Gibraltar: what to do and what to see

21 Jun
2017
Last update: 20 January, 2020

When you feel like coming home but not home home, then you should pay a visit to the stunning Gibraltar and discover what to do in this British overseas territory in the south of Spain.

Gibraltar is a 6,8 square-kilometre area bordering Linea de la Concepción, Cadiz province, populated by roughly 30,000 inhabitants, whose cultures come from both England and Spain. Its history has converted the area into a unique spot, contended by Spanish and English governments and appealing all those who visit its landmark, the majestic Rock of Gibraltar.

However, there is more to discover about Gibraltar’s hideouts. Take a look at the advice below, and you won’t be caught off guard.

Stroll along the Main Street

Wandering along the Main Street of Gibraltar lets you discover the most profound facet of this piece of the United Kingdom in Spain, getting lost in this home far from home. Flanked by little (and bigger) shops belonging to different style buildings (including Portuguese, Spanish and English), you will have the chance to go shopping as much as you endure and, when the need to relax gets stronger, relish a coffee that tastes like home.

Main street in Gibraltar

This one km-long pedestrian area cuts Gibraltar town north to south, and it is the vital centre of the city’s commercial district. Close to it, you will find Casemates Square, the heart of nightlife in Gibraltar, and the Gibraltar Public Market, borrowed from the Andalusian tradition of indoor markets.

Another characteristic feature is the worldwide famous red telephone cabins, which you will probably be tired of seeing while at home.

Telephone cabin in Gibraltar

Pay a visit to the monkeys on the Upper Rock

The most striking feature of Gibraltar and the landmark for which it is known worldwide is the Upper Rock, whose most famous inhabitants are Barbary macaques, descendants of North African populations. Some of these tailless monkeys live in the Apes’ Den while others stay near the cable station. Although they are used to human interaction, they are also famous for their bad temper, so you’d better not try to pet or feed them.

Monkey on the Rock

Apart from the main lookouts, from where you will spot the African coast during sunny days, the greatest part of the Upper Rock is a Nature Reserve home to more than 600 species of plants.

The ticket, which costs £10 for adults, £5 for children aged 5-12 years old, allows you to visit:

  • The Great Siege Tunnels, a complex, 52-km-long tunnels system used by the British as gun emplacement during the 1779 siege.
Great Siege tunnels in Gibraltar
  • The Apes’ Den, which, as mentioned afore, is home to the monkeys.
  • St Michael’s Cave, characterised by stalactites and stalagmites. This peculiarity is sure to remind its visitors of the breathtaking caves of Nerja. And just like the Caves of Nerja, the St Michael’s Cave also hosts concerts and shows. Legend has it that it was the gateway to the African Continent. 
St. Michael's cave in Gibraltar
  • The 1333 Moorish Castle, whose most noteworthy features are the Tower of Homage and the Gate House. This castle used to stretch until the Casemates Square.
Moorish Castle on the Upper Rock in Gibraltar
Photo courtesy of Gibraltar Tourism Board
  • City Under Siege Exhibition, which shows you how inhabitants of Gibraltar lived during the Great Siege (1779-1783). It takes place at Willis’ Magazine, a series of buildings built in the 18th century that were used to store ammunition.
  • Mediterranean Steps, also known as “The thousand steps”, are ideal if you love heights and doing sport. It flanks the precipice of the Upper Rock for 1,400 metres, for the views are truly unbeatable.
Mediterranean Steps in Gibraltar
Photo courtesy of Gibraltar Tourism Board
  • Windsor Bridge, a 71-metre-long bridge suspended over a gorge of 50 metres, whose inauguration took place in 2016. If you are fainthearted, you’d better skip this one.
Windsor Bridge in Gibraltar
Photo courtesy of Gibraltar Tourism Board

If you only want to roam around the Nature Reserve and relish the views, the ticket costs £0.50.

Opening hours of the Upper Rock Nature Reserve:

  • Summer: from 9.30am to 7.15pm (last entry at 6.45pm)
  • Winter: from 9am to 6.15pm (last entry at 5.45pm)

You can reach the top of the Upper Rock through the Gibraltar Cable Car, which runs all day long, every 10 minutes. During the ride, which lasts 6 minutes and it carries you on top of the 462 metre-high Upper Rock, you can relish panoramic views of the Mediterranean Sea, the town of Gibraltar, the Spanish peninsula and the African Coast.

Cable Car en Gibraltar

Get to know the tax haven low-tax regime of Gibraltar

Gibraltar is known for being an unofficial tax haven, although “the Rock” considers itself to be a “low-tax regime”. It is home to some 60,000 companies (among which, it is worth mentioning those related to bank offices and gambling), providing the most varied services and enterprises with one of Europe’s lowest corporate tax (10%, whereas in Spain is 25%). Moreover, many goods are tax-free, specifically tobacco and alcohol, whose importation is limited to the amount of 250gr of tobacco and 2 litres of wine. Likewise, in the airport, you can also find many duty-free shops, where you can buy perfume and toilet water up to €171-worth. If you are caught with a superior amount of these goods, you will be charged a salty fine. 

