Gibraltar is strange - on so many accounts. Today Gibraltar is a self-governing overseas territory of the United Kingdom and has been British since way back in 1704 (the Spanish conceded it and recognized it as British later in 1713). This is a rock - or distinctive mountainous peninsular on the extreme southern coast of Spain. It overlooks the all-important straits leading into the Mediterranean Sea. You can easily see Morocco and North Africa from Gibraltar. Today this tiny little territory is home to around 32,000 people, and the town is densely packed, so much so that a significant amount of it is built on reclaimed land.

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The population is palpably British and wishes to remain so. While it is in fact a peninsula the locals colloquially call it an "island" perhaps picking up on how they do not feel to be part of Spain. It may be small, but it is packed with things to see and do.

Fast Facts About Gibraltar

  • Status: British Overseas Territory
  • Population: 32,000 People
  • Length: Approx. 3 Miles
  • Width: Approx. 1 Mile
  • Highest Elevation: 1,398 FT
  • Currency: Gibraltar Pound (Or Just Use British Pounds 1-1)

The first strange thing that will greet you upon entering Gibraltar is the airport runway/road. If you are coming in from Spain then to get to Gibraltar you must walk or drive across the runway! Likewise, if you are flying into Gibraltar, they need to close the only access road and clear the runway before you can land! This is a place where every inch of land is accounted for!

The next thing to greet you is just how dominating the "Rock" or the mountain is. Almost everything is located on the western slope of the "Rock" while it falls off dramatically into the sea on the other eastern side. This territory really is tiny, like only about 3 miles long and 1 mile wide - and much of it is uninhabitable mountainside!

Gibraltar has spent most of its life in British hands as a fort guarding the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea. And it has had this role for around 300 years. The "Rock" is a network of tunnels and gun emplacements to protect the "Island" from the Spanish and most recently the Nazi Germans. The Nazis always wanted to take Gibraltar and pressured the Spanish to enter World War Two so that they could take it. But this all never happened (BTW the locals just call it the "Rock" so we will too from here).

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The military tunnels and cannon emplacements are some of Gibraltar's main tourist attractions today. Another being the Barbary macaque monkeys - which we will get back to!

If you visit Gibraltar be sure to visit the tunnels. These have been built over the course of 200 years and in an area only 3 miles long it boasts around 34 miles of tunnels. That is near twice the Rock's road network! These tunnels have been built to accommodate 16,000 men with all their supplies to withstand a prolonged siege. The greatest expansion of these tunnels happened during World War 2. Today most of the tunnels have been turned over to the civilian government and many are open to the public to see and explore. Some are too dangerous and so remain sealed off.

The Gibraltar Tunnels

Distance Of Tunnels: 34 Miles

Length Of Guided Tours: 30-40 minutes

Days Open To Tourists: Monday to Sunday

Opening Times: 9.30-19.15 (last tour starts at 18.15)

It is often said that the British will leave when the Macaque Monkeys leave. There are around 240 Macaques on the island and they are the only wild monkeys in Europe. They are one of the great icons of Gibraltar. To see them, you need to climb up the Rock (there's a cable car if you don't feel like climbing). One word of caution though, they are used to being fed from bags. So if you are wearing a backpack it means food to them. And they are not shy. Turn your back and they will be jumping onto your back trying to get into your backpack. They are harmless but it's common to see tourists running and screaming in startled fright!

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Gibraltese Macaque Monkeys

Population: Approx. 240

Native Habitat: Morocco

Conservation Status: Endangered And Declining

Date Introduced: Before British Occupation In 1704

Shopping And Casinos In Gibraltar

In the town center, you will find some old-fashioned shopping streets. These streets are very similar to the town centers in England. The town does not feel Spanish at all and the shops and the merchandise is mostly British goods.

Over in the new part of the town on the reclaimed land we can find the new part of the city. Here we find the larger more modern hotels and casinos all huddled around the harbor. The main casino in Gibraltar is the Casino Admiral Gibraltar. The other casino is on the luxury Sunborn superyacht.

Casinos In Gibraltar

  • On Land: Casino Admiral Gibraltar
  • In The Harbor: Sunborn Superyacht

There are numerous hotels to stay at around the Rock. Location isn't so much of an important concern as the Rock is only 3 miles long. But you can choose more between an old hotel or guesthouse in the old part of the town, a modern hotel in the new reclaimed part of the Rock, or on a superyacht in the harbor. If you have the budget, consider staying at the Sunborn superyacht.

In short, Gibraltar is one of those strange and quirky places in Europe that really does deserve a visit! It is beautiful, has plenty to see and do, and is steeped in history.

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