Unlike the nearby SEALife London Aquarium, Shrek’s Adventure and London Dungeon, the London Eye is a simple attraction. After standing in a queue (made a little shorter by our Big London Cluster tickets from Attraction Tickets Direct), you walk on board a large, moving pod. As the pod flows gracefully through the air, you might be forgiven for thinking the London Eye is standing still. But the pod creeps stealthily round, higher and higher – until, all of a sudden, you’re out on top of the world, with an unparalleled view of the UK capital.
Even on an overcast day – like this weekend, when we visited – the big sights of London are clearly visible. With an eight- and a six-year old, it’s a chance to point out some of the places that are too far for little legs to visit in one day. And, at half an hour, the London Eye ‘flight’ was long enough for us to have a meaningful discussion about one or two of the places we spotted through the pod’s large, floor-to-ceiling windows.
Gwen took great delight in playing with the pod’s monitors, which take you on a virtual tour inside some of the landmark buildings. I managed to dag her attention away from the screen by pointing out Buckingham Palace, which only properly emerges from the trees when the pod is higher up. The Houses of Parliament, on the other hand, were always clearly visible – unsurprising, considering they’re just across the river. With them right in front of us, it was a good chance to talk to Austin and Gwen about what happens inside, although the concept of democracy was a bit difficult to explain from a slightly wibbly pod, with people milling around us, taking selfies. But Big Ben’s tower, all trussed up with scaffolding – that was an easy one for them to grasp. The bell was on a break, and it just needed a bit of buffing-up.
Gwen was excited when she saw St Mary Axe. The building – also known as ‘the Gherkin’ – had featured in a book her teacher had read to her class. We also had fun spotting St Paul’s Cathedal, which still stood out in the citiscape, even though it’s now surrounded by many other, much taller buildings.
I’ve been on the London Eye a few times since it was built for London’s Millennium celebrations in 2000. A new feature this time round was the free 4D experience, inside the ticket hall. At only four minutes long, the film is short. But the whole thing is infused with the merry, multicultural spirit of London that the city’s long-term residents know well. As spectators stand on platforms in front of the screen, watching an image of the London Eye, a seagull soars high above the river. The 3D goggles make him look close enough to touch. A colourful dragon from Chinese New Year roars in your face, children blow bubbles that pop when they reach you (you can actually feel them), and at the end, ‘real’ snow begins to fall.
The 4D experience is a fun way to begin or end the flight on the London Eye. Unfortunately, if you arrive later on in the day, the queues can be very long, so any excitement built up by the 4D experience may have worn off by the time you reach the London Eye itself. My top tip would be to book through a Cluster ticket, like ours, and choose a time slot soon after the attraction opens, when they queues are likely to be a fraction of their normal size.
What’s in the area, and how to get there
The London Eye is a good place to start if you want a family day out in London that doesn’t involve too much walking. It’s literally a couple of minutes away from Shrek’s Adventure, the London Dungeon and London SEALife Aquarium. There are fast-food eateries inside County Hall, as well as more family-friendly restaurants, like Wagamama and Giraffe, further along the southbank, by the Royal Festival Hall. The Houses of Parliament are within easy reach, and even Buckingham Palace isn’t more than a half-hour walk away.
The London Eye is located within easy walking distance from several London Underground stations: Waterloo, Embankment, Charing Cross and Westminster. Waterloo is the closest tube station. It’s about a five minute walk away. Embankment and Charing Cross stations are a ten-fifteen minute walk away, across Hungerford Bridge. You can find more details on the London Eye or the Transport for London website.
Attraction Tickets Direct invited us to visit London attractions on their Big London cluster tickets. At £54 for adults and £44 for children aged between three and 15, the tickets save around 50% of the cost of walk-up entry to the attractions. As well as the London Eye, the cluster tickets give you entry to SEALife London, Madame Tussauds and Shrek’s Adventure at any time over 90 days. You need to visit Madame Tussauds first to activate your ticket.
Pin for later: