Why visit Gibraltar?
It is a hidden gem, although we are British and our airport (which is officially considered the 6th most dangerous in the world) only has direct flights to London, Manchester, Birmingham and Tangiers, during my time at university roughly 8/10 people I spoke to did not have a clue where Gibraltar was, they had only ‘heard’ of it before. It always made me think “How is that possible?! We are a two and a half hour flight away only! Other than having beautiful weather practically all year round, we also benefit from a fantastic range of beaches. As you can see, It is mostly surrounded by water, we have exactly 6 public beaches (Western Beach, Eastern Beach, Camp Bay, Little Bay, Caleta Bay and Rosia Bay). The Western & Eastern Beaches alongside Caleta Bay are all sandy beaches, Camp Bay, Caleta Bay and Rosia Bay are all rocky beaches, we are spoilt citizens when it comes to choosing a beach to go and spend your day in! 🙂 We also have a couple of small cliffs where people who love having an adrenaline rush can legally jump from, this number excludes the cliffs people jump from anyway. Upon arrival in Gibraltar, you will realise that its people are different. With the surnames of born and bread Gibraltarians originating from countries such as Malta, Italy, Spain and United Kingdom, every one is considered to be sort of ‘exotic’, this becomes more of a believable fact when you realise that practically every Gibraltarian can get a shiny golden tan without getting sunburnt and is bilingual, yes bilingual! everyone speaks English and Spanish and of course ‘llanito’ which is the local lingo. Some call it ‘spanglish’, this is due to the fact that when Gibraltarians communicate with each other, they mix both Spanish and English in one sentence, this may sound crazy to others but it is completely normal for us! a basic demonstration of this could be “me voy al toilet” meaning “I am going to the toilet” in english or “vamonos rapido que estoy late” meaning “let’s go quickly because I am late”. However, do not worry if you are visiting, as we Gibraltarians can easily switch to perfect English or Spanish when needed!
The Rock & its Viewpoints
In Gibraltar we are lucky to have our beautiful rock only a walk or a drive away, taking a break from the city to go up the rock and experience some stunning nature together with some absolutely breath-taking views is an activity I partake in almost everyday. It’s relaxing, mind clearing and peaceful, you also have the opportunity to view two continents at once, yes two continents in the same view! Morocco that belongs in Africa or Northern Africa to be more specific and of course Spain, our beloved neighbours who we have a love/hate relationship with, lies is in Europe. Up the rock, there are various fantastic viewpoints and spots with tables and chairs for people to relax in or use for a picnic or something similar. My favourite viewpoint is called ‘50p’, this is not the official name though, it is just what we locals call it because the place is actually shaped like a 50p coin (for those who don’t know, this is a coin that belongs in the British currency, used in the United Kingdom and Gibraltar) this is where me and my friends tend to usually go with some food, drinks, a Bluetooth speaker and a mind full of things that needs clearing! highly recommended!
However, up the rock, it is not all about relaxation as there are numerous people that also use it for fitness purposes, and I am one of them! You can run up, around and then down the rock or you can jog up the rock, and then continue onto The Mediterranean Steps. Running up, around and down the rock requires high levels of fitness, being an athlete who is involved in intense training daily myself I can assure it is not easy! Nevertheless, it is extremely worth it though, it rounds up to about a 8-10km run where most of it is uphill, looking on the bright side, you get to see some fantastic views during your run and increase your fitness levels! The Mediterranean Steps are different though, they are a set of steps that are very steep and set in the wilderness, this does not mean you will have to go through an inhabited and uncultivated area but you do have to push a few bushes aside here and there. You sort of feel like you are in an action movie whilst running up, dodging and pushing bushes and leafs aside to make way and making sure you’re steps are right so that you do not stumble or fall, it’s pretty awesome to be honest! Normally, people walk up these stairs; I’ve also managed to clash into quite a few tourists walking up these too, however, I recommend you run up! It will truly work your legs and lungs out, I use The Mediterranean Steps as an alternative to ‘leg day’ in the gym, let’s be honest, who likes leg day anyway? The same as running up the rock, walking or running up The Mediterranean Steps you will come across some amazing views, the picture of the clouds was captured whilst I was running up the stairs myself, how amazing is it?!
