Jack Taylor/Getty Images
Jack Taylor/Getty Images
(CNN) – Originally designed as a temporary attraction to celebrate the new Millennium, the London Eye has long surpassed its intended five-year shelf life to become the most popular paid-for attraction in the UK.
First things first — it’s not a Ferris wheel. It is, in fact, a “cantilevered observation wheel,” with 32 fully enclosed capsules moving at a leisurely 0.6 miles an hour. If you’re superstitious, don’t panic — it seems the designers were as well, so there’s no capsule number 13.
Each capsule fits up to 25 people, but there’s enough space for you to walk around and see how many landmarks you can spot. If you want a bit of privacy (or to join the more than 5000 people who have proposed on the wheel) then you can book a ‘Cupid’s Capsule‘ for two at £380 ($489), Champagne included.
Avoid the crowds
The London Eye is busiest between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. during the UK school holidays, and is quieter at the beginning and end of their opening hours, which vary throughout the year. As a rough guide, summer hours are 10am-8.30pm, and winter hours are 11am-6pm, but do check in advance on their site. It’s worth bearing in mind that it closes for around two weeks every January, for annual maintenance.
A standard ticket is £26 ($33), if bought in person on the day. Upon arrival, there are three lines—one to buy a ticket, one for fast track boarding and one for standard boarding.
Buying tickets online will allow you to skip the initial ticket office line and also save you 10 percent, if you book more than 24 hours in advance. You will, however, be tying yourself into a timeslot, unless you opt for an Any Time Flexi ticket at £29 ($37). All of which would be fine, if the unpredictability of the London climate wasn’t an issue—if your visit coincides with fog, or rain, you might not get the same out of it.
If you want to avoid waiting as much as possible, your best bet is buying a Fast Track ticket for £36 ($46), which can be bought on the day or online (again, with a 10 percent discount and the bonus of skipping the ticket office line). It’s an extra £10 ($13), but will grant you fast track entry through a dedicated entrance.
Waterloo station (served by the tube and overland trains) is the closest to the London Eye, at just a five-minute walk away. Both Embankment and Charing Cross are fairly close, at around a ten-minute walk. Westminster station is a short and picturesque walk over the river.
Westminster station is a short and picturesque walk over the river, where you’ll also find the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and Big Ben. Head in the other direction and you can walk along the river through South Bank, with its skateboarders, secondhand book stalls and food trucks—a Bleecker burger is one of the best in town. If you need to rest your feet, pop into Canteen right by the Royal Festival Hall, for classic British cuisine in a modern setting (their Eton Mess is to die for).