Gibraltar, and its famed Rock of Gibraltar, has an ancient and storied history, rife with struggles for sovereignty and control. It enjoys a stunning setting where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean. On a clear day from the top of the towering Rock, you can see the coast of Spain stretching east and west and the shores of North Africa to the south.
Ancient tribes once resided in the caves of Gibraltar. Later, Greeks, Phoenicians, Visigoths and Romans all passed along the beaches of Gibraltar's shores. It remained largely under Moorish control until 1502, when the Spanish reclaimed control for just over 200 years. Great Britain claimed it in 1713 during the Spanish War of Succession. Gibraltar has remained under British governance to this day.
During World War II, Gibraltar was a key post in Britain’s military strategy. The Rock’s advantageous position between the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, combined with its strong fortresses, allowed the British military to control sea traffic in and out of the Strait of Gibraltar. During the war, miles of tunnels were excavated to create an underground city equipped with hospitals, homes, barracks, and offices.
Gibraltar Lifestyle and Culture
On the eastern shore of Gibraltar, you can admire Catalan Bay, a small fishing village away from the main city and home to the second largest sandy beach on Gibraltar. During the 19th century, only fishermen were allowed to live in Catalan Bay; residents required a fishing permit issued by the governor. Today, descendants of these fishermen still inhabit this small corner of Gibraltar.
Gibraltar Sights and Landmarks
Europa Point Lighthouse is situated at the southernmost point of Gibraltar, the gateway between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. From here, you can gaze out across the Strait of Gibraltar to the shores of North Africa. Its beacon has been guiding ships since 1841, and a foghorn was installed in 1894. Since then, it has undergone extensive technological and structural updates.
Trafalgar Cemetery was an active burial ground between 1798 and 1814 for those who died on Gibraltar. Despite being named in honor of the Battle of Trafalgar, there are only two buried here who actually died during that battle.
The 100-Ton Gun was forged by WC Armstrong in 1870, one of only a handful that were built. Of those, two were sent to Gibraltar and one of those sits in the Magdala Battery. It took a minimum of three hours to create enough steam to work the gun’s mounting, required 35 men to operate, and fired only one round every four minutes.
The Gibraltar Museum was opened in the city center on July 23, 1930. It occupies the former house of the principal ordnance officer. Its fascinating exhibits cover a wide range of Gibraltar’s history, from the Rock’s origins in the Jurassic Period to the modern day. The 14th-century Moorish Baths, incredibly advanced for their day, are located beneath the museum. Among the best-preserved baths in Europe, they included a changing room, a hot room, and a cold room.
In The Great Siege Tunnels, you can experience the life of Gibraltar soldiers who defended The Rock more than 200 years ago. The tunnels were dug when the Governor of Gibraltar offered a thousand dollars to anyone who could fire a cannon from a vertical spur on the north face known as “The Notch.” The only way to access the spot was from inside The Rock, and so soldiers cut through the limestone. Walking through the tunnels today, you will see ammunition stores and passageways that lead to tunnels from the Great Siege or 1782 and from World War II.
Gibraltar Entertainment and Activities
The Upper Rock Nature Reserve on the Rock’s west face protects delicate flora, including lavender, jasmine and honeysuckle, as well as rare species like Gibraltar Sea Lavender and Gibraltar Candytuft. The Nature Reserve is also a popular bird sanctuary. There are three ways to enter the reserve: through the Jew’s Gate Cemetery, the Moorish Castle, or via a cable car. Nearby, you’ll find the Ape’s Den and the resident Barbary macaques, the only population of wild monkeys in Europe.
Once thought to be bottomless, St. Michael’s Cave, or Cathedral Cave, has fascinated visitors since the age of the Romans when it was first mentioned in the writings of Pomponius Mela. Home to countless ancient stalagmites, it has been a unique venue for concerts and recitals since the 1960s.
Jews’ Gate is the entry to the old Jewish cemetery on Windmill Hill. The burial ground opened in 1746, after the Treaty of Utrecht forbade Jewish inhabitants in the city of Gibraltar. The cemetery was placed here, away from the prying eyes of the Spanish. Though the last burial here was in the 1860s, the cemetery remains beautifully maintained.
Named after Governor General Charles O’Hara, the rock’s formidable highpoint is topped by a World War II artillery battery to this day. The battery was constructed under the false belief that from the highpoint, soldiers could see and target any ships heading toward Gibraltar. Once construction was finished, this theory was dashed and the structure was known for a while as O’Hara’s Folly.
Before heading back to the ship, be sure to stroll around Gibraltar’s British flavored shops along its main street, where you’ll find an assortment of boutiques and vendors. Travelers may purchase goods here with pounds sterling.View Cruises to Gibraltar