London Eye vs The Shard Comparison

By Stuart Bak

The battle for London’s skyline has seen some pretty unusual architectural choices spring up over the last 30 years or so. Some of these – the Fenchurch Building, the Leadenhall Building and 30 St Mary Axe – have become famous (or infamous) because of their unusual, nickname-inviting contours (they’re the Walkie-Talkie, Cheesegrater and Gherkin respectively, fact fans). But few more so than The Shard and the London Eye, two towering icons of the 21st-century cityscape. But how do these two titans of tourism measure up? Which has the better views? How long should you expect to spend at each? Check out our London Eye vs The Shard comparison to find out...

The London Eye

Man taking a selfie in front of the London Eye

Name: The London Eye, silly! Although readers of a certain vintage may also remember it as the Millennium Wheel. Officially, it is now the Lastminute.com London Eye.

Age: The London Eye was completed in 1999 and opened to the general public as the British Airways London Eye in March 2000.

What is the London Eye? It’s only Europe’s largest cantilevered observation wheel, standing 443 feet tall on the South Bank of the River Thames, and taking 30 minutes to complete a full 360-degree rotation. It was the biggest wheel of its kind on the planet when it first opened in 2000, but subsequent Ferris wheel one-upmanship rapidly put paid to that. The title is now held by the Ain Dubai, which is a shade short of twice the London Eye’s height. Impressive.

The London Eye: Vital Statistics

  • Height: 443 feet (135 meters).
  • Number of capsules: 32, one for each London borough; each capsule holds 25 people.
  • Revolutions per hour: two.
  • Visitors: over 3.75 million annually, making it Britain's most popular paid attraction!

What is The London Eye Experience Like?

View of the River Thames and Houses of Parliament from the London Eye

Step aboard your capsule for a spine-tingling 30-minute spin that takes you high above the South Bank. The wheel doesn’t stop to let you board (unless you have reduced mobility), but moves slowly enough that most people – yes, even unruly toddlers – are able to step on with ease, and there’s both seating and standing room inside. Grab a prime spot to catch birds-eye views of some of London’s most iconic attractions. The Eye’s location means you’re in pole position for ogling Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace. And, yes, that pointy glass thing a little upriver is indeed our old pal The Shard. On clear days, and if you squint a little, you might even spot the distant turrets of Windsor Castle.

Fascinating London Eye Fact of the Day

Triskaidekaphobics, rejoice! There’s no number 13 on the London Eye; the 32 capsules are instead numbered from 1-12 and 14-33.

London Eye: Fast Facts

  • Opening hours: 11.30AM-6PM on weekdays; 10AM-8.30PM at weekends.
  • Tickets: various options are available direct, from standard to fast track and combi tickets. Entry to The London Eye is also included with The London Pass, which gets you entry to 90+ London attractions for up to 10 consecutive days.
  • Closest Transport Links: the nearest Tube and rail connections are at Waterloo and Charing Cross stations, both a short walk from the London Eye. Multiple bus routes also service the area.

Next stop...

The Shard

The Shard at London Bridge

Name: The Shard. The name was inadvertently provided when architect Renzo Piano’s angular architectural design was criticized by English Heritage, who complained that the building would be like "a shard of glass through the heart of historic London." And, lo, a legend was born.

Age: The Shard was completed in 2012 and its observation platform, The View from The Shard opened to the general public in February 2013.

What is The Shard? This extraordinary feat of glass-and-steel engineering tapers to a series of jagged points some 1,000 feet above the streets of Southwark; 1,016 feet (309.6 meters) to be precise. It was the tallest building in Europe until 2022, when Warsaw’s Varso Tower topped it by mere inches. Inside, the space is occupied by a huge office complex, plus restaurants, the 5-star Shangri-La The Shard hotel, and several residential apartments for the uber-wealthy. Up top, set between the 68th and 72nd floors, The View from The Shard is the UK’s highest viewing gallery, with panoramic vistas that stretch for up to 40 miles.

The Shard: Vital Statistics

  • Height: 1,016 feet (309.6 meters).
  • Number of floors: 73.
  • Elevators: 36, with a top speed of six meters per second.
  • Panes of glass: 11,000.

