The 14 Best and Most Famous Ferris Wheels in the World
A ride on a Ferris wheel is one of the best ways to see a city, offering panoramic views at a leisurely pace.
First invented in the 19th century, the Ferris wheel was a popular summertime amusement, and quickly became a staple of fairgrounds across the world. In larger cities, it also offered a great way of sightseeing, allowing weary tourists to sit back, relax, and enjoy the urban panorama.
Our enthusiasm for this historic form of entertainment shows no sign of abating, and Ferris wheels continue to make their mark on cities from Chicago to Melbourne. The turn of the 21st century witnessed a flurry of new constructions, from the London Eye to the Singapore Flyer. Cities now compete to build bigger, better, brighter Ferris wheels, with state-of-the-art technology and stunning feats of engineering.
Today, the quaint image of the historic Ferris wheel is long gone. Observation wheels are now so high that a ride is often described as a ‘flight’, and at night these stunning structures are illuminated in magnificent light displays. A ride on one of these futuristic Ferris wheels is not to be missed!
Here’s our guide to the best, and most famous, Ferris wheels around the world.
1. The London Eye
The London Eye may not be the tallest Ferris wheel in the world, but it is certainly one of the most famous. Surprisingly, it was only ever intended to be in place for a few years, but 18 years on from its opening, it is a popular as ever. Constructed at the turn of the 21st century to celebrate the new Millennium, the London Eye is now an integral part of the city’s iconic skyline.
The Eye is one of London’s most popular attractions, and it’s not difficult to understand why. Each of the 32 spacious pods holds 25 people, who are carried smoothly into the sky for a 30-minute trip. The views are without parallel, and this pleasant ride is by far the best way to see across the whole of the city. Take in the epic sights of the city of London, including Buckingham Palace, St Pauls Cathedral, Westminster, and Big Ben.
Don’t be alarmed if you find yourself boarding capsule number 33 – during construction, it was decided to skip number 13 to avoid any unlucky disasters for tourists on the wheel!
The south bank of the river, where the Eye is located, is also a popular place for tourists, containing a number of other important attractions, including the London Aquarium, the London Dungeon and the Jubilee Gardens. When your feet begin to tire of walking (after all, London is a huge city), hop on the London Eye for a more relaxing sightseeing experience!
2. The Riesenrad, Vienna
If you’re looking for a little nostalgia, the Riesenrad offers the perfect antidote to the high-tech, giant Ferris wheels that dominate many major cities. This beautiful Ferris wheel was first built in 1897, to mark the Golden Jubilee of the Emperor Franz Josef. Lovingly restored in 1947 after damage caused during the Second World War, the Riesenrad is a joy to behold.
Located in the Prater amusement park, the Riesenrad offers lovely views across the city, and even luxury cocktails and dinner whilst you enjoy the ride. However, the joy of this Ferris wheel isn’t the view (there are taller buildings in Vienna to get that panoramic photo). The Riesenrad will transport you back to the late 19th century, evoking an image of a simpler time. You may even recognise the beautifully designed capsules from movies such as Before Sunrise or The Third Man.
At 214 feet tall, it’s certainly not the largest Ferris wheel in the world, and its 15 capsules don’t have the high-tech features you can find on the Singapore Flyer or the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel. However, what it lacks in slick features, it makes up for in bucket loads of charm.
3. The High Roller, Las Vegas
The world’s tallest Ferris wheel is currently to be found in Las Vegas, Nevada. The High Roller was opened in 2014, knocking the 541-foot high Singapore Flyer off the top spot. Passengers ride the wheel in one of 28 specially designed pods, each of which can carry up to 40 people.
Standing 550 feet tall, the High Roller dominates the Las Vegas skyline, and offers excellent views over Caesar’s Palace and the Las Vegas Strip. Come here to rise above the temptations of the entertainment capital of the world, and look upon the bright lights of Vegas in a rare moment of peace and tranquillity.
4. The Navy Pier Ferris Wheel, Chicago
The very first Ferris wheel was constructed in 19th-century Chicago, and was designed by the civil engineer George Washington Ferris. Although similar entertainment wheels could be found around the world prior to this, it was Ferris who gave the wheel its name and its popularity. The original Ferris wheel was 264 feet high, and was built as part of the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, in direct answer to the Eiffel Tower, which had been the centrepiece of the Paris Exposition in 1889.
