london eye

The Ultimate Guide to the London Eye

There are few places in London that allow you far-reaching views across the vast, sprawling city and the winding curves of the River Thames.

If you’re looking for the very best views over the capital and beyond, then a visit to the London Eye is unmissable. Here you’ll have a bird’s eye view of our great city and so much more, making it a unique and unforgettable experience.

If you’re planning a visit to one of the UK’s most popular attractions, then read this ultimate guide for everything you need to know about the London Eye.

What Is the London Eye?

The London Eye may look like a giant Ferris wheel, but it is, in fact, the world’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel, which means it’s supported on one side only.

Located on the banks of the River Thames opposite the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, the London Eye dominates London’s skyline, offering visitors 360 degrees of breathtaking views across the capital and beyond.

The views stretch for over 40 kilometres. On a clear day, you can even see Windsor Castle in Berkshire.

Attracting around 3.75 million visitors a year, the Eye is one of the most iconic and symbolic landmarks of London. This unique structure has been used for film locations, corporate events, celebrations in the capital and even weddings.

The sleek, contemporary and simply designed wheel towers over historical landmarks, symbolising everything London is today: a seamless blend of history and modernity.

london eye thames

Why Was the London Eye Built?

In 1993, a competition was held to design a landmark in honour of the new millennium, in seven years time. Husband and wife architect team, David Marks and Julia Barfield came up with the idea of a wheel. They originally wanted a high tower structure that would dominate the city, much like the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

They finally settled on a wheel, which aptly symbolises time and change. Although the competition was eventually annulled, Marks and Barfield went ahead with the project. The London Eye, as it came to be known, took seven years to build, and, on 9 March 2000, was officially opened.

It was initially meant to be a temporary structure, but it proved to be so popular that it remained as a permanent fixture, and has become one of the most iconic landmarks and globally famous symbols for London.

Film Location

The iconic status of the London Eye means it’s a sought-after setting for films and TV series depicting the capital. The famous landmark has featured in a range of international productions including Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, The League of Gentlemen, 28 Days Later, The Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Independence Day: Resurgence and Paddington. It’s also featured in some of the most popular UK dramas such as Sherlock, Doctor Who, Primeval and Hustle.

Serving London and the Nation

One percent of the revenue made by ticket sales is donated to the local community. The London Eye also supports local charities by hosting events and supporting causes such as Help for Heroes, The Royal British Legion and Sports Relief.

In 2012, the Eye featured in both the opening and closing ceremonies of the London Olympics. At one point, the Olympic torch was positioned on one of the capsules.

Every New Year’s Eve, the London Eye is the central focal point for the spectacular Lord Mayor’s firework display. The end of year display is so impressive, it’s considered one of the finest in the world.

Facts and Figures

  • 17,000 tonnes of British Steel was used to construct the wheel. It was shipped up the Thames on barges in sections, before being assembled on the South Bank.
  • The Eye is 135 metres high, has a circumference of 424 metres, and weighs 2,100 tonnes. That’s equivalent to 1,272 London black cabs!
  • The Eye is made up of 32 capsules which each hold up to 25 people. The entire wheel can hold up to 800 people per rotation. The 32 capsules represent the boroughs of London.
  • The Eye has recently been fitted with LED lighting, cutting energy costs by 75%. All oils and cleaning products used to lubricate and clean the structure are biodegradable and anti-pollutant.

london eye pod

The Flight Experience

The ride (or flight, as it’s often known) is very smooth, steady and slow as the capsules only travel at 0.6 miles per hour. A complete rotation takes approximately 30 minutes, and, as the wheel moves so slowly, people can easily board and disembark without it having to stop.

To make the ride even more interesting, the capsules are equipped with tablets that point out various landmarks to spot.

The Eye was specifically designed and built to be accessible for all, therefore facilities for disabled guests are of a very high standard. These include:

  • Extra wide access and ramps for wheelchair users
  • Voice and visual alarms
  • Slower boarding times to accommodate boarding for disabled visitors
  • Carers accompanying a disabled visitor may board free of charge
  • A fast-track service for elderly and disabled visitors.

Highlights

4D Cinema Experience

Before you board the London Eye, enhance your visit with the 4D Cinema Experience. Located in the ticket office at the base of the Eye, the film lasts for four minutes and takes you on a sensory journey featuring a live-action 4D show. Special effects include lighting, sound, wind, water, bubbles and even snow! The show is particularly popular with families and is FREE with all London Eye tickets.

Dining at 135

A private capsule can be hired in the evenings, where up to eight guests can enjoy an exclusive champagne reception, followed by a luxury, gourmet three-course meal and accompanying wines. The dining experience takes place over three rotations, lasts around 90 minutes and includes impeccable service from attentive waiting staff.

