February 18

A British Colony in Spain? Meet Gibraltar

Gibraltar’s strategic position in Spain’s southernmost tip has been a source of contention ever since this small territory was declared part of British sovereignty in the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, after and Anglo-Dutch force invaded and conquered this territory in  1704. With just 6.8 square kilometers (2.6 sq mi) this small piece of land is strategically placed on the straight of Gibraltar, overseeing the ships that enter and leave the Mediterranean see into the Atlantic Ocean and distinctly seeing Morocco on the other side of the strait.

The Rock of Gibraltar as seen when approached by land from Spain.

Gibraltar remains as Britain’s only colony within Spanish territory, and with its small population of 30,000 is a minor visitor’s attraction and a hub for low cost flights arriving from the UK; the Spanish costas both East and West of Gibraltar are famous for their great beaches, golf, and year round great climate. With so much going on it is not surprising to learn that Gibraltar’s economy is largely based on tourism, but also online gaming, financial services, and shipping.

Europa Point
The lighthouse at Europa Point, Europe’s southernmost tip.

With such a small surface area and it being a strategic position one would think that the area is heavily militarized, and while there is some military presence around the rock visitors are free to roam and walk as they please. Perhaps the most interesting part of this territory is Europa Point, the southernmost tip of Gibraltar and therefor Europe too. Here you’ll find a small snack bar set right besides a public parking lot, and right at the water’s edge there is a small historical exhibition that explains the origin of Gibraltar and the importance it currently holds both politically and ecologically. On the base of the rock and looking at Morocco is  Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim mosque,  a gift from King Fahd of Saudi Arabia that took two years to build and is one of the largest mosques in a non-Muslim country.

ibrahim-al-ibrahim mosque in Gibraltar
Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim mosque in Gibraltar
inside-mosque Gibraltar
Inside Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim Mosque in Gibraltar

What to See and Do

Other than Europa Point there are a few attractions to enjoy, though they come at a price. Its main street is called,well, Main Street, and is littered with shops, cafes, restaurants and duty free shops. The most popular attractions for visitors are:

  • The botanical gardens.
  • Trafalgar Cemetery, used between 1798 and 1814. Despite its name only two victims of the battle lay there; most are victims of yellow fever epidemics.
  • St Michael’s Cave (13 € fee), located at the top of Gibraltar rock, one of the 150 caves in it which receives over a million visitors every year.
  • The cable car ride to the top of the rock (13.75€ return) to enjoy some great views and observe the semi-wild macaques, though don’t get too close as this species of monkeys is rather aggressive.

For more information you might want to visit Gibraltar’s tourism website.

main street gibraltar
Main Street in Gibraltar

Gibraltar may be a tax-free zone, but as many travelers will know this does not necessarily mean that things are cheap. Menus in restaurants run at around 10€ per person and clothes are average priced. Alcohol and cigarettes might be cheaper, but from what I saw that’s about it, unless you’re planning on buying a car.

morocco from gibraltar
The Atlas mountains in Morocco as seen from Gibraltar.

Is Gibraltar worth visiting?

In my opinion, it depends. If you’re in the area and are thinking about spending a day in Gibraltar by all means go ahead. You might not do a lot of shopping but there are some interesting things to do and it does feel somewhat odd to be in a UK colony while being in Spain. If there are cheap flights to Gibraltar from where you are (probably UK only) the local airport is a good landing hub from where you can then cross to the Spanish beaches or hop on a ferry from  nearby Tarifa to Morocco-there are even day tours to select cities. If you are far away from Gibraltar and are thinking about coming here with the single purpose of visiting the rock and territory, I suggest you think again as there are barely enough attractions to keep you busy half a day.

Have you visited Gibraltar? What did you think about it? How familiar are you with this place? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below and this post too if you liked it!


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  1. Interesting little piece of land… “The Rock”. Spain wants it back and they often make references to Hong Kong, which was given back to China.
    Now, Gibraltar even has its own national football team!

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