The London Eye 4D Review
Visit London's most popular attraction, but skip the HUGE queues.
In my 24 years on this fine world, I’ve visited London countless times and I’ve even lived here for nearly two years. How is it, then, that I’ve only just managed to go to the number 1 most visited attraction in the city?
This weekend I finally managed to make my way to the London Eye, London’s modern landmark. Built as a temporary instalment as part of the millennium celebrations, the London Eye has stood the test of time and become a permanent fixture on the south bank. More than that, it has become one of the most recognisable structures in the world.
Standing at 135 metres high it was the world’s tallest Ferris wheel for 6 years until it was surpassed by the Star of Nanchang in China. For a long time, this was the highest viewing point in London but the construction of the Shard and other tall buildings means that even higher viewing points have opened in recent years. The addition of a ‘4D experience’ is a clear attempt to distinguish the London Eye from its new competitors, but is it enough? Keep reading to find out.
Despite being underwhelming, something tells me the tourists will still come n their thousands!
The London Eye is very easy to get to, just go to Waterloo Station and follow the signs, when you’re outside look for the giant white Ferris wheel (there is only one). I arrived mid afternoon and it was a Friday and I immediately noticed that the area was packed full of people. I thought to myself that there are a lot of restaurants, bars and museums around here, so most of these people won’t be going on the London Eye, surely they can’t all be.
I walked around the base of the Eye to find the queue; I didn’t have to look for long because it was everywhere, a great big winding queue that must have had over 200 people in it. My heart sank slightly as I prepared for a long wait. I asked a member of staff where I could join the queue, she looked at my ticket and gave me some devastating news. ‘This queue is for fast track entry, you will need to join the normal queue’. This is the fast track queue?! She pointed me in the right direction and I looked in despair as I noticed the endless line of people filing about 50 metres away from the London Eye. I kid you not it took me over minute just to walk to the end of the line.
I began to wonder if I would get on the London Eye before sunset, I then I remembered that I bought the ‘4D experience’ ticket, which gave me entry to the London Eye’s new multisensory experience. I decided to check this out and hope that the queue had gone down by the time I’d finished. The 4D experience is in a building close to the London eye and is easy to find. Upon arrival I was greeted with another line but mercifully it was quite short. Guests enter the 4D experience about 30 at a time, at the entrance you are given 3D glasses and ushered into a dark room. You find yourself standing in darkness for a while until the large screen at the front bursts into life. It quite quickly became apparent that the 4D experience was a 3D movie about the London Eye.
The short film had us follow a seagull on its flight around London, when it swooped down to avoid a building jets of air are shot at the guests face, when we glide across the river Thames you feel the water on your face, this is what makes it ‘4D’ apparently. The whole experience lasted about 10 minutes and was reasonably entertaining, if a bit pointless. I probably wouldn’t recommend the 4D experience unless you’re bringing children, even then the extra cost might not be justified.
I exited the 4D experience to find that the queue had become even longer. Sigh. I decided to just get on with it and took my place at the end. It took about an hour before I was actually inside the attraction and having my bags searched by security. I feel I must emphasise that the queues are simply ridiculous, which is testament to the attractions popularity I suppose, but it such a long wait worth it? I was about to find out.
A member of staff quickly ushered me and several others to walk along the platform and hop on to one of the pods that had just arrived. The pods are quite small and they let on quite a lot of people at a time, I’d say there were about 15 others in pod with me and you could maybe just about swing a cat in there. As a result, it was a bit of a scramble to get the best viewing spot as the pod began to rise.
Moving at a slow pace, I still felt a little flutter in my stomach as the pod made its way on its never-ending circular journey. The views start off as mundane but get progressively better the higher up you go. In the meantime there are several interactive screens in each pod which give you information about dozens of landmarks.
With the pod reaching roughly the halfway mark I began to realise what a great position the London Eye is in. Located literally on the river Thames and opposite the houses of parliament, the views are pretty spectacular. It takes about 15 minutes for the pod to reach the pinnacle of the London Eye at which point the best views are revealed. Unfortunately this only lasts a few seconds before you begin to descend, so you better have your camera ready.
This is my main issue with the London Eye; whilst the view is impressive you only have a very brief time in which to enjoy it, whilst other viewing points like The Shard or the Sky Garden are not only higher, but stationary, so you can take your time and really take in the view.
After another 15 minutes of descending and reach the end of your journey. Oh, you do have an opportunity to pose for a camera located outside the pods, but you’ll have to pay to get a copy (hint: it won’t be cheap).
It took me 14 years, but I finally went on the London Eye. A part of me wishes I hadn’t bothered. I don’t think I can enjoy an attraction where the queuing time is longer than the time actually spent inside the attraction. The views are wonderful but shorted lived, why not spend a bit more and get a better view at the top of the Shard for as long as you want? Or pay nothing and go to the Sky Garden which is also taller that the London Eye? I love the London Eye for being a quirky symbol of a modern city, but I really don’t think I can recommend it as an attraction. If you do go, you might want to take a couple of magazines to read while you wait, maybe a sleeping bag.