Gibraltar is a small peninsula in the south of Spain, that has been a British territory since 1713. That’s what makes this place special: the interesting mixture of British vibes with Spain weather! Double-decker buses, pubs, London-styled houses and pounds wrapped up in the warmth of Spain: Ah, perfect!
Wet, Windy & Sunny
However, don’t expect the Andalusian weather. Being surrounded by water and because of the presence of the Rock of 426 m ( 1,398 feet) high, Gibraltar has a rather peculiar climate, quite wet and windy. It still is very pleasant and sunny most of the time.
When I visited Gibraltar, the weather was perfect on the Rock with little wind in the afternoon, but when we got into the city, the wind was almost like in Dorothy’s Kansas. Everyone was asking us how did we manage to go up, but we were amazed by the contrast between the peaceful weather up on the Rock and the ardent wind downtown.
The Gib Heaven
Known as Gib or The Rock, Gibraltar has a population of less than 30,000 people, but is has a great strategic importance as it links Africa to Europe and it also controls the ships coming from Asia through the Suez canal.
It’s also an offshore paradise, having no or very little taxes for companies. There is no VAT, no sales tax, no wealth tax so many Brits prefer to stay here rather than in the UK and also many people come to shop in heavenly Gib. From perfumes and designer clothes to porcelain and crystalware, you have plenty of things to buy here. It’s a true shopping heaven! 🙂
How To Get There
Gibraltar has a very small airport that it is right at the border with Spain and it actually intersects one of the main roads of Gibraltar, the Winston Churchill Avenue. That is why every time a plane lands, the road closes and no one can pass the border, by foot or by car. Luckily, there aren’t many flights/day, but arriving by plane is definitely an option too.
The most popular option is crossing the border by car or by foot. This is what I did and there are so many people that cross the border by foot that you feel like entering a stadium or going to a big music festival.
Most of the people working in Gibraltar are from La Línea de la Concepción and they cross the border every morning and every evening. That is why the city La Línea de la Concepción is almost empty during the day, which is quite odd to see. Such a contrast between the empty quiet streets of La Línea de la Concepción and the busy and dynamic Gibraltar…
Stay in La Línea de la Concepción
Many travelers and friends from Spain told me the same thing: get accommodations in La Línea de la Concepción and cross the border by foot. The prices are a bit lower in La Línea de la Concepción, but to be honest, I have found very good and affordable prices in Gibraltar too, so if you wish to stay more, you can book one night in Gibraltar.
The only reason that makes La Línea de la Concepción a better option is if you travel by car or van. Then, it is better to leave the car in Spain and cross the border by foot, just to avoid queues and not spend too much time at the border.
I have crossed the border by foot in 30 seconds or less and I had a backpack. There wasn’t any security control, just passport control and that’s it. However, by car I believe it is just a bit more time consuming.
Take Bus 10 to Gibraltar Cable Car
As soon as you cross the border, you will see the bus station. Take bus number 10 (about 2 pounds/one way) to go to Gibraltar Cable Car, where you will go up on the Rock and enter the Nature Reserve. That’s where the monkeys are! 🙂
The Nature Reserve covers about 40% of the territory and this is the major attraction of Gibraltar as here you will climb on top of the Rock, you will see the monkeys, visit the caves, the underground tunnels, the Moorish castle and all the natural beauty.
Explore the Nature Reserve
The Cable Car is the fastest way to reach the Rock. In only 6 minutes you will be on top and you will also enjoy the stunning views as you go up. However, there are other ways to enter the Nature Reserve from: The Moorish Castle & The Jews Gate. You won’t have to pay the cable car for those and you could just walk through the city and reach those entrances.
If you take the Cable Car you can also return with it or take one way and return by foot through the Moorish Castle or The Jews Gate. The price for the Cable Car Return & Nature Reserve is 29 pounds. You can take the return Cable Car either from the Top of The Rock, but also from Apes’ Den.
Make sure you purchase a Walkers Ticket too or that ticket is included, because you will need that to roam freely in the reserve.
The only attraction that is not included in any ticket and needs a separate reservation, as you can visit it only with a guide, is the World War II Tunnels. For this you will need both a Nature Reserve ticket and a separate ticket (8 pounds) for the tunnels.
With the Nature Reserve ticket you can see St Michael’s Cave, Skywalk, O’Hara’s Battery, Footpaths including Mediterranean Steps, Windsor Suspension Bridge, Moorish Castle, Great Siege Tunnels, City Under Siege Exhibition and all the breathtaking panoramic views along the way.
The stars of Gibraltar are the macaques! Funny, stubborn and with no respect whatsoever for your personal space (especially if you are carrying a backpack). My very first encounter with a monkey was hilarious! We have just reached the top and went into the Top Rock Cafe for a quick bite and to admire the views.
