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Gibraltar Travel Guide
Also called The Rock, Gibraltar is Great Britain’s overseas territory, located on Spain’s southern coast, between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. The water stretch that separates Gibraltar from the northern Africa is called the GibraltarStrait and throughout history it played a strategic role in the battles for controlling sea routes in the Mediterranean. The Gibraltar Rock contains 143 caves, over 48km of roads and lots of tunnels.
Surrounded almost entirely by sea, Gibraltar has six public beaches. On the eastern side of the rock you’ll find EasternBeach, CatalanBay and SandyBay, and in the west you’ll find WesternBeach, CampBay and Little Bay. The water sports play an important role and they are concentrated in the three ports – Sheppard’s Marina, MarinaBay and Queensway Quay Marina. From navigation, fishing and scuba diving, to bird and dolphin watching, you’ll be surprised by the variety of attractions offered by the 6 square kilometers’ area of Gibraltar.
Gibraltar's Tourist Attractions
Don’t miss St Michael’s cave located 300m above the sea level. This place was also known by the Romans, for it special stalactites and stalagmites. The cave is part of a cave complex, which are connected to one another and include the LeonoraCave and the Inferior St. Michael. Today the cave is used for concerts and ballet. The Superior Galleries, manually dug in 1782, contain old cannons and paintings that recall the Great Siege (1779-1783).
- In the Monkeys’ Lair you can take pictures of yourself with tailless macaque monkeys, the only wild primates in Europe.
- Visit the Gibraltar Skull in the GibraltarMuseum, the first Neanderthal human discovered in Europe, tools from the people that used to live in caves and ornaments recovered from the caves in the Rock. There are also exhibits from the Phoenician, Greek, Roman, Moor, Spanish and British periods, a collection of engravings and lithographs, a collection of weapons from 1727 to 1880, a Rock dummy from 1865 and a flora and fauna exhibition. The museum itself was built on top of a Moorish bath from the 14th century.
- Other places of interest include the Moorish fortress from the 14th century, the Virgin Mary’s Shrine from Europe, a mosque that was converted into a Christian chapel in 1462 and which houses an image of the Gibraltar’s patron from the 15th century, the lighthouse and the mosque that combine the Islamic style and the modern facilities, the 100 tones cannon Rock Buster, the garrison’s library from the 18th century and Europa Point, the southernmost point in Europe, located only 26km away from Africa.
- Go on top of the rock with the gondola. From here you can see Spain in the north and Africa in the south. The gondola stops at the Monkeys’ Lair.
- Watch the guards’ shifting, that takes place several times per day at the governor’s residence, the former Franciscan monastery from the 16th century.
The watercraft harbors Marina Quay and Queensway Quay offer the possibility of serving fresh fish while you’re watching the passers-by.
- Relax on the beach! On the eastern side you’ll find EasternBeach, CatalanBay and to the south, SandyBay, a place with rocks. Little Bay is a gravel beach and the Camp Bay/Keys promenade is located on the west coast. There are facilities for fishing, scuba diving, hang glider and water skiing.
- In the GibraltarGulf you’ll find populations of dolphins and whales and the tourists can go into boat trips to see these fantastic animals.
- A large part of the Rock’s superior side has been declared a Nature Reserve and since 1991 many new species of plants were brought in, to create botanical gardens.
- You can take trips into the Spanish provinces of Ronda, Malaga and Jerez as well as towards Tangier and other Moroccan cities.
There are many pubs and bistros in the city, and in the two ports you can find British beer. There are also restaurants with a great range of prices. Due to its geographical position and its history as a British colony, Gibraltar can offer you a large choice of British dishes, as well as French, Spanish, American, Moroccan, Italian, Chinese and Indian. The spirits and tobacco is much cheaper here than in the United Kingdom. The national specialties are spinach tortilla, calentita and panissa (both are made of chickpea flour).
The Gibraltar Rock has a strategic position at the eastern entrance of the narrow strait and guards the only way out of the Mediterranean Sea towards the ocean and beyond. Historically, Gibraltar has been in the attention center for 3000 years. 4000 years ago the sailor did not dare to pass the through strait because they were afraid of the sea currents. The Phoenicians managed to get pass the strait and used it as an important detail in marking the Atlantic’s entrance. The Greeks have named the strait Calpe (the urn), probably because of its shape. Its present name comes from the Arabs that invaded Spain in the 8th century. Tarik was the invaders’ army leader. Since then the rock has been known as Gibel Tarik (Tarik’s mountain). Its Arab name changed over the years to Gibraltar.
Tarik didn’t build the Moorish castle and didn’t even build the city. Both have been constructed several centuries after his death. However, Tarik had built a fortification along the Southport Gates and along the rock. In 1160, Morocco’s sultan, Abd-al-Mummin, constructed the city, building a castle and a citadel. The first city was very small, and it was afterward extended up to the Southport Gates. The main street present line is approximately the same as 600 years ago, when it was built by Muslims. When the city was captured by the Castilians (1309-1333) the outer streets were constructed and Gibraltar became a great city.
The United Kingdom became interested in Gibraltar only during Cromwell’s period, but the rock was captured during the Spanish Civil War. Gibraltar became a British garrison in 1830 and was declared a colony. Spain never accepted willingly the loss of Gibraltar and in the 18th it tried to recapture it twice, but with no success. After these wars the city needed many years to recover.
Gibraltar was a fortress for centuries, and this fact can be confirmed by the artifacts that can be found all over the rock – cannons, rampant and turrets.
What You Should Know
Gibraltar’s inhabitants call themselves Gibraltarians or “Ilanito” and you can easily offend them if you call them Spanish; the locals feel like they are British. Also don’t say that Gibraltar is colony, without autonomy or its own administration. The local hour is GMT+1.