Officially known as the 'Emirates Air Line', this cable car across the Thames was launched in 2012 as part of the London Olympics transport system. It carries people between The O2 and ExCel London, with fantastic views of the O2 Arena, skyscrapers at Canary Wharf, London City Airport, and the Thames Barrier further up the river.
A word of warning: The cable car is very high (those with vertigo should definitely be aware!) and it sways noticeably as it dangles from the wire -- you can definitely feel it move. But that's what makes it so fun (apparently!) It's also very easy to ride -- if you've got an Oyster Card, Visitor Oyster Card or contactless card then you don't even need to buy a ticket. You can just swipe it through the barrier in exactly the same way that you do on the London underground. [Note: You can buy yourself a Visitor Oyster Card online. You can also combine them with a London Pass, to save you even more money.]
The tiny cabins travel the 1.1 kilometres in five to ten minutes (the speed will vary depending on how busy the terminals are, because they slow down to let the people on and off). If you're lucky then you might get one cabin all to yourself, but during busy times you might have to share it with up to ten people. (You can pay for a private cabin if you like, but the cost is extortionate for a 5-minute ride.)
Craig has been on this ride a few times (but not willingly, he's scared of heights!), and you might like to read his reviews before you go -- here, here and here. You can also ask him a question about the cable car before you go. Or how about writing your own review after you've been? Then you can let people know what they're in for!
Craig recommends combining a trip on the cable car with a boat ride on the Thames Clipper, which travels from Big Ben to the pier at the O2. (The other boat companies only go as far as Greenwich, so it has to be a Thames Clipper.) A great way to get back from the ExCel end is on the Docklands Light Railway, which is an automated monorail train, so you can sit at the front and watch out the window -- check out Craig's review to see what it's like (it's a lot better than it sounds).
Note: Whilst the cars were certainly useful during the London Olympics, we feel that they are less so now, because unless you're actually watching an event at The O2 or the ExCel Centre there is very little for you to do at either end of the journey. There are plenty of restaurants and pub-type places inside the The O2 (which you can enter without a ticket), and there are also a few shops and restaurants at the ExCel end -- but that's about it.
Guest – “Would I be able to take a small overnight case on the cable car ?”
Admin – “Of course, yes. They do have members of staff standing in front of the cabins, though, so you might have to open it and let them look inside.”
If you enjoy great views then you might like these other London events…
View from The Shard — London’s tallest building – Every dayEnjoy the stunning views from the top of The Shard -- London's tallest skyscraper -- more than 1000-feet above the city.
See London from the top of the London Eye – Every dayEvery tourist should spend an hour riding the London Eye at the start of their break, as it gives a great overview of the city.
Tropical garden at the top of the Sky Garden – Every dayThe Sky Garden is a three-story garden that spans the top three floors of 20 Fenchurch Street (aka the Walkie Scorchie).
Enjoy the view from Primrose Hill – Every dayPrimrose Hill is a lot higher than it looks, and boasts one of the finest views of the London skyline from anywhere in the city.
Whispering Gallery at St. Paul’s Cathedral – Monday to SaturdaySt Paul's Cathedal has got three domes that you can climb up -- the Whispering Gallery, Stone Gallery and Golden Gallery.
Climb to the top of The Monument – Every dayThe Monument to the Great Fire of London has a balcony at the top, which gives tourists some decent views of The City.
Westminster Cathedral’s bell tower – Every dayWestminster Cathedral's campanile is one of the city's best viewing platforms, rising 210 feet over the streets of Victoria.
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