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London Eye Facts

The London Eye is located in the capital city of England and is one of the world’s most recognizable icons. It has been opened since 2000 and stands 135 meters (443 feet) tall. The London Eye is a giant Ferris wheel on the River Thames in London. It consists of 32 enclosed capsules, with each holding up to 25 people. The capsules are attached to three arms which give eight different views as they move around the wheel- once every half an hour.

London Eye Facts for Kids

  • It was opened to the general public in 2000
  • It’s 135 meters high.
  • More than 3.5 million people visit every year. 
  • It is Europe’s tallest wheel.
  • They also refer to it as the Millennium Wheel.
  • London Eye is on the Thames River South Bank, west of Jubilee Garden.

Everything You Need To Know About The London Eye

It Is One Of The Largest Cantilevered Observation Wheels In The World

If you’re reading that first bit and scratching your head, don’t worry, we did too at first. Basically, all that means is that it is only fixed into place on one side – in this case, it is attached to the ground by an A-shaped frame.

An observation wheel is just a fancy way of saying that it’s a tourist attraction that people can get on (like a Ferris Wheel at the fair) and look out over London. The fact that it’s one of the largest in the entire world at 135m tall is really impressive!

It’s The U.K.’s Most Popular Attraction

Of all the paid-for tourist attractions in the U.K., this one is the most popular. They have around 3.5 million visitors to it every year. Considering riding the wheel isn’t free, just imagine how much money this one attraction alone makes each year!

Parts Came From All Over Europe

Although the architect team behind the design were married couple David Marks and Julia Barfield of the Marks Barfield Architect company, parts for the structure actually came from all over Europe.

Cables from Italy, spindles from the Czech Republic, and parts of the wheel from the Netherlands, and many more examples besides! Everybody worked together on the design until it was built in London on the South Bank of the River Thames in 2000.

It Wasn’t Supposed To Be Permanent

Originally it was built in 1999 in order to open in 2000 as a celebration of the new millennium. Because of this, it is also known as the Millennium Wheel as well.

The plan was simply to have it open for around five years to attract more tourists to the city in order to enjoy the view of London from the wheel. After that, it was supposed to be torn down. Thankfully, that never happened, though, and you can still look over the city from the wheel to this day!

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It Has 32 Capsules

These capsules are the area in which the tourists get in and ride to the top of the wheel. Despite there being 32 capsules, they are numbered from 1 to 33. They left number 13 out because of its links with being an unlucky number – they thought that maybe people would refuse to ride in capsule number 13.

Its Rotations Take Longer Than You Might Think

Each rotation takes around 30 minutes to complete, and the wheel itself never stops moving unless a disabled or elderly person requires more time to get on.

Besides that, passengers actually climb into the pod and get off as it is still moving. The wheel rotates at 0.9km an hour, so it moves around 26cm a second. With a wheel this large, it’s no wonder it takes 30 minutes for a passenger to complete their trip!

It Has One Of The Best Views Of The City

Before The Shard was built, it actually provided the best view, but the viewing platform there now stands at a whopping 245m high, 90m taller than the London Eye! Still, on a clear day, you can see for 25 miles from the top of the wheel, giving you one of the best views of London that you can find anywhere. If you’re a tourist, then heading here early in your trip will give you a great idea of everything that the city has to offer!

Its Lights Can Change Color

As Coca-Cola currently sponsors it, it is usually lit up red in the evening, but they can change the colors quickly in response to events. For the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton, they lit the wheel up in a union jack style, and it has been known to change colors in response to other key events or to show solidarity with other countries in the face of tragedies.

It Was Officially Opened On New Year’s Eve 1999

British Prime Minister at the time, Tony Blair, officially opened the attraction on 31st December 1999. However, the wheel didn’t accept its first paying customer until the 9th March 2000, over two months later! This was because there was a glitch in the build, and they deemed it too unsafe for public use until everything was fixed!

It Can Carry Lots Of People At Once

The 32 capsules can hold 25 people each, meaning that the wheel can have 800 people on board at any given time. You may wonder why the architects chose 32, and it wasn’t just so they could squeeze more people on board. There are actually 32 London Boroughs, and so they chose 32 in honor of all 32 London Boroughs.

Building It Wasn’t Easy

It took over two years to actually build it, but the entire process from design to completion was seven years in total. But that wasn’t even all the difficulties that the designers and builders would face.

Because such an enormous structure was being planned to sit right beside the River Thames, actually constructing it was going to be difficult. Since so many pieces were so large, they couldn’t simply bring them in my car, and instead, it had to come by water.

Special rafts brought the pieces of the wheel along the Thames, and then the wheel was built slowly over two years on platforms in the river. Once it was complete, they lifted the whole structure up and put it into the place where it remains today.

It Isn’t Technically a Ferris Wheel

Remember earlier on in the post we said that it was like a Ferris wheel? Well, that’s because technically, it isn’t one. A cantilevered observation wheel (there’s that term again, huh?) is actually a separate thing from a Ferris wheel, and it’s all to do with the A-frame we mentioned earlier. Because it only supports one side of the wheel, it isn’t a Ferris wheel. Ferris wheels are supported on both sides!

Learn More

It’s had a few different names and sponsors over the years, including the British Airways London Eye, The Millennium Wheel, the Coca-Cola London Eye. But its latest title is The Lastminute.com ​London Eye.

The view from the top of the London Eye reveals a 360-degree panorama that extends far beyond city landmarks such as Big Ben, Windsor Castle, and St Paul’s Cathedral. Starting at 122 meters (400 ft) high, it gives visitors unrivaled views over Central London and beyond.

The London Eye rotates once every 30 minutes. The capsules move at a very leisurely 0.6 miles per hour.

The second capsule was dedicated ‘Coronation Capsule’ in 2013 in honor of the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation.