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How to make the most of the London Eye

 

 

London EyeLet’s make a note of the fact that the London Eye is one of London’s top 10 attractions to visit with more than 3.5 million visits a year. That’s a lot. Don’t get me wrong, there are pros and cons about visiting the London Eye. For example, aside from the fact that it’s one of London’s top 10 attractions, there are so many deals online as well as on the day when you’re visiting the London Eye. Click for 5 reasons why you should visit the London Eye. However, in this post, we’ll talk about what no one tells you about a visit to the London Eye. Before that, let’s talk about the good things about the London Eye.

London Eye Facts

The London Eye opened on 31 December 1999 to mark the start of the 2000 millennium by former Prime Minister Tony Blair. Originally called the Millennium Wheel, it was only supposed to be open temporarily, but the council granted them permission to keep it permanently. What’s so fascinating is that the London Eye stands at 135 metres tall, so you can see a bird’s eye view of London. There are 32 capsules, and it is also the main area where New Year’s Eve’s fireworks happen, just before the clock strikes midnight. Aside from that, the London Eye has been a popular icon in films, music videos, television shows, bestselling novels, and soap operas.

Although London can be very industrial with construction and road works, it’s hard to see some of the major attractions, however, you can view some of the major ones in half an hour. Not all major attractions, but you’re able to see them in Lego size view. With more than 3 million visitors going on the London Eye, it’s still the top 10 attractions to visit when coming to London.

 

Getting There

Getting to the London Eye is easy. There are several buses you can take, and you can get off at Westminster Underground Station (the Jubilee, the District and Circle Line). If you see Big Ben, it will be across the Westminster Bridge over the River Thames and walk down the Southbank. Westminster Bridge is not hard to find. You’ll see a few street performers (which are not worth it, they’ll rip you off) and a few rickshaws (also not worth it).

If you’re coming from Trafalgar Square, walk towards Whitehall, you’ll see Big Ben’s clock tower, just follow the clock tower. On your way there, you’ll see the Queen’s horse guards where you can get up close and personal with them. Be careful, some of them aren’t friendly, and they can bite. Don’t distract the guards either, they’re technically not there to be a tourist attraction, so be careful not to pull the reign. You’ll also pass 10 Downing Street, but you won’t be able to see the door as it’s inside a tall iron gate. There will be several protestors and police officers, nothing more.

London Eye
The London Eye

 and hoofullThe London Eye Experience

Before getting on the capsule, you can watch the 4D Experience video about the London Eye, and a 3D birds-eye view photographs of London. It wasn’t really my thing, so I skipped that.

Queueing up to see the London Eye can be a hit or a miss. It depends on the day and the weather. How long does the London Eye last? When I visited, I didn’t have to wait long to get in, but the majority of the times, you can wait for up to an hour or two just for a 30 minute ride. Other times, the queue would be long, but it moves quickly. If you want to avoid that, make sure to get the Fast track tickets. It’s a little more expensive, but you can skip the queue. From my experience, it took us 5 minutes to get to the capsule. The difficulty is that as a visitor, you never know when the busiest period of visiting the London Eye is. My advice is to avoid going during school holidays, although when I went during the school holidays, the queue wasn’t that bad without the fast-track. This was before COVID.

How much does the London Eye cost?

It depends on where you buy it from. You can buy it from the London Pass website and depending on how long you’re visiting for, you can see whether you’ll be saving money. It really depends on how many attractions you want to visit on that day. For budget travellers, the London Pass and 4 for 5 attractions can be expensive. What no one tells you is that for a 30 minute ride, one ticket for an adult is £27 online and £33 on the day. I advise you not to buy just one ticket for the London Eye. If you’re spending on attractions in London, it can be expensive, so make the most of it buy buying tickets to see Sea Life London Aquarium, the London Dungeon, Shrek Adventures, and Madame Tussauds. I spent £60 on the London Eye, the London Dungeon, Sea Life and Madame Tussauds which you can buy a bundle ticket in one of the attraction’s reception by the South Bank. Although it can be expensive if you’re on a budget, you’re still saving money either way. It also depends on how long you’re here. Alternatively, you can buy a 2 for 1 ticket with National Express train and check lastminute.com for last-minute deals.

Inside the capsule

As I stepped inside the capsule, there were other people standing inside with me. Around twenty five people can fit into one capsule but it doesn’t feel claustrophobic. There’s space for everyone to get on. The capsule moved slowly, and if you’re afraid of heights like me, the London Eye does make you feel safe. As soon as I got to the top, I didn’t feel frightened at all. I just enjoyed the view of different tourist attractions below me and felt I was in Legoland.

Inside the capsule, they’ll provide you with seating enough for around 6 – 10 people. There’s also a good photo spot to take pictures of the view for you and your family. I advise on wearing a mask as it’s very hard to social distance inside the capsule.

A quarter of the way up

A quarter of the way up, I felt I was already high enough to see the view of London, couldn’t think to imagine what it would be like when we got to the top. Big Ben and Westminster Abbey are the first two major attractions you will see. As for Big Ben, the clock tower will be under refurbishment, so you won’t see the clock. Walkers, including children playing in the playground, moved like ants below by the South Bank. London is very industrial so expect to see at least one building and road works as you go high up the wheel.

At the top of the London Eye

As you get to the top, the two obscure attractions are Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and the River Thames. There are a lot of bushes covering buildings, so you can only see a fraction of Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, and St. Paul’s Cathedral. Don’t expect to see them in full blown view like Big Ben and Westminster Abbey.

A lot of people have mentioned that you’ll be able to see all of London from the top, but I disagree. If you look at the London map, from my experience, I could just see as far as Buckingham Palace and the surrounding parks. The rest of the view were covered by tall trees. As we slowly headed down, the tour of the London Eye came to an end and I felt glad I was on the ground.

 

Is the London Eye worth it?

 

Yes and no. If you’re on a budget, for a 30 minute ride, it’s quite expensive, the queues can be long, and sometimes, so it’s better to get the Fast Track ticket, but the London Eye is in the top 10 attractions to visit. It’s an iconic symbol of London. That’s all it is, a symbol of London. In terms of seeing major London attractions, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey are all the only three attractions you can see that’s clearly visible. London’s view during the day can seem industrial and most of the other attractions are hidden from view from the trees and bushes. You’ll see the River Thames below, sea containers and boats are either stationary or moving or hooting. You’ll also see the boat tours driving by as well as  cranes, road and building works, so it’s better to go when it gets dark. The city really lights up. The view is spectacular at night. The lights twinkle from buildings and reflects on the River Thames. Major attractions illuminated in the dark and headlights from vehicles moved like red laser torches. So, what are your thoughts? Are you going or are you going to give it a miss?

If you like more information on the London Eye, please feel free to contact me on Facebook, and check out other things to do in the South Bank. You can also take advantage of walking by the Southbank next to the River Thames. If you love walks, check out my post of walks around London.

Hope you enjoy the London Eye, but in the meantime, take care and be safe.

 

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