Gibraltar should be on everyone’s list of places to go and things to do. There is something to amaze and delight everyone, from the youngest to the oldest of visitors.
Getting to Gibraltar can take place any number of ways, from cruise ship, to a flight from the UK, to walking across the border from Spain. Each method of arrival has something to recommend it, something unique that can be seen when you elect to arrive in Gibraltar from that path.
Once you do arrive for your holiday in Gibraltar you’ll find that services and amenities are nearly endless, which comes as a surprise to many. The land mass of Gibraltar may not be great but the things to see and do are quite possibly enough to compete with even the largest or oldest of cities.
Hotels in Gibraltar are renowned for their boundless hospitality, offering services such as child care and high speed internet for the business traveler, or tour arrangements for those who want to see as much as possible in a short time. There are rooms available that offer you complete handicapped accessible services, and guides who can point out to you which of the many sights of Gibraltar may be accessible, or partially accessible to the physically challenged visitor to Gibraltar.
The assortment of foods that you can get when you decide you’re hungry and ready to explore will leave you wishing you had more time and more stomach room. Cuisines range from the spicy foods of Spanish origin, to the more traditional British cookery, upwards to fast foods such as hamburgers and French fries of the more popular fast food chain restaurants.
The shopping is where Gibraltar really excels. Duty free, Gibraltar can offer you anything from fine china to crystal in the many small local shops that line the streets and beckon you to come inside and look around.
Some of the larger of the UK chain stores and department stores are also in evidence, while smaller retail merchants give wonderful goods for a remarkable cost, such as leather goods, jewelry, wine and spirits, as well as even hand made clothing and souvenirs of the area.
The night life is lively and laughter prevails as the local residents seek to show you a good time while you dance or enjoy a cool drink. Known for its multi faceted culture and the friendliness of the residents, you’re going to be glad you put Gibraltar on your itinerary.
Notice, with all that we’ve mentioned, we haven’t even gotten to the attractions yet. The big guns, the caves, the Barbary Macaques and the natural beauty that will leave you breathless are all things you’re going to have to see. The assortment of land based attractions is rivaled only by those you can find on the water.
Gibraltar may only be seven miles in size, but once you get here, you’re going to be hard pressed to see it all, and you’re not going to want to miss a single inch of it.
Gibraltar Tours and Activities
Do you think you’d like to see Gibraltars attractions up close and personal, but your’e not entirely certain that you want to navigate the area on your own?
Its not really necessary or you to do all the work with so many great tours and tour guides waiting to show you all the delights that Gibraltar holds.
There are tours and tour groups that will permit you to see nearly all that Gibraltar holds and in perfect friendly Gibraltar fashion, they can be found all across the Rock, offering you the chance to do or see nearly anything, at almost any time of the day or night.
Tours of the Rock itself can be had from some of the taxi drivers who are so well versed in navigating the array of one way streets that they can get you where you’d like to be in about half the time it would take you on your own. Most of the guides or drivers live in the area, and know it and its vagaries like the back of their own hand. Many of them can even tell you the names of the Gibraltar apes that you’re seeing and a little about their history.
Tours of the Rock can take in anything and everything, from the Caves, where once a hospital was set up, to the Upper Rock where the Gibraltar Barbary Macaques make their home, to tours of the flora and fauna that will leave you incredulous. Species of plants and flowers that exist no where else on earth are on display for the traveler, pointed out by a local resident who knows exactly what to look for.
When in Gibraltar don’t confine yourself to the land tours. Among the most interesting and fun tours that you can take will be those that include the waterways as well. Whale watching is a big part of Gibraltars draw, while the dolphins will offer you endless amusement as they hunt and play in the area, many of them making it their year round home.
Finding your way around Gibraltar can be done on your own, but taking a tour not only makes the pathway easier, but affords you a glimpse of a side of Gibraltar that you might otherwise miss.
Sightseeing and Attractions of Gibraltar
Gibraltar is an amazing co-mingling of past, present and future, and the list of things that a visit to Gibraltar should take in is as long as your arm in reality, but there are some things that you just can’t miss.
