If you haven’t visited London in a few decades you might have missed seeing a new landmark on the South Bank of the River Thames, near Westminister Bridge. The London Eye is a massive Ferris wheel — the tallest in Europe –and it certainly catches ones eye as you approach it from the Houses of Parliament. It is popular, usually with long lines and waiting times. The Eye is the most visited paid attraction in the United Kingdom, with almost 4 million visitors annually.
Here are a few facts about the London Eye:
– It is 135 m (443 ft) tall and 120 m (394 ft) wide. When it opened in 2000, it was the tallest Ferris wheel in the world, but that record has been taken by 3 newer larger wheels, the tallest currently being the 167.6 m (500 ft) High Roller in Las Vegas.
– It is supported by an A-frame on one side only, making it the world’s largest cantilevered observation wheel.
– The wheel was constructed in sections which were floated on barges and assembled flat on platforms in the river, before the entire wheel was slowly elevated and erected.
– There are 32 air-conditioned passenger capsules each capable of holding 25 passengers attached to the external wheel and rotated by electric motors.
My brother and I wandered past the Eye and decided to see how long we might have to wait before being able to board the Ferris wheel. The entire process of waiting in line and shelling out nearly £30 each gained us admission in less than a half hour. Of course we visited during a weekday in the fall — I’m quite sure the wait would have been significantly longer in the summer. If you know exactly when you will be at the Eye, you can reserve a precise time to board it, but our agenda was not that structured.
Rotation is slow enough so that you can enter and leave the capsule without requiring the wheel to slow down (they do stop it for people in wheelchairs). The capsule is spacious and you are free to walk around it or take one of the many seats available. I spent my time wandering around and enjoying the views.
The wheel takes 30 minutes to make one revolution which gives you lots of time to enjoy all the views of London from different perspectives. You’ll see many familiar landmarks, like the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, St. James Park, and St. Paul’s Cathedral. Plus you get a birds-eye view of the many new skyscrapers in London.
I enjoyed the ride. I’m not someone who is crazy about heights, but never felt uncomfortable or uneasy in the London Eye, which is very safely run.
Below are some of what we experienced, including views form our rotation around the Eye:
(Click on thumbnails to enlarge, right arrow to advance slideshow)