Casemate Square is one of the two main areas people congregate in Gibraltar, currently for fun and entertainment, but that wasn’t always the case. It was under the control of Spain until the Treaty of Utrecht in the early seventeen hundreds when Britain received control. The word casemate comes from the Spanish term meaning a fortified position, chamber or an armored enclosure; in fact early seventeenth century Spanish plans show this area as La Barcina.
Most of the popular open air restaurants and venders for food and drink are located here whereas Main Street is the area where the tourists shop alongside local residents; finding everything needed and often more than is expected at first glance. The Casemate Square area and Main Street run parallel to each other and visitors can find local history and culture entwined by visiting sites such as Saint Andrew’s Church. One other comforting fact that visitors can take comfort in is that both the Main
Street and Casemate Square are preferable for first time visitors since it is a public place that is not frequented by people with unscrupulous intentions due to the crowds of people that can be found here night and day alike.Gibraltarians are proud of the Casemate Square which they consider their central plaza, is located just a short distance away from the Gibraltar wall entrance and considered the principal entry way into Gibraltar. The street leading to the Main Street passes by Casemate Square.
For United States citizens homesick for American food a Burger King and Pizza Hut can be found in the Casemate Square.In Casemate Square, as with much of Gibraltar, there are many different ethnic peoples represented, for example in the second zone, the Moroccans lived. They came to Gibraltar in the late nineteen sixties after General Franco closed the gates of the frontier. In the 1770’s the chief engineer added the Casemates building as a bombproof barracks for the soldiers but it was not finished until 1817.
The history of the Casemates area really begins with the Muslim engineers who decided that the beach was perfect place to lay down the foundations for the City of Victory in 1160. This was in preparation to take over Gibraltar which was mostly unpopulated. The Sultan of Morocco, Abd-al-Mummin had a grand scheme to establish the Muslim presence here. The settled area was from the castle to the land below and the calm anchorage made the perfect place to bring in boats for repairs.The area came under Spanish control in the early thirteen hundreds, and the Casemate Square was a walled city with towers and gates.
The monarch of Spain, Ferdinand IV ordered a shipyard to be built but eventually it fell into disuse because the sea and sand caused the foundation to drop.This was the problem the British encountered when they took over in the seventeen hundreds. They built the fortress walls and battlements on higher more solid ground, some not being completed until after the infamous Great Siege.
After the Great Siege, the government of the United Kingdom decided to demolish the buildings that had suffered great damage. Few of the buildings were saved and the area became the open plaza area known today as the Casemate Square. It was a popular place for the rulers to carry out the punishment of the known enemies of the state until the practice was stopped. Now in the twenty-first century, the bands and partying are an important part of the tourism and economy of Gibraltar.
During the day, the hot summer days provide the perfect chance to take meals and drink outside. One of the interesting places to visit is nearby Irish Town, with a calmer atmosphere prevails and several notable bars worthy of the name. In Casemate Square, one of the popular bars is named after the noted Admiral Nelson. The Lord Nelson features the best in steak and fresh fish, all prepared with care and the drink is chosen with care. The music features live bands specializing in classic rock.The reclaimed land near the Gibraltar airport just before the Casemate Square is important for the Marina Inn. This seafood restaurant offers food influenced by the culture of Spain.
The local specialties, the raciones, are meant to be shared. Veal, pork, baby octopi and anchovies are also popular.But the chief attraction at the Casemates Square is the Ceremony of the Keys, that re-enacting the locking of the gates that lead to the old Gibraltar garrisons. Like its counterpart in London, the Ceremony of the Keys, carries on the tradition that history is not dull but a living part of life. Perhaps that only adds to the mystery and attraction of the Casemate area, the ghosts of the people who fought and died for the lonely bit of strategic ground.