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