Many guides and articles have been written on things to do and see in Gibraltar. But this one, I hope, will be a bit different. If you are asking yourself if Gibraltar is worth visiting, my answer is – definitely yes! And here you will find nearly all you need to know about the Rock and things to do in Gibraltar.
I was a visitor and a local, an enthusiast and annoyed commuter, a
Gibraltar is a bit odd. But magically odd – so much that this magic made
So why is Gibraltar odd, you are asking? To start with, in order to enter one has to cross the airport runway. The airport recently has been upgraded to the 10th most dangerous airport in the world. It has its runway ending right at the sea on both sides as well as running right through the middle of the busy road which has to be closed when the plane lands. It is just like with a railway crossing. Oh, and if you are a plane spotter – you could hardly get any closer than that.
Once you have crossed the runway you will find yourself in the curious land where Spanish meets British, language blends into one Llanito dialect and architecture blends the historical influence of Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, Maltese and British heritage of the land.
I went for a long walk around Gibraltar during my first few days there. And it felt like I have never seen and will never see a place like this again.
Just before I moved there, a friend of mine described Gibraltar to me as “UK but with the better weather’. After I arrived, I realized that he was slightly close yet really far from the truth at the same time.
There is no doubt that Gibraltarians are proudly British and are not afraid to say
Gibraltar is a British territory overseas, located down in south of Spanish peninsula bordering glorious region of Spanish Andalusia. In the place where the Mediterranean sea meets the Atlantic ocean, you will enjoy many days of glorious sunshine and people that match the Mediterranean character.
While proudly speaking both English and Spanish this nation is probably the most open to other cultures. What defines them largely is the experience of the border.
No official border fence existed between Spain and Gibraltar till the year 1910. This is when a wire fence was built, mainly in order to stop the smuggling of contraband between Gibraltar and Spain. Yet there was never really a need for a passport in order to cross the border. Crossing was very unrestricted at that time.
Everything changed when Spanish dictator Francisco Franco imposed severe travel and other restrictions on residents starting in 1963. This was during a campaign through the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonisation for the handover of Gibraltar to Spain. When this proved to be unsuccessful the border was closed on 8th June 1969.
And remained closed for 16 years.
Nobody was allowed to cross, under any circumstances, and all communications and supplies were cut off. The closure tore families apart. Gibraltar turned to Morocco for labour and food and strengthened its ties with the UK. I personally met and worked with those that came 40 years ago from Marocco to help themselves and this little country and ended up staying for good.
The closure and the isolation and the hardships that it had caused had a profound effect on the attitudes of Gibraltarians to their neighbours and also shaped their sense of identity as a nation. Franco’s attempt to bring Gibraltar to its knees failed. The feeling of identity grew even stronger.
Gibraltar is small. I have moved there after living in London for many years. ‘You will get bored’ I heard. Everyone knows everyone. You cannot hide. And as it turned out, that this was exactly what I loved the most about living there. The community
So don’t blame me for being a bit melancholic here. But I will stop now. I promise. I’m going to list a bunch of my favourite things to do and places to see. And I will mention both – those staple Gibraltar sights as well as those less known, slightly off the beaten path.
Watch dolphins in their natural environment
What I love the most about Gibraltar dolphin safari is that you will see those fascinating creatures close up in their natural environment. Its called responsible dolphin watching for a reason and both companies offering this trip will proudly admit that it is a non-invasive way. This must be on the top of my list. And I have done it numerous times myself as the experience is incredible.
There are 2 companies offering those tours from Ocean Village marina. Both are really easy to find given their representatives walk around the marina and most likely they will find you before you find them. Also, don’t hesitate to huggle a little especially if there is a group of you as you might be able to get a better price then originally offered.
Explore the Rock
The Rock offers numerous attractions literally for everyone. It is a must-do and undoubtedly the most prominent attraction in the city. It stands proudly, 426m high and as you stand on top of it you will feel as if you were on top of the world with Europe at your feet and Africa within a close reach.
There are few ways to get to the top and explore what this Nature Reserve has to offer.
