I have recently visited the Spinnaker Tower and must admit I wasn't overly impressed....
The tower stands at 170 metres tall and has 3 decks at the top...essentially you get a lift to the first deck and then there are stairs to the second and third deck and you get a lift back down.
Firstly, the lift that we went in was an internal lift so not too adventurous although I did notice an external lift but I'm not sure why this wasn't being used or offered to us...
The three decks have the same views but just on different levels with the highest level having an open top roof with netting over it.. there are also talking telescopes on this floor so for £1.00 you get a good view and a man pointing out whats on the horizon. Admittedly by the time I had found the monument being referred to through the telescope the talking telescope had moved onto something else... needless to say I didn't really see that much!
Don't get me wrong... the views are breathtaking... and the tower itself is a mean feat of engineering but we were only up there about 30 minutes and the cost of it (£7.25 per adult) just didn't seem worth it..
However, we did get 10% of our tickets by pre booking them through www.visitportsmouth.co.uk
I'm glad that I did it as its something I can tick off my list... would I do it again? No I wouldn't...
The Spinnaker Tower stands in Gunwharf Quays, at 170 metres tall, overlooking the dockyard, the city and the Isle of Wight.
Having weighted many years for it to be completed, and seeing the delays and lift problems etc advertised quite broadly locally, I was anxious to get up there and see what it was really like! Was it worth it? The money, the weight, the problems it caused?
Simply, yes. Maybe more so to me as a local, as I watched its construction progress and develop, and saw it change the landscape of the city I call home.
The views over the boats in the dockyard are good, the city looks totally different from up there, and looking out over the harbour towards the Isle of Wight on a sunny summers afternoon, is just gorgeous. There's a panoramic view finder too, which points out places of interest from points all around the tower, and kids (and big kids!) love the section of glass floor that they can walk over and wave to people down below!
Downsides are the cost to get in, though not so much of a problem for a one off, and having to have your photo taken on the way in...there's no obligation to buy, so best just to bear with it! Queues can also be quite large on sunny days so might be worth bearing in mind.
The tower can also be hired out for events during sunrise or evening, which I think would just be stunning, I love watching the lights of the city...I wonder what event I can wangle to have there!?!
There's plenty of parking in Gunwharf Quays, and a huge cinema, bowling, restaurants a plenty, shopping, and many other attractions nearby including the historic dockyard, Southsea castle, the forts, the Isle of Wight, and many more, so why not make a day of it! :)
I'll always remember the 12th October 2008 as a day of perfect weather - a cloudless blue sky, virtually no wind (southerly, 9mph), warm but not uncomfortably so. The suggestion to visit the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth seemed like a good one. I had been admiring its curvaceous shape for two years; it had been one of those instances where you often don't bother to visit the sights on your own doorstep, however appealing they may be.
I don't want to go into all the ins and outs of its construction and vital statistics, which are available on the Spinnaker Tower's own website or on Wikipedia, and in other reviews on this site. You can't really miss the tower, but for the unfamiliar it's in the south-west corner of Gunwharf Quays. Go down to the waterfront, turn right, and pass the restaurants. There it is. We had to queue for about ten minutes at 2.30pm on that beautiful autumnal Sunday afternoon. Plaques in the entrance hall show that The Spinnaker Tower was chosen as the best building of 2000 and that it was funded by lottery money (and perhaps a little council tax?) The normal entrance fee is £7.00 per adult, but this is reduced to £4.60 for local residents on production of a utility bill showing certain postcodes. According to the website, two forms of identity have to be shown and a signature given, but we merely produced a Virgin Media bill showing a PO5 address and were immediately offered the discount. The website gives details of which postcodes are eligible for the lower entrance fee as well as prices of tickets for children. We were offered an audio guide but did not take one.
As we passed along, we were asked to stand against a green background to have our photograph taken. I moved quickly past and said I would rather not, even though the photographer told us there would be no obligation to buy. It seemed like a pointless exercise (and I'd been in a defiant mood the previous week, not wanting to be ordered about!) We each had a camera and took photos of each other once we were up on the viewing decks. However, for those without cameras or those who want a group photograph, the opportunity is there. I cannot comment on the cost, I'm afraid.
There was a short wait for the lift in which we were packed like sardines; it was claustrophobic, but the first level is 100 metres up so you wouldn't really want to climb stairs. The lift attendant informed us that we could continue to second level by lift or stairs. Ascent to the uppermost level, the Crow's Nest, is by stairs only. Descent is from the second level by lift. (Descent by lift starting from the first level is not possible, making ascent to the second level compulsory.)
