Whatever the means by which you arrive in Gibraltar – by air, foot, car or sea – you’ll experience its fascinating layers of history and culture pretty much as soon as you set foot in the place. So then, here’s how to spend a day in the territory if you’ve an overnight stay to enjoy at the likes of the Caleta Gibraltar hotel…
How best to familiarise yourself with the diverse heritage of the territory, while taking in a good dose of its natural beauty? Why, make a beeline for Gibraltar Nature Reserve, Upper Rock, for a tour of the Rock, of course. Specifically, you can experience a tour via taxi, a pre-arranged coach tour, on foot or you can even get the from-the-above version in a cable car caught from Grand Parade.
The most basic of tours tend to take about two hours to complete, covering thousands of years of the Rock’s evolution, and take in the likes of the famous Apes’ Den (where Europe’s only free roaming monkeys, the Barbary Macaques, call home) as well as St Michael’s Cave that features extraordinary stalagmites and stalactites. Don’t forget too to stop at Europa Point, Europe’s southernmost tip, which affords visitors a perfect panorama right across the Strait to North Africa. Try as well to visit the relatively new Skywalk that gives those who sample it incredible views of the Rock from the glass balcony at its apex.
The very centre of the territory is largely protected by the Gibraltar Heritage Trust and, reassuringly, is undergoing a permanent restoration programme. The city walls that originally enclosed the town centre and its fortifications date all the way back to the 19th Century and feature the likes of Casemates Gates, Charles V Wall and Kings Bastion. If you’re not all toured-out by this stage(!), you may fancy joining a walking tour of the town area to happen upon Gibraltar’s very own, unique architecture that reflects its multiple eras of influence from outside – which resulted in Genoese, Portuguese, Spanish, Moorish and British Regency style buildings.
On such a walking tour you’re bound to visit the first of Gibraltar’s Spanish churches, the Catholic Cathedral of St. Mary the Crowned, which was constructed on the site of a medieval mosque and completed in the 1460s. Damaged during the territory’s Great Siege of 1779-83, inevitably its façade had to be modified, which led to the laying out and creation of Main Street. The latter is today recognised as Gibraltar’s major commercial and shopping district. Why not spend an hour or two exploring its intricate lanes and streets, so you might chance upon some terrific VAT-free bargains? After all, Gibraltar’s absolutely ideal for an awesome value-added shopping spree, especially when it comes to cosmetics, perfumery, tobacco, spirits, electronic goods and jewellery.
The habitat of a number of different species of dolphin, the Bay of Gibraltar is the site of several boat-based dolphin-watching tours, which afford attendees the chance to spot pods of dolphin at play. Tours tend to take up to an hour-and-a-half to complete.
You’ll find that Casemates Square is primarily where to head to check out Gibraltar’s thriving nightlife scene; it’s packed with any number of lively bars and cafés that only close their doors to guests when it’s late at night. Indeed, there’s a very healthy choice of restaurants Gibraltar too to suit all palates. For instance, why not head to one of the territory’s best reviewed restaurants, Restaurante Nunos Italiano? For an intimate dinner, the scenic garden grill at Nunos Gibraltar is absolutely second-to-none. And if you’re in the mood for a touch more glamour and sophistication, why not head a little way out of town to one of the pair of casinos located at Ocean Village and enjoy a flutter on the tables; taking in, as you do so, the simply breath-taking at-night views across the Bay of Gibraltar?