We recently took our first trip to London, and given this fact, we didn’t want to miss out on the iconic London Eye. After a little research, and not knowing when our next chance to ride the Eye would be, we decided to go with the VIP champagne experience. The cost online is normally about 13 euros more than the standard entry but we were lucky enough to find it during a special for only 10 euros more per person. This additional cost came with added perks such as fast track entry, champagne toast on the eye, and access to the Eye Lounge before riding the Eye.
Needless to say we were very excited when the time came but after arriving we also noticed there were a few parts that were rather confusing and a couple of people we talked to actually missed their time for the Eye. Fortunately, they were able to re-accommodate these people on a later ride but hopefully us going over this saves someone a future headache.
The Check-in Process
The main door to enter for purchasing and picking up the standard entry tickets is at the edge of the County Hall building, right near the London Eye. However, when we entered through this door the line was extremely long and it was a bit confusing as to if this was also the line for picking up the champagne experience tickets as well. Fortunately, we noticed there was another area around the corner for picking up the VIP champagne experience. However, we did run into some other people who were not as lucky since they found themselves waiting in the standard entry line for an hour before being told they needed to pick up their tickets around the corner..
If you do decide to purchase the VIP Champagne Tasting Experience then I would suggest entering through the door with the “County Hall” awning, pictured above.
After entering, turn to the left where there should be a view similar to the one above for VIP Experiences. Our wait in this line was only 5-10 minutes, which we didn’t think much of until we heard the story I previously mentioned from the people behind us, who had just stood in the standard entry line for over an hour! This story alone made us happy we did the champagne experience and we hadn’t even had the experience yet!
The Eye Lounge
After waiting in line and confirming our information they directed us upstairs to the Eye Lounge with our tickets. It wasn’t too full and we waited there until someone came up to call our time for the London Eye.
While waiting in the Eye Lounge we were also given one complimentary glass of champagne in addition to the glass while on the eye. It was certainly a nice touch and we felt it was a much better experience than waiting in the long line outside. We waited in the lounge until the guide came up to call the time for our group.
The London Eye Experience
After rounding up everyone in the Eye Lounge we went down to the lobby with our guide where she grabbed the baskets of champagne and glasses.
We all followed the champagne, and the guide, to the fast track entry where we waited for about 10 minutes before being able to board one of the large cars. The image above really shows how long the line can get for the standard entry. The small brown wall in the center of the image with people standing next to it is still part of the line for the standard entry. We asked our guide and she said the wait time from there could take over an hour and a half.
After being extremely happy we didn’t need to spend over an hour and a half waiting in line to ride the Eye, the whole group boarded the car as it came around without stopping.
As we slowly went up our views of London continued to improve, and since the car was so big we were able to freely move around and take in the surrounding from all sides. Then came the bubbly..
Pretty quickly after boarding the guide started popping all the bottles and pouring glasses for everyone. We then had a quick toast and the entirety of our ride to sip on champagne and take in the wonderful views of London along the River Thames.
Above: Toasting our champagne glasses with the views of the River Thames, Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey in the background.
As we came down on the other side we were disappointed it was coming to an end and certainly wouldn’t have complained if they had sent us around again with another glass of champagne – but hey, maybe that can be an option they add down the road? Nonetheless we were afforded a great view of the former County Hall building, now home to the London Marriott County Hall, as our journey came to an end.
For most people I would suggest spending the extra money on this experience. Vacations are a time to make memories and by doing this you are spending more time doing that and less time waiting in a long line to ride the Eye. I understand there are circumstances where this type of experience wouldn’t make sense, for example a family with younger children comes to mind. But overall we both agreed that the small up charge was well worth it between the fast track entry, private group, access to the Eye Lounge with champagne, and the glass of champagne on the Eye. Consider giving it a try, you’ll be hard pressed to regret it. We certainly wouldn’t do it any differently if we ever returned to London and wanted to ride the Eye again. If anyone else has toured the London Eye in this fashion, or if anyone has questions about our experience, we would love to hear your thoughts below!