Though it was controversial when it first arrived, the London Eye is now one of the city’s biggest tourist draws. It’s a unique, well-designed and fun way to see London from the air. Along with the wheel itself, there’s a fun 4D experience you can see before you ride, and the Eye’s position on the banks of the Thames gives it great views of central London as well as making it nicely accessible for Westminster, the Southbank Centre, Waterloo Station and the Thames ferry to Greenwich. But with so many visitors every day, it pays to be smart about your visit to the London Eye. Here’s our guide for making the most of your trip into the sky.
-Get in early
The Eye opens at 10am, but by 9.45am the queues are already massive. It definitely pays to book your ticket online at least 24 hours in advance – you’ll save money and spend less time in line. If you choose not to book in advance, be sure to show up at least an hour before the time you want to ride – especially if it’s a clear, sunny day. The London Eye is about half an hour away from the Park Grand Paddington Court Hotel via the Bakerloo line from Paddington.
-Watch the 4D movie
This five-minute experience is available after you buy your tickets or reach the front of the queue. It’s a fast-paced simulated flight through the London sky and it’s a real adrenalin rush. There’s nothing like it to really get you excited for your turn on the wheel. Since you’re paying for a ticket, you may as well make the most of everything that’s included!
-Fast track to skip the queue
There’s a fast track option which allows you to pay a little extra to skip to the front of the line, which can be very helpful on busy days when you have other things planned! And who doesn’t like to feel like a VIP, walking past everybody else stuck in the queue? With a little research into London hotel deals and special offers, you could save yourself plenty of dough to play around with. For a real VIP experience, you can also reserve your very own capsule complete with a tasting session of wine, chocolate or champagne, or perhaps a Valentine’s theme. Sunset over London at 135m could be just what you need to kick off a romantic evening.
-Get in quick
While you’re hanging back taking pictures of the loading dock, the rest of the people in your capsule will be snagging the best spots – so try to be the first one in the door! For optimal photo opportunities, you’ll want to be on the far side of the capsule as you come in: the side facing the river and Big Ben, as well as St Paul’s Cathedral and other landmarks on the northern bank of the Thames. But if you don’t snag that perfect spot, don’t worry. The capsules are glass all the way around, so you’ll get great photos wherever you end up, and people will move to let you snap some photos from the far end of the capsule if you ask politely.
-Watch out for the glare
You will probably notice some reflections from the window glass while you’re snapping photos, and unfortunately there isn’t much you can do. The glass has to be there for safety reasons, and while it’s kept clean, it does tend to reflect the inside of the capsule back into your photos. If you’re a serious photographer, be prepared to edit this out later, or get as close to the glass as you can to minimise glare impact.
Have fun – there’s no experience quite like flying high!