Although we’ve returned more times to Gibraltar with the years, this was the first time we ever went to a British Overseas Territory. This little piece of land is little more than a mountain lying between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula, neighboring Spain. As small as it is, that the airport is mostly built on land gained to the sea at both sides of the straight, and the only commercial airport in the world to have a main traffic road passing through it perpendicular to the runway with a level crossing as if it would be a railway crossing. Meters north of the airport and you reach the Spanish border and the city of La Linea de la Concepcion.
Contrary to what Spanish people tend to think about the sovereignty of Gibraltar, this territory was ceded to Britain in perpetuity under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. It was never taken from Spain by the British. The issues arise only because the waters surrounding it, which were not part of the original treaty, and the United Kingdom try to claim more and more, clearly violating certain clauses of the treaty.
Politics apart. The old town will for sure surprise you. It is a very beautiful blend of Victorian and Georgian with Southern Spanish architecture mixed with the Mediterranean colours and window shades. It looks much more Italian than British or Spanish. So pleasant and enjoyable stay all together
Of course plan your time accordingly. There is not enough to see to fulfill a full day. For your perusal, we landed at 11.50am and by 17.00pm we were done having visiting everything, except for reaching Europa Point and only because we did not find too much interest in getting there as there is only the lighthouse and a modern mosque. And who really lives in Gibraltar is still a mystery to me. Majority of the business, including banks and even the post office or the cable car were fully staffed with Spanish workers not English. The occasions I had to make use of English were very limited. Quite curious but real fact.
If you are staying for a weekend this will be more than enough as you can stay one day in Gibraltar and the other across the border in Spain. Any extra day then you could easily get to Algeciras, Tarifa, Estepona or even Marbella as it is not far, or take a ferry to Ceuta, one of the Spanish territories in Africa.
Talking about food and drinks there is a good choice of British and Spanish everywhere. British pubs next to Spanish bars and all offering nice terraces where to sit outside. At least that’s one of the good points they take from the Mediterranean life style which is more outdoors in the street than inside.
For more information about the city check Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. The currency is the Sterling Pound, you can of course use the British Pound, yet they print their own notes and coinage. Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Gibraltar
- Grand Casemates Square The main square in the city where you will find many bars and nice terraces where to have a drink.
-Grand Casemates Gates Is the main old city gate. Very likely you will see the monkeys wandering around in search for food.
- John Mackintosh Square The second square after Casemates but right in the middle of the historical centre.
-Parliament and City Hall Both beautiful and elegant buildings.
- Main Street Apart from this main thoroughfare running straight alongside the old town, the parallel streets to this are also worth to visit. Most of the city sights are located along.
-Cathedral of St. Mary the Crowned Dating from the Spanish period built in thew 15th century in the place where it stood a mosque. Rebuilt afterwards being completed in 1810.
-Cathedral of the Holy Trinity Notably for its Moorish revival architecture, completed in 1832.
-Gibraltar Law Courts Being the Magistrate’s Court the historic building next to the new purpose built one.
-Ince’s Hall Theatre Although small, it is one of the principal space for the performing arts.
-King’s Chapel The first church constructed in Gibraltar dating from 1530, thereafter given to the Church of England by the British after the capture of Gibraltar in 1704.
-The Convent Residence of the Governor of Gibraltar, adjoining the King’s Chapel.
-Royal Gibraltar Post Office In service sin 1857 at the same building ever since.
- Winston Churchill Avenue This avenue intersects the runway of the airport with level crossings. Just some meters after the airport is the border to Spain. You are free to cross the border both ways upon showing your ID or passport. Note that by the time we went there, it was no queue at all nor any problem, but check the news prior of planning crossing as it might be longer queues or tightened strict checks. This is due to the political tensions between United Kingdom and Spain with regards to the sovereignty and the never ending story with the invasions of the waters.
- Europa Point The southernmost point of Gibraltar, although not to be mistaken with Tarifa in Spain, which is the point where the Mediterranean and Atlantic ocean meet, and the southernmost point in Spain.
-Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim Mosque On the tip of Europe Point is the southernmost mosque is Continental Europe, a gift from Saudi Arabia built in 1997.
-Lighthouse Built by Governor Sir Alexander Woodford between 1838 and 1841. The southernmost managed by the Trinity House (the authority for lighthouses in England, Wales, the Channel Islands and Gibraltar).
- The Rock Gibraltar is basically just this, a mountain, but due to the location it’s a very strategical point between Europe and Africa, Atlantic and Mediterranean. For the best views of the straight, Spain and Africa sides you need to go up. A cable car runs every few minutes to the summit from the Botanical Gardens. Once at the top you will encounter many monkeys. Feeding them is strictly forbidden, they get feed by the Nature Reserve carers.
The airport is to the north of the city literally meters away from the fences dividing it with Spain. Landing and taking off here offers one of the greatest views. Coming in to Gibraltar I recommend you to sit on the right hand side of the plane as for take off, sit on the left hand side. You will get amazing views from this sides. And what’s best after landing? no need to take any public transport! Just walk and you are in the city centre or meters away from the Spanish border.
It’s only 15 minutes away from the Casemates Gate. While transportation within the city it is really redundant, unless you want to save some time or if you are tired to make all your way back once you reach the Botanical Gardens or any farther to the south up to the lighthouse. Buses run along the whole length of the city so almost any bus will take you to the Casemates Square bus station.
And as easy as it sounds, you walk into Spain crossing the border either on foot or via bus. You will be right in La Linea de la Concepcion.
Although there is a good choice of hotels in the city, you might better consider to stay at any hotel in La Linea de la Concepcion, which is just across the border. The choice in la Linea is much greater and way cheaper as the properties are bigger than those in Gibraltar. A good point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engines such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers.
We stayed at the AC Hotel La Linea by Marriott, Calle de los Caireles 2. Located almost in the first line of the waterfront promenade it is also 20 minutes walking distance from Gibraltar airport. Very convenient not only for the location, but for having a bigger choice of restaurants, pubs and overall night life than in Gibraltar. Of course, it’s your choice; either fish & chips in Gibraltar, or Spanish tapas. I take the second.