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Latest update: 18 June 2023

Deep in the south of Spain lies Gibraltar. Or actually, it is not in Spain because it is British territory. People speak English, pay in pounds, and eat fish and chips. If you are in the area, Gibraltar is definitely a memorable visit from Spain.

Gibraltar: a country and city in one

Gibraltar is a country and a city. There is no other town or village in the country of Gibraltar. So it is really very small. You have the huge rock: the Rock of Gibraltar (or monkey rock), and at the foot of it lies the town. About four million people visit Gibraltar every year, while only 30,000 people live there.

Top of the Rock Gibraltar

England in Spain

Gibraltar really feels like a different country when you come from Spain because you notice the English influence everywhere. It has been a British territory since 1713, but the country does have its own constitution. You pay in pounds, but the cars do drive on the right. The official language is English, but you will also hear a lot of Spanish and Arabic. And then there is Gibraltar’s own language: Llanito. A mix of all kinds of tongues.

You can also see the English influences on the street. There are red phone booths, double-decker buses, pubs, and fish & chips. The street names bear names such as Winston Churchill Avenue and Reclamation Road. England in the sun. The story goes that as long as monkeys live on the Rock of Gibraltar, Gibraltar will remain British.

How much time do you need in Gibraltar?

Many people visit Gibraltar from Spain, just for a day trip when in Andalusia. I do that too, but I can imagine that you would rather stay overnight. Because then you can easily see all the sights, enjoy a nice evening meal and visit an English pub.

So yes, a day in Gibraltar is fine. But if you have the time, stay overnight. At the bottom of this article, I have listed a few hotels for you.

How to get to Gibraltar

You can fly to Gibraltar. But I expect most people will simply include a day trip to Gibraltar in their tour of Andalusia. In that case, it is best to drive your car to the Spanish border town of La Linéa and park it at Parking Sta. Bárbara (Google Maps location). From the parking, you can actually walk straight into Gibraltar.

There is passport control, but unfortunately no stamp for EU citizens. Please don’t get annoyed by the people passing the line: they probably live in Gibraltar. They don’t need to be in your queue.

You can also enter Gibraltar by car. I advise against that if you come for a day. It can get quite busy at the border crossing, especially with the vehicles. Until the end of March 2023, cars still entered Gibraltar by crossing the airport runway. Now the Kingsway Tunnel is open, so they can drive under it. The idea is, of course, that there is now less delay.

But, if you are able to walk, I would still go for the walking option and park in Spain. You can also take a taxi or bus at the border. That also saves time looking for a parking space in Gibraltar itself.

You could also visit Gibraltar with a tour so you don’t have to worry about anything. Here are a few examples of tours via GetYourGuide:

What to do in Gibraltar?

When you think of Gibraltar, you probably think of the monkey rock: The Rock of Gibraltar. And yes, that is the main attraction of Gibraltar. But there is more to do! Crossing the airport runway is quite an experience already, and you can shop on Main Street in the center. Or what about spotting some dolphins?

Cross the airport runway

Immediately after passport control, I am already in for the first Gibraltar surprise. The barriers ring and fall down. I wait, apparently, on a landing plane. When it has passed, the barriers open again, and I walk over the runway toward the center of Gibraltar. This is such an unreal sensation. Until recently, cars and trucks also drove on the runway, but now the Kingsway Tunnel is open. This privilege is now only reserved for walkers, cyclists, and scooter drivers.

Google Maps location

Dolphin watching in Gibraltar

Between April and July, you have the best chance of seeing dolphins in the ocean near Gibraltar. In July and August, you also have a chance to see orcas. So if you are there during this period, make sure you book a dolphin tour. You go out on the water for about an hour to look for them. Find out which tour best fits your travel schedule and budget here.

Visiting the Rock of Gibraltar – the monkey rock

If you drive up from Spain, you’ve probably already seen it: the monkey rock. It’s no less than 426 meters high, but unfortunately, you cannot reach the highest point. The cable car takes you up to 412 meters. The Rock of Gibraltar is mostly a nature reserve; you must pay an entrance fee.

My advice is to take the cable car up and then walk down. You can buy tickets online or directly at the box office. It was quiet when I visited, so I could walk right through. But judging by the zigzag arrangement of the fences, that can also be very different. A visit to the Rock of Gibraltar is costly; count on about 40 euros.

