9 things you should do during a day visit to Gibraltar
Gibraltar – a little slice of Britain located between Spain and Morocco. We have family who live in La Linea in Spain, just across the border from Gibraltar so it’s become a bit of a routine for us to visit every other year. Unfortunately, this year is an off year but we’re really hoping we’ll be able to stick to our routine and visit again next year.
For those of you who don’t know, Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory and it’s been ruled by the British since 1713. It has an area of 2.6 square miles and a population of around 30,000, making it the same size as a medium-sized UK town. For me, Gibraltar is a perfect blend of British culture and Spanish weather and is a lovely place to spend a day. It’s an easy day trip from Malaga or Seville or is a great option for a short break in its own right. Here are 9 ideas for things to do if you find yourself in Gibraltar for the day.
1. Cross a live runway
You’re not going to find this one difficult to check off the list: in fact, you can’t actually get into Gibraltar without doing this. I believe it’s the only runway in the world that has a highway right through the middle. There aren’t very many flights a day, but you are likely to see at least one takeoff or landing. You can’t miss it as there are sirens, lights, announcements (if you’re not getting off the runway quickly enough!) and a lot of traffic backing up. It’s basically like a level crossing for planes.
2. Go to the Top of the Rock
This really should be a priority if you’re spending the day in Gibraltar. It’s famous for it’s distinctive rock formation that gives it the nickname ‘The Rock’. There are a couple of different ways you can head to the top. You can get the cable car, which is the cheapest and quickest at £16 for a return ticket for adults and £7 return for children. If you want a more detailed tour then you can also get a taxi to drive you to the top but this could set you back anything up to and over £150. And for the more adventurous of you, there are several walking routes up to the top. Last time we went we took the Mediterranean Steps, which was a beautiful walk but fairly challenging. Once you’re at the top, you can wander around and soak up the views of Spain on one side and the Rif Mountains in Morocco on the other. You’ll also encounter Gibraltar’s most famous residents; the Barbary Macacques. They’re very tame so you can get close up photos/selfies but there are hefty fines for feeding them. Remember not to eat food around them either – even if you’re not offering it up they’re very adept food thieves!
3. Upper Rock Nature Reserve
I’ve put this as a separate point as it’s not technically the ‘Top of the Rock’, although you will need to go someway up The Rock to reach this beautiful part of Gibraltar. There are a number of attractions worth seeing, including the Skywalk, the Windsor Suspension Bridge, O’Hara’s Battery and St. Michael’s Cave. Tickets that include access to the Nature Reserve plus attractions are £13 for adults and £8 for children. If you’re taking the cable car to the Top of the Rock, you can buy a ticket that includes access to the Nature Reserve as well as the Top of the Rock.
On our last trip to Gibraltar, we made the most of the Nature Reserve by opting to walk up rather than taking the cable car. We experienced incredible views from all sides of The Rock as we climbed and it’s great to see all the historical fortifications that have been left for visitors to explore. At O’Hara’s Battery you can see magnificent views of Africa and the recently-installed Windsor Suspension Bridge is a fantastic vantage point for the Bay of Gibraltar.
4. Europa Point
Europa Point is the closest point to Africa in Gibraltar. It’s characterised by a traditional red and white lighthouse, which dates back the mid-1800s and the lighthouse’s navigation and systems are all monitored and controlled from Essex in the UK. Just across from the lighthouse there’s also the Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim Mosque, which is the southernmost mosque in Europe. The best way to reach Europa point is to get the number 2 bus from the marketplace, which should take around 15 minutes.
5. Walk the city walls
Gibraltar is full of history and one of the best places to see the original fortifications is in the marketplace at Grand Casemates Square. There are lots of shops and restaurants now located in the original city walls and you can walk along different parts of them as you meander around the area. Grand Casemates Square dates back to the 1100s, which is when the city was first fortified. There are also lots of other places where there are still bits of city walls such as the South Bastion on the south side of Gibraltar and the Charles V Wall in the Upper Rock Nature Reserve.
6. Top up your tan on the beach
I think Gibraltar very much lives in the shadow of its neighbouring Spanish cities when it comes to beaches, but you can definitely soak up some sun on the sand if you want to. There are six beaches to choose from, ranging from more sandy beaches on the east to rockier ones on the west. My favourite is Catalan Bay, where the beach is set against a backdrop of pretty pastel houses – very quintessentially British! Another option not far from Catalan Bay is Eastern Bay, the largest beach in Gibraltar. To stay more central, head for Western Beach – it’s not far from the airport so you may also get a good view of planes taking off and landing.
7. Shop duty-free
Did you know that Gibraltar has some great duty-free shopping that you can take advantage of? Head down the high street and take your pick of perfumes and alcohol – it’s not dissimilar to the great deals you can get on all the things you’d usually find in the duty free shops at the airport. There’s generally a great range of things available to buy duty free, including electronics, jewellery and fashion. Just remember that the usual duty-free restrictions apply when heading back into Spain/to the UK – Gibraltar counts as a non-EU country for customs purposes!
8. Go to the chippy
Not an obvious one to think of when you’re in the Mediterranean, but if you want to experience the true novelty of Gibraltar’s Britishness then you should consider getting fish and chips. There are several fish and chip shops to choose from in the marketplace and you’ll get authentic British fish and chips. A lot of the time they’ve been set up by Brits who’ve gone over to Gibraltar so you won’t find any poor imitations here. And what better than a familiar cod and chips with a nice cool glass of vino in 30 degree heat whilst you’re on holiday?
9. Visit the Admiral Casino
I’m not one to encourage gambling generally but we’ve had some great times in the Admiral Casino located in Ocean Village in Gibraltar. We have a strict rule that we only take around £30 each and then once it’s gone it’s gone. Usually we spend most of our evening at the roulette table placing the smallest bets possible and we’ll make our £30 last a good few hours. I’d highly recommend the casino not only for the gaming, but also for the people watching value. There’s no formal dress code for the casino and it’s not far from the border with Spain, so it’s a good way to round off your day in Gibraltar and get the full Gib experience.