London Eye: 18 important facts you would love to know about this symbol of London
On any given day, the London Eye elegantly rotates over the River Thames along the beautiful Southbank. A long queue awaits anyone (if you don’t have a skip-the-line ticket) who wishes to experience the breathtaking 360-degree views across the City. While a trip to London Eye is a “must-do” for most visitors to London, many would not know all of the facts about the structure which has become a symbol of London. So, for added value to your trip to London, here is a list of 18 important facts which tells you all about the London Eye.
Facts about the London Eye you would love to know …
1 | How did London Eye come about
London Eye was an idea put forward by husband and wife, David Marks and Julia Barfield. The couple responded to a competition in 1993 which asked Londoners to design a new landmark for the City celebrating the millennium. The idea of a wheel caught on and the official opening of London Eye was on 31 December 1999 in time for the millennium. However, due to a capsule clutch problem, the iconic observation wheel did not open till March 2000. A little late but that’s quite alright!
2 | The London Eye should not still be here
As the above, the structure was built especially for the Millennium. Therefore, it was meant to be a temporary attraction. It was planned to stand on the River Thames for no longer than 5 years. However, due to its financial success, Lambeth Council granted a permanent licence for its operation.
There was yet another challenge for its continued presence. The Southbank Centre served an eviction notice to the London Eye in 2005. The dispute centred around a strut hovering over a bit of concrete owned by The Southbank! After a lengthy legal battle, a 25-year lease was finally agreed between the parties in February 2006, ensuring the landmark’s survival. With the judgment, The Eye just needs to pay The Southbank 500k a year. The monies supports the centre’s comprehensive annual arts programme, which is not a bad thing.
3 | What is London Eye? Is it a “ferries” wheel?
Contrary to popular assumption, the London Eye is Not a Ferries wheel!
The London Eye is one of the world’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel. This is because the Eye is supported by a single A-frame. As well, the capsules are outside the wheel rim instead of hanging low, hence the difference with a ferries wheel.
4 | How heavy is the London Eye
The entire structure weighs 2,100 tonnes. The structure was assembled flat and moved onto eight temporary islands on the River Thames. It was raised into place in September 1999.
5 | How tall is London Eye
Although it stands at 135 metres (443 feet) high and has a diameter of 120 metres (394 feet), the Eye is not the tallest structure in London! The tallest building in London is the Shard at 310 metres (1,004 feet). The circumference of the London Eye is 424 metres (1,391 feet) which means if it weren’t a wheel, it would actually be taller than the Shard.
Even though it is not the tallest structure in London at present, it was the tallest structure and observation wheel when it was constructed. It is now the 4th tallest observation wheel in the world.
The top three tallest observation wheels are: High Roller at 168 metres (550 feet) in Las Vegas ; The Singapore Flyer at 165 metres ( 541 feet) in Marina Bay; Star of Nanchang at 160 metres (525 feet) in Nanchang Star Amusement Park.
6 | Who owns the London Eye
This iconic landmark of London has seen a few ownership pass-by. Originally owned by British Airways, Marks Barfield and the Tussauds Group, led to the Tussauds Group becoming the sole owners in 2006. The Tussauds Group was sold to Blackstone in 2007 which became Merlin Entertainments Groups. So, London Eye is now owned by Merlin Entertainments Group (Merlin).
Merlin signed a sponsorship agreement with lastminute dot com who took over from Coca-Cola as headline sponsors of London Eye. It is a three-year deal which took effect as of February 2020. This gives lastminute dot com full naming rights and will see the landmark lit up in the travel brand’s corporate pink colour.
7 | How long does it take to ride the London Eye
A full rotation of the London Eye takes 30 minutes to complete. It travels at a leisurely speed of 0.6 miles per hour. This leisurely ride gives visitors the opportunity to enjoy breathtaking views over London. The slow rotation also allows for visitors to board and disembark at ease without the wheel coming to a halt.
8 | How many capsules on the London Eye
The Eye has 32 capsules. Each represents the 32 boroughs in London. but they’re numbered from 1 to 33.
9 | Superstitious
Whether you believe in superstition or not and as with many buildings and structures, there is no number thirteen. The capsules skip from 12 to 14.
10 | Capsule #2 is Coronation Capsule
The second passenger capsule on the London Eye is known as the Coronation Capsule. This is in honour of the 60th anniversary of the coronation of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. Yeap, you got it – its Red! The only capsule in colour.
11 | Is London Eye a popular attraction?
Very popular! Without a doubt, the London Eye is the most popular paid attraction in London welcoming almost 4 million visitors a year. The most popular Free attraction in London is the British Museum which sees more than 6 million visitors each year.
