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It’s one of the most recognizable structures in the world and yet the London Eye is relatively new. Open for rides on March 9, 2000 the observation wheel has since become an iconic symbol of the city.
Located on the South Bank of the Thames River, the London Eye draws 3.5 million visitors a year, when there’s not a pandemic going on. In fact, the gigantic wheel is the most popular paid tourist attraction in England.
What do you know about this attraction? Read on to learn more with these fun facts about the London Eye.
It’s Not Really a Ferris Wheel
The London Eye is 443 feet tall, making it the 4th largest wheel in the world. However, don’t call it a Ferris wheel. The Eye is actually an observation wheel.
The wheel is cantilevered, supported on only one side by an A frame. The pods, or capsules, are on the outside of the rim.
The Wheel Moves Slooooowly
Rides on the London Eye last approximately 30 minutes as the wheel turns at .6 miles per hour. In fact, the wheel moves so slowly that it doesn’t need to stop for people to board or disembark. For disabled or elderly riders, the wheel will stop to make loading and unloading safer for them.
Husband and wife team David Marks and Julia Barfied came up with the idea for the Eye when they entered a 1993 competition. City leaders wanted a fresh landmark for London, to honor the new millennium. The competition turned into a bust, however the plans for the London Eye caught the attention of the organizers.
Originally called the Millennium Wheel, the structure took seven years to complete, at a cost of $75 million. Declared finished on December 31, 1999, technical difficulties kept the ride from officially opening to the public until March of 2000.
Although intended as an attraction for five years, the wheel received a permanent license in 2002. The wheel was renamed the London Eye in 2011 because of the stunning panoramic views of the city that the ride offers.
If a structure exists, people will find a way to climb it. Magician David Blaine rode a full rotation standing atop one of the pods, in 2003. And the next year, a man dressed as Spiderman climbed the wheel. He remained on top of a pod for 18 hours, in an attempt to bring attention to father’s rights in the UK.
Speaking of the pods, also called capsules, the London Eye has 32 of them, one for each of the city’s 32 boroughs. The pods are numbered to 33 though. Why? There’s no capsule 13, for superstitious reasons. Each capsule holds 25 people, for a total of 800 riders at a time.
You Can Rent a Capsule
So far, 5000 couples have gotten engaged on the Eye. And 500 weddings have been performed there. The capsules are available for such events. To pop the question to your sweetheart, you can rent a private capsule for £185.00 on a weekday or £275.00 on the weekend.
In 2013, Red Bull Academy turned the Eye into a rotating night club. Thirty capsules hosted different parties, celebrating the UK’s club culture. Different artists performed in the pods.
Light Up the Night
At night, the London Eye lights up. And for special occasions, such as the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, the wheel lights up in red, white and blue.
Oh the Views
The thrill of riding the wheel is the astonishing views of London. On a clear day, you can see Windsor Castle, which is 25 miles away.
Where is the London Eye?
The London Eye is located at the Riverside Building, County Hall, South Bank, London. It’s directly across from the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. While currently closed due to COVID, reopening is scheduled for May 17, 2021.
For the best price, purchase tickets ahead of time, using this LINK. At this time, advance tickets for adults run £24.50. The day of, adult tickets cost £31.00 each. There are also fast track and family tickets available. The wait time in line can exceed two hours during peak times such as weekends. Plan on less busy times, such as evenings, and you might only wait half an hour.
The wheel is easy to spot. On our first evening in London, we suddenly saw the Eye from the top of a double decker bus. What a thrill to see it, storm clouds gathered behind it and a rainbow arching nearby.
We never rode the Eye while in London, due to long, long lines. However, we snapped photos of it from Westminster Bridge and enjoyed seeing the Eye frequently during our city wanderings. The huge wheel is on my Top Ten Must Visit Places in London…and on my next trip, I’ll wait in line to take a ride.
Have you ridden on the London Eye? Share your experiences in the comments!
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