David Powell, travel editor, visits Gibraltar – a vibrant destination combining the spirit of the Mediterranean with British tradition. Home from home but with an exotic twist, sunshine, the famous Barbary Apes and duty free shopping! …
I’m ‘hanging in the air’ about 1300 feet above sea level and the views are sensational. I can see the Straits, North Africa and Spain – yes I’m in Gibraltar, or to be more precise, I’m on the Gibraltar Cable Car a fantastic way to reach the ‘Top of the Rock’. Many visitors have only experienced Gibraltar as a day trip destination whilst staying in Spain or a port of call for one of the many cruise lines that stop here, but the Rock has so much more to offer.
There are many shopping bargains to be found in Main Street, which as the name implies, is the main shopping area. You’ll find many familiar High Street stores here and being VAT free, excellent savings can be found on alcohol, tobacco, perfume, cosmetics, jewellery and electrical goods. Gibraltar’s currency is the pound sterling so there’s no expensive currency exchange needed when visiting.
New airport & Cruise Facilities
Gibraltar’s new, state-of-the-art airport terminal has recently opened. This stylish two-storey steel and glass building has been designed to accommodate the increasing number of airlines using Gibraltar, including, easyJet, British Airways and Monarch. The cruise terminal is also being extended enabling it to handle more of the larger cruise ships and the increasing number of passengers carried.
Over the last ten years or so, Gibraltar has seen a tremendous amount of investment and redevelopment. Queensway Quay is now a well established Marina with luxury apartments and a number of eating places including the Waterfront Restaurant which is well worth a visit. The prestigious Ocean Village at Marina Bay is now complete and amongst the iconic blue glass-clad residential towers you’ll find fashion boutiques, hair and beauty salons, the occasional local market and shops lining the boardwalk. Alongside lush tropical plants and the sunshine soaked atmosphere there’s a great variety of restaurants, an Irish pub, a nightclub and a stylish Casino which, incidentally, also has a good restaurant. I sat outside in the sunshine at Savannah’s for a long lazy lunch taking in the Marina, the luxury tower apartments and the large ocean going yachts! There’s also more potential for beach and leisure facilities on the West side of the Rock as more land is released by the MoD.
Exploring Main Street and afternoon tea
Casemates Square is at the end of Main Street and has numerous lively bars, cafes and fast food outlets, bars stay open into the early hours. Here you’ll also find the Tourist Information Centre on hand with plenty of advice and information on Gibraltar. After a morning of bargain hunting in the shops and exploring the intricate lanes alongside Main Street and into Irish Town, I headed for the Rock Hotel. Situated just past the Trafalgar Cemetery and near the Alameda Gardens, you’ll find this hotel. Built in 1932 by the Marquis of Bute this is the epitome of colonial Britain. I enjoyed afternoon tea on the Wisteria Terrace with lovely views across the Bay.
The Rock is steeped in military history, from the Great Siege Tunnels to those carved out during the early, bleak days of World War II when it was thought that Gibraltar, strategically positioned at the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea, would fall to the enemy. Not so, as a visit to the Second World War Tunnels will show. The best way of experiencing the Rock itself is to take an official Rock Tour in a taxi with a knowledgeable, licensed guide, it lasts a couple of hours and takes in the lower and upper Rock areas. You’ll have fantastic views, and some great photo opportunities. You’ll also experience the Nature Reserve, St Michaels Cave, The Great Siege Tunnels, The Moorish Castle and of course the famous and mischievous Barbary Apes! You can pick up or book an official Rock Tour from a number of places in town.
The opening sequence of the James Bond movie, The Living Daylights with Timothy Dalton racing down the narrow road on the roof of a burning military Landrover was filmed on the Upper Rock, and this shows a fantastic aerial view of Gibraltar.
A large population of wild dolphins can be found in the warm Mediterranean waters and a trip into the Bay of Gibraltar on a pleasure boat from Marina Bay is a thrilling way to see them in their natural habitat. Gibraltar is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts and the Rock and surrounding areas provide superb bird watching opportunities. The vegetation on the Rock provides a temporary home for many species of migratory birds stopping to rest and feed.
Since John Lennon and Yoko Ono tied the knot in 1969, Gibraltar with its sunshine and holiday atmosphere has been a popular choice for weddings abroad. Sean Connery got married here (twice) and Roger Moore chose Gibraltar for his honeymoon. Prince Charlesand Lady Diana also commenced their honeymoon from the Rock of Gibraltar in July 1981.
If you are interested in arranging a wedding in Gib then have a look at the Visit Gibraltar website, where there’s lots of information to be found on the subject.
The Eliott Hotel
I stayed at the Eliott Hotel which is ideally situated in the heart of Gibraltar’s old town, just off Main Street. This is an excellent 4 star hotel with a large reception area and lounge, beautifully appointed and well run. All the staff I came across were polite, friendly and professional, nothing was too much trouble. The hotel is modern with a superb rooftop pool and outdoor terrace area for dining, not to mention the fantastic views over the Straits and Rock.
Hotel rooms range from Classic rooms to Junior Suites and the Trafalgar Suite. They are very comfortable, beautifully decorated and come with air-con, Wifi availability, personal safe and the other usual facilities. Each room has a refreshing style and mine came with a balcony overlooking the entrance way and views of the Rock. The Veranda Bar had a great holiday atmosphere and drinks, snacks and a good menu of light meals are served throughout the day and evening. A good place to unwind and relax.
The Rooftop Bistro at The Eliott is definitely worth visiting. A lovely, airy restaurant with some of the best views in Gibraltar. The restaurant staff were friendly and attentive and the food was of a high standard freshly prepared by the hotel’s Head Chef. This is a super place to dine and I would definitely visit again!
The Eliott Hotel is part of the privately owned O’Callaghan Group who prides themselves on a warm welcome, style, excellent locations and personal family service.
Gibraltar enjoys a typical Mediterranean climate with clear blue sky most of the year and on average over 300 days of warm sunshine tempered by the cool breezes of North Africa. Just two and a half hours flying time from London, with regular daily flights, Gibraltar is a great holiday and short break destination. It’s also well worth considering for a long weekend shopping trip. I have produced a short video review of Gibraltar and you can see this on http://www.YourHoliday.tv
Vist Gibraltar – the official tourist board siteLast modified: June 10, 2021