Taking to the skies with the new London cable car

London is a big city but it isn’t a tall one. Giant skyscrapers are few and far between and the city’s geographic spread makes getting a view of the skyline relatively difficult and/or expensive.

Sure, you can always brave the crowds at South Bank and queue up for the London Eye, clamber up Primrose Hill with a pair of binoculars or grapple with the tourists at St Paul’s Cathedral and its 530 steps.

Or you could just swipe your Oyster card and take a ride on the Emirates Air Line.

The Emirates Air Line - the London cable car

Great Britain’s first ever urban cable car system spanning the River Thames was unveiled in June – just in time for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Linking the O2 Arena – sorry, the North Greenwich Arena – with the ExCel exhibition centre in south-east London, the Emirates Air Line cable car is a fantastic initiative that offers panoramic views across the capital.

The queues are long but they move fast – a heck of a lot quicker than the lines at BT London Live in Hyde Park – carrying 2,500 people an hour across the River Thames.

The view over London from the Emirates Air Line

The best thing about the London cable car – in the opinion of this budget traveller at least – is the price.

With an Oyster card (pay as you go, Travelcard, Freedom Pass etc) it’ll set you back £3.20 one-way and £6.40 return; children cost £1.60 and £3.20 respectively.

If you don’t have an Oyster card – and you should if you’re in London for anything longer than a couple of days – then you’ll need to queue up first to buy a ticket and then join the queue to get in. The price is £4.30 in one direction, £8.60 for both ways; children cost £2.20 one-way or £4.40 return.

Views over London and the O2 from the cable car

And the view is spectacular – especially on a rare sunny day in London, like when I caught the cable car from North Greenwich. It was busier there than it was at the other end but my fiancé and I were on board within 10-15mins.

The journey takes about 10 minutes and takes in The O2/North Greenwich Arena, Canary Wharf, the Thames Barrier and, prominent on the horizon, the London 2012 Olympic Park.

Dubai-based airline Emirates is sponsoring the cable car for 10 years at a cost of £36m, which goes some way towards covering the £60m total cost to build and run the cable car.

The yachts of the rich and famous parked at Canary Wharf in LondonSuper yacht docked at Canary Wharf

And if you’re in the Canary Wharf area, then you should also check out the luxury super-yachts docked down at Wood Wharf in east London – the £130m Octopus being the largest and flashest of them all.

As glimpses into the lives of the mega rich and famous go, it’s but a fleeting one – but there was a bit of a party going on onboard one of the boats when I went down there for a look. My invite must have been lost in the mail.

My super yacht (just kidding) parked up at Canary Wharf in LondonYou might also enjoy cheap and cheerful things to do in London.

About Simon Petersen 506 Articles
Travel blogger, journalist, sports and movie fiend. Chronicling the life and times of a Kiwi at home and abroad.


  1. This looks….high. Sorry, I’m still slightly traumatised from a cable car ride I took earlier. Although at least my legs won’t be dangling out of this one.

    I wish it had a different name, though. It always sounds tacky to me when the companies paying for it include their name in the product. Just whack a few logos on there, Emirates!

    • I know what you mean about the naming – unless I get a kickback from Emirates (hint hint) then I’m loathe to call it by its sponsored name!

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