The race to build the world’s largest Ferris wheel is well and truly on! There’s something magical about seeing an entire city from these vast rotating rings, and they’re getting bigger and bigger with every new and increasingly ambitious project. And when it comes to the biggest Ferris wheels in the world, they’re incredible feats of design, engineering and construction and truly awe-inspiring in their size and skyline dominance.
Structural engineer George Washington Gale Ferris Jr built the first Ferris wheel in 1893 for the World’s Columbian Exhibition in Chicago. However it seems large rotating wheels with capsules designed for people to sit in were around at least two centuries before the Ferris Wheel Company was incorporated.
It’s possible they originated in Constantinople – modern-day Istanbul – or Bulgaria in the early seventeenth century. Travellers wrote of chairs suspended from big wooden rings turned by strongmen and similar types of wheels appeared in England as well as Serbia, Romania and India around the same time.
As with most inventions, as materials, designs and engineering techniques became more sophisticated, so did the wheels. In fact Ferris’s wheel in Chicago was over eighty metres tall with 36 cars, each able to accommodate sixty people (you can see how that compares to the world’s largest Ferris wheel below).
Today, the biggest Ferris wheels in the world are fantastic experiences (if you like heights) and they seem to defy the laws of physics. Here’s the list of the world’s biggest wheels.
Location: Vienna, Austria | Height: 64.75 metres | Built: 1897
For sixty-five years between 1920 and 1985, the Vienna Giant Wheel was the largest Ferris wheel in the world. Located in the Prater public park, it’s one of the world’s oldest amusement parks. Not only is it the oldest operating Ferris wheel in the world, it’s also one of the most beautiful.
Location: London, UK | Height: 135 metres | Built: 2000
Originally known as the Millennium Wheel, the 2,100 tonne London Eye isn’t the world’s largest Ferris wheel, but it is the tallest observation wheel in Europe. Each of the thirty-two capsules can hold around 25 people and the rotation rate is so slow – under 1 km/h – that the wheel doesn’t stop to let passengers on and off. It’s among the UK’s most popular paid tourist attractions, with around three million visitors a year, and it’s believed around 5,000 couples have got engaged on the Eye!
Star of Nanchang
Location: Jiangxi, China | Height: 160 metres | Built: 2006
The ‘star’ attraction at the Nanchang Star Amusement Park in the southeast province of Jiangxi, the Star of Nanchang was the biggest giant wheel in the world from 2006 until 2008. The sixty, air-conditioned gondolas can carry a maximum of 960 passengers per hour with a full rotation taking thirty minutes.
Location: Marina Bay, Singapore | Height: 165 metres | Built: 2008
The S$240 million – around £147 million – Singapore Flyer was built in the shadow of the Marina Bay Sands, one of the biggest hotels in the world. On a clear day, it offers sensational views of Singapore and into Malaysia and the Indonesian islands. One of the biggest Ferris wheels in the world, it is the tallest in Asia. Each of the twenty-eight capsules can hold twenty-eight people.
Location: Las Vegas, USA | Height: 167.6 metres | Built: 2014
In the city of excess, the perfectly-named High Roller is one of the stand-out stars. The second tallest observation wheel in the world weighs 3,266 tonnes and has a capacity of 1,120 people in twenty-eight, 40-person cabins. It’s reinforced by 112 cables that stretch a total of 8,500 metres, and the nighttime views of the Las Vegas Strip are said to be sensational!
Location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates | Height: 250 metres | Built: 2021
The city that’s home to the tallest building in the world is also home to the largest Ferris wheel in the world. In fact, Ain Dubai is so big, it’s over eighty metres taller than the second placed wheel, the High Roller in Las Vegas. To give it some sense of scale, the centre hub of Ain Dubai is just nine metres shorter than the top of the London Eye.
The 1,805-tonne wheel is located on a man-made island called Bluewaters, 400 metres off the coast, and can carry 1,750 passengers in 48 cabins. So there we have it, the biggest Ferris wheels in the world. They wheely are massive!