One of the symbols of London and the most visited paid tourist attraction with almost 4 million people checking it out every year, the London Eye is the world’s tallest cantilevered (supported on one side only) observation wheel and – if we are to name it like that, despite the disagreements – the world’s fourth highest Ferris wheel. After its opening in 2000, it quickly became one of the city’s most popular places of interest.
Where To Find It
The London Eye is situated in the heart of the capital – on the South Bank of the River Thames, opposite the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben – and its ticket office is located inside the County Hall which is the building standing directly next to the wheel. It is important to mention that this famous attraction has also been known as the Millennium Wheel, the British Airways London Eye, the Merlin Entertainments London Eye, the EDF Energy London Eye, and – since January 2015 – the Coca-Cola London Eye. This is due to the changes in its ownership and the variety of its sponsors. These changes are also shown in its logo.
The London Eye’s design was the work of architects Frank Anatole, Nic Bailey, Steve Chilton, Malcolm Cook, Mark Sparrowhawk, and husband and wife Julia Barfield and David Marks. They came up with the idea for the observation wheel in a competition that took place in 1993 and which was about designing a landmark to celebrate the new millennium. None of the participants won, but the couple did not lose hope and after a while their hard work paid off and they got British Airways’ sponsorship for the project. The construction process took more than a year and a half and more than 1700 tons of steel and 3000 tons of concrete were used. The major components of the wheel came from six countries: the UK, The Netherlands, France, Italy, Germany and The Czech Republic.
There are 32 glass capsules around the wheel, each of them representing one of London’s boroughs, and each capsule can carry up to 25 passengers. The capsules are sealed, weigh about 10 tons each, have air conditioning and allow the people inside to walk around and enjoy the breath-taking 360 degree view over the city. If there are no clouds, you will be able to see as far as the Windsor Castle (a royal residence and the preferred weekend home of Queen Elizabeth II).
Some of the famous landmarks that are clearly visible at all times are the Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament and St Paul’s Cathedral. It is an interesting fact that the capsules are numbered from 1 to 33 – there is no number 13 (due to superstitious beliefs). The wheel itself is 135 meters tall, 120 meters in diameter and a ride on it takes 30 minutes. A piece of advice is to get your tickets for the ride in advance as lines can be very long.
Other notable attractions are:
It is an interesting fact that UK model Kate Moss and US actress Jessica Alba are the celebrities who have taken the most rides on the wheel – 25 and 31, respectively. To add, more than 5,000 people have gotten engaged on the Eye since it opened and also more than 500 weddings have happened there. Celebrity chefs like Gordon Ramsay cooked for patrons in one of the capsules during the London Restaurant Festival.