Gibraltar aka “The Rock” is a British Overseas Territory but surrounded by Spain. This small territory is exactly like a dream coming true. Each year, countless young professionals head over to Gibraltar to either find a job in Gibraltar, start a business in Gibraltar because it is a tax haven, or simply for a top-notch holiday in Gibraltar.
Gibraltar has always been a hot topic in both UK’s government and the Spanish government. Most recently the discussions were about the status of this British territory after Brexit which changed a lot of rules about Gibraltar’s visa requirements and security. Whether you like to work in Gibraltar, establish a business, or visit Gibraltar, this post is for you. As in this “ultimate travel guide to Gibraltar for first-time travelers”, we’ll briefly talk about Gibraltar’s history, visa requirements for visiting Gibraltar after Brexit, and things to do there.
Recent History of Gibraltar
Is Gibraltar Spanish or British?
Gibraltar is officially a British Overseas Territory while being surrounded by Spain.
Why Is Gibraltar a British Overseas Territory?
Gibraltar was captured by the British Royal Navy in 1704 during the war of the Spanish Succession. On 4th August 1704, an Anglo-Dutch fleet under the command of ‘Admiral George Rooke’ took Gibraltar from the Spanish. Under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 Gibraltar was given to the UK.
Did Spain Ever Try to Claim Gibraltar back?
Ever since losing Gibraltar, Spain has always tried attaching it back to its soil but has never been succeeded, mostly because the residents of Gibraltar are not willing to live under Spain’s authority.
Do Gibraltar Residents Like being Under Britain’s Authority?
In 2002, a referendum was held in Gibraltar known as the ‘2002 Gibraltar sovereignty referendum’. The question in the referendum was:
On 12 July 2002 the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, in a formal statement in the House of Commons, said that after twelve months of negotiation the British Government and Spain are in broad agreement on many of the principles that should underpin a lasting settlement of Spain’s sovereignty claim, which included the principle that Britain and Spain should share sovereignty over Gibraltar.
Do you approve of the principle that Britain and Spain should share sovereignty over Gibraltar?
The result was a rejection of the proposal by a landslide majority, with only just over one percent of the electorate in favor while 98.97% of the Gibraltarians didn’t want to be controlled by the Spanish government.
People in Gibraltar
Where are Gibraltarians From?
Gibraltar’s society is as diverse as it gets. As of 1995, bout 27% of Gibraltarians are British descendants, while another 24% are Spanish, 19% Italian, 11% Portuguese, and the rest are from other European countries and Morocco. There’s even a small Jewish population in Gibraltar as well.
What Language Do They Speak in Gibraltar?
Although English is the sole official language in Gibraltar, almost all Gibraltarians speak fluent Spanish and English at the same time. They even have a vernacular called Llanito which is a mixture of Spanish with English.
Gibraltar After Brexit
Gibraltar was completely against the Brexit and after it happened, Spain, UK, and Gibraltar itself tried their best to come up with a deal that would benefit both sides. As a result, Gibraltar is now officially a part of the EU and Schengen zone which means the border between Spain and Gibraltar will be removed and there will be no passport check if entered by the road.
However, there will still be a passport check if one’s entering Gibraltar by flight or boat. And the Schengen visa policy is in effect.
Visa Requirements For Visiting Gibraltar After Brexit
EU and UK Citizens
British citizens have the right of abode in Gibraltar, meaning that they can live and work in Gibraltar without needing any permit. As a result of the Gibraltar Brexit deal, EU citizens can also travel and live in Gibraltar freely, not needing a visa or permit.
If you’re a Non-EU citizen, you should check the visa requirement of your passport for the Schengen area.
If you need a visa for visiting the Schengen area and would like to visit Gibraltar, you should request it from a Spanish embassy near you, not a British embassy.
Things to Do in Gibraltar
The Rock of Gibraltar
The Rock of Gibraltar, also known as the Jabel-al-Tariq, is a monolithic limestone promontory in Gibraltar which is a symbol of British Naval strength since the 18th century. Once getting to the top of the rock of Gibraltar, you’ll get amazed by the jaw-dropping view it has to offer.
How to get to the top of the Rock of Gibraltar
There are three ways to get to the upper rock of Gibraltar.
By Cable Car
Taking only 6 minutes, a Cable car is the fastest way of getting to the upper rock, and you can enjoy the stunning views of the peninsula on your way up.
The hours of the cable car operation is as follows:
- 1 April to 31 October: 9:30 am to 7:15 pm. The last cable car down from the top station is 7:45 pm. Remember that during this time, the cable car doesn’t stop at the middle station. The kiosk to buy tickets closes at 4:00 pm so make sure you buy your cable car ticket before then.
- 1 November to 31 March: 9:30 am to 5:15 pm. The last cable car down from the top station is 5:45 pm. The kiosk to buy tickets closes at 3:00 pm so make sure you buy your cable car ticket before then.
