The London Eye is the world’s highest observation wheel with a height of 135 meters and is situated on the banks of the River Thames, offering unrivalled views of London. Since its opening at the beginning of the century, The London Eye has become an iconic landmark, comparable with Tower Bridge, Big Ben, and the Tower of London. It has served as a backdrop for numerous movies and a myriad of tv-shows. This unique addition to London’s skyline is appreciated by Britons and visitors alike.
The most popular paid attraction in the UK
During its existence, The London Eye has become the most popular paid attraction in the UK, with more than 3.5 million visitors every year (an annual average of 10,000 people a day). An incredible achievement of engineering and design, London Eye’s passengers can view up to 40 km in all directions feeling completely safe.
How it all started
Many of the best ideas start at the kitchen table, and a few of them get through the door. What begins as notes on a napkin might not always be realized and might end up as a flash in the creators’ eyes. The original idea for London Eye came from husband and architect wives David Marks and Julia Barfield. At their kitchen table in South London in 1993, the first sketches for London Eye were made. The couple had participated in the contest to make an iconic millennium landmark, but there was no winner. So, the contest was cancelled, but Marks and Barfield were convinced about pushing forward with their vision.
From the beginning, we were determined to produce something that was inspiring which would please the people who saw it…Julia Barfield, British architect and creator of London Eye
David and Julia started to put the puzzle together, eventually drawing the interest from their fellow journalists in the London press. The project was developing as it progressed,’ says David Marks, ‘everyone was motivated by one goal: to develop a thrilling innovative way to look at and comprehend one of the most fascinating cities on Earth.
Biggest observation wheel in Europe
Then, everyone realized the enormity of the task they were trying to complete. It would be the biggest observation wheel ever constructed and the only one with its kind around the globe. It would also be the largest structure to be lifted to a vertical level in one go. More than 1,700 people from five countries would take part in the construction. Most components and construction methods would need to be developed from scratch. Glass used for capsules would need to be double-curved before being laminated. The transportation of the components would take place in an amount that resembles pyramids. Delivery had to be timed to coincide with the tides of the River Thames so that large pieces could be transported under the bridges of London. The clearance beneath Southwark Bridge would only be forty centimetres. The world’s tallest floating cranes would be required to raise the enormous quarter-sections of the edge onto eight temporary platforms floating in the river. Every one of thirty-two capsules would need to be built to be within the size of the maximum width permitted by the French roads they would travel towards the English Channel and up the Thames. It would happen within just 16 months …
London Eye has changed how visitors view London and has become one of the world’s most impressive and well-known tourist attractions. Its success is indisputable, and its popularity among visitors and Londoners alike. It was, however, as a concept, designed and constructed against low odds. Of all the astonishing facts regarding the London Eye, the most amazing is that it was built in the first place.
London Eye has progressed a lot since it was first introduced with the designation of The Millennium Wheel in 2000 and has seen many wonderful things. Below are the most important moments that helped create and shape the impressive London Eye that you can see for yourself today.
Restaurants near London Eye
The Southbank area around London Eye is perfect for families, with several huge attractions like London Dungeon and Sea Life just a stone’s throw away. You’ll have no issues filling the day with exhilarating and fun activities, but what about restaurants? Luckily you’ll find several great family-friendly restaurants near London Eye. Here are some of the best-rated favourites:
Okan Southbank – Japanese restaurant
Cosy little restaurant serving authentic Japanese food including Okonomiyaki. The food is yummy and the staff is very friendly too. We recommend booking a table as the place fills up quickly. Highly recommended
Distance from London Eye: 3 minutes walking
County Hall, Belvedere Rd, London SE1 7PB
Locale Southbank – Italian restaurant
Excellent Italian restaurant on the right around the corner near London Eye at the back of County Hall. Serving hearty Italian dishes including family favourite pizza and pasta dishes you can’t really go wrong taking the kids here. Perfect choice if you’re visiting London Eye with young children.
Distance from London Eye: 4 minutes walking
County Hall, 3B Belvedere Rd, London SE1 7GP
Bao Fa Garden Chinese Restaurant
Another restaurant near the London Eye serves delicious authentic Chinese food with great views of the Houses of Parliament. More of a formal setting, so if you’re travelling with small children you might want to aim for one of the other options on this list.
Distance from London Eye: 1-minute walk
County Hall Building, The Queen’s Walk, London SE1 7PB
Wahaca Southbank Mexican Restaurant
Dine in a container on the Southbank eating tasty Mexican street food dishes guaranteed to satisfy those comfort food cravings. From taco and quesadilla to burrito, nachos and guacamole – you’ll find plenty of family favourites.
