The Eye, once sponsored by British Airways but now stickered by EDF Energy, was erected in 1999 as the Millennium Wheel, and like many temporary vantage points, it became such a sensation—and a money-minter—that it was made permanent. It rises above everything in this part of the city—at 135m/443 ft. high, it’s 1 1/2 times taller than the Statue of Liberty. The 30-minute ride above the Thames affords an unmatched and unobstructed perspective on the prime tourist territory. On a clear day, you can see to Windsor, but even on an average day, the entire West End bows down before you. That’s why you should either go as soon as you arrive in the city, to orient yourself, or on your last day in town (my choice), when you can appreciate what you’ve seen. The whirl is adulterated by a lame “4D Experience” movie (the camera moves through London while a fan blows in your face—Orlandofied twaddle) but it’s included in the price.
Each of the 32 enclosed capsules, which accommodate up to 28 people at once, is climate-controlled and rotates so gradually that it’s easy to forget you’re moving—which means it will upset only the desperately height-averse. By the time you reach the top, you’ll have true 360-degree views unobstructed by the support frame. The ticket queue often looks positively wicked, but it moves quickly, chewing through 15,000 riders a day, 800 per revolution. The Shard is much higher (and £10 more), which is why you have a much better chance of appreciating what you’re seeing aboard the Eye. Tip: Booking on the Web saves waiting in the ticketing queues, and it gives other advantages: You can pick your time ahead and you’ll save 10% off. There’s a host of ticket options—basically, you can pay more to go anytime you want rather than stick to a reservation, but a standard ticket satisfies your needs.