I’m often taken by how many ways there are to enjoy the sights of London, on tours by foot, bus, taxi, or boat. I think it’s particularly enjoyable to see cities from up high and we have enjoyed London’s views from The Shard and the top of the Monument among other landmarks. We would also recommend climbing to the summit of Primrose Hill for a free way to see the city in all its glory.
But although he had been to all of those places, Robert had long aspired to a visit to the London Eye (or to give it its full name, the Coca Cola London Eye). I wasn’t sure if we needed to see those same views of The Thames and Westminster again, but I’m glad to say that I was wrong. We loved our trip on the Eye, and I think that’s because of its extra-special ingredient: it moves.
The London Eye is situated on the South Bank of the River Thames, one of my favourite places to frequent, as you can have a great walk here, going past the South Bank Centre and the National Theatre, past Gabriel’s Wharf, and on under Blackfriar’s Bridge, past the Globe Theatre and Tate Modern until you come to Borough Market and London Bridge (and the Golden Hind, the Clink and more). You will really see a lot of London this way and of course you can stop on the way. It’s quite a lengthy stroll.
But back to the Eye. The South Bank is both lovely, and extremely busy, especially around the area where the Eye is situated. This is partly because it’s also very near the Aquarium, London Dungeons and Westminster (just across the river). It’s also right by Jubilee Gardens, a lovely children’s playground, which is perfect for running off steam afterwards. And there are lots of places to eat nearby.
As it is, let’s be honest, what is politely known as a “tourist trap”, there are always queues, so think about booking your tickets in advance, not least because you will often find online offers which may make it more palatable. The only problem with this is that you might end up with bad weather. You could also buy a fasttrack ticket to bypass most of the queue. However, this will cost you £9 more person. You may also find other 2 for 1 offers if you look around (if you go online, there are various sites which offer money off vouchers, so it’s worth taking a look). The queues are not always mad though, especially if you go outwith peak times (so early or late).
The Eye is not cheap. However, I do think it is worth it. It stands 137m high (it’s the fifth highest structure in London) and gives you views of around 25 miles. Tickets are sold in half hour slots starting from 10am.
We were blessed with gorgeous weather when we went. We didn’t have to wait for long and climbed into our pod with around 20 other people. The capsules are beautifully designed and there is a definite sense of space in them. You can walk around easily and see all the different viewpoints without much trouble. The pods (or gondolas as they are supposed to be known) also contain a number of iPads which tell you which buildings are which, and the kids on our journey particularly loved these (probably because they soon got enough of the views).
However, we loved the sights, even the ones of Westminster and Big Ben (again). It was particularly enjoyable going up and suddenly seeing The Shard, which had been hidden behind other buildings until we got high enough. We also saw Buckingham Palace and the guards at Horseguards Parade at one point. Then it was fun going down again and realising you couldn’t see everything anymore! We also saw buildings as far away as Wembley Stadium
The “journey” on the London Eye is quite quick – just half an hour (which means you will have to have plans for afterwards). It’s not fast (you need to warn any thrill seeking children of this) but it is fun.
After our trip we went into the visitor centre to watch the 4D adventure and I have to say we were pleasantly surprised. It showed you a pigeon’s eye view of London (!) and made me really proud of my home city. The effects were pretty cool too, even though it only lasted five minutes.
All in all, we really enjoyed our trip. We know that people will have gripes because it’s not cheap and it doesn’t last for that long. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it if you want a terrific way to see London – from a different perspective.
The London Eye costs £23 for adults (this means 16+) and £17 for kids if booked online (under 4s are free). It’s open every day until 9.30pm, and also open late on Friday evenings during the summer (until 11.30pm, which sounds like fun). It’s located by County Hall, London SE1 (right by The Thames).
The nearest tube stations are Westminster and Waterloo.
Read about our trip up the Monument to the Fire of London