, travelling at a speed of 26cm per second which is plenty of time to spot all the nearby famous landmarks. On a clear day it is thought that you are able to see around 40km away meaning that Windsor Castle could be visible if you look hard enough!
There are 32 pods or capsules that allow you to ride on the wheel and these are numbered 1-12 and 14-33 - missing out the infamous number 13 which traditionally is unlucky! The number of capsules is significant as it represents the 32 boroughs of London.
Normally the Eye can carry up to 800 people in a single rotation which is approximately 25 visitors in each pod.
Visiting the London Eye is a straightforward process. The ticket office is located at County Hall (SE1 7PB) which is the building directly next to the Eye itself.
Enhanced security checks are performed upon entry.
Pre-booking of tickets is essential to ensure you can visit the Eye when it suits you and there are a variety of packages available to visit. It is open from 11am to 6pm most days during the year (some main holidays may be exempt) and prices can be dependent on the day that you visit and time slots are allocated;
The London Eye is on the South Bank of the River Thames in the London borough of Lambeth on Westminster Bridge Road.
It is across the river from the Ministry of Defence and New Scotland Yard police HQ and located between Westminster Bridge and the Hungerford and the Golden Jubilee Bridges.
Tube - The nearest Underground Tube station is Waterloo (Jubilee, Northern and Bakerloo lines) which is approximately a 5 minute walk away. Other nearby stations are Embankment (8 minutes - Circle, District, Northern and Bakerloo lines), Westminster (4 minutes - Jubilee, District and Circle lines) and Charing Cross (11 minutes - Bakerloo and Northern lines).
Train - The nearest mainline overland train station is Waterloo which is approximately a 5 minute walk away and can take you out of the City and to other parts of the UK.
Bus - A variety of bus lines pass close to the Eye - the numbers 77, 211and 381. Also a number of tour bus operators also have stops close to the attraction itself.
Car - Driving in central London is not recommended due to lack of, and price of, parking and also due to the congestion charge which applies to vehicles entering this central zone. However if necessary to drive, the nearest car park to the London Eye is Q-Park Westminster located off Great College Street in Abingdon Street Gardens (SW1P 3RX). London Eye customers are able to get a 15% discount at this car park if they pre-book via the London Eye website link.
Boat - The London Eye pier is only a few minutes walk away and allows access to a number of boat services that can take you along the River Thames.
Due to the location of the London Eye, there are numerous options for accommodation in the central London vicinity, which will suit most budgets.
From hostels and budget hotel options all the way through to five star luxury, there are many places to stay.
Central London, by it’s nature as a capital city, has many attractions to see and things to do. Just a few of the many options available in the vicinity of the London Eye are:
The cost of visiting the London Eye can vary depending on the type of ticket you buy and how old you are! Prices start from £24.50 for an adult and £22 for a child aged 3-15 years old.
The London Eye takes approximately 30 minutes to complete a revolution which is the length of your trip on the attraction.
The London Eye offers a fantastic experience of seeing London and it’s views from a height with 360⁰ views from the capsule.
Due to the height then some people who have a fear of heights may consider the attraction to be slightly scary due to how high you are. The wheel turns very slowly so there should be no fear from this point of view. There are many people who have a fear of heights however who have been on the ride with no problems at all! It is all down to the individual.
The opening times for the are currently 11am until 6pm so no, you are unable to ride the London Eye at night. During the winter period there may be a chance at the end of the day to ride on the Eye when it is dark.
There are no toilets in the capsules on the wheels themselves but there are toilet facilities in County Hall which is where tickets are collected from.
It is requested that you do not eat or drink whilst on the London Eye.
Yes there is Wifi available on the London Eye within all the capsules on the wheel and in County Hall also.
If you are visiting the Pub pod or have arranged the Champagne experience then you can drink the alcohol provided as part of your ticket. Otherwise no alcohol must be brought into or consumed on the attraction.