Gibraltar is Famous Worldwide for its dramatic rock. It is located in a strategic position at the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula. It overlooks the Straits of Gibraltar and is linked to Spain by a narrow isthmus.
Gibraltar is imposing but small. It measures less than six square kilometres in total. It is inhabited by around 30,000 people made up of Gibraltarians, British, Moroccans, Indians and Spanish. There is also a colony of the famous apes, the only ones in Europe to run free in a semi-wild state.
Gibraltar is a British self-governing oversees territory (colony). It has a Governor, Lieutenant General Sir James Dutton, who is the Queen’s representative on the Rock and Commander-in Chief of the British Forces stationed there. Britain is responsible for Gibraltar’s foreign affairs, defence and the political stability of the colony. However, the Rock has its own Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, plus a House of Parliament and a government, which oversees the day-to-day affairs of the Rock.
Gibraltar is a member of the European Union by virtue of Britain’s membership. However, Gibraltar is outside the Customs Union so travellers from EU member states can still enjoy duty free purchases but suffer often lengthy queues for customs checks retuning to Spain.
THE UPPER ROCK
This can be reached by car but the road is narrow and winding. It is probably wiser to take one of the Rock tours organised by taxi or coach or by taking the cable car. Included in the tour are the Upper Rock Nature Reserve giving magnificent views of North Africa and the meeting of the Atlantic and Mediterranean; St Michael’s Cave, the Apes Den, the historic Siege Tunnels plus Europa Point. The Nature Reserve is open daily from 0930 – 19.00.
ST MICHAEL’S CAVE
This is a dramatic natural grotto. There is a cross-section of a stalagmite on view, which shows the history of its growth. The cave is also used as a venue for concerts and forms a magnificent auditorium especially for classical music.
GREAT SIEGE TUNNELS
During the late 18th century the sieges led to a network of tunnels being excavated into the Rock as defences. Amongst these were tunnels for a proto-type gun, the first one ever to be able to fire downwards. The tunnels are a honeycomb network covering some 32 miles. Some sections are open to the public and others by special arrangement only.
GIBRALTAR – A CITY UNDER SIEGE
This exhibition demonstrates the appalling conditions the soldiers lived under during the sieges. There is graffiti dating back to the 18th century. You can also see the old water supply system.
Situated in the centre of town just off Main Street in Bomb House Lane. The Museum tells the history of Gibraltar from its prehistoric beginnings to the present day. The Museum is open Monday to Friday from 10.00 – 18.00. Saturday from 10.00 – 14.00. Closed Sundays.
Situated by Grand Parade and the Cable Car terminal. The gardens opened in 1816. The gardens are a sublime area of calm away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
The gardens have a wooded appearance with olives and Mediterranean stone pines plus Dragon trees and palms from the Atlantic islands.
Flowerbeds display flora from sub-tropical areas such as South Africa and Australia. Seek out the Dell with its waterfall, fountain bridge and plants – an oasis of peace.
The most breathtaking way to reach the top of the Rock. You can stop off at the first stage to visit the Apes Den and St Michael’s Cave. Then on up to the summit where there is a restaurant and observation area. The Cable Car does not operate on Sundays.
Gibraltar’s world famous casino originally situated next to the Rock Hotel will open its new doors in early 2009 in Ocean Village offering a stylish chargrill restaurant, a champagne bar, iceline bar and a terrace perfect for sampling a delicious range of cocktails in the sunshine. On offer will be state of the art casino tables, an electronic casino zone, a poker lounge, VIP area and 460 seater bingo club.
Named after the British Barracks located at the north of the square, this area has served many purposes. Formerly the site of public executions, this commercial and social square contains remains of an old Moorish galley house and a gun mounted on a Koehler Depression Gun Carriage, of the type developed during the Great Siege. Nowadays, this focal entrance to the city centre has become the hub of social activities with restaurants, cafes and shops.
KING’S BASTION LEISURE CENTRE
Set between the walls of a Bastion, once used to defend Gibraltar against invading forces during the 18th century. More recently during the 1960’s & 1970’s the King’s Bastion was used to provide electricity to the entire town. Today the bastion has been transformed to take shape as the ‘Kings Bastion Leisure Centre’. Activities include Bowling, Ice Skating, Amusement Arcade, Games Room, Internet Lounge, Restaurant, Bars, Youth Bar/Lounge, Disco, Cinemas and Fitness Gym.
ARTS AND CRAFTS EXHIBITION HALLS
Situated in the old barracks at Casemates Square, this is an interesting area where one can find examples of local and foreign artwork.