The easiest and one of the most popular is a guided taxi tour. You can book one right at the border but also at the main taxi rank at the casement square. The standard tour includes four stops and usually takes around one and a half hours. It is both, comfortable and entertaining way to visit the rock. The driver will explain the history as well as provide some interesting anecdotes.
A taxi will have four stops and you will be able to see St Michael’s Cave, The Ape Den, Moorish Castle and Great Seige Tunnels.
The driver will also stop at the most picturesque viewpoints for you to take the photos and admire the breathtaking view of Gibraltar, Mediterranean and neighbouring Morroco
The price will range from around £18-25 to €25-35 per person (minimum of 4-6 passengers. Unless you are a group you will, however, share the taxi with others however the cars are big and spacious.
Another popular way to get to the top of the Rock is by Cable Car. The station of the cable car is located near the southern end of Main Street, next to Alameda Gardens. You will reach the top of the Rock in just a few minutes and from there you can start exploring on foot while saving yourself a steep climb. This ride ill cost you around €16.
And finally, you can take a walk all the way to the top and have complete freedom and plan your itinerary to your own liking. There are numerous routes around the rock ranging from quite easy to those a bit more challenging. There is a road going up which is heavily used by cars and taxis in the peak time but also pedestrian-friendly. You will see many walkers strolling up and down the hill.
If you are up for a challenge take either Charles V Wall stairs or climb Mediterranean Steps. I walked Meditereanin Steps many times. Often times, I asked myself why am I doing this to myself. And every single time, once I reached the top I had my answer. The views are spectacular.
The track zig-zags around the entire southern end of the Rock and it starts with Martin’s Path at the Jews’ Cemetery Battery. It does begin quite gently at first. As you reach closer to the top the road will get steeper and will switch to the rocky and high stairs at times. Please make sure your shoes are made for various terrain walking and don’t forget to take a bottle of water, especially in the summer as it does get really hot. The path then opens out to offer a fantastic view across the northern coast of Africa across the Strait of Gibraltar.
Approximately halfway up, the actual Med Steps begin to appear. They are irregular in size, some take the size of regular stone stairs, others are well over 30cm high. They are at its steepest towards the very end. Nevertheless, I have seen many folks, of all ages and fitness levels taking up this walk. Just take your time, enjoy the views, take as many breaks as you need and the reward will be great. I promise!
From there if you still have enough energy you can explore on foot the rest of the Rock’s attractions like the Sky Walk or The Suspension Bridge.
The Apes Den is another popular attraction for many visitors. It is where the Barbary Macaques are residing however unavoidably you will meet them around the whole Rock.
The Barbary Macaques are normally found in the Atlas Mountains and the Rif Mountains of Morocco, but their presence in Gibraltar probably dates back to the Islamic period. Way before Gibraltar was captured by the British at the beginning of the 18th century. Many legends have grown up around them. One of them is that they travelled from their native Morocco via an underground tunnel starting at St Michael’s Cave leading down underneath the Strait of Gibraltar. Another legend claims that, if ever the macaques disappear, the British will leave Gibraltar.
Make sure you hold on tight to your belongings as those cheeky creatures will not feel shy to steal your shiny sunglasses or help themselves to your crisps or candies. They will open pockets and unzip handbags and rucksacks in order to steal food from humans. Nevertheless, The Gibraltar Barbary macaques are considered by many to be the top tourist attraction in Gibraltar.
St Micheal’s Cave
I personally find St Michael’s Cave mesmerising. While The Rock is honeycombed with tunnels and caves, St Michaels Cave is the largest and definitely most spectacular. In 1974 a Neolithic bowl was discovered in the cave, one of many examples which prove that the cave was known to prehistoric men. Two Neanderthal skulls have been also discovered in Gibraltar, therefore, it is possible that they were among the first hominids to set foot in the cave as far as around 40,000 BC.
These days the largest of the chambers named the Cathedral Cave, serves mostly as an auditorium and is also heavily visited by the public. The numerous stalactites and stalagmites in the cave were formed and with cave’s formations being colourfully lit it is a great experience just to walk around and admire.
