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The London Eye review: Seeing the sights of London on a family day out

London Eye

Unlike the nearby SEALife London Aquarium, Shrek’s Adventure and London Dungeon, the London Eye is a simple attraction. After standing in a queue, 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.

London Eye

Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, with Millbank Tower in the distance.

Even on an overcast day – like the weekend we visited – the big sights of London are clearly visible. With an eight- and a six-year old, it was 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.

Common question: how long is the London Eye ride? Answer: 30 minutes.

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace, just visible through the trees.

What can you see from the London Eye?

Gwen took great delight in playing with the pod’s monitors, which took us on a virtual tour inside some of the landmark buildings. I managed to drag her attention away from the screen by pointing out Buckingham Palace, which only properly emerged from the trees when the pod was higher up.  The Houses of Parliament, on the other hand, were always clearly visible – unsurprising, considering they’re just across the river. With the Palace of Westminster 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.

Houses of Parliament

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 Cathedral, which stood out in the citiscape, even though it’s now surrounded by many other, much taller buildings.

London

St Paul’s Cathedral, in the centre of the picture.

I’ve been on the UK capital’s iconic ferris wheel a few times since it was built for London’s Millennium celebrations in 2000. It took me a while to get used to calling it the London Eye. I alsways knew it as the ‘millennium wheel‘. It’s been even harder to get my head around calling it the Coca Cola London Eye.

A new feature since my first flights on the millennium wheel was a 4D experience, free to ticket holders, inside the ticket hall. At only four minutes long, the film was short. But the whole thing was infused with the merry, multicultural spirit of London that the city’s long-term residents know well.

London in 4D

We waited outside a large set of doors, and were then ushered into a small auditorium. As we stood on platforms in front of the screen, watching an image of the London Eye, a seagull soared high above the river. The 3D goggles made him look close enough to touch. A colourful dragon from Chinese New Year roared in our faces, children blew bubbles that popped when they reached us (we could actually feel them), and at the end, ‘real’ snow began to fall.

London Eye

Waiting for the 4D experience at the London Eye

The 4D experience was 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 ferris wheel itself. My top tip would be to book an advance 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.

London

The London Eye is a minute or two away from Shrek’s Adventure, the London Dungeon and London SEALife Aquarium, in County Hall on the left.

What other family attractions are near the London Eye, and how to get to the London Eye

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 Wagamamaand 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 Tower of London is an excellent place to visit on a family day out, and it’s not far from the Coca Cola London Eye. You can read about visiting the Tower of London with kids here.

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 Transport for London website.

London Eye Address: The London Eye, Riverside Building, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, London SE1 7PB 

How much do London Eye tickets cost?

The London Eye price varies. You can often receive discounts if you purchase in advance, or buy a bundle of tickets for several different attractions, either directly from the Coca Cola London Eye, or through another company. At the time of the last update to this post, standard tickets were £27 if purchased online in advance. If you’re spending several days sightseeing in London, it’s worth considering buying a combination ticket, which starts at £40. It’s valid for 90 days, and includes entry for up to four London attractions, including Shrek’s Adventure, Madame Tussauds and SEALife London.

What are the London Eye opening times?

The London Eye is closed for annual maintenance from 6-21 Januuary 2020. Opening times vary throughout the year. Typically the attraction opens at 10am and closes between 6 and 8.30pm.

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    Searching for ogres at Shrek's Adventure

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London Eye

19 Comments

  • Lisa
    May 15, 2018 at 7:36 am

    I’ve been on the London Eye twice so far and it’s always such a great experience. The view is just so stunning!!! #CityTripping

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 16, 2018 at 8:55 pm

      You really can see for miles, can’t you.

      Reply
  • Urska
    May 15, 2018 at 10:25 am

    I’ve been to London Eye once few years ago. Surprisingly, we didn’t have to wait long to get in. The views were great! I enjoyed them a lot. #CityTripping

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 16, 2018 at 8:58 pm

      I think it completely depends on the time of day you visit, and the day of the week. Weekends and school holidays are always popular.

      Reply
  • Cathy (Mummytravels)
    May 15, 2018 at 3:54 pm

    I’ve still yet to go on the Eye with my daughter-it always amazes me that places aren’t quite where I expect thanks to the river so he screens do sound useful, and the 4D experience is a nice bonus. The ticket sounds ideal for shrinking queues as well. Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 16, 2018 at 9:06 pm

      We did like the 4D experience. It was a nice little touch – a bit of fun.

      Reply
  • Skyler - Learningbrave
    May 15, 2018 at 5:26 pm

    I visited London back in 2002 when I had just finished Uni…unfortunately I never got to go on the London Eye, I was too poor, haha. It sounds like such a fun thing to do, so hopefully I will make it in the future with my kids! Thanks for all of your tips #citytrippping

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 16, 2018 at 9:06 pm

      London can be expensive!

      Reply
  • Christine Keane
    May 15, 2018 at 9:08 pm

    I love the London Eye, people say it’s touristy but it’s the best view of London! I’ve been on it a couple of times, and enjoyed it each time. I definitely pre-bought tickets each time, waiting in that line would be horrible!

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 16, 2018 at 9:14 pm

      Yes, it can put a real dampener on what is otherwise a fabulous experience.

      Reply
  • Leona
    May 15, 2018 at 9:23 pm

    I’ve never been on the London eye but I would love to go – top of my bucket list #citytripping

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 16, 2018 at 9:14 pm

      You definitely should!

      Reply
  • Nicola
    May 16, 2018 at 8:56 am

    I still haven’t done the London eye! Recently did the one in Singapore which was brilliant
    #citytripping

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 16, 2018 at 9:29 pm

      They do have them in a lot of places now. Unsurprising – it’s such a good way to see a city.

      Reply
  • Tanja/The Red Phone Box travels
    May 16, 2018 at 12:33 pm

    I’ve been several times on the London Eye, great views #citytripping

    Reply
  • Corey | Fifi + Hop
    May 16, 2018 at 7:52 pm

    I’m really hoping to take my girls to London soon and I can tell you we will defintitely be doing the London Eye. A half hour is actually a pretty long time! I love how much of the city you can see from up there and it’s a great way to orient the kids as well I’m sure. #citytripping

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 16, 2018 at 9:32 pm

      I’d say it’s a good thing to do as soon as you can after arriving here. It gives you a good sense of perspective on all the key landmarks in the city.

      Reply
  • Plutonium Sox
    May 17, 2018 at 11:47 am

    I love the Eye, can’t wait to take my girls on it soon. The 4D experience sounds great too!
    Nat.x

    Reply

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