Big Wheel, Bigger View
The world’s largest observation wheel, the London Eye, is like a giant Ferris wheel, but with capsules that hold up to 28 people, instead of the usual two-seater arrangement of a Ferris wheel. This is no mere amusement park ride—after all, what is there to see from the top of ordinary Ferris wheels? From the top of the Eye, you can take in a glorious view, the vast panorama of one of the world’s greatest cities.
Opened in 2000, it is the fourth-tallest structure in London. How high are you? Picture stacking 64 red London phone booths atop each other and you’ll get a sense. You’re 135m (443 ft.) above the city when you’re at the top of the Eye.
Passengers are carried in 32 air-conditioned “pods” that make a complete revolution every half-hour, hardly a breakneck pace—at the bottom, the pods keep moving, but so slowly that disembarking is no problem. The capsules are surrounded by windows, allowing riders to take in the dramatic London skyline.
From the top of the wheel, in clear weather, you can gaze in all directions for some 40km (25 miles)—as far as Windsor Castle—over this famously spread-out metropolis, easily spotting not only the Gothic spires of the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey across the river, but also the British Museum, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, and the green necklace of parks that runs through central London.
At 424m (1,391 ft.) in circumference, it’s the world’s largest observation wheel. Built out of steel by a European consortium, it was conceived and designed by London architects Julia Barfield and David Marks, who claim inspiration from the Statue of Liberty in New York and the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Some 2 million visitors are expected to ride the Eye every year.
The Eye lies close to Westminster Bridge. (You can hardly miss it). Tickets are £16 for adults, £12 for seniors and students, £7.75 for children 5 to 15. It’s open October to May daily 10am to 8pm; June to September daily 10am to 9pm.
London Eye, Millennium Jubilee Gardens ( 0870/5000-600; www.londoneye.com).
When to Go: Year-round.
$$$ London Bridge Hotel, 8–18 London Bridge St. 9 ( 44/20/7855-2200; www.londonbridgehotel.com). $$ Vicarage Private Hotel, 10 Vicarage Gate, South Kensington ( 44/20/7229-4030; www.londonvicaragehotel.com).