Located at the gateway to the Mediterranean, Gibraltar offers a kind of magical uniqueness lovingly encapsulated within its own little Gibraltarian bubble.
This British outpost encapsulates a significant quantity of fascinating culture, which is somewhat surprising given that Gibraltar, in essence, is dominated by a large rock. Looking beyond the territorial dispute regarding sovereignty, Gibraltar contrasts British familiarity with the excitement of discovering a new and interesting place.
One of the so-called ‘Pillars of Hercules,’ the Rock of Gibraltar is a domineering profile blemished with old cannonball marks, representative of centuries of defensive warfare. It is also home to the infamous Barbary macaque monkeys. The only wild monkey population in Europe, they are central to the Gibraltarian national consciousness.
During World War Two, Winston Churchill personally ordered the numbers of monkeys to be replenished, as they were seen as vitally important to morale. A popular belief suggests as long as the Barbary macaques exist on the rock, the territory will remain under British rule.
The Rock of Gibraltar is also home to the supposedly ‘bottomless’ St Michael’s Cave. The Upper Cave has become a beautiful concert venue enhanced by natural stalactites and stalagmites. Organised tours are also available for exploring the Lower caves. Although the Rock is accessible by walking, a cable car journey allows for amazing panoramic views. Taxi tours are available; however, these are very popular and can get busy. Panoramic views can be further experienced at Europa point, where the best views of both Europe and Africa can be found.
One important aspect of Gibraltar’s cultural identity is the accumulation of rich history through experiencing periods of Moorish, Spanish and finally British rule. This can be seen in the varying fusions of architecture such as the beautiful Cathedral of the Holy Trinity and the Moorish Castle.
The Great Siege Tunnels, within the infamous rock, also highlights the impressive defence system used to protect Gibraltar from French and Spanish forces during the 18th century. For history enthusiasts, the Gibraltar Museum offers a great general overview of Gibraltarian history.
Host to a suitably warm climate, Gibraltar is home to some wonderfully underrated beaches such as the Catalan Bay and Eastern Beach. Dolphin safari trips are a worthwhile experience as many dolphins visit the bay.
Further inland, Gibraltar’s main street hosts many recognisably British shops, with the added bonus of duty-free prices as no VAT tax is charged, made easier through Gibraltar’s sterling currency.
Unfortunately, shortage of land has led to large amounts of reclamation so accommodation is consequently limited, and expensive on a student budget, however, Airbnb offers cheaper alternatives.
Although Gibraltar retains a great affinity with the United Kingdom they have their own distinctive character shaped their unique history as a place of strategic importance.
Gibraltar could be seen as an expensive place to travel, it is worth the expense and can be equally experienced on either a long weekend or longer holiday.