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No - You can't see the Eiffel Tower from the London Eye!

Updated on April 22, 2015

The London Eye

The view from the London Eye

The number of people who have “flown” in the London Eye since it was erected to mark the year 2000 has exceeded 50 million. They have gazed out at the view of London and its surroundings and pointed out in excitement at everything they can see – Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, Windsor Castle, the Eiffel Tower …

What was that? The Eiffel Tower? You mean the one in Paris?

That’s what they some of them say – on a clear day, from the top of the London Eye, you can see the Eiffel Tower!

This claim is made so often that it must be true, surely? As we all know, that many American tourists can’t possibly be wrong!

Sorry, folks, but the view isn’t quite that good! Let’s just think about it for a minute. Paris is about 200 miles to the south of London. If you could see that far, then you would also be able to see 200 miles in every other direction, giving you a view of Plymouth, Bristol, Swansea, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Hull … assuming that there were no hills in the way!

But of course you can’t see that far, simply because we all live on a ball, not a plate. The curvature of the Earth comes into play, such that the view from a height of 443 feet (the top of the London Eye) is limited to about 25 miles on a clear day, which means that you can just about see Windsor Castle (looking west), but not much further than that.

So what is that tower, then?

Looking south, in the direction of the Eiffel Tower, your view is blocked by the hills of the south London suburbs. The maximum height above sea level of this rim of higher land is 367 feet, at Crystal Palace, so your line of sight is not far from horizontal. If you could see anything on the other side of this obstacle it would have to be incredibly tall! To see anything 200 miles on the other side it would have to be astronomically tall!

However, there is a clue here as to where people make their mistake. Crystal Palace (so named because this was the place to which the original Crystal Palace was moved after the Great Exhibition of 1851), is the site of a massive television transmitter, standing 719 feet tall. It was built in 1956 and is still used as the main transmitter for the London region, relaying many TV and radio stations.

Being the height it is, it needed to be built on a solid foundation, with four sturdy steel pillars curving upwards to support the business end thrusting skywards. Indeed, it could almost be mistaken for another famous landmark of similar shape and size (1000 feet), but 200 miles distant!

Hm! I wonder if, by any chance, that could be why all those tourists go home thinking they have seen a lot further than they really have? !!!

The Crystal Palace Transmission Mast

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    • profile image

      Winnie Dailey 

      17 months ago

      I have been to London twice and have yet to ride the London Eye.

      If it's raining or foggy, it's not worth the money or the time.

    • profile image

      Anon 

      17 months ago

      I wouldn't just blame this on American tourists. I got to this page because I just saw a London-born teenager post that she's always loved that she can see the Eiffel Tower from certain South London parks! I thought, 'hmm, that doesn't sound possible, but I'm going to google it,' and here I am!

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      5 years ago from Brazil

      This is funny. I am an American who lived in the UK for many years. I use to cringe at some of the things American tourists would say. I overheard some who were looking at Windsor Castle, they said, "Oh look, it is just like LegoLand!"

      The Brits should put a French flag on those TV masts. Americans aren't good at geography.

    • profile image

      Lally 

      8 years ago

      When I went there it was a sunny day and I could see a tower very far away, but I knew it couldn't be the Eiffel tower, it's toooooo far! Now I know it's a radio transmitter mast AHAH I always wondered what was that, cause you definitely can see it!

    • De Greek profile image

      De Greek 

      8 years ago from UK

      Some of that was really funny :-)

    • festersporling1 profile image

      Daniel Christian 

      8 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Nice hub sir.

    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 

      8 years ago from France

      Last time I was there all I saw was fog :( I enjoyed the ride though!

    • PaulaK profile image

      Paula Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Austin. Texas

      I like your hub, thought provoking! I have not been to that area of the world, but would love to go!

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