Don't Miss Places In Gibraltar
Ascending as the ultimate sentry of the passageway between Spain and the African coast, Gibraltar is an exquisite destination with a life that goes past its surface. The solid Rock of Gibraltar lures vacationers with its rich greenery and the frolicking Barbary Macaques that are omnipresent on its territory. Underneath its forbidding exterior lie the Galleries, a veritable maze of underground tunnels and caverns. Gibraltar is also a duty-free shopper’s haven as well as being famous for its row of marvelous beaches.
Gibraltar is obviously very small and can easily be explored on foot. The old town is very welcoming especially along the Main Street with its line of shops, bars, and restaurants. Take the famous gondola to the top of “The Rock” to admire the beautiful landscape and learn about the monkeys that inhabit it.
These outstanding attractions are the top ten not-to-be-missed places when in Gibraltar:
The Rock of Gibraltar
The famous High Rock, which starts near the city, is the most spectacular part of Gibraltar. The entire fortress is now a nature reserve and its top can be reached by a funicular ride. The ride provides a magnificent view of the beautiful city and its surrounding countries, and if the day is sunny you can see some parts of Morocco. From the fortress, you can see the most idyllic landscapes and meet the famous monkeys. These are wild monkeys that were introduced in past centuries from Africa, by early inhabitants. You can make a trip to the upper reserve with the buses (booked by a tour agency.) The tour stops consist of three sites to visit: the Europa Point (beautiful landscape on a clear day), St. Michael's cave (well enhanced by colored lights but nothing outstanding) and the famous monkeys (Barbary Macaques).
Tourists come and visit The Rock of Gibraltar to learn the strategic importance of the place, see the scenic postcard views, and have the chance to photograph or play with the monkeys. This takes a little while, as children get excited about the cheeky monkeys -- but it is really fun to interact with them. If you want to avoid contact do not sit on the walls along which they pass and do not open your bags or backpacks (they interpret it as an offering of food). Be sure to hang onto your sun hats, because the monkeys like them a lot too. Several people have fed bread to "fraternize" with the macaques, but actually it is forbidden to do so and you might run the risk of paying a fine ($4900). The park authorities should exercise more caution to prevent the greedy monkeys from eating too much because the usual tourist pay little attention to the rules.
The Great Siege Tunnels
Guests are granted access to the tunnel area as a component of the ticket to tour the natural reserves surrounding the Rock of Gibraltar. It is fascinating and simple to stroll through the Great Siege Tunnels. Most of the time, they are not too crowded -- and most of the information is available in English, German, French, Spanish and Portuguese. Historically, the tunnels are very interesting and will help you understand why the British coveted Gibraltar: this strategic point could literally shatter the various enemy ships approaching its coast.
Hidden in the heart of the mountain and invisible to anyone approaching, this tunnel with its deadly guns is definitely a spectacular outpost against any aggressor in ancient or modern warfare.
It proved to be an essential fortress to protect Gibraltar during the Second World War. The man-made tunnels carved into the rock in the 1770’s are truly astonishing. All of the artifacts in the gallery are equipped with interactive installations and posters in different languages.
The large tunnel base is right next to "the great siege exhibition" and the two complement each other. Here there are 820 feet of tunnels carved into the rock, interspersed with restored scenes. This is both simple and very well done. The cannon viewing platforms show a beautiful view of Spain, which confirms the importance of this construction for the defense of Gibraltar.
The Mediterranean Steps are a challenging alternative access to the nature reserve and the Apes Den. It is highly recommended to those who like a little exercise. The steep way up is designed for the most trained, but there is an easy alternative to it -- the funicular. For persistence and effort you will be rewarded with the most beautiful views of Spain, Gibraltar and the coast of Africa, but unless you are an expert climber or truly athletic, do not attempt the treacherous climb. The hiking trail is best done in the cooler parts of the day or in the winter. Do not forget to bring enough water to keep yourself hydrated, and use sunscreen protection.
A camera is very essential as the views are more than marvelous. The journey begins by passing through the entryways at the Jew’s Gate. (A ride on a transport bus can take you there.) There are well-placed signs all along the route, aside from one little part where there are some neglected military structures -- and the sign is kind of scribbled in the rock. Don't go off the trail, just search on the rock for the sign. At several points youy will pass interesting caves, and it is amazing to learn that they used to be below sea level! When you get to the highest point of the steps the reward of your achievement will clearly be worth the effort.
The Europa Point is the best place to see the Gibraltar Strait. It has a "balcony" with information available that explains all the geographical points around Gibraltar. From this point, you can marvel at a wide variety of seabirds (gulls, gannets, shearwaters and terns) plus boats of all kinds. It has stunning views of the Rif (Morocco).
On a clear day, the African coast seems to be only a mile or so away. There are excellent views (including dolphin watching). At the complex you will find some park benches that invite you to linger. There are also a children's playground and a café with sanitary facilities. Free parking can be found on site.
