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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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