The London Eye
What is the London Eye?
It's the World's tallest cantilevered observation wheel, at 135 metres, making it the fourth highest construction in London. It stands right next to the River Thames, alongside the former County Hall and very close to the South Bank complex of theatres and art galleries.
It offers a perfect opportunity to view London "at a glance", with the whole city laid out beneath you. You might find a pair of binoculars helpful, and you'll really kick yourself if you forget your camera!
The Eye revolves at a steady 0.6 miles an hour, so a complete revolution takes about 30 minutes. You travel in one of 32 capsules that gives you an all-round view of London. You can stand or sit, or take in the experience from your wheelchair. The wheel keeps going all the time, but slowly enough for you to step on and off in perfect safety.
The Eye was opened for business in March 2000, originally as a temporary structure to mark the Millenium. However, it has proved to be so popular that it has stayed put, and it now carries about 3.5 million passengers every year. The Eiffel Tower in Paris was supposed to be temporary, too!
What can you see?
The Eye revolves from east to west, so your first views are towards the east, and London's business district. To be strictly accurate, this IS London - much of what most visitors think of as London is actually the City of Westminster!
Although the Thames runs through the heart of Greater London, at least 90% of the buildings and sights of interest are north of the river. Not surprisingly, most visitors point their cameras in that direction
Picture 1 below was not taken from the Eye itself, but it gives a good impression of how the view has changed within a short space of time. Had this picture been taken when I first visited London, as a boy in the 1960s, the building dominating the scene would have been Wren's St Paul's Cathedral, which was the tallest building in London from its construction after the Great Fire of 1666 until only 30 years ago.
You can see St Paul's to the left of the picture, and you can also see a few more spires of Wren churches poking up. However, the dominating features of the skyline are now the NatWest Tower and the Swiss Re building, which is now known familiarly, for obvious reasons, as the "Gherkin" (Incidentally, if you are seriously rich, I gather that dinner in the restaurant at the top of the Gherkin is quite something!)
Out of shot, but visible from the Eye, are Canary Wharf, Tower Bridge, and the Tower of London. Future visitors should be able to catch a glimpse of the facilities being built for the 2012 Olympics.
Picture 2 gives you a good impression of how London sits in a basin. A few miles from the centre, hills rise above the plain, and these now comprise some of the more desirable residential districts, such as Hampstead, Highgate and Muswell Hill. If you look to the south, you can see the land rising towards Crystal Palace and Croydon.
Just below the Eye, on the north bank, is Cleopatra's Needle, which must be London's oldest monument, having started "life" in ancient Egypt.
On the left side of the picture you can see the green dome of the former reading room of the British Museum. This is where Charles Dickens and Karl Marx once studied. Just beyond, you can see the white tower of the London University Senate House. Most of the tower comprises the stacks of the London University Library, where I had my first job. I used to think that the view from there was quite good, too!
If you use Cleopatra's Needle as a pointer, you can just catch, in the far distance, Alexandra Palace and its radio mast. This was the building where BBC television was born.
In pictures 3 and 4 you are looking up-river, with the Palace of Westminster very visible to the right, and St Thomas's Hospital almost directly beneath you on the left. Also on the left is Watlerloo Station, and, if the evening sun catches the rails, you can see them snaking away into the distance, with trains taking commuters home to the suburbs or south central England.
You get an excellent view of the heart of government, from the Houses of Parliament (with the Big Ben clock tower, see picture 4) to the government buildings in Whitehall and Buckingham Palace at the end of the Mall. You can also pick out Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square and the unmistakably spindly shape of the Post Office Tower.
One thing you will be struck by is how green much of this part of London appears to be. There is a chain of parks, stretching from the Palace Gardens (the Queen's private back garden!) through St James's Park and Green Park to Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, and several of these have quite large lakes in them as well. However, many of the squares and streets that were laid out in Regency and Victorian times made good use of green space, and were lined with trees, particularly the London plane that is able to shed its bark and thus survive the ravages of a polluted city (at least, as it was then).
Picture 4 also demonstrates that, especially in the evening, the view can be disrupted by haze. London has almost no heavy industry these days, so the "pea-souper" fogs are long gone. However, exhaust fumes have replaced factory smoke to spoil the view, despite the undoubted success of the "congestion charge" that has discouraged private motorists from driving into central London. On a clear day, you can see about 25 miles into the distance, which is as far as Windsor Castle, but not when this picture was taken!
A few more details
The London Eye is open every day except Christmas Day, and during its annual maintenance (10 days in mid-January). It starts running at 10.00am and continues until 8.00pm (later in high summer, 9.00pm or 9.30pm). After dark trips are a completely different experience, as you can see just how much electricity a city consumes at night!
