If you are going on a road trip around Andalucia, you will most likely want to visit Gibraltar as well. Or, you may fly directly to Gibraltar to spend a few days, before going on to Spain. Either way, you will find that there are plenty of things to do in Gibraltar.
Whilst there are many people saying that you shouldn’t bother adding Gibraltar to your itinerary, I beg to differ. I visited Gibraltar on a day trip from Spain, both to check out the destination, and do some Christmas shopping at the big Morrisons in town. I will outline below why Gibraltar is such a fantastic shopping destination.
This guide is for everyone who is looking to spend one day in Gibraltar, based on my own experience.
How to Get to Gibraltar
Getting to Gibraltar is pretty straight forward. There are direct flights from most of the UK airports. The route is usually covered by British Airways and easyJet, both offering reasonable fares. If you drive from Spain, the turn towards Gibraltar is on the A7, in San Roque, just before Algeciras. Follow the signs to La Linea, which is the Spanish town that borders Gibraltar.
There are plenty of all inclusive tours to Gibraltar from the main cities nearby, such as Malaga, Marbella, Cadiz, Sevilla or the Algarve. If you prefer a guided group, check out the options below or search the one suited for your needs by clicking here:
Where to Park in Gibraltar if You’re Coming from Spain
There really is no need to take your car into Gibraltar if you drive from Spain. The queues at the border can be quite lengthy, especially around rush hour, or if there is a plane landing or taking off. The town is small and easy to walk to so, unless you want to reach the further away beaches, there is no point to get into Gibraltar by car. Also, finding a parking space in Gibraltar can be a challenge.
Just before the border there is a huge secure car park where you can leave your car and take a three minute walk to the border. The fees are not the cheapest in the world but they are reasonable. If I remember correctly, I paid around 15 euros for the day. Be mindful that this parking is fully automated – if anyone asks you to pay cash at the barrier, it’s probably a scam. You only pay at the machines, before you leave.
Highlights of One Day in Gibraltar
- Climb the Rock
- Watch the planes landing and taking off
- Take photos of the Macaques
Things to do in Gibraltar in One Day:
When you visit Gibraltar, remember that it is a British Territory that uses pounds sterling as currency. If you have British pounds with you, they will be accepted anywhere in Gibraltar. However, Gibraltar has its own banknotes, which are not accepted back in the UK, just like Jersey. There are plenty of ATMs where you can get Gib pounds. You can also pay in euros, but the conversion rate is very poor, so it’s better to just withdraw some pounds from the ATM.
Watch Planes Take Off From the Airport
Gibraltar Airport is unique in Europe because the runaway cuts straight through the city. When a plane is taking off or landing, the barriers come down and the traffic is stopped on the busiest avenue in town, clearing the runway.
After I passed passport control, I was lucky to see a plane taking off. Apart from outside an airport, It was probably the closest I have ever been to an active runaway.
Climb the Top of the Rock
The biggest attraction in Gibraltar is without a doubt, the Rock. The Rock is a 426 meter high limestone formation with a sharp crest. The iconic shaped rock is home to the Barbary Macaques, which attracts visitors from all over the world. From the top of the Rock, there are stunning views over both Spain and Morocco. Imagine looking at both countries without having to move an inch!
There are several ways to get to the top of the Rock. First, by cable car. However, be aware that if it’s very windy, the cable car will not be functioning. Also, there might be days when the cable car is shut down for maintenance, which is what happened when I visited. The price of the cable car is £17, plus the fee to enter the Nature Reserve, which is another £13.
The second way to get on top of the Rock, which was my choice for the day, is on a shared tour. There are minibuses that leave from the bottom of the cable car once they are full, and take you around most of the attractions on top. The tour costs £25, lasts around two hours and includes the entrance to the Nature Reserve. The maximum number of people on a tour is 8.
If you plan on driving yourself to the top of the Rock, you need to know that unless you rent a local vehicle you won’t be able to, as non-resident cars are not allowed in the Nature Reserve.
The third way to reach the top of the Rock is by foot, hiking. This can take up to three hours. I do recommend the hike if you have time, because it’s a great way to explore more of the Nature Reserve.
Take Photos of the Famous Gibraltar Macaques
One of the best things to do in Gibraltar is to take pictures of the Macaques from the top of the Rock. They are the reason why many people visit Gibraltar. Did you know that Gibraltar is the only place in Europe which is home to a colony of wild monkeys?
There are over 200 Barbary Macaques living on the rock in Gibraltar. Whilst they might look cute, don’t be fooled, they are vicious and will attack if you have food. Our guide told us to leave everything in the car as the Macaques get tempted by everything. He also told us to avoid direct eye contact and not to mock them, as they take that as an aggressive gesture and will attack and bite. Of course, feeding them is forbidden. There are signs everywhere warning you about the huge fines for feeding the monkeys.
To be safe, photograph them from a distance. They are extremely sneaky and will get on top of the cars and inside, if a window is left open by mistake.
