What are the best things to do in Gibraltar on your first trip? Here’s a complete guide with everything you need to know before visiting Gibraltar.
After visiting Tangier in Morocco in 2022, I set a goal to try and see the other side of the land, which was visible from the port of Tangier.
One year later, I was visiting Gibraltar. And it did not disappoint. After spending a full day in Gibraltar, I want to share with you my best tips on visiting Gibraltar and point out the best things to do in Gibraltar on your first trip.
Did you know that Gibraltar is the closest European point to the African continent?
Yes, it’s true.
The narrowest gap between the Rock of Gibraltar and Morocco is just 7.7 nautical miles, or about 14.24 kilometres (8.9 miles). While one side features the southern end of Spain and Gibraltar, the other side showcases northern Morocco and Ceuta.
I have no doubt that you will love your visit to this cute rock that separates Europe and Africa.
How to get to Gibraltar?
The easiest way to get to Gibraltar is by car.
If you’re already in the Andalucia region in Spain, you can easily drive to Gibraltar.
Gibraltar is actually the tip of the peninsula, and it is bordered by Linea de la Conception, a Spanish city.
I recommend parking in one of the parking lots next to the border. That’s because the border gets really crowded, and lots of cars are getting in and out, making the crossing very time-consuming. Parking will also be an issue in Gibraltar, where prices are higher than in Spain, so I see no reason to cross the border by car. Also, you can easily cross on foot; it takes just a few minutes (many people do this multiple times per day).
I used Parking Sta. Bárbara (Google Maps location here), which is literally next to the border. You can leave your car here for a few hours or even for multiple days.
I spent the night here and paid about 17 Euros for 24 hours. Since I had a rented car, I didn’t want to take any risks.
After safely parking near the border, take your passport and walk into Gibraltar.
If you decide to drive in Gibraltar, you can check the frontier queue live here.
Other options to get to Gibraltar:
- You can book a Gibraltar day trip from Malaga
- Or get this Gibraltar day tour from Seville
- By bus from any part of Spain. Simply look for bus stops in “La Linea de la Conception”. Use BusBud to get the best bus deals.
- Gibraltar is also connected by ferry to Tangier (Morocco). There is a weekly ferry (1.5h) that connects the two continents over the Gibraltar Strait. As of September 2023, the ferry ticket for one person is €38.
- By plane (landing at Gibraltar airport). Check flights to Gibraltar here. I’ll talk more about this later.
Where to stay in Gibraltar?
Gibraltar offers quite a few accommodation options. However, I do recommend booking in advance, especially if you plan to stay in Gibraltar during the peak summer season.
Here are some Hotels in Gibraltar:
- Budget hotel – Engineer Lane House
- Medium budget – Rock Hotel
- Luxury hotel – Sunborn Gibraltar, Luxury 1 Bed 2 Bath Apartment
- If you need parking, my personal recommendation is to stay at one of the hotels, as they provide easy and free parking.
I did notice that there are also some really good options near the border on the Spanish side. Since there is no real space between the Spanish side and Gibraltar, you can also consider staying in Spain, in Linea de la Conception.
If you arrive late and don’t want to spend a lot of time crossing the border by car, then this is what you should do. Park your car near the border and then walk to a nearby hotel on the Spanish side.
I recommend staying at Ohtels Campo de Gibraltar, which is only 10 minutes away from the border crossing.
Assuming this is your first trip to Gibraltar, let’s explore the best things to do in Gibraltar on your first visit.
Things to see in Gibraltar
1. Gibraltar Airport
The Gibraltar International Airport is famous for its unique runway position and length. Gibraltar’s airport runway has a length of only 1,776 meters (5,827 ft), and it’s considered one of the most extreme airport runways in the world.
The main road (Winston Churchill Avenue) that connects Spain to Gibraltar crosses the airport runway. There is a traffic light to indicate whether the cars and pedestrians can cross the airport’s runway.
The road has to close every time a plane lands or departs from the airport, which can be up to
several times per day.
The Gibraltar airport offers direct flights to London, Manchester and Bristol. Book your flights here. If you’re arriving in Europe through London, then flying is the fastest way to reach Gibraltar and the South of Spain.
2. Gibraltar Nature Reserve
Most photos you’ve probably seen from Gibraltar are from the Gibraltar Nature Reserve.
The Nature Reserve includes
- The Rock of Gibraltar
- Upper Rock (Terrace and restaurant)
- Saint Michael’s Cave
- Apes’ Den
- the Moorish Castle
- Great Siege Tunnels
- Botanic Gardens
- O’Hara’s Battery
- Various Flora and Fauna
- Visitor Centers and others
These are all places that you will see if you walk on the main trails (paved) of the reserve. Note that the road goes all the way up to Upper Rock.