Although the original Ferris wheel has long since been destroyed, its spirit lives on in the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel in present-day Chicago. Built in 2016 as part of the centennial celebrations for the city’s Navy Pier, the new Ferris wheel was designed in a 21st century homage to its original namesake. However, the new wheel contains state-of-the-art features that allow it to compete with any of its international rivals.
Passengers take off in air-conditioned gondolas fitted out with trademark blue seats, and rise high above the city, taking in stunning views out across the lake. Each gondola is also fitted out with a high-tech multimedia system that displays interesting facts about the city and its surroundings. The Navy Pier Ferris wheel is the perfect combination of nostalgia for the city’s 19th century history, and up-to-date technological development. Look over the city and absorb Chicago’s fascinating past and exciting present.
5. The Pacific Wheel, Santa Monica
California’s Santa Monica Pier is home to world’s first solar-powered Ferris wheel. The Pacific Wheel, originally built in 1996 and reconstructed in 2008, is 130 feet tall, and is lit up every evening by 174,000 solar powered LEDs. This dazzling display is also very environmentally friendly and is one of Santa Monica Pier’s main attractions.
Rides offer incomparable views over the beach and the coastline, but it is the computer-generated light show that really steals the show.
6. The Niagara Skywheel, Niagara
Canada’s place on this list is well earned by the exceptional views offered by the Niagara Skywheel. This Ferris wheel offers some of the most spectacular views over the Niagara Falls, allowing visitors to really understand the scope and drama of this fabulous landscape. Offering clear views over the Falls and the Niagara River, the Skywheel is not to be missed.
The Niagara Skywheel stands at 175 feet high, and boasts 42 state-of-the-art air-conditioned capsules, transporting passengers high into the air above the river. It is Canada’s largest and most impressive Ferris wheel, and offers an alternative way to see the Falls for those who prefer to float on air as opposed to water! Swap the boat for the wheel and get that perfect image of the Niagara Falls.
7. The Singapore Flyer
Once the tallest Ferris wheel in the world, the Singapore Flyer towers 541 feet above the iconic city of Singapore. Journeys in one of the 28 slick, air-conditioned capsules take approximately 30 minutes, and offer expansive views across the city and beyond. On a clear day, it’s even possible to see all the way across to Malaysia and Indonesia.
This Ferris wheel is perhaps at its best at dusk, when the golden light of the sunset casts an ethereal glow over the city. As the dying rays of the sun dip below the horizon, the twinkling lights of Singapore begin to glitter, allowing you to see the city at its best. If you’re looking for luxury, the Singapore Flyer also offers a range of fine-dining experiences in its luxury pods, with full butler service, a four-course menu, and unbeatable views.
Taking a trip on this Ferris wheel may also bring you good luck. There are 28 capsules, each of which hold 28 people, and each journey takes 28 minutes. The number 8 is regarded as particularly auspicious in Chinese cultures, symbolising good luck. The number 28, therefore, means twice (2x) good luck, and so a ride on the Ferris wheel may bring you considerable good fortune! Many superstitious gamblers in Singapore take this matter very seriously, and always take a ride on the Singapore Flyer before they head for a night in the casino! Make sure to try your luck with both during your stay in Singapore.
8. The Star of Nanchang
China’s largest Ferris wheel is the Star of Nanchang, another former contender for the title of world’s largest Ferris wheel. Standing at a towering height of 541 feet, this colossal wheel carries up to 480 passengers in its 60 air-conditioned pods.
This magnificent feat of engineering is shown to its best advantage at night, when thousands of tiny LED lights illuminate the wheel and the surrounding area, proudly displaying the message ‘Welcome to Nanchang’. Nanchang itself is one of China’s smaller cities, but is growing quickly, and its colossal Ferris wheel is an important marker of the city’s economic and cultural importance.
9. The Cosmo Clock 21, Yokohama
The Cosmo Clock isn’t Japan’s largest Ferris wheel, but it is the world’s largest clock. The wheel was designed and built for the YES ’89 Yokohama Exposition, and is located inside Yokohama Cosmo World.
The Cosmo Clock offers stunning views across to Mount Fuji and the Boso Peninsula. Each one of the 60 gondolas holds 8 people, which makes this a more personal experience than many of the larger and busier Ferris wheels. The ride lasts 15 minutes and is a great way to see the city.