Another way to access the highest point of the rock is by taking the cable car; the cable car takes you directly to the highest point in only 6 minutes but during the ride you get to experience even more amazing views, yes, I have used the word ‘views’ a lot but that’s only because Gibraltar has a lot of astonishing views! At the top station, there are three different porches where you can see the whole of Gibraltar, part of Spain and part of Morocco in some spectacular views. However, as a local, I don’t really use the cable car ever, it’s more of a touristy thing, walking up, running up or driving up is more of a local way and gives you that local ‘feel’.
Wildlife On Our Rock
It is essential to mention that during all of these possible activities up the rock, you will come across our macaques, but I will write more about this in the next paragraphs. Talking about wildlife, in our Marina Bay, you have the possibility to take a boat and do a dolphin safari. Yes, dolphins! The safari departs daily from the Marina Bay and you can also buy tickets there and then. This experience is truly wonderful, it usually lasts between one hour and one hour and a half, the people conducting the tour have a lot of experience and you are guaranteed to see dolphins on your trip, so do not worry, you will get to see dolphins and their natural behaviours such as jumping out of the water!
Another spot in Gibraltar to view wildlife such as birds, insects and fish is the Alameda Botanic Gardens. Alameda Gardens is sort of a massive nature park where you can roam freely surrounded by beautiful flowers, plants and trees inhabited by different breeds of birds and insects. There also ponds where there are gold fishes and frogs, there are benches surrounding these ponds for people to sit on, so if you do not feel like walking or driving up the rock to relax yourself with some views, if in town, you can always visit the Alameda Gardens, it’s a stone throws away from the cable car!
Tax Free Shopping
This is a topic that attracts a lot of people and tourists in Gibraltar. In Gibraltar, you can benefit from tax free shopping on everything, yes, this means a 1L bottle of Smirnoff costs something like £5! Other products that are cheap compared to the rest of Europe is tobacco (a sleeve of any brand averages the £23 mark), perfumes & fragrances (prices are 10/20% than the rest of Europe), sunglasses, watches, jewellery, electronics, clothes, etc. You can practically find anything on our high street at a lower price, by the way, there is only one high street in Gibraltar, but do not worry this high street never ceases to meet everyone’s expectations! Everyday our main street is packed with tourists walking up and down; it would be a rare occasion if I were to bump into a local friend of mine at the main street. We also have a main square named Casemates Square where there are more shops, but you can also enjoy some delicious fish & chips and a cappuccino under the sun.
Food & Restaurants
Talking about food, In Gibraltar you have a range of fantastic restaurants to choose from. It obviously depends on what your taste is but here are a few recommendations of mine for people looking to get a quality meal for a good price.
Bianca’s bar & restaurant
This restaurant is based in our Marina Bay; they offer a smart casual vibe and a Mediterranean style menu. This place is good value for money, the location is in ocean village and the food is great.
Bruno’s bar restaurant
This place has a lounge/bar feel to it and is about 300 metres down from Bianca’s located in Ocean Village. Even though they specialise in drinks, their food is also of high quality. Other than having good competitive prices on drinks and cocktails, their food menu is an attractive one and their chicken wings are delicious!
Papa Luigi’s Pizzeria
This is an Italian pizzeria located in Water Gardens, their pizza is my personal favourite in Gibraltar, it is made the original way, in a wooden oven right in front of your eyes, and the prices are great! Highly recommended if you’re a pizza lover! Also, their Banoffee pie is the best I have ever had in my life!
If you are feeling some classic Spanish tapas with a good glass of wine, then this is the place for you, located in ocean heights; Montagu tapas have a great selection of both tapas and wines! Oh and the tapas range from prices between £2 and £2.50. Recommended if you are feeling a tasty nibble of many different things at the same time!
Bars & Clubs
Even though Gibraltar is a small place, we have a number of bars to enjoy a beer, a cocktail or a casual drink with your group of friends. Here are my favourites.
Sunborn Yacht Hotel Sky Bar
This place is within the 5 star Yacht hotel in Gibraltar. It is fairly pricy but all I can say is it is well worth the money! Other than exceptional service, the actual place itself is marvellous and the drinks are pretty great themselves. You also have a vantage view as the bar is located high up!