On average the Eye supersedes the Taj Mahal and the Great Pyramids of Giza in annual visitor numbers.
12 | Can you hire the Eye for private events?
Absolutely yes! The Eye has been a popular venue for engagements, weddings, pop-up dining spots and a rotating nightclub!
According to records held by the organisers, there had been more than 500 weddings and more than 5,000 people have held their engagement on the Eye since it opened. The first wedding is recorded to have been held in 2001.
13 | Upgrade for a “sparkling” experience!
To really make your London Eye experience sparkle, enjoy a glass of Pommery Brut Royal champagne while you relax and enjoy the sublime views of London.
14 | How many people can the Eye accommodate
Each capsule can take about 25 people. This means that the London Eye can carry 800 people each rotation.
15 | What to experience on a day ride
There are many places to see on the River Thames or as you stroll the Southbank but none can compare to the views from the top – onboard the London Eye.
You will see most of London landmarks. Unobstructed views of Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, Tower of London, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Royal Parks and so many more, as far as your eyes can see!
At its pinnacle of 135 metres, this largest cantilevered observation wheel gives you mesmerising 360-degree views of the City, laid out before you with views reaching as far as Windsor Castle, 25 kilometres away, on a clear day. Being so high up means that you can watch the River Thames stretch all the way to the horizon and the edge of the city limits.
16 | The London Eye is not the first big wheel in London
The London Eye had a predecessor. Simply known as The Great Wheel which was in working order from 1895 – 1906. It was a 40 car ferris wheel modelled on the original design from Chicago. It was 94 metres (308 feet) in height and 82.3 metres (270 feet) in diameter.
17 | A popular feature in movies
The London Eye had been featured in many movies. In 2002, it was in 28 Days Later, 2004’s Thunderbirds and in Harry Potter, 2007 – Order of the Phoenix and in 2011, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, Part 2.
If you are planning on a Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour when visiting London, note that this tour is a sold out event. You Must prebook well in advance to secure a visit. Take a look at availability below:
Book Harry Potter Studio Tour from London:
18 | View the exact replica of the wheel
A short journey from London, about 48 kilometres (30 miles) away an exact replica of the wheel can be found, in miniature form.
Legoland Windsor has a scale model of the Eye as part of its Miniland exhibit, which also features models of the Palace of Westminster, the Millennium Bridge, and Buckingham Palace.
Practical information for when visiting the London Eye
Location and opening times as follows:
The London Eye
Westminster Bridge Road
Opening times varies due to Covid-19 lockdown measures, This space will be updated as soon as the attraction reopens.
Nearest Underground stations
The London Eye is located within easy walking distance from several London Underground stations: Waterloo, Embankment, Charing Cross and Westminster.
Waterloo is the closest tube station and is located about five minutes walking distance. Exit the station following signs for the South Bank.
Embankment and Charing Cross stations are close together on the north side of the River Thames. Both tube stations are a ten-fifteen minute walk to reach the destination.
Westminster tube station is the closest station to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. From Westminster tube station, take exit one and follow signs for Westminster pie
Purchase your tickets before your visit
With almost 4 million visitors a year, the London Eye is a very popular attraction. It is strongly recommended that you purchase your tickets online prior to your visit. Pay a little more and buy the skip-the-line ticket so you don’t have to wait in line. Sometimes queues can be for an hour or more. You do not want to spend long periods of time waiting when you can be maximising your time to sightseeing. In addition, if you are travelling with kids, you may not want to put them through the wait as well.
Peruse the following ticket choices and buy them before you travel. Enjoy the 24-hour cancellation rights afforded to travellers by our trusted partner, GYG and Viator
On a final note…
To be honest, in terms of London landmarks, London Eye sits alongside St Paul’s Cathedral, Tower of London and the British Museum. It is big, it is the number one paid attraction by visitors and the views are spectacularly beautiful. To top it off, you can hire a capsule all for yourself and your group of friends for special occasions or simply upgrade for a personal experience over a glass of champagne. Design your experience for your next visit and have a fabulous time.
While visiting London, don’t miss out on the countryside – do a day trip to Stonehenge, or Windsor and combine it with a visit to the Cotswolds or Bath. If you have more time, go to Isle of Wight, the largest island on the south coast of England. Here are some choices for you.
If you are from abroad and plan to visit some of the iconic English Heritage sites across England, you may find the English Heritage Overseas Visitors Pass to be of great value – free access to 100+ sites for one price. A great value membership of the English Heritage is also available for UK residents. Peruse choices by navigating the links below.
Have a great time exploring London 🙂