The famous glass floor at the first level was not as big or spectacular as I had imagined it to be. You have to remove your shoes if you wish to walk on it, so I just leaned over and took a photo looking down, not feeling that I was missing anything.
It was surprisingly easy to get to the windows to see each view and take photos. To the east, Portsea Island, the War Memorial on Southsea Common, Gunwharf Quays, a number of university buildings (St George's and Mercantile House, for example), and the Queen's Hotel were recognisable. Turning southward, there is a clear view of Spice Island and the Cathedral in old Portsmouth. Directly south you look across the Solent to the Isle of Wight, and the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour, through which you can see the Isle of Wight ferries passing - there were no channel ferries that particular afternoon, but the brilliance of the sunshine on the water was a sight for sore eyes. Looking west, Gosport with its marina is very clear, again with little passenger ferries crossing every few minutes. Adjacent to the tower you can just see the edge of Portsmouth Harbour station, and beyond this Portsmouth's Historic Dockyard with HMS Warrior and HMS Victory (the latter, unfortunately, is hard to spot in my photos). To the north-west Portsdown Hill is clearly visible. On the clearest days you can see for up to twenty-three miles, and on that afternoon, looking west, I could spot a tall chimney which I think was part of Fawley refinery on Southampton Water.
We decided to take the stairs up to the second level, and this was not difficult even with my bad knees. Souvenir selling in the form of a stuffed toy resembling the Spinnaker Tower was being made the most of there. We gazed down and took more photographs before continuing up to the highest level. The Crow's Nest is open to the elements as it is covered above you just by heavy wire netting. You can easily see the white pointed top of the tower through this, as well as an initially deceptive artificial owl. The Crow's Nest is a much smaller area, but not quite so many people go up that far so it was still not too difficult to get to the windows. The views from here are mainly in southerly and westerly directions.
Having had our fill of the sights we returned the to second level where we had a couple of minutes' wait for the lift back to the ground level. Here you emerge into the cafe, where there is an enticing smell of coffee and the photographs that were taken before the ascent are offered for sale, right by the exit. The cafe is only open to tower visitors and serves Fairtrade hot drinks as well as sandwiches; we didn't stop there as a friend was waiting for us outside, having already had his fill of Spinnaker Tower visits at other times.
My son had been to the tower on three previous occasions but said the views this time were the best, even though one of his visits had been at sunset. It occurred to me that it is an experience comparable to going up the Eiffel Tower, and although I would be amongst the first to choose Paris as one of the most beautiful cities in the world, from the Eiffel Tower you can't see the sea, or an island, or a historic dockyard, can you? The views from the Spinnaker Tower are breathtaking, diverse and spectacular. It may have taken two years for me to get myself up there, but in the end I could not have picked a finer day.
I understand that Darth Vader is due to be performing his antics at the Spinnaker Tower over the forthcoming half-term holiday, so there are likely to be plenty of visitors over that period. A good time for family visits, no doubt, but if like me you are simply interested in the views from on high, I would wait until things calm down a little. Any sunny day in winter should be a good time to visit, and I expect one day I shall be going back to see if the sights at sunset can compare with the ones I witnessed on my first visit.
For prices, opening times and details of special events, you can visit www.spinnakertower.co.uk/
Also posted on Ciao under my username denella.
Portsmouth is steeped in history, a military garrison town and is the home to the Royal Navy. It was intended to build the Spinnaker Tower for the Millennium celebrations but unfortunately was not completed in time.
The plans for its development began in 1998 and it wasnt until 18 October 2005 that the tower was finally completed and open to the public, but not without its many hitches and problems.
Shaped like a giant sail, the tower is situated right in the heart of Gun Wharf Quays, Portsmouth. However the building is operated separately to Gunwharf Quays. Soaring 170 m (557 ft) above sea level, the tower has three levels, at 100, 105 and 110m. Unfortunatley only the first deck is accessible by elevator.
The purpose of the tower, 'Renaissance of Portsmouth Harbour' redevelopment project is to give the public a unique and breathtaking view across the Solent, which on a clear day you can see for over 23 miles and glimpse the Isle of Wight. Supported by a lottery grant from the Millennium Commission, it is officially the UKs tallest publicly-accessible building outside of London. If you have a fear of heights, then I firmly recommend you do not attempt a visit.