What is The Shard Experience Like?

Woman taking a photograph at The View from The Shard

There are various activities available at The Shard. Cruise up to floors 31-33 for dinner, drinks or afternoon tea with a view from the selection of bars and fine-dining restaurants. Or go all the way up for the best city views in town. If the 60-second elevator ride to the 69th floor hasn’t already made you light-headed enough, a glass of champagne at the bar here, accompanied by those awe-inspiring views, surely will. Continue up to the 72nd, where the open-air sky deck provides further natural highs and the knees of all but the most stoic thrill seekers will very likely turn to jelly. There's no time limit on how long you can spend up here in the clouds (apart from going beyond The Shard's actual closing time, at which point malingerers will obvs be turfed out by security).

The Shard’s position by London Bridge makes for fine aerial views of London’s most famous nearby attractions, including St Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower of London, Battersea Power Station, Big Ben and, of course, the River Thames. Views, on a clear day, stretch for around 40 miles, as far as the South Downs and Thames Estuary.

Fascinating Shard Fact of the Day

During construction of The Shard in 2011, a fox was discovered living on the 72nd floor. Nicknamed Romeo before being captured and released back into the wild, the vulpine daredevil’s legacy lives on as The Shard’s mascot, with Romeo plushies and other souvenirs available to buy in the shop there.

The Shard Fast Facts

  • Opening hours: 10AM-10PM (closes 7PM Sunday-Wednesday between October and April).
  • Tickets: various ticket options are available direct from The Shard. Access to The View from The Shard is also included with The London Pass.
  • Closest Transport Links: the nearest Tube and rail connections are at London Bridge station right next to The Shard. A number of regular bus services also stop here.

The Shard vs The London Eye: Which Should You Visit?

The Shard and The London Eye at sunset

This is like choosing a favorite child! The Shard certainly has the wow factor in terms of views, and adrenaline junkies will no doubt prefer it for its dizzying height. But the novelty factor of the London Eye’s ever-changing perspective as it rotates to its highest point and back down again, makes for a never-dull experience that may well edge it as the better choice if you’re visiting with small, easily-bored children. In both cases, you can expect to spot many of London’s best-loved landmarks and, afterwards, there are plenty more attractions to visit in the immediate vicinity – the SEA LIFE London Aquarium and Big Ben by the London Eye and London Bridge, the Tower of London and bustling Borough market (a fine spot for street food) in the shadow of The Shard.

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Cycle-seeing in London - will it catch on?

