Newest Review: ... a 20% discount but also means you don't have to queue to buy tickets. A family of four ticket costs just over £50. There is still a queue... more
Great if you've never tried it before, but gets boring fast...
Member Name: Commanddoh
Advantages: Novel idea, great view of London
Disadvantages: Cannot use flashes on photo's as it reflects, cannot get clear images of attractions often
I went to this only a few days ago, having first gone on a 'big wheel' in Singapore. It was night time then, and the many high rise office towers complimented the 'mood lighting' of the tree lined avenue leading up to the attraction. Much is made of the 'flight' you are about to embark upon, everything was slick and the views were nice, but in essence what you have is a giant fair ground big wheel.
The London Eye was only ever supposed to be in place for a limited time. Erected in 1999 prior to the Millennium Celebrations, it subsequently proved to be enormously popular, and remains in place over 10 years later. I suspect this has a lot to do with its prime location on the banks of the River Thames, opposite the House of Parliament and Big Ben. It is owned currently by the Merlin Entertainments group, who also own the adjoining London Aquarium (amongst other major attractions). I suspect a lot of trade is generated from the 'multi - pass' options that allow you to combine Merlin Attractions and save money. This was how I came to be on the London eye this past Friday, as I hold a Merlin Entertainments Group annual pass. I think it is fair to say that I wouldn't have gone otherwise, as even though the price is around £8-10 (online, for a single 'flight' and per person), it had been in place for over 10 years before I got around to venturing on it. I was out to see the London Dungeon and the Aquarium, so took the opportunity to see the Eye whilst doing them both.
When you pitch up at the location, there is a long boulevard of trees framing the Ferris wheel, and you have the option to queue with your pre-paid ticket or purchase one at the ticket booth. You will be assailed with options to have a '4D experience' (cinema viewing and ride) as well as various other options like champagne flight, private trip, trip for two or fast track queuing. I and my partner joined the queue and within 15 minutes were at the security point. The weather was overcast and the hour was late, so the queue was mercifully short. I am told that on school holidays, weekends and during the summer months the queuing time can be off-putting , and I think my experience would have been horrendous had I been queuing for a long time. Luckily this was not the case, and just prior to the security check a staff member scanned our passes and our bags were then given a very cursory security check. I was asked by the security guard if I was carrying a pocket knife. Somewhat of a bizarre question given that this is an unusual item to be carrying in public, but I guess that with the 'knife culture' prevalent in London this is not as unusual a circumstance as I would expect. Directly after security you have a chance to buy some over priced last minute sweets, crisps and drinks and then it's 'how many are flying', before you are ushering into a moving pod and the experience begins.
There is a wooden bench in the centre and enough space for 12 or so people. Only a few of the elder passengers and people with small children sat down though, and everyone else aimed for the opposite side of the capsule. That is where the 'best' view is. To your roughly 9 o'clock is the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben - easily the most obvious attraction on view. All around you can see London sprawling into the distance, but I found it more interesting watching for aircraft and helicopters. Indeed, I was the first to spot a British Military Chinook as it came swooping past and did a quick circle of Big Ben before heading west.
The flight duration is about 30 minutes, but to be honest I was a tad bored after 10. There are only so many photos' you can get of the same view, despite my partners' attempt at taken hundreds! There is ample room in the capsule, but I found that everybody wants to be photographed in the same place, so there is a bit of gentle pushing and shoving, with 'excuse me' being the operative phrase. Just before the ride ends you are ushered into the right hand side 'corners' (or curvatures, to be accurate when describing a capsule) for the obligatory 'I was on the London Eye and paid a lot for my photograph' photograph. If you can be bothered, obviously. Then it's a 'welcome back' from the staff on the platform and you step off, turn right, and walk straight into the gift shop.
It is fair to say that I wouldn't have gone to see the London Eye if I hadn't been specifically in London to see the London Dungeon and the London Aquarium Sea Life Centre. I hadn't been to either before. But seeing as I had already paid £20 - something to see the Singapore flier and been only mildly impressed doing the 'largest big wheel in the world', I was less excited experiencing the 'biggest wheel in Europe'. But obviously I am not the core market here. I work in the travel sector and know that Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye are the most regularly stated attractions for tourists coming here, aside from Buckingham Palace. I doubt there are any Brits who go back to the London Eye for frequent 'flying', but I could be wrong. And as I have the Merlin annual pass I could well be doing it again before its expiry. But only if I am in the area. And I certainly won't be queuing for 1 hour as a colleague of mine told me he did a couple of years ago during summer.
Perhaps I shouldn't have chosen an overcast day to do it, but visibility was good nonetheless.
The Price list as of today for the standard flight is £17.88 (adult), £14.30 (child) if you pay on the day, but significant savings are to be had online and for group bookings. £10 anniversary flights are available, but only for specific timeslots.
Fast Track costs £27.88 for both adults and children and £22.30 online.
A champagne flight costs £33 and £26.40 online.
Summary: Good for tourists and for a one off, but it fails to hold your interest for 30 minutes.
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