Gibraltar is a small British Overseas Territory, situated between Europe and Africa, it’s both British and Spanish in culture and has some Moorish history thrown in too, and it’s literally the size of a rock mountain.
Yes, expect to find here Moorish architecture, double-decker buses, and red mailboxes plus British bobby policemen too. Plenty of stores dedicated especially to British food, as well as numerous fish-and-chips shops await. This is not surprising at all considering that Gibraltar, also known as “the Rock” or simply “Gib” is a really small British colony situated in the strait between Spain and Morocco. If a really long time ago Gibraltar was one of the two Pillars of Hercules, currently is a British corner at the jaws of Africa and Europe.
I loved every bit of Gibraltar and I would definitely return here if I were to have this chance again. I like the mixing and matching of cultures and architecture that takes place in Gibraltar, the way they speak both English and Spanish, sometimes in the same sentences, and how worlds so different come together without trying to conquer each other. Of course, the conquering part has happened for a long time in the past, but now those days are over. Now, Gibraltar is a quirky touristy destination ready to impress and conquer the hearts of its visitors.
Constantly surprised by Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a land of surprises. You will encounter fancy pubs and tea shops, but you will also end up face to face with Barbary macaques which, for those who don’t know yet, are actually monkeys. This is a British enclave with a sub-tropical climate, a monolithic peninsula with mysterious pre-historic caves, and a modern city with luxury shops and sophisticated restaurants.
You will find the town on the western side of the rock of Gibraltar and, if you want to find more about this interesting destination, don’t hesitate to visit the Gibraltar Museum. There you will discover the region’s Moorish, Spanish and British past, rulers, wars, and traditions. You will also get to travel back in time all the way to the pre-historic ages, and even get to admire a replica of the Gibraltar Skull, the first Neanderthal skull found in Europe. The exhibits also include caveman tools and ornaments, as well as traces of the Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans who lived here long before the Moorish, Spanish, and British made their appearance.
Go outside and stay there for a while
Most of what really matters in Gibraltar is outside and not inside in the museums. Gibraltar is an open-air museum that dazzles with its abundance of colours and flavours. The Gibraltar Museum is situated on the Main Street and from there you can just take the cable-car to get to the top of the Rock. You can stop along the way to visit the Apes’ Den though. This is where the Barbary apes live, natives of North Africa, but currently citizens of Gibraltar. The legend says that if they were to leave Gibraltar, the British rule will find its end, “so here’s hoping”…said the Spanish people. Just kidding!?
Once you reach the top of the Rock, the views will take your breath away offering panoramas of the strait of Morocco all the way to Estepona and the beaches of Sandy Bay and Eastern Beach. Take the time to discover the paths of the Upper Rock Nature Reserve and admire the impressive Mediterranean vegetation that awaits, as well as numerous bird species that have a home here, especially if you’re visiting Gibraltar in spring and summer when the migrations take place. Here you will also find St Michael’s Cave, a natural grotto adorned with stalagmites and stalactites, sometimes used as the setting for musical performances.
But you can watch more than just apes and birds in Gibraltar. Head down to the Bay of Gibraltar and enjoy the show performed by dolphins and whales. Take a boat trip that will take you closer to the dolphins and, if you have patience and a bit of luck, you will even get to see the killer and humpback whales.
As expected, Gibraltar boasts beautiful beaches. The east side is home to the Eastern Beach and Catalan Bay, while the western coast is where you will find the Little Bay and Keys Promenade. Water-skiing, scuba-diving, and parasailing, as well as fishing, are all options for those who love to spend their time close or in the water.
Walk the streets and admire the architecture
Turn back to the Main Street if you’re in the mood for a haunted Convent. The Convent is not actually a monastery, as expected, but the residence of the governor of Gibraltar. When it was first founded, in the 16th century, it was indeed a Franciscan Monastic house and it seems that the Lady in Grey, the ghost of a nun, is still enjoying her walks along the building’s corridors.
A simple walk along the Gibraltar’s streets offers the opportunity to admire beautiful architectural gems, such as the 14th-century keep of the Moorish Castle, and the Lighthouse and Mosque, where you will discover Islamic elements of design that blend effortlessly with modern architecture. The Shrine of Our Lady of Europe was at first a mosque but it has been converted into a Christian chapel in 1462 and it’s quite an interesting sight to see.
And I can go on and on about Gibraltar but I really don’t want to ruin all the surprises for you. I can say one thing though: you will be impressed!