Here at the London Pass Blog, we’re often asked for tips on how to make the most of the fabulous London Pass sightseeing offers, and take in as many of the sights and sounds of London that a short visit will allow. Exploring the city by bike is one way to not only move smoothly between attractions, but also to catch a glimpse of a London largely unseen by many tourists. But just how safe is cycling in London? Is cycle-seeing really a practical London sightseeing option for tourists, or is it safer, drier and altogether easier to opt for public transport and good old-fashioned walking? To find out, we asked cycling experts Steve Kopandy (Business Manager at London Bicycle Tour Company) and Andreas Kambanis (founder of London’s leading cycling blog, London Cyclist). Here’s what they had to say ... London Pass Blogger: Let’s start with getting hold of a bike. London isn’t exactly Amsterdam (yet) ... how easy is it really to hire a bike in the city? Andreas: It’s very easy. Through either the Cycle Hire Scheme or one of the many bicycle hire shops, you can easily get out on two wheels and start exploring. You can use TFL’s website to find the nearest docking station, or do a quick Google search to bring up a list of people that rent bikes. Steve: I agree with Andreas, it couldn’t be easier. If you don’t want to do-it-yourself with the Cycle Hire Scheme (‘Boris bikes’ to us Londoners) and you prefer a more personal service with friendly advice, a hire shop may be your best bet. Ours is in Central London right by the river, and we also hire helmets, kids’ bikes and specialty bikes. London Pass Blogger: OK, so no problem in actually finding a bicycle, and hiring the gear. But how safe am I going to be, if I start cycling in London? Andreas: I’ve been riding in London almost every day since 2007 and I have never had a serious incident. In central London, drivers tend to look out for cyclists and traffic speeds are slow. Steve: In our 23 years of operation, we have had tens of thousands of customers on bike tours and renting bikes from us. There have been no serious accidents in all that time. London Pass Blogger: I’m reassured to hear that – 23 years is very impressive, but there have been a few cycling incidents in the news over the last 12 months. Is London becoming less safe for cyclists? Steve: No, on the contrary. London is getting safer for cyclists. As more people cycle, awareness increases (especially among drivers), and there is greater investment in cycle paths and facilities. Andreas: There are also planned improvements to the infrastructure, that will create physical barriers between cyclists and drivers, thus minimising the danger and making for a far more pleasant ride. London Pass Blogger: Great, I’m feeling more confident by the minute and am now ready to explore London by bike. Where should I start? Can you tell me some of the best routes to follow? Andreas: My personal favourite, is to take the traffic-free Thames Path all the way to Richmond Park. I love being along the Thames and away from cars. The park itself is beautiful and great for cycling. And you can cover a lot more ground on a bike, than on foot. Steve: For me, the Grand Waterways tour is amazing. It follows Regent’s Canal around the outskirts of Central London from east to west and takes in Limehouse, Mile End Park, Victoria Park, Camden, Regent's Park, Little Venice and Hyde Park. Finishing up at Westminster Abbey, you’ll have seen many sides of London in just one day, on a mostly traffic-free route. London Pass Blogger: Do you think ‘cycle-seeing’ will catch on? Andreas: I think it’ll get more popular as London’s cycling infrastructure improves. The truth is, you miss so much by sitting on an underground train. Above ground is where the fun is! Steve: It's already caught on! We offer three guided tours a day, all year round. In the warmer months, we offer 10 tours a day, in 7 different languages. And we'd love to do more! The more people on bikes, the healthier the population, and the less pollution in London. London Pass Blogger: Thank you both for sharing your passion for cycling, and putting our fears to rest about cycling in the city. Finally, any cycling stories you’d like to share with our readers? Or any myths you’d like to dispel? Andreas: I have a slightly embarrassing story. On my first day at work in London, I decided to cycle to the office, confident I’d get there easily and on time. I arrived an hour and a half late, and very red-faced. I strongly recommend having a good look at a map before setting off, and carefully planning your route! Steve: I’d like to dispel the myth that there isn’t enough space for cyclists in London. This is wrong. When bus lanes were created, there was a shared understanding and desire for this to happen in order to make bus travel an appealing alternative to car ownership. The same is already happening with the bicycle. The space is there. Embrace it. Andreas Kambanis started cycling to work in 2007. After Googling subjects like ‘Best cycling routes in London’ and ‘best bike locks’, to no avail, he ‘seized the handlebars with both hands’ and started blogging about these topics. Today, London Cyclist is one of London’s most popular blogs with over 100,000 visitors a month. It’s an essential blog to bookmark if you’re a London cyclist (tourist or resident). Steve Kopandy is manager at The London Bicycle Tour Company: London's first and largest bicycle touring company. Established in 1991, tours are conducted in English, French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Japanese for over 10,000 people every year, offering a full range of rental bikes for all sizes and journeys.
Vanessa Teo
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The royal baby and maternity-wear through the ages