The basic price for a pre-booked flight (it's their terminology, not mine, but you don't have to fasten your seatbealts on takeoff!) is £15.50, with concessions for children and seniors, but you can turn up and go for £25.00 (no concessions). There are other packages available, including champagne trips and special party deals with private capsules for up to 25 guests.
The London Eye website gives all the details, and a facility for online booking:
Thelma Alberts from Germany on June 25, 2019:
Thanks for this hub. Now I know what buildings and things I can see when inside the London Eye. Well done!
marwa on April 15, 2017:
Thank you very much for all informations you've done tu us but I want to know what can we see if we look south. I'm sorry for my bad English but I'm Italian.
londonflights on December 12, 2016:
I Love London Eye Looks amazing and decided to Flight to London Next month thank you for sharing
I chose this site for travel to london
about cheap flights to london
Raimundo_strelok on December 02, 2015:
I sat on the London Eye and it is fonderfil,but somtimes it is looking very scary,when you are on the top of London Eye.I really like River Thames
John Welford (author) from UK on June 13, 2012:
Can you see the Eye from the M25? There may be a few places where this is possible, probably with the help of binoculars, but the most likely spot would be from the QEII bridge down-river from the Eye. However, the bridge itself, although it connects the M25 north and south of the River Thames, is not technically part of the motorway, so it may not count! You would have to be driving south to stand a chance of a glimpse, because northbound traffic goes through the Dartford Tunnel. In any case, don't try looking for the Eye if you are driving!
netsanet on June 12, 2012:
i ben there it was amazin grat
Diane on May 07, 2012:
Does anyone know if you can see the London Eye from the M25?
cameron on April 27, 2012:
it is awesome
courtney on April 27, 2012:
it is so cool
dummychloe123 on October 20, 2011:
i think that the London Eye is a grat place to go expessishley if you have children because then they get to see the loverly sites near by
Auwalu england geographer on December 22, 2010:
I want know the history of london eye
Lisa on December 02, 2010:
It’s truly mind blowing to see London from heights. Even from the ground, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace and many more London attractions are at closer distance from the Eye. But, you can see lots and lots on all sides from the Eye.
applejuic3 from San Diego, CA on November 28, 2010:
London is such a cool place. My fiancée always talks about the city and how amazing it is along with pointing out the London Eye whenever we see pictures or videos of it. I love reading about new information that is interesting so thanks for putting this together.
Laura on November 11, 2010:
God! Great, it would be amazing and in fact adventurous to see London at heights…
Jon_R on November 06, 2010:
The views are amazing on a clear day.Take a small pair of binocs,i went up in March and could just make out the outline of Windsor Castle way out to the west.
Dusk is also a great time to go apparently.
The height is 444 ft or 135m
me :) on November 04, 2010:
My mum is taking me on the London Eye tomorrow for bonfire night so had a look to see what to look out for,cool photos cant wait to go.I cant belive im a month older than the London Eye,I thought it was years older than me.
McJam5 on August 08, 2010:
Thank you for letting us know that it wasn't the Eiffel Tower we are seeing on the Eye of London. But in fact is a transmitting tower. I too, mistook this transmitting tower as the great Eiffel Tower. Of couse, my son informed me that I was wrong.
Carl Madison on June 02, 2010:
I rode the London Eye when I was studying abroad in London. It was worth the money to see the amazing views!
John Welford (author) from UK on May 14, 2010:
Roserad, You must have been a lot higher in the plane coming over! You ride in an enclosed capsule on the Eye, and the ride is as smooth as you like. Apart from the view you get, you have little sensation of "height". Next time, why not give it a go?
Roserad on May 14, 2010:
I have been to London many time but I have never been on the London Eye I am scared of heights. The pictures do look great.
Kathleen Lewis from Southern Michigan on March 25, 2010:
Great photos. I wish the eye was up when i was there in April, 1998. Sure would love to go back!
John Welford (author) from UK on March 25, 2010:
Matt, I have written another Hub on this very point (the link should be in "Related Hubs" above)
Matt on March 24, 2010:
I went on the eye yesterday, and got asked by an American tourist in my capsule if that (the tower in the distance) was the Eiffel Tower that he could see. I instinctively started laughing, and then I realised he was deadly serious, and I felt really bad after that !!!!! It most definitely the Crystal Palace transmitting tower.
nettech from London (UK) on March 14, 2010:
For someone who was born in London and has spent one's life here, it is still absolutely amazing each time you go on the London Eye. On a sunny day, the views are incredibly breathtaking...I swear somebody said you could see France....lol, seriously if you visit London, this is the place to go, the wheel travels very slowly so you wont get any motion sickness or anything.
Whichever direction you look its a tourist's paradise for photo opportunities.
Thanks again for this great hub and wonderful pictures
John Welford (author) from UK on March 12, 2010:
There is absolutely no way that you can see the Eiffel Tower from the London Eye! For one thing it is about 200 miles from London to Paris, and for another the curvature of the Earth would get in the way, not to mention a few hills! You can certainly see the TV mast at Crystal Palace, but it does not look much like the Eiffel Tower!
