View towards Tower / Greenwich slightly obstructed
It used to be the Millennium Wheel, turned to be the British Airways London Eye and now it is the lastminute.com London Eye – the Ferris wheel at the River Thames has truly become one of the most iconic places of the British capital. The pandemic situation and the low level of tourism in fall 2020 gave me the opportunity to visit the observation wheel again without being too afraid of long queues at the entrance – here are the thoughts about my visit.
London Eye – Location & Admission
London Eye is located on the Thames South Bank (which is at that point the East shoreline) between Westerminster Bridge and Hungerford Bridge. Thus, it is located more or less in front of the County Hall. The building does not only feature the London Eye major ticket office and souvenir store, but also a lot of attractions. Within a few steps, you can ride the observation wheel, do Shrek’s Adventure, the London Dungeon, Sea Life London or Namco Funscape. The area is well connected: you can either use Waterloo Station and the corresponding Underground station or use a Westminster tube service and cross Westminster Bridge by a short walk. This also gives you a nice view of Big Ben – however, you might have some souvenir traders on the bridge as well.
At the time of writing, London Eye operates from 11:00 to 18:00 daily. In non-Covid summer times, the Ferris wheel typically operates from 10:00 to 21:30 hrs. The adult walk-in ticket rate is 28.50 GBP. This gives you a standard admission to London Eye. In summer I would recommend thinking about a Fast Lane ticket as the queues may be massive. There are also some really good combo deals. For example I packaged London Eye with Madame Tussauds, Shrek’s Adventure and Sea Life London for 55 GBP. You had time slots for all attractions, but could move these slots in a limited way. Fast track tickets for the London Eye start at around 41 GBP.
London Eye – The Ferris Wheel
London Eye has a total height of 135 meters, the wheel itself has a diameter of 120 meters. The wheel only stops in case of an emergency. The speed is about 26 cm per second, so that one full rotation takes about half an hour. The wheel used to be the highest viewing point of London and the world’s tallest Ferris Wheel at the time of opening. The first record has been taken by The Shard. The currently highest Ferris Wheel is the High Roller in Las Vegas – it will however be taken in 2021 by Ain Dubai.
The capsules are numbered from 1 to 33. As the unlucky number 13 is missing that makes 32 cabins with a capacity of 25 people each. During my visit, they did not use more than five or six people per capsule. A very interesting part of the London Eye constructions are not hanging on the wheel, but in fact are fixed outside of the wheel. The capsules are rotated by electric motors during the ride, so that the floor of the capsules stays at the bottom all the time. This also means that at the highest point of the ride, you are in fact above the wheel of the London Eye. The capsules are air conditioned. I absolutely loved the quality of the glass, which allows quite reflection-free photographs.
London Eye – The Ride
Don’t want to be too sarcastic, but as I mentioned above: typically, a the queue for the London Eye will take you about the same time as the ride – on a lucky day. The staff is very friendly and performs some security checks before boarding. Being in one capsule with just one other party was of course amazing and gave me the chance to do plenty of snaps, even though the weather conditions at that day might not have been that ideal.
The wheel rotates anti-clockwise so that you firs head to the North. From the peak on, you have a lovely view of Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament and the other attractions in South and Southwest direction. Of course, you can enjoy the traffic on the Thames all the time – for example, the Thames Clippers local transport boats.
I think that the pictures speak for themselves. It should be noted that especially on the upward trip, you have a nice view of the Financial district, Waterloo Station and the Shard, but there are some limitations to watch Tower Bridge or Greenwich just due to the geography of London.
London Eye – Services
Of course, shortly before you arrive back on the ground, you may gather at one of the Photo Zones and smile into the camera for a souvenir. Apart from that, the souvenir stores feature all kinds of London Eye stuff and other touristic memories.
London Eye – My View
Of course, it has been an amazing choice to ride the London Eye during the pandemic. The atmosphere in the capsule was very relaxed and even if the weather was rather English than sunny, it has been a fantastic ride. You should check the availability and popularity of tickets and try to avoid peak times – especially during the summer months. If you make a good time slot on a good view, but not too buzy day, London Eye will be breathtaking for you.