O’Reilly’s Bar & Restaurant
This is an Irish style bar located in Ocean Village, other than being located in Gibraltar’s most lively area, the bar itself has an awesome layout. It has two floors and also an outside terrace, so if you are feeling a pint of beer under the sun with a view of our marina, this is the place for you!
Casino Admiral Gibraltar
Also located in Ocean Village, the reason why I recommend the casino, is because their terrace is big, has a fabulous view and the drinks are not over priced. It’s also lively over the weekends; you would be lucky to find a spot in the terrace on a Friday night! This is where I usually go before a night out.
This place is practically our only proper nightclub, also located in ocean village and within proximity of the Sunborn Yacht Hotel. Dusk has a cool vibe to it, the dance floor is made of glass and under it you can see real fish swimming around, how cool is that?! It gets packed every weekend so you are pretty much guaranteed to have fun! The terrace is also great as it consists of nicely decorated sofas where people tend to sit down, have a chat and take some fresh air from the more crowded dance floor. There are three bars inside the club so you wont have to queue too much to get yourself a drink. This is where I spend my nights out in Gibraltar!
The famous Gibraltarian macaques
In Gibraltar, we have a large population of wild Barbary Macaques living up the rock. However, we locals call them rock apes or ‘monos’ in llanito which means monkeys in Spanish. Our rock apes are the only wild monkey population in the whole of Europe! How awesome is that?! They are also growing in population! The rock apes have been present on our rock long before the British captured it in the 17th century. So we have to treat Gibraltar’s oldest residents with respect! Up the rock, there are specific areas that you can go to and see the macaques. There are various signs directing towards where their dens are or you can take a local taxi excursion, with the starting destination found on our main street and our main square, ‘Casemates’, the drivers are all local and they know the upper rock inside out, they also have private access to areas of the rock where no on else can go except them, therefore you will be guaranteed to have a fun experience with the macaques!
However, be aware, do not expose any food or drink as the macaques have no shame and they will come and snatch the food right from your hands whether you like or not! I’ve tried resisting previously but they were just too quick for me. Nevertheless, sometimes I tend to take with me some sunflower seeds and dried nuts to snack on when my friends and I go up the rock and cheekily enough; I tend to feed the macaques, we are not allowed, but it is undeniable that doing something you’re not supposed to always feels good, who can disagree?!
Growing up in Gibraltar, it becomes a norm seeing the macaques around every now and then. But during my time at university, during a lot of conversations with my fellow classmates and others, the subject of having wild monkeys on our rock tends to come up, they never seem to believe it until they research it themselves. Let’s be honest though, who would believe that you sort of share common grounds with a wild monkey population?! Sometimes, whilst up the rock, you see the macaques as a family, which is genuinely very cute, especially when the baby is hanging off the mother’s belly. I often get the idea of wanting to take the baby and have it as a pet, but this is illegal and would most probably cause the whole family to chase me, so it’s probably not a good idea 🙂 There is a saying we Gibraltarians have about our macaques, and that is if the macaques were to ever flee Gibraltar, it would cease to be British!
Why Gibraltar is an example to the world
Since starting to realise my surroundings at a very young age, it has come to my attention how diverse Gibraltar actually is, and the finest part of all of this, is that we have all lived in peace and harmony, without any problems whatsoever since anyone can last remember.
Gibraltar’s multiculturalism is an example to the world for many reasons. We have Christians, Catholics, Jews, Muslims and Hindus all living together in peace; everyone respects everyone else’s religion. No matter the tensions between certain countries and religions in other parts of the world, the communities of Gibraltar have not been influenced and they remain in peace. We have a church, a synagogue and a mosque within 200 metres between each other. It is normal to see a Muslim and a Jew walking down the street together. Everyone in Gibraltar looks out for each other, this is why we are strong as a community and no outside influences have managed to break our communities apart.
The diverse people of Gibraltar do not isolate themselves in communities either, integrity is key within our rock. When I was in school, my group of friends consisted of people with different backgrounds, ethnicities and religions, these people are all still friends of mine to this day.
This is one of many reasons why a visit to Gibraltar is always a good idea! You will be welcomed on our small rock, you will get to experience some unique viewpoints, be part of a diverse community, see our macaques, the only wild monkey population in Europe and the best of all, enjoy our tax free shopping!