High up in the air, watching an entire city stretch and move down below as you’re briefly suspended in the sky, turning on a loop to observe the landscape from all angles, before coming back down in a graceful loop, illuminated and supported by beams of steel and neon: there is no doubt that there are few ways to experience a new city and a new fairground that are as exciting, scenic and unique as riding a Ferris Wheel - and some of the biggest, most exciting cities in the world, from London to Singapore, got the message just right.
From 19th century fairgrounds to some of the most famous squares in the world, Ferris Wheels, while not the most common of urban sightings, are quick to become major points of interest for both visitors and locals. A fun pass time and a certain unique way to experience and view a city, Ferris wheels make up some of the most popular attractions in the world's most coveted cities, and it is not difficult to understand why.
A brief history of Ferris Wheels
Ferris Wheels as we know them were introduced to the world at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Atlantic City, George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. project the response to the impressive Eiffel Towers which had debuted the previous World Fair.
Ferris Jr. was not the inventor of the great wheel; carts connected to the wheel, turned on by many different forces, including by humans, have existed since medieval times, particularly in Bulgaria. Ferris Jr. himself had ridden a wooden wheel, a ‘roundabout’, designed by William Somers the previous year, who would, in fact, later sue him for patent copyrights.
The 1893 Ferris Wheel debuted with great success, made of steel and able to hold 60 people at once. In a storm of success, debt, and tragedy, Ferris died a mere four years later, but his advancements still live on, in iterations and adaptations big and small, from small carnival wheels to the giant cantilever observation wheels.
Today Ferris Wheels are hallmark attractions wherever they are ambitiously built, and it might cause a bit of division when thinking about which world-famous ride to see first. Well, picking out a couple of the most famous among them - the ever-iconic London Eye, vs the great new kid on the block, the Singapore Flyer - it’s high time for a wheel showdown.
The London Eye
Arguably the most famous Ferris Wheel in the world, the London Eye is a fixture of London, an indelible part of London’s skyline and postcards, receiving millions of visitors every year.
Designed by husband and wife Julia Field and David Marks, the London Eye debuted in march 2000 as the highest wheel in the world, at 135 meters of height, and under a different name - the Millenium Wheel, to mark the turn of the Millenium. London Eye features 32 motorized glass capsules that can hold up to 25 people each. Each of the pods represents a London Borough. They are big enough for passengers to walk around freely, and each revolution on the wheel takes about half an hour.
Located on the South Bank of the Thames, the London Eye takes visitors high atop the ground, where they’ll be able to have breathtaking views of London spreading wide below, its most famous landmarks - such as the Palace of Westminster, King’s Cross Station and the Big Ben all looking small from above.
The Singapore Flyer
In the downright futuristic Marina Bay, the Singapore Flyer rises as the centerpiece to a square that feels like an amusement park in the middle of the city. Opened 8 years after the London Eye, in march 2008, the Singapore Flyer holds the title of the second tallest wheel in the world at 165 meters, 30 meters higher than the London Eye.
Accessed through a tropical garden that feels like a well-behaved forest, the Singapore Flyer towers over the impressive skyscrapers of Marina Bay at the Downtown Core in Singapore.
The Singapore Flyer has 28 carrier capsules, with air conditioning and enough space for 28 passengers or 15 plus 5 wheelchairs. At the Flyer passengers are also free to roam around and take in the stunning sights of Singapore from every angle, and the Flyer revolution lasts around 32 minutes.
From the capsules, visitors will have a privileged, one-of-a-kind view of the architecturally impressive skyscrapers and the historical landmarks of Marina Bay, Empress Place, the Singapore River, and for those with stronger eyes, bits of Indonesia and Malaysia.
So, which is better after all?
Well, as is life, it all depends. For travelers that enjoy the 19th-century European charm, the view of the London Eye might be unbeatable. For thrill-seeking travelers that are fascinated by Singapore’s innovative, cutting-edge architecture, the highest Ferris Wheel in Asia might be an unmissable opportunity.
Both wheels offer special packages including tours around respective parks, private carts, champagne and bar service, and dining experiences. It’s all about deciding which trip is more your giant wheel by the beach - and enjoy the max out of whichever of these amazing rides make it into the itinerary.