One of the world's most famous Ferris wheels, the London Eye offers unparalleled views of central London's world-famous landmarks from its prime location on the Thames River waterfront, opposite Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. The gigantic, 443-foot-high observation wheel was built to mark the millennium in 2000 and quickly became one of the most popular paid attractions in the United Kingdom.
A 30-minute ride in one of the 32 glass pods offers panoramic views, so travelers can spot London highlights such as St Paul's Cathedral and Buckingham Palace from every angle. One full trip around takes 30 minutes, with the structure rotating at a fairly slow speed, meaning visitors are free to walk about their capsule and take photos from all sides.
With more than 3.5 million annual visitors, lines for the London Eye's capsules can get quite long. Pre-booking a fast-track, skip-the-line ticket is the best way to maximize your time in England's capital. Travelers with a penchant for luxury can opt for a private capsule experience that includes champagne. Many London Eye tours combine a rotation on the wheel with other popular London activities such as afternoon tea, a Thames River cruise, a hop-on, hop-off bus tour, or a city tour that covers top sites, including the Tower of London and London Dungeon.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Take a spin on the wheel at the start of your London vacation to orientate yourself and grasp the layout of the capital city's seemingly endless sprawl.
- On a clear day, it may be possible to spy Windsor Castle on the horizon from one of the wheel's pods.
- If gray skies threaten rain, nearby indoor activities abound: the SEA LIFE London Aquarium, the BFI IMAX cinema, Madame Tussauds wax museum, and Shrek's Adventure ensure kids and adults stay entertained during a storm.
How to Get to the London Eye
The Coca-Cola London Eye is located on the south bank of the River Thames. The easiest way to reach it is by tube to Waterloo station, which is serviced by the Jubilee, Northern, Bakerloo, and Waterloo and City lines. From the station, it's a 5- to 10-minute walk to the Ferris wheel. Visitors traveling on the District or Circle line can disembark at Westminster station for a scenic walk across Westminster Bridge. Surrounding the Eye are street performers, food stalls, and fairground attractions in Jubilee Gardens.
When to Get There
The Eye opens at 10am and closes at either 8:30 or 9:30pm depending on the time of the year. Look out for special themed events—the London Eye has hosted flash mobs, pop-up dining events, romantic Valentine's Day dinners, and even weddings. Plus, the wheel is a main feature in London's famous New Year's Eve fireworks display.
It's no accident that the London Eye has 32 capsules—each one represents one of the city's 32 boroughs. However, observant visitors will notice that the last capsule is actually No. 33—the creators skipped pod No. 13, deeming it unlucky.