Those things that literally speak to you, or beckon you in to view their stories are things that every visitor to Gibraltar wants to be certain to take a peek at. What do you want to do first? Well of course that depends on what you like most. If nature is your thing, the whales or dolphins, or the rare plants, or the monkeys are going to appeal to you.
Gibraltar isn’t just history or shopping or outdoor sports, or even beaches. In reality, it’s all of the above and the best of nearly every world
If you’re into shopping, well Gibraltar has some of the best goods and some amazing prices. What’s your pleasure? Hiking, boating or just wandering around the town in search of something interesting?
The tax status of Gibraltar makes it a place that is well worth shopping with the smaller stores and local shops as interesting and intriguing as the larger ones.
The top things that you just can’t miss when you hit the shores of Gibraltar are listed below, with a brief explanation of each attraction of Gibraltar, so you know what to expect once you arrive there.
Cradle of History – A welcome monument that is shaped like the rock, showing the first skull of Neanderthal man from Gibraltar as well as other photos that show you the civilisations throughout the history of Gibraltar
The Changing of the Guard – Several times daily on Gibraltar, undertaken by Gibraltars own Guard company.
Whale Watching in the Strait – If you’re interested in nature, then Gibraltar is one of those places that has some diverse nature to show you. Whales in the area include Humpbacks, Killer Whales, False Killer Whales and several others.
Dolphin Watching – Dolphins seem to love the Gibraltar and use the area waterways as a nursery. Its not at all uncommon to see them playing with their mothers in the waters around Gibraltar.
Barbary Macaques – The Gibraltar Monkeys in other words, the last free ranging primate in Europe.
Bird Migrations – Among other birds, Gibraltar is home to the Barbary Partridge as well as several other unique species and the migrations are amazing to view. In any given week you can see several thousand birds of a highly diverse nature–seabirds, song birds, storks, falcons and vultures will all be part of the group here.
Springtime in Gibraltar is a butterfly lovers paradise, emerging by the thousands across the area.
The Casinos – “The” place to be when it comes to elegant night life in Gibraltar.
Alameda Botanical Gardens – Combining incredible beauty with exhibits of interest to the botanist as well as the ecologist, as well as multiple fountains, ponds and small waterfalls.
Southport Gates – One of the more well known parts of the fortifications of Gibraltar, built by the Moors.
Fortifications of Gibraltar – Including walls, gates, inner fortifications, built by multiple rulers, and for multiple reasons, each siege or battle saw these walls, gates and other fortifications made stronger. Some of them that you should see are the Kings Bastion, Jumpers Bastion, Prince Edwards Gate.
Rosia Bay – One of the most lovely little beaches in the area, with adequate parking and great amenities
Catalan Bay – A small village that is on the eastern side of Gibraltar, used by Genoese men who had come in to repair the ships of the British Fleet. Descendants of those men still live on Gibraltar, and some even fish from traditional boats. Excellent Beach and some wonderful small pubs are also here.
The Convent – Convent of the Franciscans who took up residence on Gibraltar in about 1530, it is not the home of the Governor of Gibraltar, beginning in 1728. The convent is said to be haunted by the spirit of the Gray Lady, a nun who attempted to elope from the convent and was caught.
The Kings Chapel – Church of the garrison since the British took over Gibraltar, bears the remains of two of Gibraltars British Governors.
The Glass Factory – One of the very few glass factors to make hand blown glass in Southern Europe. They will still hand make the glass to your specifications, while you are watching. The shop sells hand blown glass at factory cost, so its a great gift to take home with you.
The Frontier – The Spanish Government closed the frontier in 1969 and in 1985 it was reopened, with no restrictions. More than four million people cross the Frontier each year.
Old Guard Room – Bears a model of the Port Sergeant who is holding the Keys of Gibraltar. This is representative of a tradition that began when General Sir George Elliott, who was Governor of Gibraltar during the Great Siege, always carried the keys on his person. It was said that they never left his body and that he slept with them under his pillow.
Gibraltar Flag – Done in Lego’s. The John Mackintosh Hall has a lego flag of Gibraltar. It is about four metres high and 8 metres long. When it was built, the flag was the largest flag ever made from LEGO blocks with a total of 393,857 LEGO’s being used.
The Lighthouse – Like all lighthouses now it is in fact controlled remotely but it was manned until just very recently. It is currently the only Trinity Lighthouse that is maintained outside the UK.