Martin Lindgren on March 12, 2010:
Well, I'm thinking 'bout the Eiffel Tower as well. I got a picture from when I'm taking the trip round with London Eye...and it sure looks like the Eiffel Tower in the far...
Mendy on March 03, 2010:
The London Eye is such a great option to view London "at a glance".
askjanbrass from St. Louis, MO on January 11, 2010:
The London Eye really is a fantastic view (although I think the view from the Eiffel Tower is still my favorite, as cliché as that might be). It's definitely great trying to get on the Eye right as the sun is setting.
LONDON GIRL on January 09, 2010:
This is probably the best observation point in the world as you see so many great monuments in London. I would definitely recommend going there even if you are scared about going in the ENCLOSED capsule
John Welford (author) from UK on November 19, 2009:
The 9th floor of what? What you were told is complete nonsense, as the Eiffel Tower must be more than 200 miles from London! If you saw a tower from Wimbledon, it was probably the TV mast at Crystal Palace!
Elizabeth Baser on November 19, 2009:
I was told you can see the Eifel Tower from London, so while i was staying with a friend in Wimbledon we went up yo the 9th Floor and it sure looks like the Eifel Tower looking south East, It looks more like the Tower when it is lit up, especially at night if anyone can confirm this or otherwise reject this please get in touch
gwennies pen on September 22, 2009:
Love the pictures...hope to see London someday! :) Have never been.
Ishavasyam from Leeds,United Kingdom on September 01, 2009:
Hello friend..recently I was there on the eye itself.Soon I intend to publish my hub on London eye ..I found the information given by you quite interesting gr8 work...
John Welford (author) from UK on May 12, 2009:
It's not really a Ferris Wheel. For one thing, the capsules are completely enclosed and for another it moves much more slowly. It has been operating for several years now (since March 2000) and there has never been a problem involving safety.
somebody on May 12, 2009:
nice pic's, but i'm rather scared of ferris wheels..
desert blondie from Palm trees, swimming pools, lots of sand, lots of sunscreen on September 27, 2008:
Wonderful photos and statistics! London one of my absolute favorite cities! Here's my latest column about the seeing the sights there https://hubpages.com/travel/London-Three-Great-Day... enjoy!
tom on July 07, 2008:
Christopher James Stone from Whitstable, UK on June 20, 2008:
I do so love the London eye. One comment on your page though: it would look much better if the photographs were alongside the text describing them.
solarshingles from london on May 14, 2008:
Oh yes, I do walking daily trips a few times per year from Westminister (County Hall), all the way towards Greenwich, but I stop at Surrey Quay to take a tube to Canary Wharf. Next time I just change the river bank. City side is quite 'posh' and dressed in concrete and thick shaded modern glass, the Southbank is much more natural and full of old refurbished factories and old refurbished docks. You are right. Billions of pounds have been invested in the redevelopment of that area and it has become extremely expensive residential location.
London is just created for long walks in almost all directions, however there are zones, where is very advisable to keep as low profile as possible, due to muggings and knife culture.
John Welford (author) from UK on May 13, 2008:
Solarshingles, Have you been a bit further East, to the south bank immediately beyond Tower Bridge? Unless it has been redeveloped in recent years, Shad Thames is a wonderful reminder of old London. I once stumbled across a film crew down there, making a version of Bleak House - very atmospheric!
solarshingles from london on May 13, 2008:
Hi Indexer, I am very fond of this hub. It makes me to feel at home. One of my favorite walks in London is 'Southbank' (of the river Thames). I especially like the tour on London Eye just before dusk. I also like the opportunity of ordering sandwiches and a bottle of champagne for special occasions, there.
Wanderlust from New York City on May 09, 2008:
Romantic trip in your own Private Champagne Capsule is the best! You can enjoy splendid views of London with a glass or two of chilled Laurent-Perrier champagne.
ellebreigh on May 07, 2008:
I went on the Eye a few years ago when i visited London, and i definitely have to recommend it to anyone. The view is amazing and the photo opportunities are priceless.
John Welford (author) from UK on May 05, 2008:
There's absolutely nothing to be frightened of on this one! You travel in an enclosed capsule all the way round, and it is little different to travelling by elevator to the top of a tall building and down again.
These are not my pictures, although I have taken ones that are very similar. Unfortunately, mine were downloaded to a computer that has since gone kaputt!
donnaleemason from North Dakota, USA on May 05, 2008:
How cool is that. Looks like a giant ferris wheel. I am frightened of ferris wheels so it is a good thing that you took such wonderful photos so I didn't miss the view.
fishskinfreak2008 from Fremont CA on May 05, 2008:
Very interesting. Also nice photos