For centuries, the Rock of Gibraltar provided militaries with a strategic vantage point to keep tabs on encroaching opposition forces. Today, “The Rock” is part of the Gibraltar Nature Reserve, a one-of-a-kind attraction for tourists seeking some of the best views in all of Europe and Africa. New for 2018, the original military outpost has been converted into the Gibraltar Skywalk — one of the most stunning viewing platforms in the world.
By the numbers, the Gibraltar Skywalk is impressive: 8,000 square feet (roughly four tennis courts) of glass anchored by 230 feet of rock and more than 66,000 pounds of steel. It’s all capable of supporting five Asian elephants or 340 people simultaneously. Situated north of O’Hara’s Battery, the tallest point on the Rock of Gibraltar, the entire structure is perched precariously on the Northern Pillar of Hercules at an elevation higher than The Shard in London.
The Gibraltar Skywalk is more than an exercise in modern engineering. The original octagonal gun base at the center has been repurposed as a bench seat — a clever homage to The Rock’s military history. When visitors stand at the edge of the observation platform, pressed against the glass, the entire structure seems to vanish. The result is a feeling of hovering unsupported above the stunning landscape. It’s humbling, frightening, and breathtaking.
From this vantage point, the panoramic views include the European and African continents, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Mediterranean Sea. It’s this view that cemented the Rock of Gibraltar as a key military installation for centuries, particularly for the British. During World War II, it played a vital role in the Mediterranean and Atlantic theaters of combat. Nearly all naval traffic between these two bodies of water passed through the Strait of Gibraltar.
Technological and architectural advances have made possible ever-more-daring glass structures like the Gibraltar Skywalk. In recent decades, similar installations have opened around the world, including the Grand Canyon Skywalk, a 1,640-foot glass slide in the mountains of China, and the 70th-floor SkySlide in Los Angeles.
The Gibraltar Skywalk officially opened March 21, 2018, complete with a bizarre debut ceremony involving Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker — get it?) cutting the ribbon with a lightsaber. Admission is included with the purchase of a ticket into Gibraltar Nature Reserve (starting at £5, or roughly USD $6.60).