The Mosque Ibrahim al Ibrahim – A gift that is reported to have cost several million dollars, the mosque is unique in design and in its multiple uses.
The Public Market – Still used today by many small businesses, the foundation stone for the market was laid back in 1928.
The Gibraltar Museum – Located in the Bomb House Lane, there are many very unique exhibits that tell a great deal about the history of Gibraltar.
Nelsons Anchorage – Nelson’s body was brought aboard H.M.S. Victory after the Battle of Trafalgar. There are also some other interesting sites here.
100 ton gun – The Victorian built super gun which does in actuality weigh in at a bit over the 100 tons it is named for.
Shrine of Our Lady of Europe – Located in a mosque, converted into a Catholic chapel in 1462 after the capture of Gibraltar by the Spanish. Since that time, a light was kept burning in a tower above the chapel – the precursor to the lighthouse in fact, and the oil for the light in the tower was often gifted to the church by the ships who relied on the light.
Parsons Lodge – Built on the reinforced Spanish walls that are still visible, the Parsons Lodge Battery dates to 1875.
Trafalgar Cemetery – Located by the Southport Gates, it was Gibraltar’s Military Cemetery. It was named The Trafalgar Cemetery to commemorate the Battle of Trafalgar though only a few from that battle are buried here.
Upper Rock Nature Reserve – The plants and animals of the Upper Rock Nature reserve are amazing in their diversity, and you will see rare and unique plants as well as animals here.
A City Under Siege, the exhibition – The buildings in this exhibition are some of the first that were built by the British here, and among the unique aspects of them are the graffiti, some of which is said to date back to the early 1700’s.
Great Siege Tunnels – The famous set of tunnels inside the Rock, running for about thirty miles. An amazing feat.
The Moorish Castle – Dating to 1333, the Moorish castle was one of the largest in the vicinity, some say in Europe, and still seems to dominate the area.
St Michael’s Cave – This Gibraltar attraction has been unique and visited since Roman times and during World War II the cave was prepared as an emergency hospital.
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Of the three attractions of Europa Point, the one which is most often visited and most frequently commented on, in fact one of the most well known of all the attractions of Gibraltar, the Trinity Lighthouse, or the Lighthouse at Europa Point must take that prize.
The actual construction of the Lighthouse at Europa Point was begun in 1838, by the Governor Alexander Woodford, who with his own hand laid the foundation for the lighthouse, setting the first stone of what would be the Lighthouse of Europa Point into place. There was a brief ceremony there, to commemorate it, which was covered by the local newspaper of Gibraltar, but actual opening of the lighthouse didn’t take place for about three more years, when it opened in August of 1841.
The opening of the Trinity Lighthouse at Europa Point was quite a spectacle, drawing in more than 2000 people from the area who came to watch its first emission of light out over the waterways. Not surprisingly, the Lighthouse was a welcome addition to Gibraltar to the sailors both local and from a distance. The Rock of Gibraltar was well known for the difficulties that could present themselves when navigating Gibraltar Bay, and any means to light the path was welcomed.
The light house at Europa point was called Trinity Lighthouse because the Trinity House was employed to manage the maintenance that the lighthouse required over the years of its existence. Prior to that time, the only light in the area that could possibly be used to navigate came to the sailors from the chapel that was known as our Lady of Europa.
Grateful sailors left supplies of oil at Our Lady of Europa so that the lights could continue burning, in the towers as well as the windows, offering them a beacon of sorts to navigate by, making the Lady of Europa in actuality the first Lighthouse at Europa Point.
The opening of a more proper lighthouse, designed to offer better and more safe navigation of the waters made it far easier for the sailors to navigate what could be a treacherous stretch of waterway.
The Lighthouse at Europa point provided a light that was was so much brighter and far higher raised than that of the chapel, so it did of course replace that first beacon.
The Trinity Lighthouse stands about 50 metres above the sea, and the light that the lighthouse on Gibraltar emits can reportedly be seen more than twenty miles, or 27 Kilometers away from its origin.
From its opening in 1841, until about 1894, the lighthouse at Europa Point was deemed sufficient, but in 1894, improvements were made to the lighthouse that increased the power of the lighthouse and its ability to assist sailors in their navigation, changing out the single wicking and mirrors, to a burner that included eight different wicks, and a much improved lantern.
