The London Eye (or Millennium Wheel)1 is a bit like England’s version of the Eiffel Tower–a towering landmark that the city’s locals initially greeted with skepticism, showcasing some extraordinary engineering, and eventually becoming a iconic fixture of the city’s skyline. And both offer unparalleled views of their cities.
It’s hard to describe the London Eye to someone who’s never seen it without it sounding kitschy. It basically looks like a giant bicycle wheel suspended vertically over the Thames. While it is a ferris wheel, it’s nothing like the ones you rode as a kid. For one thing, it’s enormous—standing 443 feet (135 meters) tall with a diameter of 394 feet (120 meters). The cars—the official website describes them as “passenger capsules”—hold 32 people, weigh 10 tonnes each, and are tall and roomy enough to walk around in. They’re air-conditioned and glass enclosed on all sides. And the Eye rotates very slowly, so you hardly know you’re moving.
The Eye is impressive enough on sheer size alone, but the truly remarkable feature is its view of London. You’d be hard pressed to get a better one. Situated on the banks of the Thames next to Westminster Bridge, a ride on the Eye offers a birds-eye view of London’s most famous landmarks—the Palace of Westminster, Big Ben, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Westminster Abbey, and more. The views are equally impressive both day and night (the Eye stays open until 9:30pm during the longest evenings of summer.)
If you find yourself in London, it’s definitely worth the price of a ticket and time in the queue to enjoy this modern marvel. I particularly recommend trying to go in the early evening as London’s city lights come on.
- If one is being pedantic, the technical name changes with the current sponsorship deal. It started life as the British Airways London Eye, then became the Merlin Entertainments London Eye, and is now the EDF Energy London Eye. ↩