If you want to do all of this, it will take you almost the entire day. But know that there are other cool places worth visiting in Gibraltar.
If you want to cover everything there is to see, you’ll need at least 2 days in Gibraltar.
You can buy online tickets for the Gibraltar Nature Reserve here and save yourself the time queuing for the tickets. There are huge queues, so don’t waste hours waiting in line.
But don’t worry, the crowds seem to disperse once you enter the park. Also, most people seem to only see the highlights and leave after a couple of hours.
TIP: When visiting St. Michael’s cave, I’d recommend taking your time and admiring all the light shows. The interior is truly stunning, and I think it is one of the best spots in the entire reserve.
The cave is designed to be a circuit, so you will enter and exit in different places. At the end, you can take your photo as a souvenir (it costs extra).
If you decide to skip the cable car, then you can walk all the way up, see all stops and then take the cable car down. To do so, you will need to start at the bottom.
The closest public bus stop to the Upper Rock Nature Reserve is the final stop on Route No. 1, located near the entrance of Moorish Castle.
The Gibraltar Nature Reserve is open daily from 9:30 am to 7 pm (April – October) and 9 am to 6 pm (November to March).
The Nature Reserve is closed on 25th December and 1st January.
By the way, I was there in March, and it felt like summer. I was sweating.
Gibraltar has a cable car that takes you from the middle of the city all the way up to the rock.
Prices: £19 (one way). You can pay at the office by cash (pounds or Euros, but pounds is better because of the exchange rate) or by card (recommended).
Note that the cable car ticket is separate from the Gibraltar Nature Reserve, which you’ll also need to pay.
Note that there are only 2 cable cars, and each can fit only about 12 people. The trip takes about 6 minutes. The conclusion is that it takes forever to get up.
I was there in March and spent 2 hours in the queue for the tickets and for the cable car. I don’t recommend spending that much time waiting for the cable car.
In my defence, I thought that the queue would be short and it will move fast. I didn’t realise it was also a queue in the building and that it barely moved.
You can try to get there super early, just before they open at 9 am in summer or 9.30 in winter.
At the cable car office, you have the option to buy tickets for Nature Reserve and tickets for the cable car. You can also buy a road trip with the cable car or just one trip up if you decide to walk your way back.
I only took the cable car up and then followed the trail back, which takes you through all the other interest points, such as the Cave and ends with the Castle. There are maps and signs, so don’t worry.
Some local guides will offer a ride all the way up to the rock and then stop at all the attractions in the Gibraltar Nature Reserve. This is an alternative to the cable car, which is not cheap and can take forever.
They are offering their service everywhere on the streets of Gibraltar, even in front of the cable car office. It will be a miracle if they don’t approach you.
I don’t know what the fees are for the guides (maybe about 25 Euros per person), but it might be suitable for families and larger groups or people with mobility issues.
However, I was annoyed by the many vans driving up and down the paved trail because it gets narrow as you get higher, and there’s barely enough space for a van at a time.
3. Apes of Gibraltar (Gibraltar monkeys)
Many tourists come to Gibraltar to see the Barbary Macaque Apes. Did you know this is the only place on the European continent where you can see wild monkeys?
And by the way, they are called apes but behave more like monkeys. Originally, they were brought from Morocco, and there are only about 200 monkeys left. The legend says that when there are no more monkeys, The British will no longer rule in Gibraltar. Probably, that’s why everyone takes really good care of the monkeys.
There are many signs of what you should and shouldn’t do around monkeys in Gibraltar.
The only place where you’ll find monkeys is in the upper part of the Gibraltar Nature Reserve.
They are freely roaming around and will gather in groups (not tightly together, but in the same area). Many tourists will stop and take photos with them, but you should be careful as these are wild animals. They are smart and will try to steal food and open your backpack. They might steal other objects as well, but they are mostly targeting food.
Here are some general rules to follow around the monkeys:
- Don’t feed them (they have special feeding places where they are provided with fresh food).
- Don’t pet them
- Don’t use flash
- Don’t eat around them. (I wouldn’t eat anywhere in the reserve because even if they’re not around, they will hear you eating and hurry to steal the food for your hands!!! Be careful!)
4. Gibraltar City Centre
Main Street is the go-to spot in Gibraltar for shopping, dining, and soaking in local culture. Stretching from Casemates Square to Southport Gates, it’s pedestrian-friendly and packed with shops and eateries.
