We have to admit Gibraltar, just like Luxembourg, wasn’t that high on our list of places to explore but when we were offered a housesit for five nights to look after Kuki, an 18-year-old cat, we thought well why not? We decided to turn our trip into a mini road trip stopping at Évora in Portugal and Seville in Spain on the way down.
We had heard that crossing the border from Spain to Gibraltar could sometimes be a little tricky and the queues could be long, (no problem crossing from Portugal to Spain) but I guess we timed it right, we simply flashed our passports and drove across, took maybe two minutes at most. Turns out leaving Gibraltar was even easier, we didn’t even have to flash our passports this time, and Spanish customs weren’t interested in us either, we could have bought more rum after all!
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Gibraltar for me, at first sight, was like a flashback to summer holidays in the UK as a kid, with its fish and chip shops, cream teas, sticks of rock, 1970 style seaside hotels, red phone boxes, and overstated Britishness. Interestingly Gibraltar aka the Rock has been British for far longer than the USA has been American.
What to see and do in Gibraltar
Cable Car and the Upper Nature Reserve
One of the most popular activities to do in Gibraltar is to head up to the top of the Rock for great views and come face to face with the Barbary apes. If you’re feeling fit, you can walk up to the top, or alternatively and much kinder on the legs is to take a minibus, taxi or the cable car up to the top.
We opted to take the cable car up with a walkers ticket. The walkers’ ticket allows you to roam the nature trails on the Upper Rock (the maps aren’t the easiest to follow, but you’re not going to get lost!), walk across the Windsor Suspension Bridge and visit the Skywalk. The Skywalk is a fairly recent attraction. It was only opened in March 2018 by none other than Mark Hamill, the actor who plays Luke Skywalker from the Star Wars Movies. From the Skywalk, which is 340 metres above sea level, you get great 360 degree views over three countries and two continents!
As you wander along the trails, you will meet many of the locals, yes the infamous Barbary apes. They may look cute but don’t carry food with you, or plastic bags as they associate that with food. In fact, there are hefty fines if you are caught feeding them, although that didn’t seem to deter the tour groups.
Up on the Rock, there are many historical sites such as St Michael’s Cave, and the Great Siege Tunnels. To visit these, you would need to have a Nature Reserve Pass which costs a little more.
There are eateries and toilets located on the Rock. One by the top Cable Car Station and another by St Michael’s Cave.
For up to date prices re tickets and options, have a look at https://gibraltarinfo.gi/en/tickets/.
Opening Hours of the Gibraltar Nature Reserve:
During the summer months, 09:30 – 19:15. Last entry 18:45
During the winter months, 09:30 – 18:15. Last entry 17:45
A stroll along Main Street
Main Street runs through the heart of the old town with lots of familiar shops and brand names from the U.K. and many pubs and cafes. The street is also lined with many historic buildings with an unusual blend of British, Moorish, Spanish and Portuguese architecture. At the end of Main Street is Casemate Square, a popular place today for bars and cafes but once the main stage for public executions.
Drive, walk, take a bus around the whole of Gibraltar
It doesn’t take that long, but it’s possible to drive around the whole of “The Rock”. You go through some pretty weird roughly cut rock tunnels, but it’s a pretty drive, and Catalan Bay is a charming little bay to stop at, perfect for a lunch break.
Our favourite restaurants in Gibraltar
One thing Gibraltar isn’t short of is restaurants. There are restaurants, English pubs, fish and chip shops everywhere. For nice restaurants down by the waterfront, head to Queensway Quay or Ocean Village. These are a few of our favorite restaurant and pubs in Gibraltar.
- Lounge Gastro Bar – Queensway Quay. We enjoyed a good Sunday roast dinner here. A weekly pub quiz takes place here on Sunday evenings. Yes, we participated in the quiz, but alas, we didn’t win.
- 4 Stagioni – Rosia Road. Italian food, chilled ambience. Good pizza. Really good bar singer on Saturday night when we were there.
- Curry and Sushi – Parliament Lane, just off Main Street. This was our favourite restaurant in Gibraltar. Great curry and really lovely staff. If we lived in Gibraltar, we would come here at least once a week. Didn’t try the sushi, but it looked good.
- Bistro Point – University of Gibraltar. Only open 10-5. Nice place for breakfast or lunch with views of the mountains of Morocco. Recommend the Eggs Benedict.
- Michaelangelo’s – Catalan Bay. We only stopped here for a quick drink on our drive around Gibraltar, but this place gets excellent reviews on TripAdvisor for its food. Friendly, helpful staff.
- Jury’s – Main Street. Had our last meal here, I enjoyed British fish and chips (well I had too really!) and Jon had a beef and Guinness pie.
Top Tips for visiting Gibraltar
1) Unlike many borders in Europe (see our crossing from Portugal into Spain) you will probably need to show your passport at the border.
2) Driving is on the right.
3) Don’t pet or feed the monkeys, it’s illegal and you could receive a hefty fine plus a good chance of being bitten. (From what we saw, cab drivers seemed to be the biggest offenders of this)
4) Gibraltar currency is the Gibraltar pound. You can use the UK pound, but the Gibraltar pound can only be used in Gibraltar. Euros, dollars and credit cards are widely accepted.
5) Avoid entering and leaving Gibraltar during early mornings and evenings. 20,000 people that work in Gibraltar live in Spain so border crossings will be busy at those times. The wait to leave and enter Gibraltar can easily be up to an hour or so.
6) Accommodation is fairly limited on the Rock. There is more choice of accommodation just across the border in Spain, but to really get a feel of the place, try and stay for a few nights on the Rock.
7) For those driving into Gibraltar, fill the car up here, fuel is so much cheaper here than Spain.
Final impressions of Gibraltar
Gibraltar really grew on us. Most people arriving on a day trip from a cruise will walk through the more scruffy tourist parts around Casement Square, but the longer you stay, you’ll discover some great foodie places, some charming little bays and friendly people – everyone we met who lived here, loved living here. We would be happy to come back, but still, so much more of the world to see.