City guides

Gibraltar city guide

gibraltar city guide

Make Gibraltar the right way!

Gibraltar is a British overseas territory occupying a small peninsula of Spain’s southern Mediterranean coast. This small British territory is heavily fortified, and is home to two very strategic military bases, one belonging to the RAF and another to the Royal Navy. The Straight of Gibraltar is the only entrance to the Mediterranean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean, and there fore a place of great strategic importance. But Gibraltar inst just a military stronghold, its filled with interesting and beautiful things to see and do. Check out our Gibraltar City Guide for all the information you will need on this odd little territory. 

Gibraltar city guide - Table of Contents

Practical information to plan your visit to Gibraltar

Gibraltar: an intruduction to an enigmatic territory

Gibraltar has been a symbol of the dominance of the Royal Navy since the 1800’s and it is commonly called, in that context, as “the Rock.”

The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 meant a big boost in strategic importance for Gibraltar. It became an essential provisioning port was.

Since the Second World War the British military base and the naval base have been an essential part of the local economy. Gibraltar’s naval base has often serviced NATO forces in the Mediterranean.

The Rock of Gibraltar is also considered to be one of the two Pilars of Hercules. In Greek mythology, Hercules arrives at the end of the earth during the completion of his tenth. To do so he rips apart two mountains that are stopping the flow of the Atlantic ocean. By separating the two continents the Atlantic flows in and inundates the land, creating the Mediterranean sea. The two mountains are supposedly Gibraltar and either Mount Hacho, near the city of Ceuta or Jebel Moussa (Musa), in Morocco. According to Homer these Pillars defined the western limits of navigation for the ancient Mediterranean world.

Where is Gibraltar?

Gibraltar is attached to the province of Cádiz, Andalucía in Southern Spain. It is directly south of the Spanish town of La Línea and just northeast of the Straight of Gibraltar. The territory is just 3 miles (5 km) long and 0.75 mile (1.2 km) wide.

Why is Gibraltar Famous?

Gibraltar may be more infamous than famous. The territory is physically connected to Spain, but belongs to the British government. Residents on the Island speak English, British law is applied, you will even find the iconic red telephone booths, yet the territory is literally part of Spain.  

As we mentioned before Gibraltar fell under British rule in the 1800’s has remained that way ever since. The strait of Gibraltar and Gibraltar itself is an area of great strategic importance, as it is the gateway to the Mediterranean and the UK government has refused to relinquish the territory.

This has been a point a contention between the Spanish and British governments for decades.

 

A short history of Gibraltar

The small peninsula of Gibraltar has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Excavations of limestone caves of Gibraltar show evidence of sporadic inhabitation dating back 42 thousand years. 

In the year 711 muslim troops as they occupied the Iberian Peninsula and this is the first time the Startegic value of the Peninsula becomes evident. After this the site will change hands numerous times but will always be used as a fortress. Gibraltar was then annexed by the Spanish Crown in 1501, by Queen Isabel I of Castille, after the end of the Muslim occupation of the Iberian Peninsula in 1462. Next, Gibraltar would become part of the British government in 1704 during the Spanish War of Succession.

The Spanish War of Succession was fought to determine the next king of Spain, as the crown was in dispute. Though this was a completely Spanish matter, forces from all over Europe aligned themselves with either candidate to the throne as to defend their political and economic interests. Sir George Rooke captured Gibraltar for the British during the war and Spain formally ceded it under the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht at the end of the in 1713.

The Spanish made several attempts to reclaim Gibraltar from the British government.  From 1779 to 1783 Spain maintained a military siege of the peninsula that was ultimately unsuccessful. Gibraltar officially became a British crown colony in 1830.

Once the Suez Canal was opened in 1869, the British became even more determined to keep possession of Gibraltar. At the time, the Mediterranean was the main route to Britain’s colonies in East Africa and southern Asia.

In the 1960s, as decolonization was taking place worldwide, the Spanish government demanded the return of the peninsula. As a consequence, in 1967 a referendum was held giving residents a choice of between Spanish sovereignty or for continued British occupation. The disputed result was to continue under British rule.

In 1969 a new constitution was drafted for Gibraltar that explicitly reaffirmed Gibraltar’s link with Britain while also granting it full internal self-government. In response the Spanish government closed its border with Gibraltar. This deprived the territory of Spanish goods and labour. This blockade ended in 1985.

The status of Gibraltar has remained a source of friction between the Spanish and British governments. In a nonbinding referendum in 2002 recognized by neither government, 99 percent of Gibraltar’s voters rejected joint British-Spanish sovereignty. Gibraltar subsequently was allowed by both governments to represent itself in negotiations on its future.