As soon as we left the cafe, a sweet monkey was starring at us from a railing right in front. Of course, I immediately pulled out my phone to take some photos of her and the view, but she had other things in mind…
She jumped on the ground and came towards me. I felt that she wanted to jump on me, so we started waltzing. It’s like she was asking “May I jump?”, while going back and forth, unsure of my wishes. I smiled and said “Hop in!”, thinking that she was quite sweet and I could take some photos of her.
Little did I know that these monkeys are little thieves, so she opened up my backpack and started to get things out! Luckily I didn’t have anything of value at sight. My friend tried to take her off, but she tried to bite him. A lady next to me said “Shake it off! Shake it off!” So, I did. But she didn’t want to go 🙂
More people came and started filming. I quickly became “the girl with the monkey”. I started swinging harder, but she was chilling on my back. Then, I thought of entering the cafe to try to get someone to take her off and that was the moment she jumped back on the railing. Sneaky monkey! 🙂
Being relaxed and laughing of the whole situation made the monkey not harm me in any way. She didn’t scratch or bite and she did put everything back in my backpack and closed it. As long as I didn’t have any food, I wasn’t so interesting!
I have learned then many stories that weren’t so happy of monkeys being more aggressive or actually stealing passports and money. It is very important to not have your IDs or money at sight and even hide them in secret pockets, as they can be real thieves!
How To Treat The Monkeys
- Don’t touch or feed them. Even if they are used to humans, they are still wild monkeys and are not tamed. They seem lovely and docile, but they will either run or fight you, if you try to pet them.
- They will jump on you without hesitating, especially if you carry a backpack. One TIP I learned along the way is to carry my backpack in front.
- They do not like eye contact, that is why they will avoid your sight and turn their back at you. This is another reason they will not jump on your backpack if you carry it in front.
- Don’t leave drinks or food unattended on a bench or wall, as they will come out of nowhere and either steal or spill it.
- Respect their space and they will respect yours. Approach them in peace and you will find some very photogenic monkeys too that will pose for you 🙂
Where To Find Them
The monkeys are not really EVERYWHERE in Gibraltar, as most people think. They can be found only in the Nature Reserve in some spots: Top of the Rock, Apes’ Den, Saint Michael’s Cave and you might also find some scattered around the way between these attractions or even walking along the way with you.
Saint Michael’s Cave
Spectacular and stunning, Saint Michael’s Cave is one of the attractions not to miss! I have never seen anything like it! It is actually a network of caves made of limestone and it had many roles in history. In the Victorian era, people used it for parties, weddings and even duels. It was highly lit and decorated and soldiers would greet people with torches of light.
In the World War II, it was meant to be a hospital, but it was finally never used, being unnecessary. Today it is a large auditorium, due to its amazing acoustic and of course, an attraction open for visitors all over the world. Many shows have been held here from light shows to ballet and theater, rock bands to philharmonic orchestras and even Miss Gibraltar beauty pageants.
Above the cave, you will find Saint Michael’s Cabin. Here they also have a lovely English pub where I tasted again Bushy’s Gibraltar, or Gib as they say, their traditional beer.
Stay 2 Days or More
Many people advise to spend just 1 day here as there isn’t much to do, but I beg to differ! I would have stayed more and enjoyed not only the Nature Reserve, but the pubs and restaurants downtown, the beaches, the bays, all the batteries that are outside the reserve and the caves.
For one day, you have time only for the Nature Reserve itself which is quite large and you have plenty of things to explore, there is a lot of walking to do and lots of breathtaking views to take in!
Keep in mind that the reserve closes at 19:15 during summer, but 18:15 during winter and the last entrance at any attraction is 18:45, 17:45 in winter. I was lucky enough to reach the Moorish Castle at around 17:00 and had plenty of time to explore it, but missed a couple of places due to this closing hour.
Things You Need To Know about Gibraltar
- It is a British territory, so you will find all the good things from the UK like double-decker buses, pubs, the red telephone boots & the London-styled houses.
- You can pay with pounds and euros too. Don’t exchange your money at the border and it’s best to pay in euros if that’s all you’ve got.
- The unemployment rate is only of 1% and their GDP of 1.5 billion pounds, that it is why it’s one of the most affluent places in the world. Gib’s economy is based on finance, shipping trades and online gaming! That’s right! Many gaming companies and big betting ones are based in Gibraltar!
- Even if it is a British territory, they drive on the right side (unlike Hong Kong), just like all countries in Europe. It is not a heaven for drivers, as it is small with only 29km of roads.
- It is a paradise for birdwatchers. More than 300 species of birds pass over Gib as they migrate from North Africa to Europe.
- Gib has a network of underground tunnels that were constructed by the British Army. The majority were made in the World War II and were used as both accommodations for soldiers and as storages for weapons and food.
- English is the main language, but they also have their own dialect, called Llanito, which is a mixture of British English and Andalusian Spanish, with some Portuguese, Maltese and Ligurian words.
- From the Rock you can see 2 continents – Africa & Europe – and 3 countries: Gibraltar, Spain & Morocco
- This is the only place in Europe where you will find the wild monkeys: the macaques. Almost 300 monkeys live on the Rock.