Whilst on holiday in Marbella, Southern Spain, we decided to make a day trip to Gibraltar. Today, “Gib” is one of 14 British Overseas Territories and is the only terriroy to be part of the EU (for now – sorry!). It has its own parliament and is self-governing, except for defence and foreign policy. The territory is well known for tax free shopping!
Locally known as “The Rock”, the city takes its Britishness to whole new levels with its fish and chips shops, English accents and old seaside hotels. However, Gibraltar’s name comes from the Arab general who named it after himself – Gibel Tariq (meaning Tariq’s mountain). Tariq led the Islamic conquest of Southern Spain and Gibraltar in 711 and remained under Moorish rule for nearly 800 years. In 1462, Spain reconquered Gibraltar and then later in 1704, it became under foreign power once again when the British captured the Rock. Since then, Spain has continuously contested Britain’s claim to it and are often at odds over the waters around Gibraltar and the airport.
The drive from Marbella took about an hour with no traffic. Its not too far from other main cities – just under 2 hour’s drive from Malaga and 1 and a half hours drive from Cadiz in the west.
Here are a few top things to do in Gibraltar if you only have one day!
- See the Rock of Gibraltar
You can either drive to the rock of Gibraltar (which is what we did), take the cable car, or if the weather is good, you can hike up to the top. The Rock of Gibraltar rises 426m above sea level and has huge historical significance and some great views. The rock is made from Limestone. If the weather is clear, you can see Africa from the top!
- See the Ibrahim al Ibrahim Mosque
The Ibrahim al Ibrahim Mosque is the southernmost mosque in mainland Europe and is extremely beautiful and lavish. It was built in 1997 as a gift from King Fahd of Saudi Arabia for Gibraltar’s Muslim community.
- Europa Point Lighthouse
Close to it, is the southernmost tip of Europe – Europa Point. This is where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Mediterranean. You can also get great views across to Africa which is only 15.5 miles away. This slightly unimpressive looking lighthouse is the only British lighthouse outside the EU and is a mere 49m tall and dates back to 1841.
- Visit the Barbary Macaques
Gibraltar’s most famous residents are the Barbary Macaques – the only free-living apes in the whole of Europe. In fact, they are one of the two types of tail-less monkeys in the world. These cute(?) little guys are an endangered species with only 240 in Gibraltar. We went to Apes Den on the rock and watched as they jumped around and played together. However, please don’t feed them as you will get fined thousands of pounds if do – and be careful they don’t steal you things!
- See the Great Siege Tunnels
Underneath the massive rock of Gibralter are miles of underground tunnels. The oldest were dug during the 1779-83 Great Siege of Gibralter to defend the people of Gibralter from attacks by the Moors and the Spanish. You can explore the tunnels on your day trip to the city.
- Explore St Michael’s Cave
Legend has it, that the Barbary macaques travelled from Africa through the tunnels that wind their way from St Michael’s Cave. The caves are a series of limestone chambers and tunnels that goes so deep. The upper and lower section are linked with drops of up to 45m. They cave were once prepared to be used as a hospital during WW2 but were never actually used – awks. Nowadays, they make a great area to explore and even hosts events for up to 600 people.
- Roam the Moorish Castle
We paid a visit to the Moorish Castle due to its fascinating history and the great views at the top! The Moorish castle was built in the 11th century in when most of Southern Spain was conquered by the Moors. They ruled for over 7 centuries and built walls around Gibraltar along with mosques, palaces and baths. It was called Medina Al Fatih – the “City of Victory”. Today, the tower is the only part of the original Moorish castle the remains today. The Union Flag was raised on the castle’s tower in 1704 after the British captured Gibraltar – and its remained ever since.
- Gibraltar’s Airplane Crossing
Whichever viewpoint you go to, you can’t help but notice the main road into the city crosses the airport’s runway! SO CRAZY… The road closes frequently for planes to take off or land. If you do get stuck at the crossing lights, it would be cool to watch the planes take off as you’re so close!
The runway was built during the second world war is still owned by the Ministry of Defence (much to Spain’s annoyance). I am not surprised its been voted as one of the world’s most scariest airports to land due to the steep landing pilots have to make and the very short runway.
Do you have any questions about travelling to Gibraltar that I didn’t answer? Be sure to leave them in the comments, and I’ll get back to you as quickly as possible 🙂
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