The London Eye – A Favourite London Attraction:
One of the best ways to see London is from the air. Unfortunately, this was something that was fairly inaccessible to most until the London Eye. Now it’s as easy as stepping onto a platform that moves slower than the average escalator into the London Eye capsule.
The London Eye can only approximately be described as an enormous ferris wheel. The designers, beginning with the originators Julia Barfield and David Marks, have produced an engineering marvel. True enough it rotates in a circle through a vertical plane. But it never stops or starts apart from the occasional need to accommodate the elderly or handicapped.
Conceived as part of the British Millennium celebration, the Eye was eventually worked on by several architects under the sponsorship of British Airways. So large it had to be cast and constructed in sections, it took over a week to hoist into position.
The bicycle-hub-and-spoke design supports oval shaped pods that accommodate visitors in comfort and style.
The 135m high (443 ft) wheel holds 32 of the glass capsules, all with 360 degree views of London. The pods, which hold 20, are air conditioned and the wheel provides a smooth, nearly noiseless ride. Your fellow passengers may not be so noiseless though, if you happen to travel with a bunch of excitable school kids.
Not only spectacular to look at, the London Eye provides unobstructed views that, on a clear day, can extend all the way to Windsor Castle dozens of kilometers outside London.
Since its opening in March 2000, the London Eye has been providing rides to thousands of daily visitors for over a decade now. Its new owners, Merlin Entertainments, have launched an upgrade program which involves removing each of the capsule and transporting it by river and road to the Worcester workshop for upgrade. This exercise will see the upgrade completed in time for the 2012 Olympics.
The total trip on the London Eye is around 30 minutes and during that time riders can see quite of lot of London sights and attractions, as can be seen from our London Eye photo gallery.
During the continuous ride, you can take in the view of everything from Big Ben, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster (Houses of Parliament) and the Thames as it meanders through the city. From the mundane Ministry of Defence building, the view sweeps across the way to the Saatchi Gallery and the spectacular Millennium Dome. The latter, largely a failure as a turn of the Millennium tourist attraction, is finding new life as a sports arena and concert venue.
This favourite London attraction is open all day and year round – many visitors take the trip early in the day to get a clear view of daytime London. Another visit allows seeing the scenery at dusk when the setting sun makes the city glow.
The Eye is located nearby the IMAX cinema and the London Aquarium, not to mention Big Ben and the Tower, so there are lots of London attractions within a short walk. The London Eye’s owners, The Merlin Entertainments Group, also own SeaLife, Legoland, the Dungeons and many other amusement centres, so you can now purchase different combinations of rides or amusement parks to visit.
Getting to the London Eye is easy on the Tube, the London Underground system. Exit at Waterloo station.
To minimize the wait, buy your tickets online and collect them from the automated ticket machine inside the main hall.