There was also a fog horn installed that would provide the ships with two short harsh blasts. In 1956, the Europa Point Lighthouse again had some positive changes to its lighting and its surface, with the installation of the more modern methods of lighting. With these additions, the lighthouse at Europa Point became more electrical in nature, and additionally the advances permitted full revolutions and had far more power and visibility than the lighthouse could previously manage.
The Trinity Light house,the Lighthouse at Europa Point began as a way to save lives and property, and to safeguard the travelers of the area, and continues to do so, yet it has evolved also to be one of the main tourist attractions of Gibraltar, has offered a means to navigate the area, to the seafarers of Gibraltar for more than a hundred years. While you’re in Gibraltar, make sure that you navigate up to Europa Point and take a look at the Lighthouse of Europa Point.
Travelling to Gibraltar
For anyone looking to travel to Gibraltar there are regular flights from the UK but no direct flights from Spain at present although these are expected to resume from Madrid and Barcelona when the new terminal opens. This is currently under construction and will have four gates and a capacity for 1m passengers a year.
Until it´s ready, those arriving at Gibraltar are treated to a magnificent first view of the Rock from the top of the airplane steps. After it opens, the famous main road across the runway will remain in place for pedestrians. This heads towards the land border with Spain and actually intersects the runway, so consequently has to be closed every time a plane lands or takes off.
If you are going to travel to Gibraltar from Spain there are several ways to do this. Firstly by car, which takes just under an hour from Marbella or slightly more from further along the coast but at peak times of the day there may be lengthy queues as the traffic waits to go through the border checks for which you will need to show your passport. When the new airport terminal is completed vehicles will then enter Gibraltar via a new tunnel under the runway at eastern Beach.
Alternatively many travel agencies offer day trips where a coach will collect you and take you to La Linea which is on the Spanish side of the border. From there you will walk the short distance – a few hundred yards – across the border and into Gibraltar.
There are also public transport buses on the Costa del Sol that go from Fuengirola to La Linea, stopping everywhere in between including Marbella and these are run by Portillo Bus Company. However, while this is the cheapest way to travel to Gibraltar, due to the numerous stops along the way this often takes several hours and can be quite a lengthy experience.
The border is about 2 Kilometres from the town centre but there are regular bus services and taxis are available from a taxi rank at the airport, just inside the border on the Gibraltar side.
Very few hotels are as well appointed as even the least costly of Gibraltar, and nearly every hotel in Gibraltar will offer you an unimpeded view of the water, while most hotel services will include arranging things to do and see during your stay in Gibraltar.
There are, in Gibraltar, several hotels which offer you fitness centers, as well as business centers, and of course the prerequisite swimming pool that most of us are seeking out. Several also offer high speed internet within the hotel rooms, while most will afford you that service in some part of the hotel.
The hotels in Gibraltar range from the less costly, and of course a bit less luxurious, to some of the best and most elegant that can be found, depending upon what your needs and desires are. Enjoy your trip to Gibraltar by booking in advance to be certain that you get exactly what you’re seeking in accommodations.
St Michael’s Cave is a series, or network, of caves made of limestone, which are found on the Rock, or the Rock of Gibraltar. St Michaels Cave is located on what is called the Upper Rock, inside the Upper Rock Nature Reserve of Gibraltar and sites at a dizzying height of well over 300 metres above sea level.
The name St Michaels comes from a grotto, or cave of a similar nature which is located in Monte Gargano, in Apulia Italy, and it is where the Archangel Gabriel is said to have shown himself.
The first real mention and description of the caves came to us from Pomponius Mela a geographer from Algeciras who described Gibraltar as: “A mountain with wonderful concavities, which has its western side almost opened by a large cave which may be penetrated far into the interior.”
Homer, the poet also wrote of the Caverns, and artifacts that have been found inside the caverns tell us that it was known to Greeks, Romans and Phoenicians in ancient times.
The Cathedral Cave, part of St Michaels cave was at one time thought to be bottomless, and was long spoken of in the legends of Gibraltar.
