You may be wondering what I have to say about the London Eye that a) hasn’t been said a thousand times before, or b) you couldn’t discern for yourself by simply looking at it.
The honest answer to that is, not a lot. But that’s the thing about the London Eye: it’s pretty much exactly what, uh, meets the eye (so to speak). There’s not a lot of surprises — which, when it comes to a big metal contraption that lifts you hundreds of feet into the air, some might consider a good thing.
Let’s start with the basics. It’s a big wheel. You get on the wheel and go high into the sky, where you get a big old sweeping view of London and the River Thames. It’s not really worth the price they charge for it; however, if your traveling companions are set on it and you’re making an effort to be somewhat less of a total buzzkill (cough, you know, in theory), it’s also probably not worth trying to talk them out of it.
And, of course, if you like big old sweeping views, you’re in for a real treat.
Each pod is made almost entirely of windows, so even if yours is filled with some girls apparently intent on breaking the world record of “selfies taken on the London Eye” (again, you know, in theory), you’ll still get plenty of chances to soak up the views–and take your own selfies, if you feel so inclined. (No judgement here, but remember: what happens on the London Eye does not stay on the London Eye. Because…windows.)
They’ll try to upsell all kinds of crap to you, but there’s little reason to purchase anything beyond the standard ride. You don’t need the “fast-track” ticket unless you’re on a serious time crunch; the line moves so quickly, we barely ever stood still while we were waiting. We briefly considering purchasing the champagne package before we realised it included a glass of champagne at some bar before going on, not actually while riding. That seems rather pointless when you could just find your own bar and pay the same (or less?) for whatever drink you want. I suppose the real lesson there is to always read the fine print.
Is it a tourist trap? Sure. But what is a tourist trap, after all, but an attraction that, while overhyped and overpriced, serves an iconic purpose for visitors to the city? I think you’ll find all of that is true here. It does exactly what it claims to: gives you a stellar view and the opportunity to snap some photos — selfies or no — that are wholly and undeniably London. What more can you ask from it?
And if you really want to feel like a local…well, you should probably be reading a Londoner’s blog, and not mine. The only tip I can give you is that a lot of them seem to do their eyeliner on the underground. (Godspeed.)
To get to the London Eye: Waterloo is the closest underground station. Look for the giant wheel.
Hours and ticket prices: Open daily 10am-9pm. Standard ride is £23 for adults. Online discounts are usually available; see this page for more info.