The past and the present blend together in London – a metaphor exemplified by the London Eye, a millennial creation standing proud in the midst of London’s iconic old-world charm. One of the top attractions of the UK capital, London Eye stands tall on the banks of the city's lifeline, the river Thames. The Eye gives stunning views of almost every major landmark in London, which is the reason why it was named the ‘London Eye’. The icon of the city's skyline was constructed as a new landmark to commemorate the start of a new millennium. The ‘Millennium Wheel’ is the most popular paid attraction in London, attracting 3.5 million visitors every year.
Answering the first question that pops in the minds of those who witness the London Eye for the first time – it is 443 feet high, which is almost 80 times the height of an average human. However, it is not even among London's top 20 tallest structures. If its circumference of 1,392 feet is straightened out, it would comfortably surpass the Shard, which is the tallest London structure at 1,004 feet.
Unlike your regular Ferris wheels, the London Eye isn’t a fast, thrilling experience, but a steady, relaxed affair. It takes approximately half an hour to complete a full revolution, moving at a speed of 0.6 miles per hour. The pace guarantees 360-degree views of the London landscape ‘as far as your eyes can let you see’. A fun London Eye fact – the Eye never stops moving during its operational hours.
The London Eye was the brainchild of the couple, David Marks and Julia Barfield. They suggested the idea in a competition where Londoners had to pitch in designs for a new landmark to celebrate the start of the millennium. The concept, ideated in 1993, came to life with the start of the new millennium, hence, the London Eye was inaugurated on March 9, 2000.
To answer another popular question in the minds of the Eye’s admirers– there are a total of 32 capsules on the rotating wheel. Made of plexiglass, each transparent capsule represents one of London’s 32 boroughs. If you weigh one of the capsules, their weight will be equal to 1,052,631-pound coins. An interesting London Eye fact is that the capsules are numbered 1 to 33, but there is no number 13 capsule, in accordance with the age-old superstition that the number is unlucky
The structure of the wheel weighs more than 1 million pounds or 1,000 tons. Setting up the wheel had, thus, been a huge task. The Eye was assembled flat and was then moved on to eight temporary islands on the Thames River. The process of raising the wheel had its own complications, as one of the cables in the structure had snapped before the lift and had to be replaced. The fact about London Eye that it was still able to get hoisted in place in September 1999, is remarkable
A less-noticed fact about London Eye is that, in the most technical terms, it is not a Ferris wheel. Rather, it is a cantilevered structure. This means that it is supported by a beam on only one side, instead of being supported on two sides like regular Ferris wheels. The Eye is Europe’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel and is one of the largest observation wheels in the world.
The UK and world tourism industries have appreciated the London Eye over the years through numerous prestigious award nominations, of which the Eye has won over 85 awards. It has been recognised as the ‘World’s Leading Attraction’ four times and also as ‘Europe’s Leading Tourist Attraction’. Conceived and designed by three Marks Barfield Architects, appreciation has also poured in for its architectural design quality, engineering achievement, experience, and attraction.
A London Eye fact that showcases its popularity is that check it more than 3.5 million tourists out every year. It is the most popular paid attraction in the United Kingdom and attracts more visitors than the world’s wonders of the Pyramids of Giza and the Taj Mahal. The Eye is popular among celebrities too, with some riding the attraction numerous times. America’s Jessica Alba has taken the ride a mind-boggling 31 times, while UK’s Kate Moss has gone on the Eye 25 times.
Although the London Eye’s popularity is one-of-a-kind, it is not the only big wheel that has adorned the London skyline. There used to be a Great Wheel, which was opened to the public for the Empire of India Exhibition at Earls Court, London in 1895. It was 308 feet tall and had a diameter of 270 feet, which is more than 100 feet smaller than the London Eye. It also weighed 100 tons less, with a weight of 900 tons. It was in service till 1906, when it had carried over 2.5 million passengers – a million less than the number of annual London Eye visitors. It was demolished in 1907.
The London Eye lights up in beautiful colours at night, which makes it an absolutely stunning view of the London nightscape. The lights sometimes have a cause, the Eye showcases special colours to celebrate important national events or to promote sponsors. It lights up in red to promote its current sponsor, Coca Cola. It was lit up in blue to honour the frontline warriors of the COVID-19 pandemic, and in red, blue, and white to celebrate special events in the Royal Family.
The London Eye facts states that the building stands tall at a height of 443 feet, or 135 metres, making it Europe’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel.
The diameter of the Ferris wheel of the London Eye is 394 feet or 120 metres. There are 64 cables connecting the wheel to its centre, much like a bicycle wheel.
The London Eye Ferris wheel ride takes approximately 30 minutes. The wheel rotates with a speed of 0.6 miles, or 0.9 kilometres, per hour.
One generally has to wait in a queue for at least 30 minutes. However, the waiting period might go beyond 2 hours on special occasions. The rush of visitors is usually high on weekends, during clear weather, and during holidays.
The London Eye provides a bird’s eye view of the entire city of London, which is why it was named the ‘London Eye’, as you can see all the important landmarks of London from here
The London Eye lights up in bright colours at night, making it beautifully attractive. The views of the city from the wheel are best experienced at night, as the city of London lights up in all its glory.
The London Eye gives 360-degree views of the entire London cityscape. The major attractions include the Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tate Museum, Tower Bridge, the Shard, and if you look close enough, even the Windsor Castle. Admire the city’s expansive views, and be enthralled by the intricately styled stretches of the Thames.
The London Eye dominates the city’s skyline as Europe’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel. With its height of 443 feet, offering 360-degree views from its glass pods, visitors can leisurely enjoy views of London and its major attractions. The most popular paid attraction in London is a 30-minute ride that can take 25 passengers in each pod. It serves as a family attraction, as well as a romantic getaway for couples, making it a must-visit for all tourists in London.