Fun thing: The legend says that if the macaques disappear from Gibraltar, then the land will stop being British. When the number of monkeys in Gibraltar lowered to just six during Winston Churchill’s years as Prime Minister, he made sure to bring more in from across the Strait. In 1944, he sent a directive to the Colonial Secretary stating that the number of the macaques in the territory should be at least 24 and that action must be taken as soon as possible to reach and maintain this number. It is said that because of his efforts there are more than 200 macaques in Gibraltar today.
Visit St. Michael’s Cave
St Michael’s Cave is located in the Upper Rock Nature Reserve. It is gorgeous, with so many beautiful stalactites and stalagmites hanging from above and rising from the ground. During the Second World War the cave was used as a hospital. Now, it is used for concerts. I would have loved to attend a performance, as when I was there they were playing recorded music and it sounded incredible. Make sure you check if there are any concerts during your visit, attending one would be such a special experience.
The cave is lit in different colours. I have seen many caves where the light was too bright and it destroyed the experience, but I felt that at St Michael’s Cave the illumination was done tastefully and enhanced the unique rock formations inside.
Explore the Great Siege Tunnels
The northern part of the Rock is home to a labyrinth of tunnels which were man made during the Great Siege of Gibraltar, in 1780. The tunnels were dug inside the limestone as a defence system to protect Gibraltar from the Spanish and French troops trying to capture it from the British. They were equipped with cannons mounted on special carriages that allowed them to not only fire far, but also at an angle. The Siege was unsuccessful. A peace treaty was signed on 20 January 1783, allowing Britain to keep Gibraltar.
I thought that walking through the tunnels was one of the most interesting parts of the tour, for which we had the least time to explore. The museum inside the tunnels is interactive, with human size mannequins, cannons, machines and plenty of panels explaining the purpose of each “room”. If I was to return to Gibraltar, I would go back to the tunnels and do a guided tour.
Walk on the Skywalk and Walk Over the Windsor Suspension Bridge
Because Gibraltar is quite a windy destination, the skywalk might not be open when you visit. I was unlucky to visit on a very windy day, so I wasn’t able to see it. The Skywalk is a glass floor platform suspended 340 meters above the sea.
Another new attraction in Gibraltar, inaugurated only a few years ago, is the Windsor Suspension Bridge. This 71-meter-long attraction, suspended between two batteries over a 50 meters deep gorge, is a must for adrenaline seekers. I had to pass, as my fear of heights made my knees feel like jelly and, especially because of the wind, I wasn’t courageous enough to cross it.
The bridge can be easily accessed from the Royal Anglian Way path.
See the Ruins of the Moorish Castle
Gibraltar, the same as all Southern Spain, has been for centuries under the Moorish occupation. What makes the Gibraltar Moorish Castle different than the other similar fortifications in Andalucia is that it was actually built during the Marinid Dynasty, not Nasrid.
In its glory days, the castle used to be an impressive defence fortification, with its highest towers built up the Rock and the walls coming down the slopes, following its natural shape. The tower of Homage, which is the tallest in the entire Iberian Peninsula, is the only part of the fortress remaining today.
See the Pillars of Hercules
The mythology says that when Hercules tried to cross the Atlas Mountain, instead of climbing it he used his super strength to smash through it. The mountain was divided into two parts, creating the Strait of Gibraltar. The Pillars of Hercules are the two mountains that the legend says were divided, Mount Calpe in Gibraltar and Mount Abila in Morocco.
At the viewpoint of the Pillars of Hercules there is a plaque with the “Ancient World” on one side and the “Modern World” on the other. It is mentioned in the Ancient World that Gibraltar was also known as the end of the world, a religious shrine and the entrance to Hades – the Greek God of of the dead and the underworld.
Did anyone say Bombay Sapphire gin for £10?
In the introduction of this article, I mentioned that shopping in Gibraltar is great! This is because products are not taxed. Being a duty-free British territory, when you buy products from Gibraltar you don’t have to pay any import or export duty. There are limits of course on how much you can buy, but for personal consumption, it’s always great to go on a shopping day trip to Gibraltar.
Besides cheap alcohol and cigarettes, there are other things that are worth buying in Gibraltar, such as the local crystals, perfumes, chocolates and why not, a pink toy macaque.
Eat on the Irish Town
For a good old portion of fish and chips, steak pie and mash or roast on a Sunday, check out the restaurants and pubs along the Irish Town street. This pedestrian only street runs parallel with the main road in Gibraltar and is one of the oldest streets in the city.
There is however more to Irish Town than cafes and restaurants. Here you will find some of the oldest buildings in Gibraltar, including a still functioning ironmonger. Other significant buildings in Irish Town include the old Victorian Police Station, the synagogue, the Moroccan grocer, and the former meat market.
Staying the Night?
Have you decided to extend your day trip to Gibraltar and spend the night? Why not treat yourself with a stay on Sunborn, the world’s first 5-star super-yacht hotel? Check its reviews on Tripadvisor or click here to find out the rate for your preferred dates on Booking.com
You will find other options of accommodation in Gibraltar, for all budgets, below:
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