Expect a mix of architectural styles and important landmarks like the Gibraltar Parliament and City Hall as you walk down the street. It’s not just a shopping haven; it’s also a hotspot for street performances and seasonal festivals.
For easy transit, buy a Hopper Ticket for unlimited daily bus travel.
After you cross the border from Spain, Route 5 or Route 10 buses will drop you at the central marketplace, which is the gateway to Main Street and other city attractions.
Cruise ship passengers can either walk for 15-20 minutes from the port or take these bus routes as well.
5. Europa Point
Europa Point is the southernmost tip of Gibraltar, and it’s a spot you won’t want to miss.
From here, you can look out across the Strait of Gibraltar and catch glimpses of the African continent on a clear day.
It’s not just about the awe-inspiring views, though; the area also hosts the Europa Point Lighthouse, the Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim Mosque, and the Shrine of Our Lady of Europe—all of which add layers of cultural and historical significance to the place.
For the absolute best views, consider bringing along a pair of binoculars.
The panoramic vistas are already breathtaking, but with binoculars, you’ll be able to see finer details, like ships traversing the Strait or even the Moroccan coastline if the weather is in your favour.
How to get to Europa Point
You can get to Europe Point from Gibraltar city centre by bus number 2.
You can pay for the ticket on the bus, but make sure to have a change.
- A single trip ticket is £1.60 / 2.40€ Adult,
- A return ticket (2 single journeys on the same day) is £2.40 / 3.60€ Adult.
Use Google Maps to check the schedule of the buses and stops. It should be around 10-15 minutes between buses.
6. Catalan Bay
Catalan Bay is a quaint fishing village on Gibraltar’s eastern side, known for its small sandy cove and colourful history tied to Catalonian settlers.
You can see the best aerial views of Catalan Bay from the north platform of the Cable Car Top Station.
The Catalan Bay Area also houses the Caleta Hotel and several restaurants, making it a great spot for dining and relaxation. Many locals come here to enjoy the beach.
Above the village is a massive slope of sandstone against the Rock. This natural feature used to be Gibraltar’s water catchment area but has since been dismantled, as the area now relies on desalinated water. This adds a touch of geological and historical intrigue to your visit.
If you’re a first-timer in Gibraltar looking for a mix of scenic beauty, dining options, and a dash of history and geology, Catalan Bay should be on your list.
7. Gibraltar Museum and Moorish Baths
If you’re a first-time visitor to Gibraltar and have an interest in history, the Gibraltar Museum is a must-see.
Located just off Main Street in Bomb House Lane, this museum is packed with fascinating artefacts and historical treasures that span over 20,000 years.
Start your visit with a 15-minute film on the Rock’s geology to understand how this iconic formation came to be.
And don’t miss the 14th-century medieval baths located under the Gibraltar Museum.
Originally part of a governor’s palace, these private baths were later used as stables during British rule.
Despite being smaller now due to damage from the Great Siege, the baths still showcase the ancient ‘Hypocaust’ system, which includes rooms of varying temperatures for cleansing the body—much like modern saunas.
Wandering through these rooms, you’ll find channels beneath the floor that once circulated warm air, offering a glimpse into ancient engineering.
An entry ticket to the Gibraltar Museum will grant you access to these fascinating baths.
Another highlight is the Egyptian Mummy, dating back to 800 BCE, mysteriously found floating in the Bay in 1930. Wrap up your visit by marvelling at the incredibly detailed 1:600 scale model of the Rock, created in 1865 by Lieutenant Charles Warren, who later gained fame during London’s infamous ‘Whitechapel’ murders.
8. Garrison Library
If you’re visiting Gibraltar for the first time and want a touch of history and culture, make sure to visit the Garrison Library.
Founded in 1793 by Captain Drinkwater, the library was designed to provide recreation for the troops stationed during the Great Siege. Supported by donations from high-ranking officials, the library quickly grew, requiring its own space complete with reading rooms and a garden.
Built between 1800 and 1804, the library remains largely unchanged, even retaining some of its original furniture and a unique ‘sand glass’ that was used to limit reading time on popular newspapers like The Times.
Adjacent to the library is the birthplace of the Gibraltar Chronicle, Gibraltar’s ‘national’ newspaper and one of the oldest still in print in Europe. It first appeared in 1801 as a garrison newsletter and gained fame for breaking the news of the Battle of Trafalgar and Lord Nelson’s death in 1805.
Visiting the Garrison Library and the Gibraltar Chronicle premises offers a fascinating look into Gibraltar’s history and culture, all conveniently located near Main Street.
