Tourist Attractions in Gibraltar: The Rock, Monkeys, and More

In 1969, after attempts to pursue a quick marriage in England or France, John Lennon and Yoko Ono tied the knot in a brief ceremony at the British consulate in Gibraltar. The famous couple spent less than two hours total in the British protectorate before they flew to Amsterdam for their honeymoon. Had the curious couple wanted to stay in Gibraltar, though, they could have visited the Rock, frolicked with African monkeys, and explored the tiny territory’s other treasures. Tourists today will find that Gibraltar is packed full of attractions. With a total area of less than six square kilometers, Gibraltar is dense, bustling, and easy to explore.

Here are the top tourist attractions in Gibraltar

1. The Rock. An international symbol of strength, the Rock of Gibraltar marks a gateway between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean and between Europe and Africa. Just 14 km separate Gibraltar from the northern tip of Morocco, so the narrow strait overlooked by the Rock has long been considered a powerful place to control. Muslims occupied Gibraltar during medieval times, followed by the Spanish and eventually the British (who used Gibraltar as an important naval installation starting in the early 1700s). The Rock itself, rising a dramatic quarter mile above sea level, is as important geologically as it has been culturally. The limestone promontory was formed by plate collision that turned the Mediterranean into a lake by cutting it off from the ocean. This giant pool eventually dried up before the strait flooded to refill the sea bed. With excellent views from both the water and from mainland Spain, The Rock of Gibraltar is certainly the most notable, though by no means the only worthwhile, attraction for tourists.

2. Barbary Apes. Despite their mislabeling as apes, these tail-less monkeys have made a name for themselves on Gibraltar. Debate exists as to whether these macaques, the only free-roaming primates in continental Europe besides humans, were introduced from Morocco by the British (in an attempt to domesticate the animals), by the Spanish, or by the Moors before them. Regardless of how they got to Gibraltar from North Africa, these wild but friendly monkeys live near the crest of the Rock in an area known as the Apes’ Den. It has been said that the Brits will continue to rule Gibraltar so long as the monkeys continue to live on the Rock, so the government has taken special care to ensure the future of these adorable macaques. Tourists often feed the monkeys, and the less shy macaques will occasionally climb onto willing humans. The Barbary Apes are basically semi-wild monkeys, so even though they’re used to people, they’re can still be dangerous and should be approached carefully.

3. St. Michael’s Cave. The geological formations continue into the Earth, as this cave goes deep into the Rock of Gibraltar itself. Though the stalactites and stalagmites are not as impressive as those in some caves on the Spanish mainland, the fact that these caves even exist is truly novel. The Rock of Gibraltar is not as solid as you probably thought! In fact, one of the larger caverns is often used as a performance space because of its interesting acoustic qualities and (relatively) grand size. Guided tours of the cave are available for a low fee.

4. Great Siege Tunnels. Also in the Rock itself are tunnels used by the British in their defense against assailing Spaniards who sought to reclaim Gibraltar in the 18th century. Details of the military history are available from tour guides.

5. Cable Car Ride. For under 10 Euros, tourists can ride a cable car to the top of the Rock where the Apes reside and other attractions await. The views of Morocco during the ride (and after you reach the top) are truly camera-worthy. Ascending in the cable car will give you a sense of scale that a taxi ride may not. While climbing, try to imagine a bridge spanning between Gibraltar and Morocco: it’s been seriously considered by some daring civil engineers.

6. Moorish Castle. Reminders of Iberia’s Muslim rule from the 700s to the 1400s include the “Tower of Homage” and a gate house dating from the 14th century. Although the remains themselves are unimpressive, records indicate that this was once one of the largest fortresses in the region. The top floor of the Tower has been restored and fitted with time-appropriate fake “artifacts.”
7. Main Street Shops. Though you’ll have to plow your way through gaudy tourist merchandise, there are many inexpensive shops in this quaint town strip. Alcohol, perfume, and other tax-free items are especially popular with British visitors, but more exotic items are also available, including many north African items. Silk, pottery, cashmere, rugs, and numerous other hand-crafted items are available.

8. Europa Point. For a slightly more tranquil view of the Gibraltar coast, visit Europa Point, where a red-and-white lighthouse welcomes you to the very southern tip of the territory. The lighthouse, now automated, was built in 1841 by the British to serve as a beacon for their growing fleet of ships.

In addition to these tourist attractions, there are a number of niche museums, comfy pubs, and hopping nightclubs on Gibraltar.

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