With pubs, fish and chip shops and afternoon tea on offer, entering Gibraltar is like stepping foot in Britain. Yes, this is a British territory, but the warm climate and the occasional swap between English and Spanish give away its location, on the tip of Spain.
Jutting out into the sea, it’s the striking natural landscape that draws most visitors to Gibraltar. It might be a small land, but there’s no shortage of attractions here: from the 426-metre high Rock where Barbary apes roam around, to the underground tunnels and the dolphins swimming by the shore.
Below are the best things to do in Gibraltar, including tips on where to eat and where to stay.
Start your day in Gibraltar by heading to the cable car base station. Hop aboard, and you’ll reach the top of the Rock in around six minutes. It’s here you’ll find most of the town’s main attractions, including the Gibraltar Nature Reserve, home to the Barbary apes and numerous bird species that migrate from Africa to Europe. The views from up here are also incredible as the Rock overlooks Gibraltar, Spain and Morocco.
Reminders of Gibraltar’s military history are still visible here, like the Moorish castle or the canons within the Siege Tunnels. Still, it’s the Barbary apes that most people come to see. There are around 200 of these wild monkeys, most of them living at the top of the Rock, but you can occasionally spot them in other parts of the territory.
Even though they look cute, they’re still wild, which means they can sometimes bite. The best place to see them up close is at the Apes’ Den. Make sure to keep your possessions away as they tend to snatch them and please don’t feed them.
Note: The first cable car departs at 9:30 a.m., and the last one down is at 5:45 p.m.
Tickets for the Nature Reserve, also give you access to the Great Siege Tunnels. These underground passages were dug out during the Great Siege of Gibraltar in just six weeks. As you squeeze inside today, you can’t help but marvel at the handiwork involved. The British created the tunnels as a defence system against French and Spanish, who tried to recapture Gibraltar. The siege lasted from 1778 to 1783, but thanks to the cannons mounted inside these pathways, they were eventually defeated. In total, they stretch for about 51 kilometres, with more tunnels added during WWII.
From the tunnels, slowly make your way to the Gibraltar Skywalk. Completed in 2018, it’s a new attraction, but it’s already among the top things to do on the Rock. Set 340 metres high, it offers dramatic views over the Strait of Gibraltar. If you’re feeling brave, you can walk over the Windsor Suspension Bridge, a wooden walkway that hovers high above a 50-metre gorge. On windy days, it can sway a bit, so it's not ideal for those afraid of heights. The bridge is part of the Thrill Seekers Trail, which takes visitors through some of the steepest paths around the Rock.
Close to the Skywalk is the St. Michael’s Cave, the largest one in
Gibraltar featuring an impressive set of tunnels and chambers dropping
as low as 62 metres deep. It has been occupied since prehistory, as some
cave paintings have proved. Later it was used as a defensive structure
by the Moors and the Spaniards. Inside the caves, you’ll find a
breathtaking collection of stalactites and stalagmites. The Cathedral
Cave also includes an auditorium which occasionally hosts music and
dance performances. There are many legends associated with the St.
Michael’s Cave, with some people saying it connects Gibraltar to Africa
through a secret underground passage.
Nearby, you can visit the Moorish castle.
Next, head up to the O'Hara’s Battery. At 421 metres, it’s the highest point on the Rock offering incredible views over the town and the sea. It was built as a military fortification, and some of the artillery pieces are still on display today. There are similar structures nearby like the Lord Airey’s Battery and the Spur Battery, but nothing beats the views from O’Hara’s.
From the Rock, take the cable car back down and spend the afternoon
exploring the town centre. Start with a visit to the Gibraltar Botanic
Gardens, aka the Alameda. This green oasis was designed as a quiet
respite for British soldiers stationed here in the 19th century. It’s a
bit busier these days, especially on weekends, but during the week it’s
still possible to come here and escape the crowds.
Amid the bougainvillaea and drago trees is the Alameda Wildlife Conservation Park, a small zoo housing rescued animals. There’s also an open-air theatre that hosts several cultural events.
A few steps away on the Main Street is the Convent, one of the oldest buildings in town. Dating back to 1531, it used to be a residence for Franciscan priests. In 1728 it became the office for the Governor of Gibraltar, but the building kept its name. You can’t go inside, but it’s still worth passing through to admire its brick-tile facade.
Another building that deserves a capture is the Trinity Cathedral. While it dates from 1832, this small church is famous for its Moorish revival architecture, with striped horseshoe arches around its front.
To understand the region’s cultural and historical background, you should visit the Gibraltar Museum. Here you can discover more about the people who have occupied the area since the Carthaginian era to the present day and the events that have shaped its history like the Great Siege. Beyond these exhibits, visitors can also see well-preserved Moorish baths in the basement. The building was the residence of the Principal Artillery Officer, and it was only in 1930 that it got converted into a museum.
St. Mary the Crowned is the second cathedral you’ll find in Gibraltar. When the town was under Moorish rule, this was the site of their mosque. It was only in 1462 that it got converted into a church by the Spanish monarchs. Since then, it’s gone through several changes, with a bell tower added in 1820.
Running adjacent to the Main Street is the Irish Town. Despite the name, this isn’t a neighbourhood as such, but one single street. It gets its name from the Irish women who arrived here in the late 18th century to provide company to the British. Its proximity to the port made it a thriving commercial area, but most of those buildings got destroyed during the Great Siege. After an extensive renovation in the 19th century, the Irish Town reemerged once again and has since become one of the most lively streets in Gibraltar, with bars and shops lining each side.
Follow the Irish Town to the end, and you’ll end up in the heart of the old town. Here traditional British pubs and red telephone booths blend in with the Moorish and Spanish architecture. At the centre of it all is the Casemates Square, with charming terraces offering views of the Rock above. The old town is only 15 minutes away from the airport, so if you’re flying to Gibraltar, it 'll probably be the first thing you’ll see.
End your tour of Gibraltar with a stroll around the Ocean Village. This modern neighbourhood is located around the marina, which bears the same name. For newcomers, it feels like a mini-Marbella, with private vessels and trendy waterfront bars and restaurants. There’s even a luxurious hotel housed inside a yacht. The marina gets pretty lively in the evenings with locals occupying the bars or the hotel’s casino.
Gibraltar is an ideal spot for a family holiday. Its small size makes it easy to explore on foot in one or two days.
will enjoy the cable car ride up to the Rock, where they can see the
Barbary apes up close. In the same area, they can explore tunnels and
fortifications like the Moorish castle or admire the views from one of
the many lookout points. While in the town area there are museums and the botanical gardens.
The waters around Gibraltar are also home to several marine species, including dolphins and whales. From the marina, you can hop on a cruise and have fun spotting these animals as the sun sets over the bay. If you’re lucky, you might catch one jumping next to you. Tours are provided by companies like Dolphin Safari and Dolphin Adventure.
Other entertainment facilities include The Kings Bastion Leisure Centre, a large indoor complex which features an ice skating rink, bowling, arcade games and a cinema.
Once you’ve seen the main sights, you can spend the rest of your holiday relaxing on the beach or under a terrace. With extra time, you can rent a car and explore other cities in the south of Spain.
The best time to visit Gibraltar is around spring or autumn. At this time the temperatures are warm but comfortable enough to walk around the city and explore the Rock. There are also fewer crowds around this time. By July, the temperatures start getting higher and usually stay that way until September. These months are the perfect time to head to the beach or practice watersports like paddling or diving.
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