At the turn of the century, the Millennium Wheel (or the London Eye), became a landmark over the Jubilee Gardens by the River Thames. Somehow a structure so new has quickly become as great an attraction in London as the many historic buildings and landmarks all around it.
Raising the Millennium Wheel
The London Eye is an astounding 135 meters tall, making it the tallest Ferris Wheel in Europe. As you might imagine, it is considered an architectural work of art. When Prime Minister Tony Blair presented it to the world on December 31, 1999, only three buildings in London were taller. This target date is responsible for the Millennium Wheel nickname that is often used to refer to the London Eye.
Though it looks like a thin-spoked bicycle wheel, it weighs 1,800 tons. Visible from miles away in every direction, the London Eye sits in the center of a popular tourist area. This area can be easily accessed by taxi or by getting off at the Waterloo or Westminster tube stations. Standing nearby are such famous structures as Big Ben and Westminster Palace. Fittingly, the London Eye is operated by Merlin Entertainments, which manages several other popular entertainment and tourist venues, many of which are nearby.
A Trip Around the London Eye
There are 32 observation capsules all around the wheel that are rated for 25 passengers each. You can see out across London in all directions from inside each of these capsules. The wheel rotates slowly, allowing you about a half hour to take in the beauty of this historic city. On a clear day you can see a distance of about 25 miles in all directions. The years of hard work put in by a team of architects have paid off handsomely.
In order to ride the London Eye, you’ll have to compete with 3.5 million annual visitors. This young structure is now the most frequented tourist site in London. A large part of this may be that you can see so many other popular tourist sites while you ride around in the capsules. For example, you can see such popular attractions as Buckingham Palace, the Globe Theatre, the Houses of Parliament, and Westminster Abbey.
Because one of the original sponsors was British Airways, the ride around the London Eye is often referred to as a flight. Indeed, it feels like a slow, almost stationary ride through the air. For the most part boarding and departures are done while it remains in motion, helping to preserve the smooth, gliding motion. Exceptions to continual rotation may be made for passengers with special needs. For groups or special occasions, you can reserve your own capsule. You can even arrange to have food and drinks served. Most people walk around to observe the city throughout the ride, but there is a bench in the middle of the capsule to accommodate those who wish to sit. Evening rides are available for those who want to enjoy the city lights.