~~~~ GETTING THERE ~~~~~
The Spinnaker Tower
Tel: 023 9285 7520
Portsmouth town centre is extremely busy so great care and attention will be needed as you approach. The M27, A27 and A3 all connect with Portsmouth. As you drive into Portsmouth town centre on the M275, follow the brown signs to the Historic Waterfront, and then the Spinnaker Tower.
This will lead you straight to the huge Gunwharf Quays underground car park. On busy times, further parking can be found around the city of Portsmouth within walking distance.
Parking in Gunwharf Quays is expensive and payable by the hour. Remember to take your parking card with you and pay your money into the machines at the bottom of the elevators. Change is given here but expect to pay at least £8 for half a days stay. On the plus side, this car park security is excellent and I recommend the best time to come is early Sunday morning.
There are many disabled parking bays in the Quays car park and lifts on all levels.
In the summer there is a park and ride service from various pick up points around Portsmouth. As you drive into the town centre look for the Park and Ride arrow. A bus will take you directly into Gun Wharf at regular intervals and parking your car will be cheaper and probably less stressful.
BY TRAIN AND COACH/BUS
Portsmouth railway and bus station is adjacent to the Spinnaker Tower and has direct connections to London and other points across the country.
For more details and time table check out:
Why not be different and arrive by ferry? The Spinnaker Tower could not be in a more ideal position beside the cross-harbour, Isle of Wight, and Gosport ferry terminals. You can see the ferrys glide across the Solent at regular intervals. The ferry terminals are also just a short stroll away. If you are planning on just visiting the tower, then this is a great way to sail into the harbour.
These are subject to change but at present are as follows:
From 30th October 06 - 31st March 2007,
Sunday - Friday 10am - 5pm
Saturdays 10am - 10pm
Bar/Restaurant (on ground floor)
Sunday - Friday 10am - 5.30pm
Saturdays 10am - midnight
Child (5-15yrs) £4.80
Family Ticket (2xadult 2xchild) £19.00
Please note that all additional children are charged at full child rate.
Groups of 15 or more are charged at a discounted rate. Call the team for more details before you arrive and confirm your booking.
TEL: 02392 857520
Fax: 02392 857539
The Panoramic Lift is an extra £2 per person but currently is still not working.
GETTING TICKETS AND ENTERING:
You can book online via the Spinnaker Tower web site using your credit or debit card, but please note that bookings can only be made 24 hours before your visit date.
Alternatively, you can queue at the entrance. Situated opposite to Burger King, the entrance doors are on the level, there are no steps to climb. Normally the amount of visitors waiting is quite long and slow, however a good tip is to visit at lunchtime as the queue is quite minimal.
Inside the foyer resembles that of a cinema, quite dark and somewhat crowded.
Buggies are not allowed in the elevator and have to be parked on the left hand side of the entrance as you go through the double doors. There is a desk opposite the doors where you purchase the tickets and programme guide. You can pay by cash, credit or debit cards.
There is no surcharge for credit cards here.
After buying your tickets, you then have to wait to have your picture taken with a virtual screen behind you, depicting the tower naturally. The pictures are not compulsory to purchase but it seems you have no option but to pose for them anyway. Prices start at £10 depending on what you select, i.e. framed print, fridge magnet etc. A ticket is given to you and you view and collect the prints in the restaurant/bar on the ground floor when you leave.
Lastly before you enter the elevator, you are checked at security, a detector is waived around your body and handbags are looked at. Please note no large bags are permitted or ruck sacks. Neither are any groups under 16 not accompanied by an adult. For security reasons, anyone deemed a threat or abusive, will not be allowed in the tower.
Disabled/ wheelchair users are permitted but you must contact the tower before you visit on 023 9285 7520.
THE ELAVATOR RIDE:
As I write this review, the glass panoramic lift on the outside of the tower is still not working. Having no end of problems with this, no date has yet been given as to when it will be working. Therefore, the only choice is the inside lift, of which there is only one. Queuing times for this can be quite frustrating. Once inside, if you are claustrophobic, I suggest you avoid this at all costs.
All staff wear a smart black uniform and were friendly and helpful. An attendant greets you for your 30-second ride up to the fist deck. The lift is quite dark inside and you are told to go as far as you can to the opposite door. Before long the lift is full, with visitors along the side of the lift and also in the middle. It is cramped and uncomfortable and the 30 seconds feel like 30 minutes. Suddenly you feel yourself becoming unintentionally intimate with the person opposite you. You are sandwiched in so close that you can taste their breath, yet alone smell it. Even with the lift air conditioned, the ride up is unpleasant.
