What makes Gibraltar worth visiting?
At just 6.7km2 (2.6 sq miles) the British overseas territory of Gibraltar is located at the far southern tip of Spain. The Strait of Gibraltar separates Gib, as it is commonly called, from continental Africa which is just 14 miles away.
Gibraltar punches above its weight for the sheer number of attractions it has to offer!
The strait, which is the entrance to the Mediterranean sea makes Gibraltar of great strategic importance. Half of the worlds seaborne trade passes through it.
Its location is partially why Gibraltar is British. They knew the importance of its location and were prepared to fight for it and as such has been under British rule since 1717.
Today, Gib makes its money from tourism, online gambling and financial services, so why are all these tourists visiting a little bit of land at the bottom of Spain.
What makes Gibraltar worth visiting?
Gibraltar is dominated by “The Rock” a 426 metre high (1,398 feet) limestone peak. It is home to the Gibraltar Nature reserve and can be accessed either by foot or as we did, the cable car. https://gibraltarinfo.gi/cable-car/
At this height, you can see all of Gibraltar, Spain’s Costa del Sol and on a clear day, the Moroccan coastline.
The Rock is also home to Gibraltar’s most famous inhabitants, the Barbary Macaque Monkeys, Europe’s only wild monkey population.
Their presence probably dates from the early days of the British garrison when it is presumed that they were imported from north Africa, finding the rough limestone cliffs and scrub vegetation a great habitat. There is a legend that claims should the macaques ever disappear; the British will leave Gibraltar.
On our visit, we decided to take the cable car up and walk down as there are a number of attractions as you make your way off of the rock. As you descend make sure you look for over 500 different species of flowering plant, olive and pine trees and migratory birds.
Relatively new additions to the rock include the suspension bridge and the skywalk, but if you prefer your attractions a little less hair raising, visit St Michaels Cave to marvel at colourfully lit limestone rock formations, there’s even an auditorium down there!
Your entrance ticket also grants access to the Moorish Castle and the Great Siege Tunnels which we talk about below later.
As you may expect, due to the history of Gibraltar, its architecture is worthy of mention. Walking around town you will come across a range of styles, from the sleek and modern marina area to the fortified walled Casemates Square.
As you walk down the traditional ‘British’ high street filled with bars and restaurants, you will eventually come to John Mackintosh Hall (library, theatre and cultural events are held here) and St Jago’s Arch, the former entrance to a 16th-century church.
If the weather is good, hop on a bus to Europa Point and the tip of Gibraltar.
http://www.gibraltarbuscompany.gi They also have an app so you can track where the buses are which is handy!
From here you will be greeted by a lighthouse and some spectacular sea views over the strait, the African coast and of course, the rock. As you can we didn't have the weather and could not the spectacular views!
The History of Gibraltar dates back to the 13th century, being under Spanish, Barbary, Dutch and finally British rule. Its location meant that Gibraltar was always of great military importance and as such you will find a number of military attractions around the territory.
The Moorish Castle is the oldest of such attractions, dating back to medieval times, you can see various buildings with fortified walls and the Tower of Homage. Gibraltar’s prison was also located here until 2010!
The City under Siege exhibition houses buildings dating back to 1704 during the capture of Gibraltar by the Spanish. One of the most intriguing aspects of the attraction is the graffiti that you see engraved on the walls. Many soldiers passed their long hours of duty by carving graffiti in the walls of the buildings, falling asleep whilst on duty, was an offence punishable by death, hence keeping yourself awake by drawing on the walls wasn’t a bad idea!
The Tunnels of Gibraltar were constructed over 200 years and now comprise of 34 miles (55km) of tunnels dug through the rock. At their peak, they were able to house 16,000 solders along with supplies that were needed to survive a prolonged siege. The tunnels that you see today are The Great Siege Tunnels (the upper galleries excavated during the great siege) and the Second World War Tunnels.
Other attractions include The Governor’s Lookout Battery (great views over the airport) and the Military Heritage Centre where you can learn about the tunnels in further detail.
Speaking of the airport, did you know its one of the only airports in the world that you have to walk across (or drive) to get into Gibraltar. Gates come down and hold the traffic and pedestrians until an aircraft has taken off or landed! It's quite something to walk over the active runway so leave the taxi behind at the airport and walk into town it only takes 20 mins.
Where we stay
The Rock Hotel is quintessentially British and the most famous hotel on the Rock.
This is where the rich and famous stay during visits to Gibraltar and the hotel walls are littered with photo's of noteworthy guests, like former UK prime ministers, TV entertainment stars and Hollywood movie legends.
Whilst you might think that means you could not afford to stay, think again there are some great deals and we have stayed twice without breaking the bank.
We had a balcony room and in the mornings the monkey's come down from the nature reserve above to try and steal anything not locked down. So be aware of this, they will try and get in rooms if you leave the door unattended. They are not too much of a nuisance.
Our top tip would be to forgo the breakfast package and find a place in Casemates Square or the marina for a cheap full English breakfast at half the price, which also encourages you to get up and out early!
The sunsets over the hotel are fantastic on a warm summers night, it's a great place to get a cocktail before heading out for dinner.
You can see a full review of the Rock Hotel in our video travel guide link at the end of this blog. To book the hotel visit https://www.rockhotelgibraltar.com/
Gibraltar punches above its weight for the sheer number of attractions it has to offer, its unique geography and interesting history can easily fill 2-3 days. Brilliant restaurants and a sunny climate make visiting for a weekend break from the UK or if you’re already in southern Spain well worth it.
Flights arrive from the UK, operated by Easyjet, British Airways and Wizzair and a new helicopter service from Malaga has also recently started.
Bus services from Spanish cities such as Malaga arrive at the Spanish town of La Linea and you will have to cross the border on foot. Don’t forget your passport if you intend on crossing the border as it will be checked.
Once in Gibraltar Buses are frequent and reliable, a day pass costs £2.50. The bus routes will get you everywhere you need to go from the border with Spain to Europa point and everywhere in between. (note, there is no bus service to the top of the rock)
Car you don’t need a car in Gibraltar and having one will just be a pain, roads are small and parking is very limited. Taxi’s are available but prices are high considering the short distances they cover.
Walking is the easiest and most enjoyable way of getting around town, the majority of the sight are easily reached on foot.
Gibraltar uses the Gibraltar Pound, it has the same value as pound sterling and the British pound can be used in Gibraltar, however, the Gibraltar pound is not accepted in the UK, but you can change these in any bank at a rate of £1 = £1.
Due to low taxation, alcohol, tobacco and perfume are cheap, but remember Gibraltar is no longer in the EU, so check your country’s duty-free allowances.
Please refer to our video for accommodation and restaurant tips
Dominated by The Rock, Gibraltar has much to offer! See why?
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