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Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory located on the southern coast of Spain and separated from Africa by the Strait of Gibraltar. Gibraltar’s location gives it a Mediterranean, subtropical climate with dry summers. From a European cruise, spend your day in port walking around town and checking out local beaches or exploring Gibraltar’s most famous landmark, the massive rock that shares its name. During a Gibraltar cruise port of call, you’ll have the opportunity to explore this scenic and historically significant area of the UK and learn about its interesting culture.
The Rock of Gibraltar is made out of Jurassic limestone that dates back 200 million years. Locally referred to as “the Rock,” it reaches heights of nearly 1,400 feet. Ride a cable car to the top of this stunning piece of earth for magnificent views.
The Moorish Castle in Gibraltar is a medieval fortress that features Moorish architecture. Its most popular features are the Tower of Homage and the Gate House. Learn about the history of the Moorish Castle and its time as a jail on a tour.
By the entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar stands a grand structure with two pillars flanking a large medallion that says “The Modern World” on one side and “The Ancient World” on the other. Historically, the actual Pillars of Hercules refers to the two promontories flanking the entrance to the strait.
The southernmost point of Gibraltar, Europa Point, is located toward the end of the Rock of Gibraltar. Admire the picturesque red-and-white lighthouse while soaking in views of the sea.
If you want to see some of Gibraltar’s nature beyond the Rock of Gibraltar, then head to the Upper Rock Nature Reserve. There you’ll find natural and man-made attractions nestled into the backdrop of the great outdoors, including St. Michael’s Cave, the Apes’ Den, the Great Siege Tunnels, and Nelson’s Anchorage. Other highlights include the Military Heritage Center and the Moorish Castle. Adding to the Upper Rock Nature Reserve’s intrigue are its 600 plant species and large variety of birds, many of which migrate from Africa or other regions of Europe.
Located within the Upper Rock Nature Reserve, the Apes’ Den is home to around 160 tailless Barbary macaques who frolick near the cable car station. In summer, you’ll often see baby primates in the area. It is believed the apes were introduced to the area in the 18th century by travelers from North Africa. They even play a part of local folklore that says when the apes vanish from Gibraltar, so will the British.
Gibraltarian cuisine is a fusion of many different cultures, including British and Spanish. Other Mediterranean countries like Malta, Portugal, and Italy also lend culinary influences to the food scene of Gibraltar. Look for restaurants serving up a type of quiche made from chickpea flour called calentita and panissa. Spinach tortillas, a baked pasta dish called fideos al horno, and a dish called rolitos that combines thin slices of beef with breadcrumbs, eggs, vegetables, and other ingredients are popular local dishes to try during cruises to Gibraltar.
Gibraltar’s place in history mostly began in 711 AD when the Almohad Muslims established a town after the Muslim legislative leader of Tangier, Tariq ibn Ziyad, invaded with a troop of over 10,000 men. The Rock of Gibraltar was named after this leader, which means Mountain of Tariq. The Almohad Muslims ruled Gibraltar until they lost power to the Castillans in 1462. In 1704, Spain surrendered Gibraltar to the UK during the Treaty of Utrecht. It’s been a part of the UK ever since, though Spain did try to recapture it during the Great Siege of 1779 to 1783.
Gibraltar has been a stronghold for the British navy because of the fortitude of its geographical position and its proximity to the Strait of Gibraltar, which is the only waterway that connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean. Gibraltar is a self-governing territory of the United Kingdom and has its own parliament. Its people claim multiple backgrounds, ethnicities, and religions, but share a common culture that thrives on its blend of Mediterranean lifestyle with Great Britain influences. Tolerance and acceptance are common themes of the culture here, as is a strong pride for being a British territory.
The port terminal for cruises to Gibraltar has a number of onsite amenities, including a tourist information office, a bar and cafeteria, and gift shops selling arts and crafts. Ships that sail Gibraltar cruise itineraries will conveniently drop passengers off just under a mile from the center of town, which takes about 15 minutes to walk to.
If you’d like to take public transportation during your Gibraltar cruise port of call, local buses are the way to go, which connect to the area’s main attractions. Bus 2 goes to Europa Point, bus 3 takes you to the southern part of town, buses 4 and 8 travel to Catalan Bay, and bus 5 goes to the border. Taxis and shuttles are available outside the pier to take you into town if you don’t wish to walk.
For those on cruises to Gibraltar who are looking to shop in the city, head to Main Street. In the area around Casemates Square, you’ll find numerous shops as well as an indoor public market, where you can buy local souvenirs or fresh produce. Gibraltar’s main street is also home to Debenhams, a well-known British department store.
Popular souvenirs to get from Gibraltar include watches and jewelry, since they’re often found at a great deal, as well as local products such as handicrafts and glass creations. Crystals are commonly sold in the city and make for a fun souvenir. In addition to souvenirs, visitors to Gibraltar often stock up on tobacco and liquor products, since they are tax-free and often less expensive than in other destinations.
The local currency is the Gibraltar Pound, which typically converts similarly to the rate of the British pound sterling. Many businesses will also accept the euro, though it’s best to double check first. If you need cash, you’ll find ATMs outside the banks in town. For tipping, follow customs of Great Britain, which usually means leaving a 10% tip for restaurant service. Tipping isn’t expected at bars or cafes if you’re just ordering drinks.