Idea to Icon: London Eye’s Unsung Facts

Devika Arora Europe, Thrills, Visual Delights 1 Comment

One of the most popular attractions of all times, the London Eye has undoubtedly played a crucial role in maintaining tourism for the city of London. It is a major part of London’s skyline and offers a magnificent 360° view of it, inspiring other cities to set up their own observation wheels.

While we all know what it looks like, here are some lesser known facts about this landmark –

  • London Eye was the idea of Julia Barfield and David Marks, a couple who won the 1993 competition where Londoners were asked to design a landmark to celebrate the millennium. The winning entry was the blue print of a wheel we now call the London Eye!

Julia Barfield and David Marks

  • The structure took seven years to build and was officially launched for the public in the year 2000, after a soft launch by then Prime Minister Tony Blair in December 1999.


  • The wheel is commonly classified as a giant observation wheel (different from a Ferris wheel) and stands tall at a height of 443 feet or 135 meters, making it the fourth-largest wheel in the world.


  • Even though it is recognized for its shape and height, the London Eye is not even among the 20 tallest structures of London. The Shard tops that list with a height of 1,004 feet.


  • The circumference of the London Eye is 1,392 feet! Its diameter is 394 feet or 120 meters.


  • A complete ride takes 30 minutes as the wheel travels at a speed of nearly 0.6 miles per hour.


  • London Eye is the most popular paid attraction in the United Kingdom receiving over 3.5 million visitors in a year, while British Museum is the most popular free attraction receiving a crowd of over 6 million visitors annually.

long cue

  • There are a total of 32 air-conditioned observation pods or carts or capsules on the wheel. Each capsule represents a London Borough and has the capacity to accommodate at most 25 people. You can walk around or sit on the bench.


  • Do you believe in superstition? Well, Londoners do! Though there are 32 pods on the wheel, their numbering goes from 1 to 33, there is no number 13… just like many other structures and buildings in London.  


  • When an attraction is popular, how can one not expect to spot celebrities? Celebs from all over the world love hopping on to the Eye to get their share of excitement. USA’s Jessica Alba has been on it 31 times, outdoing UK’s Kate Moss who has been on the Eye 25 times.


  • London Eye weighs over 1,000 tons or 1 million pounds. Despite that, it is supported by cables on only one side!


  • People book private capsules for personal events like wedding proposals, hen/stag parties, weddings, wine/chocolate tastings and orchestrated flash mobs, among other celebrations! Over 5000  people have been engaged and over 500 married on the London Eye. The experience costs about £520 pound or $780 (champagne complimentary) and you get to pick a combination of food and drinks.


London Eye Wedding

  • In October 2011, London Eye was transformed into a pop-up restaurant for the London Restaurant Fest. The event saw participation of 11 chefs including celebrity chefs Daniel Boulud and Gordon Ramsay who served extraordinary food to ten diners every rotation. Cost: $18,000 and above (which included more luxuries of course). The proceeds of the event were given to charity.    


  • David Blaine, a magician,  climbed the wheel and took a complete rotation standing on top of a pod in 2003. The following year, a man dressed like Spiderman scaled the attraction and stayed up for 18 hours to throw light upon fathers’ rights in the United Kingdom.  


  • The Red Bull Academy turned the wheel’s pods into different parties to celebrate the country’s club culture in 2013. The lucky ones on board were entertained by artists like Mark Ronson, Lily Allen and Richie Hawtin. Rotating nightclubs, anyone?


  • Unlike other London attractions, Selfie sticks are allowed on the London Eye.


  • On a decently clear day, you can see as far away as the Windsor Castle when you reach the highest point of the wheel’s climb.

london eye

Did these facts inspire you enough to check out the London Eye yourself? Don’t know about you, but London Eye has certainly inspired other cities like Seattle, Atlanta and Las Vegas to set up their own observation wheels.

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