The London Eye, sometimes referred to as the Millennium Wheel, offers patrons one of the best views of the city of London to be found. Officially opened by Prime Minister Tony Blair on December 31, 1999 to celebrate the Millennium, the London Eye is the largest effort on the part of the British government to offer a vantage point for views of the city. The London Eye Millennium Wheel has quickly become a popular tourist attraction in London, with about 2 million visitors per year.
The history of the Millennium Wheel is brief, and yet comes with its share of controversy. Though the London Eye Ferris Wheel was officially opened in time for the millennium, it was not actually operational until March of 2000 due to technical problems. The main designers of the London Eye Ferris Wheel took inspiration from such mammoth viewing structures as the Statue of Liberty, and the London Eye Ferris Wheel stands at an impressive 443 feet above the South Thames River bank. It was assembled by floating sections of the London Eye up the Thames River on barges, connecting the sections on flat pontoons, and then raising the entire eye slowly to an upright position using cranes.
The ride itself is a popular tourist attraction in London for good reason. Guests are treated to an expansive view of the city from the comfort of an air-conditioned pod attached to the wheel. Each pod holds about 25 people, and the wheel makes one full rotation every 30 minutes. Due to the slow speed of the ride, the wheel doesn't usually stop to let passengers on and off (except in the case of passengers with special needs).
London Eye tickets are available for purchase at the London Eye tickets box office, or online. Many travelers choose to purchase London Eye tickets in advance; a great idea for anyone wishing to avoid the long (and also hot during the summer) lines outside the ride itself. Ticket prices are between 6 and 15 British Pounds, depending on the age of the passenger, with a discount being offered for children under 16 and seniors over the age of 60.
Despite the warm welcome this tourist attraction in London experienced on its opening, the wheel has yet to turn a profit. There has been some talk of moving the wheel to a different location, however most British citizens are in favor of keeping it as is. Though the London Eye has none of the historical importance of older London icons such as Stonehenge or the Big Ben Clock Tower, the London Eye Millennium Wheel is fast becoming one of London's most appealing destinations.