It was believed that the cave was one end of a passage of a subterranean nature that moves more than fifteen miles long and passes through under the strait of Gibraltar, and further legend says that the Barbary Apes, or Gibraltar Monkeys entered Gibraltar from Morocco from this passage long ago.
The Rock of Gibraltar has long been considered to be one of the pillars of Hercules, and this too adds to the mystique and legend, and since it hosted the cave, the caverns themselves were thought to be the Gates to Hades, or Hell, an entryway to the Underworld where the dead rested.
St Michaels cave was created by the slow seepage of rainwater through the rock, which turned into a carbonic acid solution that actually dissolved the rocks of the cave. The process made the tiny cracks of the geological faults of Gibraltar grew into very long passage and deep caverns over the thousands of years of its formation. It has also resulted in amazing stalactites and stalagmites being formed in the caverns by permitting the accumulation of bits of the dissolved rock that drips in much the same way as a candle will build up wax along its sides as the melted wax builds up.
A Neolithic bowl has also in recent years been discovered. In the latter part of 1974, proof that the cave was known to and used by prehistoric men was made clear with the finding of art on the cave walls, showing an ibex drawn there that was traced to the Solutrean period (dating the cave art to about 15-20 thousand years ago), but later, two Neanderthal skulls that were found in Gibraltar tell us that this cave could have been discovered and used as early as 40,000 BC.
Later history of the caverns saw it the scene of some few tragedies as well. Officers of the military installations would seek out some adventure by exploring the caverns, and at some point prior to 1840, a Colonel Mitchell in the company of a second officer who wished to explore the caverns interiors were lost, were never found nor heard from again.
This disappearance led to some very extensive explorations but no evidence of them was ever found, not were the pair ever seen or heard from. It does tend to make one conjecture if they grew tired of military service and found another way out, or if in fact there are crevasses within the system where a man can be lost.
Additional explorations were then carried out some hundred years later, about 1936 – 1938, when a scientific expedition took place in the caverns with a view to finding those remains. Each and every aspect of the cave system that was known at the time was explored, but no remains of humans from the time span in which they disappeared was ever found.
The Victorian era saw the caverns used for parties, weddings, picnics and even such events as duels. The interior of the caves would be brightly lit and decorated and it is said that soldiers would stand on stalagmites with torches to light a path for distinguished visitors to the caverns.
The first actual officiated excavation of the caverns by archeologists took place in 1867, overseen by the governor of the military prisons, Captain Brome, who found stone axes, arrow heads, jewelry, and a very extensive collection of pottery. Having used prisoners to accomplish this, Brome’s excavation in the end cost him his job.
Other uses of the cave have been conjectured as well. It seems possible that it was used by the Berber general Tariq ibn Ziyad who led the Umayyad conquest in 711 AD.
Additionally, not long after the capture of Gibraltar by the English -Dutch forces in the early 1700’s Spanish soldiers numbering more than 500 successfully hid themselves in the cave overnight before making a (NOT successful) surprise attack on the British.
Just after Gibraltar’s capture by Anglo-Dutch forces in 1704, 500 Spanish soldiers concealed themselves within the cave overnight before an unsuccessful attempt at attacking the British by surprise.
World War two saw the cave prepped in case it was required for use as a military hospital, which is was not necessary for thankfully.
Today’s ST Michaels Caves houses an auditorium, (in the largest chamber, called Cathedral Cave) which has wonderful acoustics, and is now set up with a concrete stage and seating for about 100 people. It has hosted the light shows, Miss Gibraltar beauty pageants, philharmonic orchestras and even rock bands..
The caves are one of the top attractions for tourists to Gibraltar today, receiving more than a million visitors per year, who view displays which tell them of the caverns formation and long, colorful history. You can reach St Michaels caves by car, by cable car, by foot or by taxi with prices for entry about £8.00, including other tourists attractions on Gibraltar such as the Siege Tunnels and the Moorish Castle.
It´s easy to treat yourself to a weekend away with regular cheap flights to Gibraltar. So why not enjoy a short break in Gibraltar with flights available direct from all UK airports.
Many airlines offer cheap flights to Gibraltar including British Airways, Easy Jet and Monarch which take you to your destination in under three hours.