Walking to the Top
Walking to the top of the rock is the free way of visiting the rock. Make sure you wear comfy shoes and leave at a good time of the day to have enough time to relax along the way and enjoy the views. Although there’s not a lot of real hiking to do, it’s better to be fit to climb up the rock as some parts of your hiking include steep trails.
Booking a Tour
If you like to receive more information and enjoy the scenery, not having to worry about getting lost or other kinds of stresses, the best option is to book a tour. Gibraltar Rock Tour is a valuable option that includes the admission ticket to the rock itself and you will be in an air-conditioned bus with a local tour guide/driver who makes your experience a lot better.
Apes Den / Barbary Macaques
Apes Den on the rock is home to the wild Barbary Macaques that are one of the main tourist attractions in Gibraltar. The Barbary macaque population of Gibraltar is the only such population outside Northern Africa and the only population of wild monkeys in Europe.
Legend has it that should the macaques ever disappear, the British will leave Gibraltar. During the last war, natural causes had diminished the macaque numbers alarmingly. Fortunately, Sir Winston Churchill took a personal interest and additional animals were imported from Morocco.
When visiting these cute creatures, make sure not to feed them, not to touch them, and not to shout, or make any sudden moves. Because at the end of the day, these monkeys are wild animals and could bite you or be dangerous in general.
Beaches in Gibraltar
Gibraltar is the gateway to the Mediterranean which means it is home to fantastic white sand beaches and clear blue water. There are a few options when it comes to the beaches in Gibraltar.
The beaches in Gibraltar are following:
Camp Bay & Little Bay
While all of the beaches in Gibraltar are on the Eastern side of the territory, facing the Mediterranean, Camp Bay & Little Bay is facing the Atlantic Ocean. located at the southwestern end of Gibraltar, this small beach is usually sunnier than other beaches in Gibraltar, because it is not close to the Rock, thus the sky above it doesn’t get covered with the clouds above the city and the rock. The beach is a lido with two swimming pools for children and a popular bar-restaurant.
Catalan Bay is located on the eastern side of the Rock away from the main city. Legends have it that the origin of the name goes back to 350 Catalan men who helped the Anglo-Dutch forces who captured Gibraltar during the War with Spanish forces. But there has never been any evidence to support this theory.
The Catalan Bay is surrounded by a small fishing village with the same name.
Eastern Beach is the biggest beach on the Eastern side of Gibraltar. This sandy beach is surrounded by residential properties and unlike other Eastern beaches in Gibraltar that miss sunshine by the shadow of the rock a part of the day, Eastern Beach enjoys having the sun throughout the day.
Sandy Bay had always been a popular choice among beach lovers until most of its sand got washed away by the violent storms. However, the government of Gibraltar imported 50 thousand tons of sand from Western Sahara in Africa to recover this beautiful beach. They also constructed two curved groins and a frontal breakwater to protect the beach from the destructive impact of the storms. Now, Sandy Bay is back to its glorious times.
Alameda Wildlife Conservation Park
Alameda Wildlife Conservation Park is a small park nestled in the beautiful Gibraltar Botanic Gardens. This park was completely made by volunteers who turned a golf course into the park and put the illegally traded animals who were being smuggled to Europe from Africa.
Alameda Wildlife Conservation Park is home to reptiles (including different species of turtles, iguana, and Chinese water dragon), mammals (like monkeys, bats, squirrels, Vietnamese pigs, and Otters), and even birds (such as different species of parrots, Raven, and Peacock).
Visiting Alameda Wildlife Conservation Park is both fun and educational for children to be warned about smuggled animals.
St. Michael’s Cave
St. Michael’s Cave is another magical sightseeing place in the rock of Gibraltar. It was first discovered by prehistory people who painted on its walls, then Neanderthals stepped on it, and so on. In the 19th century, the cave was getting used as a venue to rent out to people for their occasions. During WW II, Britain was planning to use the St. Michael’s Cave as a hospital in case they needed a safe place for the soldiers, but it had never been needed.
Where to Stay in Gibraltar
Although Gibraltar is relatively small, it has a few options when it comes to booking a hotel in Gibraltar. Since this British Territory doesn’t have enough land and at the same time there’s a high demand for accommodation in Gibraltar, the hotel prices are not that budget-friendly, but there are still some options between more valuable hotels and the luxury ones. Below are the two options of the best hotels in Gibraltar.
If you’re a luxury hotel goer and like cruises at the same time, you’re in luck as the hotel is a luxury yacht turned into a 5-star hotel. Located in Gibraltar’s exclusive Ocean Village Marina, Sunborn Gibraltar is the perfect luxurious base if you’re traveling to Gibraltar for your honeymoon, business, or just relaxation.
While there are a few hotels that are more valuable than Holiday Inn Express, this hotel offers an acceptable level of service and amenities for the money it charges. The Holiday Inn Express is 15 minutes walk to the nearest beach, the same 15 minutes to the casemates square and has a supermarket across the street.