JOHN MACKINTOSH HALL
The John Mackintosh Hall is the centre of Gibraltar’s cultural activities where some 200 societies and associations meet regularly. It was opened on the 8th April 1964, containing a public library, a theatre/conference hall, gymnasium, spacious halls for exhibitions and other public functions, and a wing for higher education.
GIBRALTAR CRYSTAL GLASS FACTORY
The factory is open to visitors who can watch as the highly skilled glass blowers shape and work the molten glass by hand using methods, which have been perfected over the last two thousand years. By prior arrangement you can blow your own vase
This building is on the far side of the piazza from Main Street and the House of Assembly. It houses government and the Mayor’s official offices. It was opened on 24th November 1924 by the Governor, Sir Charles C. Munro and is believed to be on the site of an old hermitage.
CITY GATES & FORTIFICATIONS
The gates and fortifications are a constant reminder of Gibraltar’s military past. The Casemates Gates, which lead into the beautifully refurbished Casemates Square, were opened in 1727 and are a typical portal in the ancient City walls. Other notable landmarks worth visiting are the Charles V Wall, Devil’s Tongue, Kings Bastion, Line Wall and Southport Gates.
The official residence of the Governor since 1728. Originally it was the convent of Franciscan Friars who dwelt there from 1531.
The Ballroom, where regular classical music recitals are held, is formed from the nave of the chapel. Next door is the chapel itself. King’s Chapel, is part of the original Convent, where two former Governors are buried and which displays various regimental flags. It is open to the public daily.
CATHEDRAL OF ST MARY THE CROWNED
Situated in Main Street it is built on the site of the chief mosque. During the great sieges the constant barrage of shot and shell destroyed many of the original Spanish and Moorish buildings. However, some of the original structures can still be seen.
It is one of the first sights that greet you as you enter Gibraltar. It dates back to the 11th century and this ‘Tower of Homage’ is the only remaining part of the original castle complex. It now houses Gibraltar’s short-term prison.
The Mediterranean Steps, one of the Upper Rock’s most wondrous and awe-inspiring nature walks have undergone extensive restoration. This 1,400-metre climb isn’t for the faint-hearted, briskly soaring from the 180 metres of Jews’ Gate to the 410 metres above sea level of O’Hara’s Battery.
WORLD WAR II TUNNELS
Immediately following the successful tunneling during the Great Siege, a further network of tunnels was excavated inside the Rock. Up until 1940 when Britain was at war with Germany and Italy, Winston Churchill believed that an attack on Gibraltar was imminent. The answer was to construct a massive network of tunnels to build a fortress inside a fortress. In June 2005, part of this network of tunnels was opened to the general public by Rock and Fortress allowing you to follow in the footsteps of Churchill and De Gaulle.The remainder of the tunnel network still belongs to the Ministry of Defence. Specialist guides provide fascinating tours of this other section of tunnels by prior arrangement.
MILITARY HERITAGE CENTRE
A fascinating array of artefacts of military history housed in Princess Caroline’s Battery.
GIBRALTAR, A CITY UNDER SIEGE EXHIBITION
The graffiti here dates back to the 18th century. The exhibit demonstrates the appalling conditions the soldiers lived in, as well as an old water system.
The old port of Gibraltar, built by the Spanish in 1627, is still to be seen on Rosia Road. It was to this haven that HMS Victory sailed with Nelson’s body after the Battle of Trafalgar. Nearby is Parson’s Lodge where three 18 ton ten inch rifled muzzle loaders were once housed. These were replace during World War II with more modern weapons. Also visit the impressive 100-ton gun installed at the beginning of the last century but never fired in anger.
At the top of Main Street, beyond the Southport Gates, where many who died from the wounds from the battle of Trafalgar have been laid to rest.
SHRINE OF OUR LADY OF EUROPE
located at the southern end of the Rock, the shrine was originally a mosque and was converted into a chapel by the Spanish in 1462. The constantly burning light in its tower was the original Gibraltar lighthouse. The famous pirate Red Beard plundered the shrine. However, its most valuable treasure, the 15th century statue of the Virgin and Child escaped, and is still venerated there to this day. Nearby are Europa Point and the new Ibrahim-Al-Ibrahim Mosque.
Gibraltar has a large Jewish community. The Great Synagogue dating back to 1724 is one of the oldest on the Iberian Peninsula. The Flemish Synagogue, on Line Wall Road, is happy to arrange guided tours, which include a short history of the Rock’s Jewish community. Also check out Jews’ Gate, part of the Jewish history of the Rock, from whence you can enjoy magnificent view of the Rif Mountains.