In the wake of Kate Middleton’s second pregnancy announcement we’ve decided to celebrate the furore around the royal baby and take a look at some of the past royal pregnancies and maternity wear through the ages. All eyes will be on Kate and her sartorial choices during her nine month term, as she impressed us so much last time. Over the ages, clothes have become much more bump-friendly for women in all stages of pregnancy and now there’s even an industry solely for maternity clothes and stretch-fabric garments. It all started with the changing fashions of the 14th century and the production of dresses with seams and figure-forming structure, as wealthier people and the royals started commissioning tailor-made dresses and clothes. Before then, large flowing gowns were the norm, so if they didn’t fit in your pregnancy, you’d have to accommodate your bump (and your modesty) with an apron, to hide the gap where your clothes no longer fastened together! It wasn’t until the Baroque period where the first maternity dress was made, called the Adrienne dress, which consisted of folds designed to expand as the bump grew. Women also wore men’s waistcoats with laces at the back to adjust for the growing waistline, too. Later on, bibs were created to allow for discreet breastfeeding but to think women (both from the Royal Household and otherwise) in the 18th century - and even in the early 1900s - would still wear maternity corsets seems almost modern torture? To give us some more context, let’s look at some of the most influential royals and their maternity fashion over the years: Princess Charlotte was the first pregnant British royal to have a formal portrait painted. As the fashion at the time was double laced corsets, she went for comfort over style and opted for an empire-line gown with puff sleeves instead. A trend of boundary pushing we’ll see repeated in the later years... In the 1920s when glitz, glamour and flapper dresses were all the rage, the flapper style was a much more forgiving shape. When the Queen Mother gave birth to our future Queen Elizabeth II in 1926 she would have worn the straight, loose fitting style of flapper dress, popular at the time - slightly more disguising than designs in the past. Up to and including the 1950s, when pregnant bellies were a thing to be hidden away, the style of maternity dress in the 1960s was a cocoon style large top or coat – adopted by Queen Elizabeth II during her fourth pregnancy (with Prince Edward) in 1964 to carry on business as usual. In the seventies, maternity wear was a little bolder and influenced by the inescapable hippy and floral styles. Princess Anne - who was known to be experimental with her fashion sense - rocked some of the iconic shapes and patterns during her pregnancy with Peter. Paving the way for best-dressed royals, Princess Diana took it up a notch and influenced women around the country with what to wear when expecting. Although the eighties styles were less flattering, Diana still made it work. Who can forget the blue polka-dot smock and scarlet evening gown she wore when she was pregnant with Prince William in 1982. But there's noone who does it better than Kate Middleton whose maternity wear choices couldn't be faulted back when she was pregnant with baby Prince George. Preferring British highstreet brands she championed the affordable, revolutionising maternity wear for the 'everyday woman'. Now, with baby number two on the way, we’re keen to see the Duchess of Cambridge’s new maternity wardrobe and the impact it might have on future styles of maternity wear and royals to come. Want to learn more about the royal family? Check out our infographic on the Modern Monarchy Royal Family Tree. Credits: Images from EssentialBaby.com.au and People.com
Vanessa Teo
Blog