Go dolphin watching

Leaving from Marina Bay, you will have the opportunity to spot dolphin families in the crystal clear waters facing Gibraltar. The trips, provided by two leading companies, Dolphin Adventure and Dolphin Safari, usually last between 1 and 2 hours and a half.

Where does the name Gibraltar come from?

The name Gibraltar comes from the Arab Jabal Ṭāriq, which means “Mountain of Tariq”. Tariq was a Muslim conqueror that led the Arab conquest of the Strait of Gibraltar in 711.

Where is Gibraltar?

Gibraltar is a peninsula located in the South of the Spain, bordering the town of Linea de la Concepción and facing the coast of Algeciras, in Cadiz province, southern Andalucia. Its location, at the entrance of the Strait, makes it a strategic point, which was renowned during both World Wars.

How to get to Gibraltar and documents needed to enter Gibraltar

You can reach the British area of Gibraltar by car, by bus or by plane, the latter being the best and fastest way to get into the town. The Gibraltar International Airport welcomes flights from British Airways, EasyJet and Monarch flying from the UK and Royal Air Maroc from Morocco. It is located 400 metres from the town’s city centre.

Airport of Gibraltar

The are buses getting to the Linea de la Concepción bus station, which also connects to Algeciras; once there, you can simply cross the border on foot.

If you wish to go by car, you’d better park in Linea de la Concepción and then cross the border, since the queues at the frontier are time-consuming. If, however, you want to enter Gibraltar with your car, you won’t be charged any fees. From Cadiz and Malaga, take the A7 and drive off at Junction 119. You’ll get to La Linea de la Concepción, five minutes from Gibraltar.

EU residents don’t need passports to enter Gibraltar if they own a valid ID card. If you’re coming from outside the EU, you will have to show your passport, or apply for a VISA, just like you would when entering the United Kingdom. 

Why does Gibraltar belong to the UK?

After the Catholic Reconquest in 1462, Gibraltar passed into the Spanish’s hands. During the War of Spanish Succession, an Anglo-Dutch fleet conquered the Rock in 1704. Despite the fact that the Treaty of Utrecht formally ratified the transfer of Gibraltar to the English government in 1713, the Spanish government didn’t give up the area until the loss of the Great Siege.

Fast forward to contemporary times, a 1967 referendum saw the inhabitants of Gibraltar vote to remain British, with a striking 99.64% of the votes. This vote made Spain’s dictator Francisco Franco close the Spain-Gibraltar border only two years later when a constitution was approved, ensuring Gibraltarians the right to keep the British citizenship and to create self-government. The last step of the English-Spanish relationship regarding Gibraltar took place in 1985 when the Spanish government officially reopened the border.

Gibraltar border

The official language of Gibraltar is English, although Spanish is widely spoken. Speaking of which, the PhD thesis “Estudio sociolingüístico del uso y de las actitudes hacia el español en Gibraltar: un análisis empírico” (“Sociolinguistic Field Research regarding the Use and the Attitude towards the Spanish language in Gibraltar: an Empirical Analysis”) by the German student Pascal Zeidler (from the University of Bremen) offers a singular vision of the language spoken by Gibraltarians. After a month spent in Gibraltar in 2010, the results of the analysis showed that English is mainly used in economic and tourist areas, as it is considered a language with a higher cultural value, while Spanish is the language of affection, i.e. how Gibraltarians talk to each other. However, this last fact is slowly changing since parents are starting to educate their children with the English language. 

The street signs are in English, and the official currency is the Gibraltar pound.

This short guide about what to do in Gibraltar is sure to dispel all the doubts about your trip to this part of England in Spain.

Have you ever been in Gibraltar? Which was your favourite thing to do? Tell us in the comments below!

Gibraltar: what to do and what to see is an article that talks about Activities in Andalusia
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  • Polecam wycieczkę na Gibraltar każdemu kto odwiedza Malagę, Andaluzję, Costa del Sol. Szczególnie jest frajda dla dzieci. Polecam odwiedzić pomnik Władysława Sikorskiego który postawiono nie tak dawno bo zaledwie 5 lat temu. Fajna jednodniowa wycieczka udała nam się dzięki wypożyczalni Malaga u drive. Gdybym mogła zamieścić swoje zdjęcia, ale blog fajnie oddaje atmosferę miejsca. Warto zdecydowanie pojechać i przejść się Main Street aby poczuć się jak w Londynie 😉 Dla odwiedzających Gibraltar autem polecam zaparkować przed przejazdem przez granicę, bez problemu można znaleźć miejsca bezpłatne bo w samym Gibraltarze jest ciasno a parking pod Cable Car może być zapełniony (choć jest bezpłatny bo są miejsca wydzielone dla rezydentów czyli Gibraltarczyków i dla turystów (biała linia). Autostrada A7 z Malagi jest bezpłatna.