Distance from London Eye: 6 minutes walking
Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Rd, London SE1 8XX
Las Iguanas Latin American Restaurant
London’s Southbank Centre is home to a piece of Latin American life, at Las Iguanas situated on Festival Terrace. Join for Havana Lounge – Latin grooves from 10.30 pm ‘til late Friday and Saturday. Las Iguanas Royal Festival Hall is the perfect place for pre-show food and drinks, adding exciting Latin vibes to your night out.
Festival Terrace, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Rd, London SE1 8XX
London Eye Highlights
- February 2006: London Eye was finally granted an agreement for a lease of 25 years
- December 2005: First civil partnerships were held in front of the Eye. To commemorate the event, the Eye was painted pink. The month of December also witnessed that the London Eye become a national symbol by serving as the centre for the New Year celebrations in London. In 2005 the Eye had hosted more than eighteen million people and had won more than forty awards in engineering, tourism, architecture, and design.
- July 2005: Twenty million customers hitched a ride on the London Eye.
- March 2005: The Eye marked the fifth anniversary of its establishment. Seventy-seven thousand quarter bottles of Laurent Perrier Champagne and 3,000 bottles of orange juice were handed out to patrons to celebrate the day.
- October 2004: The Eye was illuminated pink to celebrate Breakthrough Breast Care Awareness Month. More than PS30,000 was collected during the month to benefit the cause.
- February 2004: The Eye was open for the first hour until midnight for a romantic mood on the day of St. Valentine’s Day.
- September 2003: The first dining package for diners was launched with a well-known restaurant
- September 2002: The 10 millionth customer was welcomed by the London Eye
- August 2002: The well-loved London Eye River cruise experience was first introduced
- February 2002: Unique and exciting wedding packages were offered
- January 2002: The Euro was accepted at the London Eye
- December 2001: A six-tonne ice sculpture of London’s skyline has been created in the field. It took more than six hours to construct!
- October 2001: Within 18 months of the London Eye’s opening, more than six million passengers enjoyed a London Eye flight
- March 2001: The Eye was able to celebrate its first official birthday. Since its opening, The London Eye has welcomed more than 3.5 million patrons in the first year of its operation.
- March 2000: London Eye officially opens to the public. London Eye officially opens to the public.
- October 1999: The London Eye was raised over the River Thames
- The end of 1998: The construction begins of British Airways London Eye
Statistics and facts
The British Airways London Eye is an innovative and versatile structure that combines the best of British design and architecture and rises above London’s cityscape at 135m. Creating the highest observation tower on the globe was a considerable effort. In this section, you will know more about the various components along with fascinating information and figures and even build your version of the London Eye for yourself. See below for more information.
The passenger capsules at The London Eye incorporate an entirely innovative design and design for the observation wheel. They are not suspended by gravity; they move within circular mounting rings attached to the exterior from the main rim, allowing a stunning 360-degree panorama from the top.
The thirty-two capsules with high-tech technology are air-conditioned and feature benches. In the capsules, London Eye represents the 32 Boroughs of London.
London Eye London Eye uses two types of cables, backstay cables and wheel cables. Six backstay cables, found within the foundation of compression. Wheel cables comprise sixteen rim-rotation cables and sixty-four spoke cables like bicycle spokes and extend over the entire wheel.
The compression foundation lies beneath the A-frame legs. It needed 2200 tonnes of concrete and forty-four concrete piles, each of them being thirty-three meters deep. Tension foundations, which is used to hold the cables for backstays, require 1200 tons of cement.
The primary components of the spindle and hub were cast in steel. It was simply too big to be cast in one piece, so it was instead cast in smaller pieces. Two castings, which are great rings, are the primary part of the hub’s structural structure. Hubs are steel tube that has been rolled, which forms the spacer holding the two rings apart. The entire casting process was done through Skoda Steel.
London Eye London Eye can hold up to eight hundred people per revolution. This is equal to eleven London red double-decker buses.
Each round lasts 30 minutes, and a capsule can travel at a stunning 26cm every second, which is 0.9km (0.6 miles) per hour. This is twice the speed of tortoise speeding. It also allows passengers to get on and off without needing to stop.
The only way to go is up:
The wheel’s circumference measures 424 meters (1.392ft) which means that if it were to unravel, it would be 1.75 times larger than UK’s tallest building, One Canada Square.
Tonnes of Fun:
The weight of the capsules and wheel is 2100 tonnes. That is up to 1,272 London black taxis!
The spindle is the hub’s structure while the hub rotates in the direction of the spindle. At 23 meters, the spindle is about as big as a church’s spire, which along with its hub, weighs 330 tonnes. More than twenty times the weight of Big Ben.