Cave was converted to an auditorium due to the chamber’s natural acoustic properties and equipped with a concrete stage and it is often a venue for a number of concerts and events throughout the year.
Walking around the rock and Nature Reserve is free of charge however if you would like to see any of the attractions a ticket need to be purchased. £5 ticket will let you walk up the Med Steps and enjoy Skywalk and Windsor Suspension Bridge. Access to the Gibraltar Upper Rock Nature Reserve with all the attractions included cost £12.00 for adults and £7 for children.
Have lunch at Casemates square and stroll down the Main Street.
Located at the northern end of Main Street, Casemates Square is where you’ll find numerous restaurants and bars. It is also home to many cultural events, including open-air concerts, National Day celebrations, and the Calentita Food Festival.
Continue down towards the main street and don’t be shy to stir away towards Irish town or many streets around the Gibraltar old town.
You will come across a mixture of architecture blending Genoese, Portuguese, Spanish, Moorish and British Regency style buildings. This place is like nothing else in the world really, and as at first, it is indeed hard to define its style yet with the time you will find only one way to describe it. Its Gibraltarian. Arriving from London and longing for hot Mediterranean weather and vibe – I felt at home there from day one.
Look across the continent from the Europa Point
At the most southerly point of Gibraltar, you will find Europa Point offering excellent views across the African coast and the Rif Mountains. The area has several interesting features, which include a Trinity Lighthouse, an impressive Mosque as well as Christian Chapel (the Shrine of our Lady of Europe), Harding Battery and Nun’s Well, an ancient underground water reservoir.
The most recently added attraction, which I personally find very touching (due to my Polish heritage) include the Sikorski Memorial, a statue dedicated to one of Poland’s leading generals of WW2, who died here in a plane crash in 1943.
Relax in one of Gibraltar’s marinas
Located in between two stunning marinas Ocean Village is a mixed-use marina, residential, business and leisure development which was a was part of a land reclamation project. This is where you will find multiple restaurants, bars, casinos as well as Sunborn – the yacht hotel. Ocean Village is a perfect place to head to for dining experience as well as a night out. It is undoubtedly the centre of Gibraltar’s nightlife in most recent years.
For those seeking more chilled and tranquil marina experience I also recommend Queensway Quay Marina. It is an impressive backdrop of residential complexes offering a choice of few elegant restaurants and bars. Set in a peaceful location overlooking the yachts this marina is just a short walk from the town centre
Time for Adventure!
If you are into watersports – look no further as Gibraltar has loads on offer.
Gibraltar has a number of beaches where you can soak up the sun and relax. My favourite one, however, is Sandy Bay as this is home to Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP)- In2Adventure. This is an excellent way to spend your time while having fun and admire this stunning beach. One hour will cost you £15 and no previous experience is needed as all the equipment and brief safety induction will be provided. Tom and his team are very friendly and helpful and will ensure a great and safe experience.
You can also explore Gibraltar’s spectacular underwater world with more than 30 wrecks, reefs and pinnacles to choose from by choosing to scuba dive. There are three established diving schools that offer diving possibilities. And again no equipment is needed as it will all be provided by the diving school.
If sailing is what you are after look no further as Gibraltar sailing centres offer a full range of courses, from Competent Crew to the most advanced RYA qualifications.
More adventures in Lower Saint Michael’s Cave
For those seeking more active and thrilling endeavour I highly recommend an alternative caving experience. As much as St Michael’s Cave is a mainstream tourist attraction, a guided tour to the Lower Saint Michael’s Cave is a chance to try true caving in surrounding that will leave you speechless and take you outside of your comfort zone.
The Lower Saint Michael Cave is an incredible discovery only found during World War 2, whilst Royal Engineers were blasting out a new entrance to the lower chambers of the main cave. This experience is available strictly by appointment only.
The surfaces of the cave are often steep, uneven and slippery therefore you need to be reasonably fit to explore it. It is so worth it though. You will see the most spectacular rock formations as well as have a chance to walk around the 5cm rim of a small lagoon!