EasyJet currently fly from London Gatwick with seven flights a week and Liverpool will offer flights three times a week from early 2011. Monarch Airlines currently operates seven flights weekly too from London Luton and three flights weekly from Manchester Airport. Monarch offer low cost cheap flights and discount flights, plus last minute deals on flights to Gibraltar. British Airways also flies seven times weekly into Gibraltar from London Heathrow.
Gibraltar Airport is owned by the Ministry of Defence for use by the RAF in Gibraltar, but civilian operators use the airport too; although at the moment these scheduled flights operate only to the UK. Previously there were a few flights from Spanish destinations too but there are none at present.
Gibraltar is also the closest airport to the city that it serves, being only 500 metres from the city centre so there are no lengthy transfers to your hotel when you get off your flight.
The Cable Car at Gibraltar is among the most fascinating attractions of Gibraltar and something that you absolutely don’t want to miss on your visit to Gibraltar. The Gibraltar Cable Car carries about thirty passengers at a time on a trip to the top of the Rock of Gibraltar, taking about 6 minutes to complete the trip to the top.
See pricing and time schedules for the Cable Car
Once you arrive at the top, you will have the opportunity for a snack, see the apes getting up to whatever mischief is in store for the day and admire the view while you plan what’s next on your agenda.
The summit also offers you the chance to use their interactive tour, that will permit you to discover the Rock of Gibraltar at your own pace, through the use of a hand held guide. * Languages available are: English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Swedish and Portuguese.
Its a fantastic means to introduce yourself to Gibraltar, and will give you a complete view of the amazing history of Gibraltar, as well as a little knowledge about the geology and the plant and animal life that lives on the Rock of Gibraltar.
The Gibraltar Cable Car was built by Swiss experts in cable car systems, Von Roll Ltd and opened to the public in 1966 but has since undergone several upgrades. In 1986 the original Cable Cars, one of which can still be seen in the waiting area, were replaced by the current cabins. As well has having in-house engineers who checks the system on a daily basis a team from Switzerland comes out to Gibraltar usually in January to give the entire installation yearly safety check. In 2007 an extensive refurbishment program to the Top Station was begun with works starting on the souvenir shop and the indoor viewing area/eating area.
The ride itself takes just about 6-8 minutes with a possible stop at the middle station or Apes Den. Please be advised that between the months of April to September (inclusive) the Cable Car will not be stopping at the middle station. As the name suggests this is where you can find more apes. Should you want to get out and wonder around it is recommended you do this on your way back down. A cabin attendant will ride with you in the cabin and is there to ensure your safety and also to answer any questions you may have.
On arrival to the Top of the Rock of Gibraltar, there is a top station complex that features various spectacular terraces, a souvenir shop and an inside viewing area and eating area.
Drinks and snacks are available and don’t forget to pick up your Multimedia unit on your arrival which is included in the price of your ticket.
You can also access the Nature Reserve from the Top Station should you so wish. It is only a 15-20 min walk down hill to St Michael’s Cave from the top station.
The view is nothing short of spectacular, and the entire event can take as little or as much time as you care to spend.
How to find the cable car
The Cable Car will be well within your reach, whether you arrive from the land frontier, the cruise terminal or at the coach park. When arriving from the land frontier, take the number three (3) bus which will take you directly to the Cable Car. Catch the bus at the bus stop which is located about 100 metres from the entry point to the frontier.
Passengers who arrive in Gibraltar by organised transportation will be dropped off at the Coach Park. Those passengers can take the number four (4) bus to the Cable Car from a bus stop that is just opposite of the Coach Park or from any Town Centre bus stop.
You will find all of the information that you need to assist you in finding the cable car boarding area if you’d care to stop at the Gibraltar Tourist board information desk. They are located at both the Frontier and the Coach Park.
You’re going to find the Cable Car base station at the south end of Main Street, Shopping Centre area, which will allow you to walk the full distance of the shopping area, a great way to take advantage of some fantastic duty free deals on your way back from the Cable Car to the Coach Park or Frontier.
See pricing and time schedules for the Cable Car
When you arrive in Gibraltar by cruise ship, your trip on the cable car will be best accomplished by walking about five minutes to the coach park and taking the bus from there, as directed above.
Here is a simple map, which will help you find your way.