The city of London is home to a vast number of fascinating buildings.
This giant observation wheel is the perfect place to take a couple of pictures. There are very few places you could have such amazing views of the city.
So what is the London Eye all about?
In this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of facts about the London Eye, the perfect place to get a glimpse of London from the sky.
1. What is the London Eye?
The London Eye is a huge observation wheel that allows tourists in London to get an amazing view of the city.
Even though the official opening was held on December 31, 1999, by former Prime Minister Tony Blair, it didn’t open for the (paying) public until March 9, 2000.
To take a ride, you need to pay a fee and the London Eye is the most popular paid tourist attraction in the UK with nearly 4 million yearly visitors. That’s more visitors than for instance the famous Madame Tussauds Museum and the Tower of London.
It was built to celebrate the new Millenium and it was only scheduled to stay for a couple of years. Its huge success allowed the owners to acquire a permanent permit which ensures it remains in place for everybody to enjoy.
2. Where is the London Eye located?
You can find the London Eye in the inner city of London in the Borough of Lambeth. The perfect place to have a clear view of the entire city.
It’s located on the South Bank of the River Thames and right next to the County Hall, a building that used to serve as the headquarters of London County Council (LCC) and later the Greater London Council (GLC), until Margareth Thatcher abolished the GLC in 1986.
The London Eye adjoins a public park called Jubilee Gardens and stands majestically between Westminster Bridge and Hungerford Bridge.
3. How big is the London Eye?
When the London Eye opened to the public in 2000, it was by far the tallest observation wheel in the world.
The London Eye stands about 135 meters (443 ft) tall and the wheel has a diameter of 120 meters (394 ft).
Since its opening, it has lost its title as being the tallest observation wheel in the world though. A couple of similar structures have surpassed it:
- The High Roller in Las Vegas – Opened in 2014 – 167-meter tall (547.9 ft)
- The Singapore Flyer – Opened in 2008 – 165-meter tall (541 ft)
- The Star of Nanchang – Opened in 2006 – 160-meter tall (525 ft)
One of the most interesting facts about the Eye of London is that it’s still holding a world record, that of being the world’s largest cantilevered observation wheel.
4. Who built the London Eye?
The original owners of the London Eye are Marks Barfield (the lead architects), The Tussauds Group, and British Airways.
The design was done by the husband-and-wife team of Julia Barfield and David Marks, the owners of the Marks Barfield Architects, a London-based architectural firm.
Probably the most interesting fact about the construction of the London Eye is the price tag attached to it.
So how much did the London Eye cost to build?
A whopping £70 million!
5. The London Eye passenger capsules
So you’re ready to take a ride yet?
Then you’ll need to get aboard one of the London Eye’s 32 passenger capsules (after paying the fee).
Each capsule weighs about 10,000 kilos, can hold 25 passengers, and also rotates around its own axis powered by electric motors.
On a hot sweltering day (there aren’t too many in London every year but still), or a freezing winter day, you don’t have to worry about the heat or cold. Every capsule is insulated and perfectly airconditioned.
More interesting facts about the London Eye
6. The London Eye is also known as “The Millenium Wheel” which indicates the reason it was initially built (to celebrate the new Millenium) and “The Coca-Cola London Eye” for sponsorship reasons.
7. Because the London Eye is only supported with an A-frame on one side, the operators of the structure still refer to the London Eye as “the world’s largest cantilevered observation wheel.” This feature is the difference between a regular Ferris wheel and a cantilevered observation wheel.
8. Being humble doesn’t seem to be a quality the operators possess. They also refer to the 85 (!) awards that the London Eye has won so far, including for “national and international tourism, outstanding architectural quality and engineering achievement.”
9. The London Eye was the highest viewing point in the city of London for many years. It has since been surpassed on February 1, 2013, though by the observation deck found in “The Shard,” the tallest skyscraper in London and all of Western Europe. This observation deck can be found on the 72nd floor at a height of 245-meters (804 ft).
11. Did you know that the London Eye actually isn’t the first observation wheel to be built in London? Back in 1895 the “Great Wheel“, also referred to as “The Gigantic Wheel” opened its doors. It was built for the Empire of India Exhibition at Earls Court. It stood an impressive 94 meters (308 ft) tall and was demolished in 1907.