However, the real attraction of this wheel is seen from the ground. At night, the Cosmo Clock is lit up in a fabulous array of colours, and there is a light show every 15 minutes. Each of the 60 spokes is transformed into flares, fireworks and flowers in a beautiful display that keeps visitors coming back again and again.
10. The Canton Tower Wheel, Guangzhou
Also known as the ‘Bubble Tram’, the Canton Tower Wheel is a Ferris wheel with a difference. Located 1476 feet up in the air at the top of the famous Canton Tower in Guangzhou, this horizontal Ferris wheel takes passengers on a journey around the tower, offering 360-degree views across the city.
The world will literally spin beneath your feet as you board one of the 16 transparent pods that rotate slowly around the top of the tower. This is the perfect way to get fantastic views across the up-and-coming city of Guangzhou, whilst enjoying a unique Ferris wheel experience. However – this is not a ride for those with a fear of heights. For thrill-seekers only!
11. The Melbourne Star
The Melbourne Star Observation Wheel is a magnificent feat of engineering. At 40 storeys high, it is the largest solid steel construction in the world, and is one of the top ten largest Ferris wheels ever built. The seven-pointed star design is a direct nod to the Australian flag, and this is showed off to perfection in the daily light show.
The Melbourne Star offers remarkable views over the city, allowing visitors a 360- degree view across Victoria. This is really the best way to see across the city and beyond, with views extending to the Dandenongs, the Mornington Peninsula, and Port Philip Bay.
Those with a taste for luxury can always enjoy a glass of wine in the VIP departure lounge before they take off. The Melbourne Star is a treat in all seasons, and even in winter it offers something a little bit special. Take to the wheel in July and enjoy heated capsules, comfortable bean-bags, mulled wine and a cheese platter as part of the floating winter chalet experience!
12. La Grande Roue de la Sablette, Algiers
The title of the largest Ferris wheel in Africa goes to La Grande Roue de la Sablette, situated in the Mohammadia district of Algiers. This striking wheel forms a major attraction at the amusement park of Les Sablettes, looking out over Algeria’s Mediterranean coast.
The wheel has 27 air-conditioned cabins, of which one is designated for VIP guests. Lucky visitors can expect drinks, nibbles and even a buffet as they soar 164 feet into the sky and enjoy panoramic views over the stunning Bay of Algiers. Come here on Fridays when families flock to the seafront, and enjoy the party atmosphere!
13. The Cape Wheel, Cape Town
For 360 degree views of Cape Town and the very southern tip of Africa, look no further than the Cape Wheel. This 131-foot wheel is not the largest offering on this list, but it boasts spectacular views. Look out across Table Mountain, Robben Island, and the Paarl Mountains, in addition to a bird’s-eye view of the city itself.
At night the Cape Wheel bursts into flames, lit up by 2 million tiny LED lights. This beautiful piece of engineering is also eco-friendly, and is a beautiful addition to the Cape Town landscape. Each ticket guarantees you up to four revolutions, so you’ll be certain to snap the perfect picture of the nearby mountains and stunning vista.
The Ferris Wheels of the Future
14. Ain Dubai
Technically this gargantuan Ferris wheel has not yet been completed, but when it is finally opened at some point later this year, it will overtake the High Roller as the largest Ferris wheel in the world. Ain Dubai will stand at a colossal height of 689 feet, and forms part of the Bluewaters Island Development Project close to the Dubai Marina. The island will be home to a vast entertainment complex, with shops, hotels, museums, nightlife, apartments, a private beach, and a wide variety of leisure activities. Ain Dubai will provide stunning 360-degree views of the city and the coastline, in addition to transforming Dubai’s skyline.
The Ain Dubai cost £298 million to build, carries 1400 passengers at once, and each rotation will take around 45 minutes. However, this state-of-the-art Ferris wheel is much more than first meets the eye. Each pod will be so expansive that they will carry 40 passengers each, with plenty of room to stroll around. 12 of the 48 passenger pods will be ‘luxury capsules’, which may be rented out for fine dining and exclusive events. A further 6 pods will have a fully licensed bar, perfect for a sunset aperitif.
If you’re of a more adventurous mind-set, head for one of the legs of the wheel, where a rope-climbing platform has been installed. At a height of 492 feet, this rope-climbing platform is the tallest of its kind anywhere in the world, which will make the Ain Dubai a record-breaking attraction on two counts. This will surely be the Ferris wheel to beat them all.
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