The monkeys at the Apes Den are a real source of entertainment for both children and adults. Playful and photogenic, they're everywhere: on the pathways, in the trees, in the bushes, on walls, on roofs, and on top of tourist mini-buses. It is fun to watch them in their natural habitat and the route to this area is beautiful. It is an impressive site but caution should be exercised, as the monkeys can also display a bit of an attitude especially when they are hungry or stressed out.
Wildlife conservationists provided by the British government are responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of this top tourist attraction. The monkeys are docile, apparently -- but if they get near while you are eating they will steal food. They are extremely aggressive if you try touching them and you have a good chance of being scratched if they jump on you. Even so, the proximity to the monkeys is all worth it plus, the scenery from the top is indeed captivating. This man, nature and animal experience will stay forever in the memory of anyone who has the rare chance to visit this enchanting place.
The Gibraltar Museum is hard to find but worth the search. It is located in a small alley between the Bristol Hotel and its annex. It presents a 15-minute film that shows the timeline and history of Gibraltar. The basement also has the ruins of a Moorish bath (a 5 piece set on the principle of Roman baths). This is one of the best attractions of Gibraltar and just behind it is St. Michael's Cave. If you manage to climb its flights of stairs (not recommended for disabled people as there are no good access points to begin with), you can see lots of interesting artifacts, display centers, preserved objects, documents, brochures, and pictures from the early period of Gibraltar (1930’s).
The image of how the airport used to look like in the old times is one of the remarkable photographs and amusing items you can find inside the well-maintained museum. The vast airstrip and the view of the huge rock are very symbolic of how robust this imposing natural attraction is. Make sure to visit all the rooms -- you can even have the chance to touch and feel the displayed artifacts. However, picture-taking is not allowed when inside the museum.
St. Michael’s Cave
The St Michael's Cave is the most famous of all existing caves in Gibraltar. It is the venue for many concerts and plays throughout the year. Inside, there are many stalactites and stalagmites of gigantic size. It is a cave that has been developed into a cultural auditorium and a large museum gallery that used to house a military shelter during World War II. The interior of this cave is very beautiful and the spectral light is everywhere -- you can make amazing and high quality photos, but you need a tripod as it is quite dark and therefore you will need a long exposure.
You can sit on chairs to take a break from the heat outside while listening to classical music. The only drawback here: the cave is not very big but it is always filled with people, so sometimes it gets a bit crowded. The play of colored lights is created masterfully, displaying a contrast of colors, lights and shadows that can be enjoyed in every corner. To visit takes less than half an hour, as the area is not particularly large. To satisfy your taste buds, a coffee shop and restaurant can be found on the premises.
Gibraltar Botanic Gardens (The Alameda)
The Gibraltar Botanic Gardens is a relaxing space extending from the foot of “The Rock” and the cable car station. Monkeys roam free there sometimes too. It is well maintained and highlights a large variety of plants, information boards, and benches (sometimes a little hidden,) offering an irresistible invitation to relax, rest, or to prop up a good book to read while lying on its lush green lawn. It is a small oasis right in the tourist hub of the busy city. You can see turtles, many songbirds and big fish in its beautifully landscaped ponds. The garden may be smaller than expected but it is definitely worth seeing when in Gibraltar.
The Botanical Garden is located near the end of Main Street and close to the departure point for the cable car to the summit. Gibraltar is not very big, so neither is the botanical garden. But in this urban area it is the largest green and forested part. With the warm climate, there are many tropical and endemic plants that flourish. The open-air theater holds cultural events and can be rented as a wedding venue. The entrance to the Alameda is free. Only in the posterior part where a small "animal enclosure" can be found, you have to pay a minimal fee.
Shrine of Our Lady of Europa
The Shrine of Our Lady of Europa is an interesting religious building with ravishing medieval mosaics on its facade. The sanctuary itself is blessed and serene and you can see its devoted faithful leaving their prayer petitions to God inside before they exit. There is a little presentation room, which tells the story of the Shrine and Our Lady of Europe through an arrangement of relics and displays. For example, there is a statue of the King of Spain stooping before a statue of the Virgin; this demonstrates how the Castilians established the Shrine throughout the Reconquista and so forth.
There is also a souvenir shop selling icons and prayer pamphlets. This shrine is one of the best places to see in Gibraltar, even if you're very little into the Christian faith or any other religion. Visit this 700-year-old church and you'll have a warm welcome by a knowledgeable woman who runs the tourist desk; she will help you have a deeper understanding of Gibraltar and its religious history.
Upper Rock Nature Reserve
The contact with the nature and the animals here are really interesting. Apart from the monkeys, you will find small newborn gulls that are in various locations but relatively close. The colorful butterflies are an added treat. With a bit of luck you will be able to photograph buildings down below. In short, it is a pleasant experience because you will have in front of you the views of North Africa, the sea tankers and oil platforms, but around you a little piece of natural paradise called the Upper Rock Nature Reserve. It has superb views of the Strait of Gibraltar and the environment. That alone is worth the climb.