The London Eye capsule at the top

The London Eye: The Ferris Wheel Rising above the Thames for Great Views

Posted on Posted in Activities/Experiences, London, London Sightseeing, Travel With Children
Thames view of London Eye
View of the London Eye from the Thames cruise

In the year 2000, the Millennium Wheel was unveiled along the Thames. The enclosed Ferris Wheel welcomed the new century by adding a modern structure to the landscape of this old city. For more than ten years, the cab would drive along the Thames on the way to the office in The City and I would look across the river and say “I need to ride that sometime soon”.  In 2011, I finally found time to experience The London Eye, the new name of the Millennium Wheel, a much better name in my opinion. The London Eye is located across from Big Ben & Parliament on the South Bank of the River Thames and its 32 capsules can carry up to 800 passengers per rotation. The views were just magical (and pretty cool) on my first ride – a nice change from the inside of a conference room I was accustomed.

When my niece listed the London Eye on her must do London list, I was all good to ride it again.  As it was summer and specifically Wimbledon week in June, the crowds swelled with school groups, tour groups and tourists like us.  This area of the Thames is teeming with people enjoying the restaurants, boarding river cruises, on the bridge taking selfies with Big Ben, etc.

The London Eye – Ticket Options

With this in mind and not wanting to commit to a specific day online (where tickets are cheaper if you buy in advance), I opted to do the “Fast Track ticket” when it was a nice, sunny day.  The hotel concierge arranged the tickets but did not book online as I thought he would for £26.55 each (online discount), he instead used a tour company (for which he gets a commission) for £29.50 each and gave me a paper voucher that I would need to exchange at the ticket office fast track desk.  This disappointed me and I did mention this to the hotel manager when we had our long chat about my hotel experience (this is another story for another day).

Our “fast track” ticket cost £29.50 Adult/Child (no savings for child) which is more than the standard ticket cost of £20.95 Adult £15 Child.  Fast track has a separate line and the wait is generally 15 minutes or less so you are paying a premium for time – less wait time, so what is your time worth?  We visited on Wednesday afternoon, when the standard wait time was 30-40 minutes.

London Eye Horse Guards
View of the London Eye with Horse Guards

The London Eye Viewing Experience

The “fast track” line was exactly 15 minutes for us – we boarded the enclosed capsule with the other fast track people in line (about 20 people).  The capsules max out at 25 passengers but we had strollers and disabled folks hence we had less than capacity.  The inside of the air conditioned capsule has a long bench in the center for those who might be afraid of heights, need to sit, etc.  The clear glass is easy to take photos and there are a few feet on the floor to show you best photo spots.  With interactive displays you can identify major buildings/landmarks in each direction.  The capsule is constantly moving, albeit slowly (think of a Disney ride that keeps going and you just walk into your car) for the 1/2 ride but it doesn’t really sway so no need to hold on but there are bars if warranted. You may need to move people out of the way if you want a photo as I did with my niece – surprised that people wouldn’t really move for a kid!  There were view hogs.

London Eye private capsule
The London Eye private capsule – wine & cheese – no view hogs!

The London Eye Views of London

The views…, the views are just lovely in all directions but no need to block the others from enjoying.

Buckingham Palace view from London Eye
Buckingham Palace view from The London Eye
St. Paul's Cathedral London
St. Paul’s Cathedral in the City of London view from the London Eye
The Shard London
The Shard London, the new kid on the block with its own observation tower
bridges on the Thames
Views of bridges on the Thames from The London Eye

My niece enjoyed the views and at 1/2 hour the ride didn’t give her enough time to get bored. Then she asked me a question about the capsule below us.

The London Eye Private Capsule

She pointed out the private capsule below us that had a wine/cheese party going on (you can rent a private capsule for different tastings/events starting at £350 – the wine tasting is one hour, two rotations for £870 – for that amount I’m sure my friends and I could enjoy a lot of wine at a pub, heck we could buy drinks for the whole pub and have change!). We both commented that a private capsule would be nice to avoid the view hogs and have a seat but when I told her the prices, she replied with her now famous “Whoa” (channeling Joey Lawrence who was before her time).

London Eye private capsule
A London Eye private capsule – wine & cheese

The London Eye – Final Thoughts

This is an easy attraction for everyone to enjoy, however, if you are afraid of heights and glass enclosures, you may want to try The Sky Garden instead.  While it may seem expensive, it is well worth the price for the views of the city. Next time I want to go at night when the city is aglow with lights, now I just need to find someone to go with me for the private Cupid Capsule of champagne and chocolate (for blog research purposes) – that sounds fun right?

The London Eye capsule at the top
What a view on The London Eye! The capsule behind us over the Thames



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