12. This “Great Wheel” was actually modeled on the original Ferris wheel that was built just two years earlier for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois, in the United States.
13. The architectural agency Marks Barfield, of whom the founders designed the London Eye, is responsible for another observational landmark. They also created the i360, a 162 m (531 ft) tall observation tower on the seafront of Brighton, East Sussex.
14. Even though the London Eye is considered to be a huge success now, it actually turned a loss in its first year of operations. The reason was mainly due to changes in interest rates resulting in an £8 million pre-tax loss in the year 2001.
15. The 32 passenger capsules aren’t a coincidence. They actually represent the 32 boroughs making up the Greater City of London.
16. Another interesting fact about the passenger capsules of the London Eye is that they are numbered 1-33. Just as many hotels don’t have a 13th floor, the London Eye doesn’t have a 13th passenger capsule for superstitious reasons.
17. If you look closely at the London Eye, you can see that it is supported by tensioned steel cables. This way the wheel itself looks like it has spokes and resembles a gigantic bicycle wheel.
18. You don’t need to be afraid of being unable to hop onto the London Eye. It takes a total of 30 minutes for a complete rotation, meaning it only moves at a speed of less than 1 kilometer per hour (0.6 mi per hour). This means it doesn’t even need to stop for new visitors to get on board.
19. In 2020, the London Eye is rotating for 20 years. This means that every capsule will have covered a distance of nearly 170,000 kilometers. Obviously, this amount is less because the London Eye does stop now and then to pick up elderly or disabled passengers.
20. Better yet, every capsule has been taken down between 2009 and 2012 for thorough maintenance and needed upgrades. All 10,000-kilo capsules were taken down one at a time and the total cost of this endeavor was a whopping £12.5 million.
21. So one single capsule weighs 10,000 kilos, how much does the London Eye weigh in total? The answer is 2.1 million kilos or 2,100 tonnes.
22. With every rotation, the London Eye can carry 800 passengers. All of them are free to walk around the capsule as it’s not a high-speed roller coaster.
23. Regardless of whether or not we consider it to be a Ferris wheel or a cantilevered observation wheel, the London Eye is the tallest wheel in all of Europe.
24. One of the passenger capsules is named “The Coronation Capsule” to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
25. In 2008, over 30 million people already took a ride on the London Eye. This includes English model Kate Moss who has been on it 25 times. By 2020, over 70 million people have observed the city of London from one of the capsules of the London Eye.
26. The initial plan was to stay on the South Bank of the River Thames for 5 years, as that was the lease contract the owners of the London Eye had. In 2001 however, they submitted the paperwork to get a permanent license and were awarded one in 2002.
27. The London Eye can be used for the ultimate question! If you want to get married, the London Eye offers packages to pop the question in style. With the London skyline in the background, you can rent out “the proposal capsule” for £490. Luckily this comes with a bottle of Pommery Brut Royal Champagne.
28. There have been over 5,000 marriage proposals on the London Eye, and it has hosted more than 500 weddings!
29. The sole owner of the London Eye at the moment is the Merlin Entertainment Group, which merged with the Tussauds Group and therefore now also owns the numerous Madame Tussauds museums all across the world. Originally, it was the Tussauds group who bought out the other original owners, British Airways in 2005 and Marks Barfield in 2006.
30. There have been several deals in the form of sponsorships. The newest sponsor is lastminute.com that replace Coca-Cola as the main sponsor in 2020.
31. The London Eye can be lit in any color it wants, and not just for sponsorship deals. On the Royal wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, the London Eye was lit in the colors of the Union flag.
32. The distance the London Eye travels over the course of a year would be enough to bring you from London all the way to Rome and back. And yeah, you would even be able to discover the entire city of Rome as well.
33. Windsor Castle isn’t exactly in the vicinity of the London Eye. In fact, it’s over 40 kilometers (25 mi) away. On a clear day, you can actually see it from the top of the London Eye.
34. Do you love pink? Then 2020 will be a good year for you. With the announcement of the lastminute.com sponsorship, the London Eye will be wearing its brand colors frequently!