The London Eye opened in 2000, in a raft of failed millennium projects across the country. The giant Ferris Wheel was watched by the country being built, and we all sat and watched them winch the huge circular steel structure from laying across the River Thames, into its final vertical position.
It was meant to last 5 years before being taken down, however, it quickly became an iconic part of London, and 16 years later, it still stands, with at least 10 years left before the owners need to decide to extend the lease of the land or remove it.
We have been on the London Eye before, and with our Merlin Annual Passes, and a non-existent queue to get on, we thought it would be wasting an opportunity if we didn’t take another ride.
The premise of the attraction is simple, it is a huge Ferris Wheel on the banks of the River Thames. It is the tallest observation wheel in Europe and gives unparalleled views, or at least did before the Shard skyscraper came along and went quite a bit taller, over London.
The trip takes around 30 minutes, and tries to be continuous, with you getting on and off the capsules whilst it is moving, it does stop however now and then for slower moving people or wheel chairs, but doesn’t cause much disruption at all.
The last time we rode the London Eye was in broad daylight and you could see for miles, this time it was dark, being winter, around 5pm, and despite there being a little bit of fog, was excited to see the city by night.
After another quite pointless security search – see our review on Shrek’s Adventure – we were put in a group of around 20 and after our pointless photo – again, see the review on Shrek’s Adventure – which we weren’t going to buy but were told we had to do it anyway and there was no way by, even though I could quite easily that they could just say yeah, not a problem – I mean, that would be good customer service wouldn’t it! We finally were boarding the capsule.
The London Eye is now sponsored by Coca Cola, which is branded all over the capsule windows and even in the introduction speech it plays out as the doors close, but we got over that and our journey had begun.
Inside the capsule is a large central seat, and lots of window space to give you views at all angles of London. In the four corners of the capsule are tablet devices on which you can find descriptions of the skyline in front of you and where to look to see various buildings and landmarks.
The views really start coming about 10 minutes into the journey when the capsule has passed the workings and gubbins of the wheel itself and you raise higher and higher. I must say that the views at night are a whole lot better than in the day, you can really get a scale of how big London really is.
There are enough people in the capsule for it to be enjoyable and not too crowded, but ideally you would want to drop 3 or 4 people out of the cabin just to make it more comfortable, but it doesn’t really get to a point where you can’t see what you want to.
It is an enjoyable experience and although only lasting 30 minutes, it is probably just long enough.