The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is one of my favourite places in East London. The park is the former site of the London 2012 Olympic Games. The area has been transformed to include beautiful park lands, water ways and playgrounds. It is also home to the striking ArcelorMittal Orbit structure.
History and Information: The ArcelorMittal Orbit is more commonly known as the Orbit. It is a 115 metres high observation tower that is located in the heart of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The Orbit is Britain’s largest piece of public art and allows visitors to see the city skyline from it’s viewing platform.
Orbit was designed by Turner-Prize winning artist Sir Anish Kapoor and world famous designer Cecil Balmond. The Orbit design has both sculptural and structural engineering, and combines both stability and instability in its design to give visitors a more engaging experience. The vertical central tower is surrounded a spiralling staircase and a striking red steel design. It has been both praised and criticised for its bold design, but whether you love it or loathe it The Orbit has become a lasting symbol and legacy of the Olympic Park and Games.
The project was expected to cost £19.1 million, with £16 million coming from Britain’s then-richest man, the steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal. The structure was completed in 2012 and opened to the public in 2014. Steel is the primary material used in the sculptures spiralling design. Approximately 2,000 tonnes of steel was used. Around 60% of that steel is recycled steel from details including old machine machines and used cars. Views about The Orbital are mixed and the number of visitors has been less then anticipated, leaving the project in debt.
Getting There: The Orbit is located in the heart of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, between the Olympic Stadium and Aquatics Centre. It is about a ten minute walk from Stratford International Station, which has the Central Line, Jubilee Line, DLR and National Rail Services. It is also a short walk from Statford and Hackney Wick overground stations.
If you are looking to drive there then you can pay to park in the near by Stratford Station car park or Westfield Shopping Centre car park and then walk through the park to The Orbit.
Price: A standard adult ticket costs £12.50 and a child ticket costs £7.50. If you also want to ride on the slide then it is an additional £5. If you buy the tickets online beforehand then you can get 10% off the ticket price. If you live in one of the near by host boroughs you can also get some discount on ticket prices. They also have discounts for students, seniors and families. Be sure to bring proof with you if you are eligible for one of the many discounts.
The Orbit is open from 11 am to 5 pm on Monday to Friday and from 10 am to 7 pm on the weekend. Last entry is 30 minutes closing time.
Accessibility: The Orbit is generally accessible as there is a lift that takes visitors up to the viewing platform. For the slide they recommend contacting them beforehand to see whether they are able to facilitate and meet the accessibility requirements of visitors with additional needs. You can also contact them if you have a Blue Badge as they are able to provide a limited number of parking spaces near by for Blue Badge holders.
Things to do: The Orbit has 2 viewing platforms which offer panoramic views of East London and the City. Some of the iconic site to see include the Shard, the Gherkin, Big Ben, Canary Wharf and the 02 arena. You can also the Olympic Stadium and Aquatics Centre. The viewing platform can also be hired for private events and parties. Of course depending on what time you go you get a day or night time view.
Visitors take a lift to the top to go to viewing platform, which is both indoors and outdoors. The lift will whisk you up 80m to the viewing platform in 34 seconds. You can then come down in the lift or descend down the 455 step spiral staircase, where you are accompanied by the sounds of local London.
In 2016, a permanent slide designed by German artist Carsten Höller was added to the sculpture. The slide is reported to be the world’s tallest and longest tunnel slide at 178 metres and only takes 40 seconds to get through. The slide has transparent sections and twists and turns.
You can also book an abseiling experience down the side of the tower. It is the UK’s highest freefall abseil from the UK’s tallest sculpture at 262 feet above the city.
I would say the Orbit takes around an hour to visit. If you are going on the slide then allow up to 2 hours. Once you have finished there is lots to do around The Orbit, including of course the lovely Queen Elizabeth Olympic park which has lots to explore and experience. If you want to know more about the park I did a blog post on it a few months ago (
At the base of the Orbit is The Last Drop Cafe. The Orbit is also in walking distance to Westfield shopping centre which has an array of shops, eateries and also a multi-faith prayer room.
Final Thoughts: Although views on The Orbit are mixed, I personally enjoyed my visit there and have come to accept this striking structure as part of the skyline of East London. I think it is worth visiting the structure at least once to experience the height and views that it has to offer. If you are looking for a thrill then the slide or the abseil is also worth checking out. For more information check out their website http://arcelormittalorbit.com/