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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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