Recently we made a trip to England and saw many interesting places and things. I have already shared our thoughts on Stonehenge. This post will feature another landmark, although much more modern.
The London Eye was designed by the husband-and-wife team of Julia Barfield and David Marks of Marks Barfield Architects. British Airways originally sponsored the attraction but has since sold all interests. It was designed as a contest entry to provide London with a new tourist attraction for the Millennium. It came in second place but generated enough enthusiasm to be built anyway. Let’s have a look:
The huge wheel was formerly opened on December 31st of 1999 but didn’t open for passengers until March of 2000. The structure is 135 metres (443 ft) tall, and the wheel has a diameter of 120 metres (394 ft).
All the details you could ever want to know can be found in this Official Guide that sells for just four British pounds:
The structure is awe inspiring from below! The 32 capsules are quite large and have an interesting feature: There’s a Number 33! The builders thought it would be unwise to have a Pod 13 in case superstitious patrons arrived, so that number was omitted.
The 32 sealed and air-conditioned ovoidal passenger capsules rotate as the wheel spins so they are always upright. Each weigh 10 Tonnes. Each capsule represents one of the London Boroughs, and holds up to 25 people, who are free to walk around inside the capsule, though seating is provided. So that means that 800 persons can ride the wheel at one time!
Be warned however that you must be fairly agile to embark as they don’t tend to stop the pods for boarding. All 25 of you have to herd into the pod on the fly before they shut the door behind you. Although I believe they may stop the wheel if someone has mobility issues, as our journey around the wheel did pause ever-so briefly a few times.
Now that we have discussed the pods, it’s time to climb aboard and see the view from the top:
The Thames River is the main star to be viewed, but other landmarks include the Westminster Bridge, the Parliament Buildings, the tower that houses Big Ben (the bell), the Armory, and the famous Tower Prison where Henry VIII disposed of his unwanted wives, amoung others. What you can’t see are the London Bridge or the more famous Tower Bridge. They are around the bend in the picture, below right.
You guessed it, you exit the ride through a gift shop. This is where you can purchase the Official souvenir Guide along with a photograph that is taken of you inside the capsule. But these start at over twenty British pounds for just one 8×10 glossy. I passed on that!
Several gifts featuring the London Eye signature shape are also available, but I found them to be a tad expensive. The magnets were uninspiring and cheaply executed. So, I picked up my commemorative magnet at a tourist trap of a shop just down the street:
It was more appropriate anyway as it features many of the landmarks that are visible from the Eye. Again, the Tower Bridge is not visible from the Eye, but we did see if from our boat cruise that we purchased in a package deal with the ride on the wheel. I highly recommend that you combine both experiences as they perfectly complement each other.
Other souvenirs that we purchased include:
Pressed or Smashed Pennies are popular at most tourist attractions across North America, but I was surprised to find a machine for one in England! Like here, it cost basically two 25 cent pieces and a penny to smash.
As you exited the Wheel and were walking down to the obligatory Gift Shop, you passed a Coin Dispenser. For what I seem to remember was two British Pounds, you could get one dollar-sized commemorative coin, or token, with the London Eye listed on it and the year of your visit.
Our Tour Guide was amazing! His knowledge of the buildings and their history along the Thames was extensive and his Dad Jokes were… told. We did the boat tour first before riding the wheel and so were able to pick out the features along the shores from above and so know what we were looking at.
You can prebook and purchase your tickets on the official London Eye Site. For forty-six British pounds per person, you can enjoy both the river cruise and the London Eye, with express boarding. Other bundles are offered if you aren’t interested in the water excursion.
Was it a bit expensive? Yes. Was it worth it? Yes!