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Reviewed on 12 Sep 2018
The tiny British enclave of Gibraltar is referred to as “the Rock” due to the towering 426m (1,398ft) limestone ridge that dominates the island. Its position at the entrance of the Mediterranean Sea has made it a much sought-after isle – it was ruled by the Moors in the Middle Ages, then by the Spanish and it became a British overseas territory in 1713.
Discover an intriguing mix of Moorish and Spanish architecture in the old town, interspersed with British high street brands like Marks and Spencer and pubs serving fish and chips.
While many people visit Gibraltar on a day trip from Spain, strict border controls can mean long queues. Skip all that by staying a few days – once you’ve seen the main sights, there are a number of sandy beaches to laze on too.
It’s advisable to book your hotel in Gibraltar as far in advance as possible – especially during the busy summer months. If you’re planning to visit during the low season, however, there are plenty of bargains to be had.
The majority of accommodation in Gibraltar leans towards the upmarket. A good five-star hotel in Gibraltar is the swanky Sunborn Gibraltar, which is set on a static seven-deck superyacht in the trendy Ocean Village Marina.
For a more old-fashioned feel, the four-star Rock Hotel was built in 1932 and has spectacular views over the Strait of Gibraltar, as well as a swimming pool and two restaurants. Lavish afternoon teas are also served on the terrace. Other four-star hotels include the O’Callaghan Elliot Hotel in the city centre and Caleta Hotel, which overlooks Catalan Bay beach.
Mid-range hotels in Gibraltar include the Holiday Inn Express Gibraltar, which is near the airport and offers free breakfast, and the Bristol Hotel, which is housed in a colonial-style building dating from 1894.
No visit to Gibraltar is complete without a visit to the top of the Rock of Gibraltar, where the spectacular views extend as far as the Costa del Sol in Spain and Morocco on a clear day. Walk up the steep Mediterranean Steps on the Rock’s eastern side or take the cable car, which whizzes you up in just six minutes.
As well as a viewing platform, there’s a glass walkway, a café and a restaurant. Look out for the Barbary macaques – the only wild monkeys left in Europe. They’re used to people and being photographed, but they may try to steal your food (it's not unheard of for them to even go after sunglasses!).
St Michael’s Cave is an impressive limestone grotto that’s sometimes used as a concert venue due to the incredible acoustics. You can also visit the Great Siege Tunnels, which were dug mostly by hand by the British in order to defend Gibraltar against Spanish and French troops in the 1780s.
Other attractions include the remains of an ancient Moorish Castle and Gibraltar Museum, which is home to an exceptionally well-preserved bathhouse dating from the 14th century.
Escape the crowds in the Gibraltar Botanic Gardens or simply hit the beach to top up your tan. Sandy Beach has sand imported from the Sahara after a storm blew most of it away while Camp Bay has a lido made out of a former quarry, plus a natural cove that’s perfect for kids.
Everywhere is walkable in Gibraltar although there are buses that will take you to the main sights. Plenty of taxis also offer tours of the Rock but be sure to agree on a price beforehand.
Although it’s possible to drive to Gibraltar from Spain, there’s very little parking in the city centre and the road up to the Rock is narrow, with hairpin bends and sheer drops. Park in the nearby town of La Línea de la Concepción instead and walk across the border – crossing is generally much quicker on foot – and then take a bus or taxi into town from there.
If you’re planning to visit Gibraltar along with a trip into southern Spain, check out our hotels in Cadiz for one of the region's most underrated cities, or browse our hotels in Malaga for a beachside stay on the Costa del Sol.