The attendant gives you a brief history of the tower whilst the lift climbs slowly. I held my breath all the way up, not because of nerves but with the fear of my chest hitting the gentlemans opposite me. I was relieved to disembark and my children found it distressing.
The relief of leaving the lift was obvious to all, but seeing the view that greets you from the doors soon makes you forget that you need to make that journey back down again.
The weather was glorious and the view was spectacular. The static round deck is enclosed and the glass tinted, but we could still feel the heat penetrate. On the left hand side are the Royal Navy flotilla and harbour, if you walk around to the right you see the fair ground and as far as the Isle of Wight. People walking below look like ants. A glass floor is laid down for anyone brave enough to walk across, without shoes though. The remainder of the floor is tiled.
This deck has a penny press facility to give you a lasting reminder of your day. Place a penny coin in the slot, select which logo you require on your coin and add a further 50 pence before you turn the wheel. The result is a flattened penny with a picture of the tower in the middle and the date.
Cameras are allowed but because of the green tinted glass, the views below can be obscured slightly.
There is no lift up to this deck so you have to walk quite a few stairs to deck two. The stairs are steel and if you dont like heights, try not to look down as you climb up. This is quite a busy point as visitors are walking down as well as going up. Try to stay on the left hand side as you walk. This level is also where you will find the lift to take you back down, you cannot join the elevator at the same point you came off.
There is a toilet on this floor, just the one and is for both men and women. I did not notice any further toilets in the Spinnaker. This must have been the highest point where I ever had the call of nature and I was curious to know where the flush went! A small gift shop is also on this level, selling the same items as the main shop on the ground floor.
The view is hardly any different from this floor but still worth seeing.
This is called the crows nest. Climb up more winding steel stairs to the very highest point and the fresh air hits you. You are exposed to the elements as this deck is completely open but fortunately there is a net and steel barrier to stop anyone from topping over. Not as big as the other two levels, it can be a bit cramped with visitors as you shuffle around trying to get a glimpse of the best view.
The lift down was not half as packed as going up and was more pleasant. Once again the attendant greets you and asks if everyone enjoyed the views. Before you know it, the lift has stopped and you are exiting the doors straight into the café/bar very convenient for the Towers coffers. This is also where you collect your pictures taken before your flight.
With three children, the wrong place for the lift to stop was here. They all wanted drinks which was fair enough, but then it snowballed onto cake. Before I knew it, I had ordered one tea, one coffee, three child sized lemonades and five pieces of cake. The total came to £24, very expensive. To be honest the cake was dry and my children left most of it. The only ones to benefit were the sea gulls walking around outside pecking up the crumbs.
There is ample seating inside but as it was such a warm sunny day, we opted to take ours out on the decking area. The ferries sailed across in front of us and to be honest I enjoyed this view more than on the Spinnaker. If you are prepared to pay the prices, then you can have a relaxing drink here, as the bar is open all day. Hot and cold food is also served. Payment can be made by cash and thankfully for us - credit card!
HIRING THE TOWER:
Available for hire for meetings, seminars, private parties, champagne reception etc. They can cater for up to 150 guests and available outside of normal hours.
Contact a member of their tem on 02392 857520 or email on firstname.lastname@example.org for details and prices.
THE GIFT SHOP:
This is on the right hand side as you enter through the main doors. Selling the usual items such as key rings, rubbers, rubber balls, pens and post cards, all depicting the Spinnaker logo. Prices start from around £1.50.
I purchased three mini light sabres for my children at £4 each. Sadly they have all become detached from the base of the sabre since our visit, but the battery lasted quite a few days. The Spinnaker Tower was highlighted in blue and quite pretty. Gifts can be left here prior to visiting the tower and collected on the way out.
Personally I wouldnt return again and neither would my husband as he spent the whole of the 30 minutes clinging to the walls and not looking down or around him.
As I mentioned before, the lift ride was very uncomfortable and claustrophobic.
On the plus side, its worth making the effort just to see the views and to be able to say you have done it. From start to finish you spend no more than half an hour there as soon as you have seen the coastline, which is all there is to do. Children soon tire of being inside each level and all they want to do is run around which annoys the other visitors.
If you do not wish to eat in the Waterfront café/bar, there are other eateries situated in Gun Wharf, which are more reasonable.
The Spinnaker is a smoke free zone and food and drink are not permitted from the elevator onwards.
Thank you for reading and enjoy the views.