Soaring 135 metres tall and creating a prominent landmark on the capital’s skyline, The London Eye is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Britain. It has won more than 85 national and international tourism awards and has further accolades for outstanding architectural quality and engineering achievement.
Designed by Marks Barfield Architects, the Coca-Cola London Eye was opened by Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister, on 31st December 1999. It opened to the general public on 9th March 2000. As the largest cantilevered observation wheel in the world, it is the most popular paid-for visitor attraction in the UK.
Standing tall on the South Bank of the River Thames, the giant Ferris wheel is a stunning design and engineering triumph, with a diameter of 120 metres. It took seven years to complete the construction, at a cost of £70 million. Built in sections that were floated by barge up the River Thames, these were then assembled on piled platforms fixed in the river.
It was built to celebrate the millennium and was called the Millennium Wheel when it first opened. David Marks and Julia Barfield (the husband and wife design team) had designed the London Eye for a 1993 competition asking people to design a new landmark.
It was initially intended to be a temporary structure for five years. However, millions of people have boarded it every year and as a result of its unprecedented popularity, its lease has been extended. Today, it has become a permanent feature on the London skyline, managed by London Eye Management Services Ltd.
Visitors can look out over approximately 25 miles from the top of the Ferris wheel. More than 3.5 million people enjoy the attraction every year and it can hold 800 people at any one time. It takes 30 minutes to complete one revolution and it travels at 0.6 miles per hour.
With 32 capsules weighing 10 tonnes each and holding 25 passengers in each, they have seats and air conditioning – passengers don’t have to remain seated.
The attraction hosts plenty of special events, including school visits. Children are invited to take a ride on the Ferris wheel, or take part in an organised Discovery Workshop focusing on KS2 and KS3 Geography and telling pupils all about the history, location and architects of London’s iconic landmarks.
The London Eye is also a popular venue for weddings, with a selection of wedding ceremony and reception packages available, including celebrations in the champagne lounge. In December 2005, it hosted its first civil partnership ceremony. The London Eye was lit up in pink to celebrate the momentous occasion!
Stag and hen packages on the wheel are also on offer, while a special proposal capsule invites couples to take a special trip on the London Eye, so one of them can pop the question! The photographer hosts the memorable event above the capital, while the happy couple can toast their engagement with a glass of chilled champagne and a luxury box of champagne truffle chocolates. The special bespoke package also includes entry to the 4D cinema experience and a selection of canapés, if required.
The venue also hosts pop-up restaurants – an attraction which began in 2011 as part of the London Restaurant Festival. Parts of the Ferris wheel become temporary luxury restaurants, when pods can be reserved to host diners and some of the world’s top chefs for an evening of indulgent cuisine lasting around four hours.
The London Eye attracts its fair share of celebrity visitors, such as supermodel Kate Moss, who has reputedly visited the attraction 25 times. In 2016, A-list actor Matt Damon was said to have been on the London Eye five times. Singer Meghan Trainor is reportedly a fan and she also visited the attraction five times in 2016.
The London Eye wasn’t the first big wheel to be constructed in London. In 1895, the Great Wheel was built in the capital for the Empire of India Exhibition. It was visited by more than two million people before being demolished in 1907.
If you’re planning to visit the famous London Eye with a party of family and friends, be sure to hire a luxury minibus from H&H Van Hire. We have nine, 14 and 17-seater minibuses for hire at competitive rates. Please contact us for further details.