Top things to do and see in 1 day

You can easily visit most if not all of Gibraltar’s main attractions in one day. AS we have mentioned, Gibraltar is quite small (2.5 square miles and home to not even 33 thousand people). If you want to be as efficient as possible, you can even book a tour that will take you around the island in under 2 hours and include a visit to St. Michael Cave and to see the famous Barbary apes that are so characteristic of Gibraltar.

Visit ST. Michael Cave

St Michael Cave is actually a web of limestone caves located 1,000 feet above sea level. Gibraltar is home to over 150 different caves, St, Michel being the largest and most elaborate. In fact, there are over 30 miles of tunnels burrowing into the Rock of Gibraltar which means that there is more “real-estate” under Rock than around it.

St Michaels features a beautiful display of stalagmites, stalactites and other rock formations. The cave is so vast that, during World War II, it was turned into a hospital, though it was never used as such. No a days the cave is used as a concert hall and for other such events.

Meet the famous Barbary apes

These mischievous little creatures run the island. They are harmless and cheeky and have become accustomed to human presence, so you can get up close and personal with them, but under no circumstances must you touch them or feed them. They are still wild animals and can be unpredictable.

Barbary Apes aren’t apes at all. They are in fact, an endangered species of Macaque, and therefore are monkeys. They are small, fluffy and cute and one of only two species of tail-less monkeys. The resident colony on Gibraltar consist of just over 200 individuals, and both parents, male and females raise their young and these monkeys can live up to 25 years.

Prince Ferdinand’s Battery, or the Apes’ Den, on the Upper Rock, is home to the vast majority of Gibraltar’s macaques.

Enjoy the views from Upper Rock

After visiting St. Michael’s Cave and the macaques, you should take the chance to enjoy the spectacular views of the Upper rock. This area is known as the Gibraltar Nature Reserve at Upper Rock. Here you will also find Great Siege Tunnels that were dug out at the end of the 18th century by the British when Spanish forces blocked off the peninsula.

Perhaps the most scenic route to reach the upper rock is by cable car. You can of course hike up or get there by car, but the cable car will give you a more picturesque and thrilling experience. From this point, on a clear day, Morocco is easily visible and makes for an amazing photo opportunity.

Visit Europa Point

Another of Gibraltar’s great photo opportunities is Europa point. This is the southernmost point of Gibraltar. The southernmost point of Europe is actually the windy Kite surfing haven of Tarifa, 15.5 miles southwest of Gibraltar.

Europa point also features an lighthouse that has been standing strong since 1838, and a beautiful Mosque that was a gift from King Fahd of Saudi Arabia for Gibraltar’s Muslim community.

All of this, plus the fact that Morocco is clearly visible from this point make for some breath-taking views.

Casemates Square

Casemates Square is the heart of urban Gibraltar. Casemates Square was originally built on sand. During the Moorish occupation of Gibraltar, the area was originally a beach and moors built their city square on the same spot Casemates currently sits.

Casemates square is large and bustling, lined with restaurants, bars and shops. If you choose to sit down for a drink and a bite to eat do not expect typical tapas on the menu. Fish and chips and other British delicacies is what you will find on Gibraltar.

Shopping on Main Street

Gibraltar is packed with hundreds of shops, and Gibraltar’s Main Street is where you will find the best of the best. Plus, consumer goods are particularly inexpensive on Gibraltar due to the low taxes the territory enjoys. You will find all sort of high-end brands and uniquely British shops like Marks & Spencer that aren’t present in Spain.

Be warned that you will need British pounds to be able to indulge in a shopping spree.

What is Gibraltar Coffee?

Gibraltar coffee is similar to the Spanish cortado. The beverage was originally drunk by bartenders themselves for a quick pick me up as the worked. It is basically a shot of espresso with a splash of cool milk, to chill the coffee enough so that it is easily drinkable. It is served in a small glass (known as a Gibraltar glass) and not in a ceramic mug with no sugar.

The Cortado, it’s Spanish counterpart, is also a shot of espresso and a splash of milk, but the milk is normally hot, it is served in a ceramic mug and accompanied by a little sugar.  

How to get to Gibraltar from Seville

Your best option from the city of Seville is to get there by car. It will take you about 3hours to get there, so make sure to set aside a full day if you are planning on visiting.

How to get to Gibraltar from Málaga

The city of Málaga is slightly closer to Gibraltar than Seville. It will take you about 2 hours to get there by car (which is again the best option).

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