A British overseas territory on the south of the Iberian Peninsula and bordered with Spain in the north, Gibraltar is a hotly disputed but tourist-friendly territory with a pleasant climate, plenty of attractions and a colourful history.
Archaeological evidence suggests the presence of hominids but the first recorded activity on the Rock was the Phoenician visit in 950 BC, who named the Rock ‘Calpe’. Nevertheless, it was centuries before the first permanent settlers arrived, being first incorporated into the Byzantine and then the Visigoth Kingdoms. The first signs of modern Gibraltar were in 711 when the Umayyad general Yariq ibn Ziyad landed and christened the Rock ‘mountain of Tariq’ (Gibraltar being the rough Spanish equivalent). Gibraltar was the subject of frequent takeovers during the Middle Ages until taken definitively by Spain in 1462. However, it proved an unlucky spot for the Spanish, being the site of the Battle of Gibraltar in 1607, which Spain lost to the Dutch, and was eventually captured by the British during the War of the Spanish Succession in 1704 and recognised as British in 1713.
An important base for the Royal Navy ever since, the Rock has been the subject of much debate in the 20th century, with the Spanish making claims for its return (rejected outright by the population). Regardless of politics though, the country continues to attract visitors with its culture, entertainment and welcoming atmosphere.
The official language of Gibraltar is English, but the dialect of Llanito (a mixture of English and Andalusian Spanish) can also be heard.
The common currency of Gibraltar is the £ pound sterling (GBP). As of October 2006, the following exchange rates are applicable:
1 GBP = 1.48 EUR1 GBP = 1.87 USD
Also in circulation is the Gibraltar Pound (GIP). Practically identical to the pound sterling, the following exchange rates are applicable as of July 2006:
1 GIP = 1.44 EUR1 GIP = 1.84 USD
Gibraltar enjoys a Mediterranean climate with suitably mild winters and pleasant summers. Temperatures range on average from 15 degrees in the winter to 30 in the summer.
Gibraltar is known for its natural beauty, with various flora and fauna visible on the Rock. For visitors, the best places to go to see them in a controlled environment are the Alameda Botanical Gardens and the Upper Rock Nature Reserve, the latter being home to Gibraltar’s own Barbary Partridge.
Architectural points of interest on the Rock include The Moorish Castle, built in 1333 and testifying to Gibraltar’s diverse cultural influences, the Parson’s Lodge Battery, dating back to the 1875, and the Convent of Gibraltar, the official residence of the Governor of Gibraltar since 1728. The protean character of the Rock’s inhabitants is further indicated in the religious buildings, with the Great Synagogue, the Shrine of Our Lady of Europe and the Cathedral of Saint Mary the Crowned all visible.
To discover more about Gibraltar, be sure to visit the Gibraltar Museum, which covers its history, archaeology and culture in entertaining fashion. Supplement this by popping over to the Cradle of History monument, incorporating some of Gibraltar’s symbols such as the first skull of the Neanderthal man (found in Gibraltar).
Festivals in Gibraltar are held annually, the most popular being National Day on 10th September and Europe Day (connected to the aforementioned Shrine) on 5th May.
One of the few remaining VAT free destinations in Europe, the obvious place for shoppers is Main Street, which runs practically across the town centre.
Not exactly renowned for its bouncing nightlife, you can still find plenty of bars and pubs like The Little Rock around the districts of Queensway Quay, Marina Bay and Parliament Lane.
Gibraltar is also home to the Ladbroke International Casino.
Because of the border with Spain, drivers use the right-hand side of the road in Gibraltar. Due to the number of drivers, you can expect a good road network throughout.
There is a zero drink-driving limit.
Food and Drink
For better or worse, the dominant cuisine in Gibraltar is British. As such, with the exception of a few Spanish-inspired dishes, expect a taste of home across the many restaurants on the Rock. The Angry Friar in Main Street and The Clipper in Irish Town are both recommended, but try out the Catalan Bay village for some alternative places to eat.