9. Trafalgar Cemetery
In 1967, citizens of Gibraltar chose (by a 99% vote) to stay under British rule.
As you enter, you’ll notice a small cemetery on your left. This is the resting place of two men who were injured in the famous Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and later died in Gibraltar.
Opposite the cemetery stands a statue honouring Admiral Lord Nelson, put up in 2005 to mark the battle’s 200th anniversary. Each year, a ceremony with a wreath-laying takes place here to remember the historic battle.
10. Dolphin-watching tour
Did you know you can watch dolphins in their natural habitat right here in the Strait of Gibraltar?
There are three species of dolphins, and booking a 90-minute boat tour gives you the best chance to admire them.
Tours start from the Marina Bay in Gibraltar. You can book your tour here.
11. Shopping and eating in Gibraltar
When it comes to shopping and dining, Gibraltar offers a delightful mix of British tradition and Mediterranean flair.
One spot you can’t miss is Main Street, Gibraltar’s bustling pedestrian shopping avenue that runs through the heart of the city.
The street is lined with a variety of shops selling everything from high-end fashion to souvenirs featuring the iconic Rock of Gibraltar.
Why do people flock here? Tax-free shopping is one of the biggest draws, making many items cheaper than in neighbouring Spain or the UK.
Food in Gibraltar
In Gibraltar, you’ll find plenty of food options.
From traditional British pubs serving fish and chips to Mediterranean restaurants offering tapas and fresh seafood, the options are varied and delicious.
A local delicacy to try is “calentita,” a chickpea-flour-based dish that’s similar to a quiche but with its own Gibraltarian twist.
I had the chance to dine at a charming little place called “The Rock Fish,” where the grilled octopus was sensational. Another memorable meal was at “Roy’s Fish & Chips,” which offered a true taste of British comfort food right in the Mediterranean.
If you’re planning to dine at one of the more popular spots, consider making a reservation, especially during peak tourist season.
And don’t forget to try the local wines or a pint of Gibraltar beer to round off your meal.
Tips for visiting Gibraltar
Gibraltar is still under British rule.
In general, you need a valid passport to enter Gibraltar. Check here if you need a visa for Gibraltar.
However, all EU nationals can still enter Gibraltar using their national ID.
Driving in Gibraltar
If you decide to drive in Gibraltar, you can check the frontier queue live here.
You will need to show your documents and your car’s documents, as with any land border. Note that some rental companies don’t allow you to cross to Gibraltar. Check that before driving to Gibraltar with a rental car.
Many locals are often crossing the border because gar prices are often lower in Gibraltar.
Unlike the UK, driving in Gibraltar is on the right side of the road, the same as in Spain.
Parking in Gibraltar
Parking is mostly paid, but you may find free parking spots in the parking lot near the cable car (look for the white spaces). But that’s often full, so go early. They don’t recommend driving your caravan in Gibraltar, given that most roads are narrow.
Other public parking in the centre of Gibraltar costs about £1.80 per hour or more. Expect to pay at least £19:00 per 24 hours. I recommend choosing one of the hotels that offers free parking.
One of the cheapest parking lots in Gibraltar is Eastern Beach Car Park, which is free during the day, but it’s not very close to the centre. It doesn’t make much difference if you cross the border on foot or drive to park here.
Paying in Gibraltar
Prices are in pounds in Gibraltar, but some places do accept Euros (cash). However, I don’t recommend paying in Euros because they have a bad exchange rate.
When possible, you can pay by card. In my experience, I paid by car everywhere, except on the bus.
What to wear
Given that you’ll be exposed to the elements, it’s essential to come prepared. You’ll do a lot of walking, so bring comfortable walking shoes.
On sunny days, don’t forget to wear sunscreen to protect your skin from harmful UV rays. A bottle of water is also a must-have to stay hydrated, especially if you’re visiting during warmer months. I visited in March, and it was extremely hot during noon.
Hats and sunglasses will provide added protection against the sun.
And a light jacket may be useful if you find yourself staying until the evening when temperatures can drop, but I didn’t use mine.
If you want to go around the entire peninsula, you should consider getting a Hopper bus ticket (£6 / 9€ for one day). Or you can get the multi-journey ticket (£10 / 15€ for 10 trips).
Another option would be to book the
Is Gibraltar worth a visit?
Gibraltar is one of the micro-states of Europe, but it’s definitely worth a visit.
The weather is gorgeous all year round, there’s plenty to do, and it offers a lot of cultural and entertainment options.
And since it’s glued to Spain, you can go explore a bit of Andalucia if you get more days in the area. Or you can even book a trip to Morocco.