The Festival Wheel (aka "Edinburgh Festival Wheel" and "Big Wheel") is a large mechanical, red and white Ferris Wheel, situated in the centre of Edinburgh, in East Princes Street Garden. The large wheel is a temporary structure, raised during the summer months at the Edinburgh Festivals and in the Winter at Edinburgh's Christmas. It's called the "Forth 1 Big Wheel" in 2021 - DJs from local Radio 1 have put together a soundtrack that plays during the ride.
In terms of size, the Christmas ferris wheel in 2021 has 36 enclosed, weather-proof pods each of which can carry six people.
Previously, the attraction was an Italian-made ferris wheel had 27 gondolas and around 20,000 lights. At 42 metres high, it wasn't quite as tall as the neighbouring Scott Monument.
The open-air, cage design of the earlier gondola allowed for room for taking unobstructed photographs and video of the city below. The gondolas on the current Big Wheel provide cover from the weather, and unimpeded views, but photographers must contend with the sheen and reflections off the window as the wheel makes its rounds.
The last Edinburgh Wheel to operate over the summer months was in 2019. Edinburgh City Council did not renew the operator's contract due to fears about damage to mature trees in the park and amid criticisms of over-commercialisation of public park space.
What to look out for
After paying for tickets in a booth at the foot of the Wheel, or booking online, riders are boarded onto one of the gondalas, at various points on the wheel. The wheel gradually climbs in stages above the gardens as the operators carefully load their human cargo, paying attention to load balancing. The Wheel then spins for three rotations before, a few minutes later, passengers are disembarked.
As the Festival Wheel cycles up and down, the rider is presented with a panoramic sweep that extends West down Princes Street and across to Edinburgh Castle.
In the distant North East the coastline becomes visible and then sinks behind Edinburgh rooftops, while in the other direction you get a bird's eye view of Waverley Station and the jumble of buildings of the Old Town ascending to the Castle. In the distance, Arthur's Seat and Holyrood Park also come into view.
Opening Times (2021)
20th November - 2nd January 2022
10am – 10pm (last admission 9.45pm)
Ticket Prices (2021)
£10 (Concession £7.50)
Family tickets: £30 (4 people with max 2 adults are available)
Note: Tickets are date-specific, but there are no set time slots - admission is on a first-come, first-served basis.
Allow extra time if you plan to attend during busy periods.
Edinburgh residents will receive a 20% discount with proof of their EH postcode.