Since it first opened to the public in the spring of 2000, the London Eye has become one of the city’s most popular attractions. This iconic observation wheel stands approximately 450 feet tall on the south bank of the River Thames. It is comprised of 32 oval-shaped pods, each one capable of holding up to 25 people at a time. One entire revolution of the observation wheel takes about 30 minutes, during which visitors can enjoy spectacular views of this magnificent city in all directions.
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History of the London Eye
Believe it or not, the London Eye was never intended to become a permanent fixture on the south bank of the River Thames. Rather, it was conceived as a temporary installation honoring the close of a century and the advent of a new millennium; hence its first name was literally the “Millennium Wheel,” and it only became known as the London Eye in 2011. The London-based architectural firm of Marks Barfield designed the structure, which cost roughly £70 million to build.
The London Eye stands some 443 feet tall, and has a 394-foot diameter. Steel cables support the edges of the wheel, and its LED lights can be controlled digitally. Despite its popularity, ownership of the London Eye has changed hands multiple times in its three decades of existence. Currently, it’s owned and operated by Merlin Entertainments, the same company responsible for such nearby popular attractions as SEA LIFE London Aquarium, the London Dungeon, and Shrek’s Adventure London, as well as the original Madame Tussauds London location.
London Eye Highlights
The London Eye moves slowly enough that it doesn’t stop to allow visitors to board unless circumstances make this absolutely necessary. Once you’re safely ensconced in a pod you’ll have the option to either sit and enjoy the ride or move freely about the glass-enclosed space. Your London Eye ride consists of one complete turn of the wheel; this means, depending on the day, you’ll typically have about 25 to 30 minutes to enjoy the scenery from your pod.
And what a scene it is! It’s said that on a clear day you can see over 20 miles from the top of the London Eye; regardless, even when conditions aren’t at their clearest the views from the London Eye are impossible to beat. Name a famous London attraction and, if you can recognize its exterior or pick it out from the air, you’ll be able to see it from the London Eye, guaranteed.
Given its immense popularity, the London Eye gets pretty crowded; as a result, when in doubt it’s smart to book your tickets in advance. Be advised that your ticket’s time slot corresponds to when you’ll be permitted to join the line to access the attraction; it’s quite possible that you’ll still have to wait to go up in a pod. If you’re on a tight schedule—or you simply don’t like the idea of having to wait in line—consider purchasing a fast-track ticket. You’ll pay more for this option, but it’ll enable you to bypass the worst of the long lines found here.
More to See and Do at the London Eye
The London Eye has been delighting locals and visitors alike for approximately a quarter-century now. Here are several more things to see and do at this iconic attraction.
*The London Eye has its very own gift shop where you can purchase souvenirs, mementos, and knickknacks, as well as practical attraction-related items like guidebooks and binoculars.
*For those visitors looking to make their visit to the London Eye a truly unforgettable time, the attraction offers a Champagne Experience. This upgraded ticket package entitles you to priority boarding and a chilled glass of Pommery Brut Royal Champagne as you enjoy the scenic views on display from your pod.
*The elegant London Eye Lounge is located within the South Bank’s historic County Hall building. They don’t currently serve any food here, but guests looking to unwind in style will have their choice of champagne, beer, wine, spirits, juice, and soft drinks. The London Eye Lounge is kid-friendly, and you can stop in here before or after you go up in your pod.
*Security is thorough and extensive at the London Eye. Large bags and luggage are strictly prohibited, while even acceptable bags and purses must be opened for inspection. As a result, it’s highly recommended you arrive in advance of your ticket’s stated entry time. For those needing to check bags, the London Eye Ticket Office will store your items for a small fee.
Why the London Eye Should Be on Your Must-See List
There are several different options available for those visitors wishing to experience remarkable views of London, including the historic Monument to the Great Fire of London and the cutting-edge View from The Shard. Each of these fabulous attractions has its own distinctive merits, but if you’re wanting to see the heart of central London and beyond in style, it’s hard to pass up the chance to ride on the London Eye. It’s an inimitable feature of the London skyline and a truly special destination.