There’s no denying the modern London Eye is a dramatic landmark on London’s skyline along with the more historic Big Ben. Therefore, it’s good news to know that the attraction is well worth a visit. On its 30-minute journey, the slowly revolving observation wheel gives a real bird’s eye view of the city in all directions for 25 miles.
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To the west are Buckingham palace, Royal Albert hall, Lord’s cricket ground, Trafalgar square, and Covent garden. Look east to spot St Paul’s cathedral and Tower bridge. South-west are the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, and Westminster abbey.
The observation wheel, at 135 metres, is the largest ever built and London’s fourth tallest structure. The unique wheel has 32 glassed-in, temperature controlled passenger capsules on the outside of the wheel structure. Inside each capsule are benches and lots of walking and standing room for up to 25 passengers. A special motorised motion stability system keeps the capsules level—only by looking at the changing scenery can you tell you are moving. Advanced wind engineering technology is an important innovation that helps provide this stability.
Interesting facts and figures
1. The design is similar to a giant bicycle wheel with a central hub and spindle connected to outer and inner rims by fine cable spokes. The wheel is nearly three times the height of Tower Bridge and four times wider than the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral. It is over 200 times bigger than the average racing bike wheel.
2. 1700 tonnes of British steel were used in the construction of the Eye, which makes it heavier than 250 double decker buses, 280 adult African elephants, or 1200 rugby league teams.
3. It took over a week to lift the London Eye fully vertical from a horizontal position across the Thames. This kind of procedure was only previously attempted in oil rigging operations.
4. London Eye was conceived and designed by David Marks and Julia Barfield. The husband and wife team first attracted attention in 1989 when they won an engineering competition to design a Bridge of the Future. It was on their kitchen table in South London in 1993 that the first drawings of the London Eye were made.
5. The London Eye is the capital’s fourth tallest structure with only Canary Wharf, Tower 42, and London Telecom Tower standing taller. It is over 35 metres taller than Big Ben, nearly 30 metres taller than St Paul’s Cathedral, almost three times as high as Tower Bridge and nearly a third again the size of the Statue of Liberty in the United States. It is the highest structure in the UK that is open to the public.
Weight of wheel and capsules 2,100 tonne
Circumference 424 metres (1,392ft)
Weight per passenger capsule 10 tonne
Number of cables 80
Total length of cables 6km (over 3.5 miles)
Driving power 150kw
Speed per revolution 0.26 metres per second
Number of passengers per revolution 800
Number of revolutions per year average 8,000
Number of passengers per year 3.5 million
Bridge Road, Riverside Building
Westminster, SE1 7PB
Tel. automated booking line phone 0870 5000 600 (24 hour)
Open: daily, Sep-end first week Jan and third week Jan-end Feb, daily, 10am-8.30pm, 10.00am to 7.00pm; April-June, daily 10am-9pm; July-Aug, daily, 10am-9.30pm; some exceptions apply so double check on website
Web: London Eye (on-line booking available)
Insider tip: Be sure to visit on a clear day. A sunset trip is rewarding—watch the lights come on in the city as the wheel revolves. For people who have problems with heights: you won’t have a care in the world on the London Eye. Go for it. Allow time for line-ups. For a special celebration, you can rent an entire capsule for your party—just phone 0870 220 2223 (9.30am - 5.30pm week) to book. The Eye is also available for corporate hire.
Photos by Barbara Ballard and courtesy Frank Riddle of Hampshire cam