Photos: World's top 10 best observation and Ferris wheels

RIESENRAD, VIENNA

Ferris wheels became all the rage in the late 19th century, and this example in Vienna is one of the last from the era (1879) still in operation. It's hard not to think of the post-WWII movie The Third Man – in which it had a starring role – as you ride its old-fashioned red gondolas. The wheel whirls above The Prater, the city's favourite recreation area since 1766. See wienerriesenrad.com

LONDON EYE, LONDON

The trendsetter for the 21st century Ferris (renamed observation) wheel was conceived for the millennium as a representation of the slow turn of time. Despite its massive size, it is surprisingly elegant and as much part of the London skyline as the famous buildings it overlooks, which include the Houses of Parliament across the Thames River. On a clear day, views stretch 40 kilometres to the countryside. See londoneye.com

SINGAPORE FLYER, SINGAPORE

Float above Marina Bay for dazzling views over skyscrapers, colonial buildings and Singapore's river and harbour, stunning at night when it reflects glittering lights. Clear days allow you to see all the way to the Malaysian mainland and Indonesian islands. You can enjoy a four-course meal as you turn. This being Singapore, a food centre beneath the Flyer dishes up chilli crab, laksa and chicken rice. See singaporeflyer.com

COSMO CLOCK 21, YOKOHAMA

At night, Yokohama's redeveloped Minato Mirai waterfront is a whirligig of neon lights and merrymaking residents, out to catch sea breezes and entertainment in this port city. A rotation on the harbour-front Ferris wheel, once the world's tallest, takes 15 minutes. For added excitement, wait for a see-through gondola. On clear days, you can see all of Yokohama Bay, Tokyo's skyscrapers and even Mt Fuji. See goyokohama.jp

HIGH ROLLER, LAS VEGAS

At 167.6 metres, this Ferris wheel has been the world's tallest since 2014. A 30-minute rotation provides glittering views of The Strip. Naturally, you can booze at an open bar or host stag or hen parties in the gondolas – and if all goes well, get married in one too. And it's surely the only Ferris wheel on which you can practice yoga with an instructor. See caesars.com

SKY WHEEL, NIAGARA

If you care to see Niagara Falls from every conceivable angle then there's every conceivable method to do so in this kitsch Canadian capital of tourism. The speedy queues, close-together gondolas and quick 12-minute whirl around this Ferris wheel don't offer slow romance, but do let you see both the Canadian and American waterfalls (and countryside beyond) from yet another viewpoint. Heated gondolas provide winter comfort. See cliftonhill.com

MIRAMAR FERRIS WHEEL, TAIPEI

A ride on the giant wheel at shopping-and-fun Miramar Entertainment Park in downtown Taipei is terrific at night, when you can gaze across the city's high-rises towards Taipei 101 tower. The wheel itself, cartwheeling in vivid neon green and blue below you – three different light shows represent earth, wind and water – is itself spectacular. The mall beneath is a great spot for people-watching. See miramar.com.tw

PACIFIC WHEEL, SANTA MONICA

The much-filmed pier that thrusts into the ocean at this fabled Los Angeles beach suburb has a variety of old-fashioned, family-oriented theme-park entertainments with names such as Pacific Plunge and Shark Frenzy. The most sedate option is the Ferris wheel, cheerful with coloured gondolas in the daytime and illuminated with nearly 175,000 pattern-changing LED lights at night. It claims to be the world's only solar-powered Ferris wheel. See pacpark.com

THE WHEEL OF BRISBANE, BRISBANE

This wheel sits on the river at South Bank and supplies great city views. Walkers and cyclists drift in shoals along the riverside promenades beneath. Stay alert to take it all in, since your ride takes just 12 minutes, during which a handy audio guide points out the landmarks. You can double the ride length on Cupid's Gondola, which comes with wine and rose petals. See thewheelofbrisbane.com.au

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TIANJIN EYE, TIANJIN

China has taken quite a shine to Ferris wheels over the last decade; the largest of many is in Nanchang. Tianjin's is notable for being the only wheel anywhere built across a river and atop a bridge. When it is neon-lit at night it stains the Hai River pink. You can pick out the city's old towers and temples and colonial-European quarters as you turn. See en.tjtour.cn

The writer travelled both as a guest of numerous tourism offices and at his own expense.

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