The London landmark that started a Ferris Wheel renaissance celebrated 10 years of operations on March 9.
Designed by architects Marks Barfield and located on the South Bank on the River Thames, the London Eye was built in time for London’s millennium celebrations at the turn of the century and took its first paying riders a few months later.
Since then the observation wheel has welcomed over 36 million visitors, and turned more than 45,000 times. The Eye now entertains an average of 3.7 million guests a year, paying almost £18 ($27/€19.75) a ride – about double the original tariff in 2000. To celebrate the ride’s anniversary, a special £10 fare is available online throughout March.
In the opening year, 78% of riders were UK residents, but now the wheel is proving to be a bigger draw for international visitors. In 2009, for example, 70% of riders were from overseas, with Spanish, French, Italian and German tourists topping the list. The attraction is also very popular with Americans.
In its 10-year history, the Eye has hosted 433 weddings, over 3,000 celebrity visits (Kate Moss alone has ridden 25 times!) and featured in countless films and television programmes.
Now famed as a permanent fixture on the London skyline, the wheel’s original short-term lease was extended in 2005 until 2025. In 2002, Merlin Entertainments, which now owns the attraction outright, launched the adjacent London Eye River Cruise, plus a 4D pre-show in 2009.
“The London Eye has far exceeded any of our initial expectations when we opened in 2000,” says Merlin Entertainments’ David Sharpe. “Our eleventh year has already been very busy and we’re really excited about what the future holds for the attraction.”
For a mini-documentary charting the London Eye’s success see below.