Have a fun adventure in a group
And if you prefer to be adventurous in a group and have loads of fun at the same time you must check Random Fan Adventures group for current events here: https://www.facebook.com/RandomFunAdventures/ . Ria is a great girl who started this group a few years ago and now with over 2000 followers, this is the place to go for fun activities. She organizes various events and ventures like BushCraft Survival weekends, hikes in neighbouring Spain as well as Morocco, ziplining or skydiving just to mention few.
I took part in a whitewater rafting event with the group and it was one of the best things I have done during my time in Gibraltar. The only thing you need to do is like her page and find an event which ticks your fancy, message her and you are set for a great day out. Some events are completely free, others will come with a fee but all prices are fair and very reasonable.
And finally, make sure to take part in some local events
- Calentita – Food festival taking place every year in July with a variety of food tents, live entertainment, cooking displays and shows.
- Gibraltar Wine Festival – Held in Chatham Counterguard in September this festival is a celebration of wine and food sprinkled with life musing and a good time.
- Island Games – An international multi-sport event, held every other year. Athletes from across the world come together to compete in the NatWest International Island Games. The atmosphere on the streets is incredible with country themes and colours displayed around the town and many bars and restaurants participating by creating special menus and competitions. Great time to be around
- Summer Nights – Run throughout the whole of summer with events held on certain days around the whole of Gibraltar including alfresco concerts, shows and circus events with many restaurants and bars also taking part.
- National day – People of Gibraltar are indeed very proud of their heritage and the greatest display of their patriotism is National Day. Observed annually on 10th of September it is the most celebrated Bank Holiday in Gibraltar’s calendar when thousands of people celebrate around the whole city wearing white and red outfits and a range of ceremonies, music and fireworks are held.
- Ocean Village Marina festival and Cardboard Race – Featuring Card Board Race (so much fun to watch), Water Walking Balls, Banana Boat, and other water-based activities an Ocean Village Marina Festival is held in August – it is indeed a great fun weekend to be spent outdoors in the sun.
- Gibraltar Music Festival – Known as MTV Presents Gibraltar Calling, it is an annual pop music festival taking place on the first or second weekend of September. A Fantastic international event which in previous years hosted international artists like Stereophonics, Ricky Martin, Rita Ora or Take That.
Writing this post was somewhat emotional for me. I have spent nearly five fantastic years there and wanted to give it all the justice. This place can be controversial at times with many split opinions. I have however learnt in my travels so far that no place is ever perfect and we are always longing for this slightly greener grass on the other side. But the truth is that the home is where the heart is. And l left a big piece of my heart in Gibraltar. My aim was to give you all the tips and advice on the best things to do and see in Gibraltar. I also hope that I encouraged you to visit and make the most of it. Enjoy your visit and please post any comments. I will be thrilled to hear your opinions. Until the next time …
Thank you so much to all who provided and let me use their wonderful pictures for this post and also thank you for putting up with my nagging. At the time I was not into photography and in order to paint the full picture I have asked my talented friends to provide photos for the post. Please visit their sites and Instagram websites as they are fantastic and passionate artists and deserve all the credits. Those guys are people I know personally and none of it is sponsored. I used all their services and reached out to them to give you the best possible advice and information. The names are as follow: Feature Cover picture: Gibraltar panorama by Narcisa Staicu Photography (Instagram https://www.instagram.com/narcix/ ). Europa Point by Salou Photography (Instagram https://www.instagram.com/salouphotography/ ), night view over the marina: Akos Porcellan ( https://www.instagram.com/akosp88/ ). Thank you to Random Fan Adventures ( https://www.facebook.com/RandomFunAdventures/?epa=SEARCH_BOX ), In2 Adventures SUP ( https://www.facebook.com/groups/in2adventures/ ) and Dolphin Safari Blue Boat ( https://www.facebook.com/dolphinsafari.gi/ ) for letting me use your site photos! I could not be more grateful and I hope you as well enjoy the post 🙂