Special Occasions

If you’re looking to celebrate a special occasion at the London Eye, there is a range of packages available for private capsule hire:

  • Private Capsule: available for 3–25 guests. Price includes exclusive use of the capsule and entry to the Eye Lounge at the base of the Eye, where you can enjoy a chilled glass of champagne and canapés while waiting to board.
  • Friends & Family Capsule: available for 3-15 guests. An ideal setting for landmark celebrations such as birthdays, anniversaries, and stag and hen parties. Price includes champagne and canapés.
  • Cupid’s Capsule: available for couples to celebrate a romantic occasion such as Valentine’s Day or a special anniversary. Price includes champagne and a box of chocolate and champagne truffles.
  • Proposal Capsule: available for couples. It’s the perfect location to pop the question in style. Price includes a professional photographer to snap the special moment, and also champagne and truffles.

Weddings

The London Eye is a truly spectacular and unique wedding venue where you can take your vows with the backdrop of breathtaking views across the capital. The flower-adorned capsule accommodates up to 20 guests to share your special ceremony with you. The civil ceremony is performed by a registrar from Lambeth Registry Office.

The wedding package includes two rotations, the first in which the ceremony is performed, and the second to enjoy champagne and canapés, and toast the happy couple.

london eye

Fascinating Facts

  • The London Eye is also known as the Millennium Wheel, however, it’s had quite a few official names including the British Airways London Eye, the Merlin Entertainments Eye, and EDF Energy London Eye. Its official name today is actually The Coca-Cola London Eye, but, most will agree, the London Eye is far preferable.
  • The London Eye is not the first giant observation wheel to be built in London. Its predecessor, the Great Wheel was built in 1895 in honour of the Empire of India Exhibition in Earl’s Court. Equipped with observation cars, the wheel turned until 1906 when the exhibition closed.
  • Although the Eye has 32 capsules, you can ride in capsule number 33. That’s because number 13 has been purposefully missed out and the capsules jump from 12 to 14. Who said Londoners were superstitious?
  • The London Eye is one of the most popular tourist attractions, not just in London and the UK, but worldwide. It receives more visitors per year than the Taj Mahal and the Pyramids in Egypt.
  • Over the past 15 years, the rotating eye has travelled the equivalent of around 33,000 miles – the same as travelling the world 1.3 times.
  • Around 5,000 marriage proposals and over 500 weddings have taken place on the London Eye since 2000.
  • One of the capsules is Royal. It was named the Coronation Capsule to mark Queen Elizabeth II’s 60th jubilee anniversary.
  • The Eye is a popular place for celebrity watching. Matt Damon has made 5 trips, Kate Moss has been on 25 times, and American actress Jessica Alba has been on the Eye an incredible 31 times!
  • The Eye has been lit up in different colours over the years. In 2005, it was lit pink to celebrate the legalising of gay civil marriages. It was lit up in the Union Jack colours, red, white and blue, to celebrate the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011, and also to celebrate the Queen’s 60th Jubilee in 2012.
  • The London Eye was also one of many famous landmarks around the world lit up in the colours of the French flag to show unity with France after the terror attacks in Paris and Nice.

Insider Tips

  • Don’t be put off if you’re scared of heights. The capsules are completely closed and secure. They are fully air-conditioned in the summer and heated during the winter so you can enjoy the sights in a spacious and comfortable environment.
  • The queue for the London Eye can be very long, especially in peak times, although it does move fairly quickly. The average waiting time in busy periods is approximately 20–30 minutes.
  • To quicken up the process it’s recommended you book your tickets in advance online. Fast-track tickets for priority boarding are available at an additional cost. However, online tickets are non-refundable and non-transferable and have an allotted slot time for you to visit.
  • A Flexi ticket allows you to visit the London Eye at any time during the day of your visit so you can choose the best time of day to come.
  • Make sure you arrive 30 minutes before your time slot so you can experience the 4D Cinema Experience before your ride. The experience is FREE and is included with ticket purchases.
  • You will need photo ID such as a passport or driver’s licence when collecting your tickets from the ticket office at the base of the wheel.
  • The ticket office area at the base of the wheel is equipped with toilets and baby changing facilities, a gift shop and first aid point. Wi-Fi is available at the ticket office but not on the wheel itself.

When Is the Best Time to Visit the London Eye?

As one of the most popular attractions in London, the Eye can get crowded during peak periods, and queues can be long. Peak periods include UK school holidays (especially summer), weekends and bank holidays.

The best times of day to visit the London Eye are 10.00 am (opening time) and later on in the afternoon, especially after 4 pm.

In the peak periods such as Easter and summer, the Eye stays open until 8.30 pm. One of the calmest and less crowded times to visit is sunset, especially if the weather is good. You can then enjoy the added spectacle of London’s twinkling lights in the dusk.

london eye sky

Standard Admission Prices

Correct as of September 2017

Adult (16+)                 £22.45

Child (3-15)                £17.95

Under 3s                     Free

Opening Times

Open every day except Christmas Day (25th December)

January – April            10.00 – 18.00

May – September         11.00 – 20.30

October – December    11.00 – 1800

Opening times may vary during special events or on special occasions such as Valentine’s Day.

Getting There

Nearest Tube Stations:

Waterloo

Embankment

Charing Cross

Westminster

By Bus:

Lines 211, 77, 381 and RV1 route

Premium Tours offer full day tours to London including a visit to the London Eye. You can have a look at all of our London tours here.

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