Google Maps location

Gibraltar cable car Rock of Gibraltar

The cable car takes you to the Top of the Rock in six minutes. You’ll find bathrooms, a restaurant, and a viewpoint here. And you will immediately meet monkeys. On your way down, you tick off different sights one by one: caves, tunnels, a castle ruin, and the Skywalk. Please note: the map you get with your ticket is not to scale! So take a good look at the distances between the sights on the Rock of Gibraltar before you start your ‘short’ walk.

Another option is to explore the Rock of Gibraltar with a van and guide. Small white vans drive over the rock. As a pedestrian, that feels unsafe because I have to push myself against the rock so the vans can pass. Anyway, I also imagine that you don’t feel like walking and would like to get some explanation. This tour is then a good, affordable option.

Did you know that James Bond once jumped out of a plane in Gibraltar? In The Living Day Lights, Timothy Dalton lands on the Rock of Gibraltar and has quite an adventure. Check it out:

About those monkeys of Gibraltar…

About 300 monkeys live on the monkey rock. Barbary macaques to be exact. I read online that this is the only monkey species that live in the wild in Europe. I frown my eyebrows at that claim. Because how ‘wild’ is the rock really? The monkeys of Gibraltar come really close to humans. You would almost think they are tame. Almost!

You are not supposed to touch or feed the monkeys. That can be dangerous, and you could get fined. There is plenty of warning that you should not bring food because the monkeys steal it from you (forcibly).

Warning monkeys Rock of Gibraltar

The Strait of Gibraltar

The Strait of Gibraltar is a strait about 60 kilometers long. At its narrowest point, there are only 14 kilometers between Europe and Africa. This stretch of sea connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Atlantic Ocean, so many cargo ships pass through. You have a good view of this from the beaches and the monkey rock.

Strait of Gibraltar

Shopping and eating in Gibraltar

In Gibraltar, you can shop duty-free. On and around Main Street, you will find small local shops and English chain stores. Tax-free shopping sounds very attractive, but to be honest, I don’t think it’s significantly cheaper. The price difference with the Netherlands is minimal, in my opinion.

Also take a side street occasionally because there are beautiful corners to be found in Gibraltar!

Google Maps location

There are plenty of cozy coffee cafés and restaurants between the shops. Actually, you can’t avoid ordering fish & chips or English breakfast, now can you? Something different from the Spanish tapas! I eat at The Clipper (here), but you can get the typical English food in many places. A popular square full of outdoor cafes is Grand Casemates Square.

Google Maps location

Another lovely part for a snack and a drink is Ocean Village. It feels like a holiday resort with a marina and many outdoor seats.

Google Maps location

Gin tasting at Spirit of the Rock

Crazy about gin? Then you HAVE to go to the only gin distillery in Gibraltar. You taste six gins, so maybe you shouldn’t drive after the tasting. The Spirit of the Rock Distillery opened in 2019 and has already won awards. You can book a gin tasting online: here.

To the beach in Gibraltar

You probably don’t have time to go to the beach in Gibraltar during a day trip, but you could if you wanted to. You have a choice of five beaches. They are mainly rocky beaches. Little Bay Beach has a waterfall (here), and Camp Bay (here) has a paid swimming pool. You have to go to Sandy Bay (here) for… a sandy beach.

More things to do in Gibraltar

On a short visit to Gibraltar, the monkey rock is, of course, at the top of the wish list. But if you have a little longer, also check out:

  • The Trafalgar cemetery: for the British who died in this region’s various battles at sea.
  • Europe Point: at the southernmost tip of Gibraltar, you will find a lighthouse, church, and mosque. And nice views.
  • Gibraltar Museum: about the history of Gibraltar.

Hotels in Gibraltar

Spending the night in Gibraltar is certainly not cheap. So if you see a good deal: book it right away. These accommodations caught my eye:

  • Rock Hotel: fancy! Sleep ON the Rock of Gibraltar.
  • Sunborn Gibraltar: a five-star hotel on a ship. For this price, the rooms could use an upgrade if you ask me. 😉
  • Massive Studio: brand new studio apartment with swimming pool.
  • the Nook: nicely furnished apartment with a roof terrace.

Tip! Traveling further through Spain? I have a lot of Andalusia tips for you!

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