With about five years of London living under my belt, I’ve ticked a fair few of the city’s big attractions off my list. Last year, I got to experience the panoramic views from The Shard; I’ve done pretty much all the free museums; and I’ve even got to see inside the Tower of London at night with an immersive theatre experience.
The London Eye, however, has been one that’s eluded me since I arrived in the city. I’ve always had it on my ‘to do’ list, but like most London-dwellers, it’s just never…happened. Until last weekend, at least, when I grabbed some friends and got the chance to ride in a private capsule on the Eye, just for us. And I definitely learnt a few things too…
The London Eye first opened in 2000
Well, ACTUALLY, technically it opened on the 31st December 1999 – but the public weren’t allowed aboard until March 2000. If you’re not feeling maths-y, this makes the London Eye 18 years old, an official adult in the world of London’s top attractions. It was actually meant to be temporary, but has proved just too popular for the city to lose.
When it opened, it was the world’s largest ferris wheel
Now, 18 years later, it’s now in fourth place. The High Roller in Las Vegas is the largest at 550 ft tall, followed by the Singapore Flyer (541ft) and the Star of Nanchang (525ft) in Japan. At 443ft, the London Eye is still the tallest ferris wheel in Europe.
It feels like it’s moving faster than you’d think
When you’re looking up at the Eye from the pathways along the South Bank, it looks like it’s barely moving at all. But when you actually get into a capsule, it actually feels like it’s moving faster than you’d expect from the outside. A ride all the way round takes about half an hour, and as we were taking photos and spotting famous landmarks, we suddenly realised we were already almost at the top of the wheel.
On a super clear day, you can see as far away as 25 miles
Basically, that’s as far as Windsor Castle. We were quite lucky in that we had clear conditions, and while I couldn’t quite make out Windsor Castle, I managed to spot a whole range of London’s landmarks. St Paul’s Cathedral, The Shard, … . The capsules are also fitted with iPads that told us what was in our sight line. Handy if you’re as awful with recognising buildings as I am…
There’s no capsule 13
The London Eye has 32 capsules, one for each of the city’s boroughs. Clever. However, they’re actually numbered from 1-33, with 12 skipping straight on to 14, leaving out the number 13. This is actually pretty common in structures, where the number 13 is often missed out due to classic superstition.
It doesn’t stop turning unless it really has to
You’d think that getting on the wheel, it’d come to a stop to let people off and on at the bottom. Nooope. Apart from for disabled and elderly passengers, the wheel doesn’t actually stop moving at a rate of 26cm per second – which makes for a slightly hairy hop aboard!
It’s been used for some pretty special events
In 2013, the London Eye became a rotating nightclub thanks to Red Bull, with individual parties in each capsule featuring music stars such as Lily Allen and Mark Ronson. Celebrity chefs have served dinners in the pods, David Blaine did a full rotation stood on top of a capsule, and thousands of people (less famous, but probably still rich) have proposed on the Eye. There were no proposals on our ride, just four well behaved ‘Instagram boyfriends’…
How much does it cost?
Standard advance tickets (for a set time) can be bought online from £24.30 – on the day, this goes up to £27. It also includes entrance to the 4D Cinema Experience, which is definitely worth a visit. To jump the queues, it’s an extra tenner. For a little bit extra on top of normal ticket prices, you can get a ‘flexi’ ticket which allows you to rock up at any time.
For a private capsule like ours, it’s £550 for up to 25 people (which sounds pricey, but if you have 24 mates who want to go on…that’s £22 each)