London Eye Facts that Fascinate
The lastminute.com London Eye is a giant Ferris wheel located on the South Bank of the River Thames standing at 443 feet (135m) tall with a diameter of 394 feet (120 m). It was completed in March 2000 at a cost of £70 million and is owned by Merlin Entertainments. Offering visitors a stunning 360-degree view across the London skyline. The London Eye is one of the top tourist landmarks on our TootbusYellow Original route.
The London Eye is Europe's tallest Ferris wheel and was designed by husband-and-wife team Julia Barfield and David Marks of Marks Barfield Architects. The Eye was formally opened by UK Prime Minister Tony Blair on the 31st December 1999, but didn't open to the public until the 9th March 2000.
The London Eye is the capital's most popular paid for attraction with nearly 4 million people going on it each year and has won over 85 awards for national and international tourism, outstanding architectural quality and engineering achievement.
Why are the number of capsules on the London Eye so symbolic?
There are 32 capsules on the London Eye to represent the 32 London Boroughs with each of them holding up to 25 people, are air-conditioned and each weigh 10-tonnes. Each of the capsules has a number from 1-12 and 14-32, with the number 13 not used as it's seen as unlucky. The Eye's capsules rotate at 26 cm per second or about 0.9 kph / 0.6 mph. It takes 30 minutes to go around the London Eye. In 2013 one of the capsules was named the Coronation Capsule to mark the 60th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
How long did The London Eye take to construct?
It started its life as an amazing collaborative effort between numerous countries! With the concept created by a UK design team, all the parts to construct it came from across Europe. The wheel was constructed in The Netherlands with UK steel, with cables from Italy, bearings from Germany and the iron spindle and hub cast in the Skoda factory in the Czech Republic. The capsules were made in the French Alps and the double curbed laminated glass pods in Venice! Construction on The London Eye began in 1998 with it officially being opened to the public in 2000.
How does the London Eye celebrate significant events?
The London Eye has been lit up at night in a variety of colours to celebrate numerous events including red, white and blue for Prince William and Kate Middleston's wedding, pink for the legalisation of gay civil partnerships, green for St Patrick's Day and red to mark Coca-Cola's sponsorship. Every New Year's Eve there's an extravagant fireworks display on The London Eye to celebrate the New Year!
What came before The London Eye?
It was only a temporary structure and was due to be dismantled and moved to a new location given that it only had five years planning permission. However, due to its popularity it has remained ever since!
Did you know it wasn't London's first big wheel? The Great Wheel, a 40-car Ferris wheel built for the Empire of India Exhibition was located at Earls Court. This wheel was modelled on the original Ferris Wheel from Chicago and opened to the public on the 17th July 1895. It was 308ft (94m) tall with a diameter of 270ft (82.3m). It ran up until the Imperial Australian Exhibition in 1906 in which time its 40 cars had carried over 2.5 million passengers since its creation.
What can I do near The London Eye and the Southbank?
The Southbank is an entertainment and commercial district in central London which is based on the River Thames within the London Borough of Lambeth and the London Borough of Southwark where it joins bankside.
An historic complex of artistic venues, the Southbank Centre opened in 1951 and comprises of three main performance venues; The Royal Festival Hall, the Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Purcell Room and the Hayward Gallery. It's Europe's largest centre of arts attracting over 6 million visitors annually.
Opened at the Festival of Britain in 1951, the National Film Theatre is the leading repertory cinema in the UK specialising in classic, independent and non-English language films.
Another Southbank landmarks is The Royal National Theatre which has been there since 1976 offering performing arts productions. Some notable productions over the years have included Hamlet, Othello, Guys and Dolls, Richard III and Frankenstein.
The undercroft of the Southbank Centre is also home to the iconic Southbank Skatepark which has been the heart of London's skateboarding for around 40 years with ledges, banks and railings for skaters to enjoy.
Every Christmas time the Southbank plays hosts to Wintertime at Southbank Centre which from mid-November until just after Christmas sees visitors offered a host of different street foods, gifts, treats and shows that'll brighten up your trip!
After you've done your sightseeing, why not pay a visit to one of the Southbank's hottest food spots! The Oxo Tower, based by the river, is a rooftop restaurant, bar and brasserie offering diners high quality food with unique and stunning views across the capital.
When can I visit the London Eye?
The London Eye is open daily between 11am to 6pm.
Whilst you're on The Eye there's an interactive guide, powered by Samsung Galaxy Tab, as well as entry into the London Eye 4D Experience: a multi-sensory journey that brings London to life through a spectacular range of awe-inspiring special effects and animations. You can also hire it out for private functions!
With a breathtaking 360-degree view you can see all of London's best known landmarks including Big Ben, The Shard, St Paul's and many more from its capsules.
How do I get to The London Eye?
You can hop-on our tours and then hop-off on our Yellow Original Route at Westminster Bridge (County Hall).
Our River Cruise service also runs from The London Eye pier to both Tower Pier, or Greenwich Pier.
Who owns The London Eye?
The original owners of The London Eye were Marks Barfield, The Tussauds Group and British Airways, however Tussauds bought out BA in 2005 and then Marks Barfield became the sole owners in 2006. In May 2007 the Blackstone Group purchased The Tussauds Group who were then the owner of The Eye, before Tussauds merged with Blackstone's Merlin Entertainments. BA continued to be associated with the Eye until 2008.
In August 2009 The Eye was renamed 'The Merlin Entertainments London Eye' to showcase Merlin Entertainments' ownership. In January 2011 EDF Energy took over the sponsorship of the Eye, then Coca-Cola in 2014, until current sponsors lastminute.com signed a deal in 2020.
It has also been commonly known as the Millennium Wheel.
So hop-on a sightseeing tour of London to discover this famous attraction!