Now Showing at the Science Museum IMAX Theatre

Below, you'll find what's now showing at the Science Museum IMAX Theatre, including... A DiCaprio-narrated guide to the universe's most famous telescope. A documentary about the International Space Station And more. Hubble 3D Oscar-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio narrates this spectacular documentary about the Hubble Space Telescope. The 3D film takes you up into outer space to join space-walking astronauts as they attempt to repair and upgrade the famous and vital space telescope. This thoroughly gripping ride focuses on the intense difficulties inherent in the task and the unexpected problems which occur in an environment which leaves no room for error. You’re also led through the story of the Hubble Space Telescope’s creation and application, learning how it has enabled us to better capture the magnificence of the universe and deepen our understanding of the cosmos. Using data and imagery from the Hubble Space Telescope itself, the film transports the viewer out into our celestial surrounding, taking you past the Helix Nebula, the iconic Pillars of Creation in the Eagle Nebula and into Saturn’s aurora. Dates and times vary. Check the schedule here to make sure it’s on during your planned Science Museum IMAX Theatre visit. Duration: 45 minutes Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult Tickets: Adults £11, Seniors £10, Concessions £9. Family of 3 (1 adult, 2 children) £23, family of 3 (2 adults, 1 child) £25. For 4 (1 adult, 3 children) it's £30, family of 4 (2 adults, 2 children) £32. 5 person family (2 adults, 3 children) £39 But a ticket is included with The London Pass. Show your London Pass at reception to pick up a ticket for that day's screening. [caption id="attachment_5576" align="alignnone" width="1000"] sciencemuseum.org.uk[/caption] Apollo 11: First Steps Edition 2D Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Apollo 11 mission, the first time that men walked on the Moon, this film recreates the summit of human space exploration using only archival footage from the time. There’s no Hollywood narrator here, no modern recreations, no talking heads. The stunning footage—including plenty previously unseen by the general public—is allowed to speak for itself. Although we all know how the mission went, the documentary does a fantastic job of creating and maintaining a suspenseful atmosphere, with real armrest-grabbing moments. This, along with the stunning visuals, generates a sense of wonder and awe for the accomplishments of the intrepid Apollo 11 adventurers and all those back on the ground who made it possible. Though you may feel you know all there is to know about the 1969 mission or seen all the footage there is to see, this movie challenges that assumption. As it does so, it reawakens a sense of astronomical excitement in even the most well-versed, space-saturated viewers. It’s the perfect way to celebrate the anniversary of the momentous mission. Dates and times vary. Check the schedule here to make sure it’s on during your planned Science Museum IMAX Theatre visit. Duration: 48 minutes Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult Tickets: Adults £11, Seniors £10, Concessions £9. Family of 3 (1 adult, 2 children) £23, family of 3 (2 adults, 1 child) £25. For 4 (1 adult, 3 children) it's £30, family of 4 (2 adults, 2 children) £32. 5 person family (2 adults, 3 children) £39 But a ticket is included with The London Pass. Show your London Pass at reception to pick up a ticket for that day's screening. [caption id="attachment_5577" align="alignnone" width="1000"] sciencemuseum.org.uk[/caption] A Beautiful Planet 3D (U) Narrated by Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence, A Beautiful Planet is a documentary that offers one of the most spectacular birds-eye views on humanity. Join astronauts on the International Space Station as they orbit our planet, see the world from their perspective and learn what such a perspective teaches us about the planet, the problems facing humans and what can be done to address them. The ISS, after all, is a collaborative international effort, and their existence up there, at the frontier of human exploration, learning and society, is humanity—or what humanity could be—in microcosm. The film includes fascinating footage of daily life on the ISS, and spectacular views of our planet, including sequences that dive into the eye of a tropical cyclone and reveal the splendour of the polar auroras. Our pressing ecological responsibilities are put front and centre in a love letter to a planet that needs us to work together. Dates and times vary. Check the schedule here to make sure it’s on during your planned Science Museum IMAX Theatre visit. Duration: 45 minutes Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult Tickets: Adults £11, Seniors £10, Concessions £9. Family of 3 (1 adult, 2 children) £23, family of 3 (2 adults, 1 child) £25. For 4 (1 adult, 3 children) it's £30, family of 4 (2 adults, 2 children) £32. 5 person family (2 adults, 3 children) £39 But a ticket is included with The London Pass. Show your London Pass at reception to pick up a ticket for that day's screening. [caption id="attachment_5578" align="alignnone" width="1000"] sciencemuseum.org.uk[/caption] Deep Sea 3D Swim with some of the most iconic, beautiful and dangerous beasts on the planet during this documentary, shot using IMAX 3D technology. Head down to depths few have seen to meet the creatures that live in our oceans. You’ll meet unusual underwater critters like the Rainbow Nudibranch and unbelievable deep-sea residents like the Giant Pacific Octopus. Danny Elfman provides the score, while Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet narrate, so there’s a splash of Hollywood magic on top of the marine marvellousness. Dates and times vary. Check the schedule here to make sure it’s on during your planned Science Museum IMAX Theatre visit. Duration: 45 minutes Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult Tickets: Adults £11, Seniors £10, Concessions £9. Family of 3 (1 adult, 2 children) £23, family of 3 (2 adults, 1 child) £25. For 4 (1 adult, 3 children) it's £30, family of 4 (2 adults, 2 children) £32. 5 person family (2 adults, 3 children) £39 But a ticket is included with The London Pass. Show your London Pass at reception to pick up a ticket for that day's screening. [caption id="attachment_5579" align="alignnone" width="1000"] sciencemuseum.org.uk[/caption] So, that's what's showing right now. Are you looking for more science-based attractions? Look no further.
Matthew Pearson

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