Gibraltar is in southern Spain but has been owned by the British for longer than the United States has been American. Affectionately known as “The Rock” (thanks to the massive Rock that casts shadows over Gibraltar), takes its Britishness to whole new levels. You’ll see red pillar boxes, fish and chip shops and old seaside hotels that look like the more tumble down parts of northern sea towns in the UK.
A day trip to Gibraltar offers plenty to do. Plus, it’s kinda nice if you want to relax whilst surrounded by some English after days of Spanish.
How to plan a day trip in Gibraltar
First things first, it depends what part of Spain you’re coming from. We were coming from Almuñécar which is to the east and about a three hour drive each way. Some of the other well known cities you might be coming from are Malaga (just under 2 hour’s drive) or Cadiz in the West (about 1 and a half hours).
Should you drive into Gibraltar?
Short answer: probably not. Especially if you’re only planning to spend the day in Gibraltar.
When we visited back in 2013, Gibraltar had been in the news a lot for its disputes with Spain. Luckily we’d done a bit of research the night before and discovered parking the car outside Gibraltar would make life a lot easier.
There are plenty of car parks in La Linea de la Concepción. This is the town just on the Spanish side of the border. You can park your car in La Linea de la Concepión and then walk over the border just a few minutes away.
There are plenty of signs to direct you into the centre of Gibraltar. Oh, and there’s a massive rock that kinda guides the way too. The walk from the border crossing is about 30 minutes.
If you park in Gibraltar itself you’re very likely to get stuck in traffic for three hours or more on the way out!
Travelling within Gibraltar on a day trip
If you prefer not to walk from the border crossing you can take a bus to the city centre. Look for a red bus and buy a day ticket which costs 3.50 Euros. You could buy a single ticket but that costs 2.40E. And chances are you’ll probably want the bus back to the border even more after a day full of adventures in Gibraltar!
What to pack for a day trip to Gibraltar
If you’re visiting in summer (as we did) the chances are it’s going to be super, super hot. We hiked up the Rock in Gibraltar and sweated buckets. Here are a few essentials you’ll need to pack if you’re planning a day trip in Gibraltar.
- Passport: Even if you’re British since you’ll be going back into Spain at the end of the day.
- A map or good GPS: Pick up a map in town from the visitors’ centre.
- Plenty of water: You’ll probably want at least two litres per person. Take a refillable bottle and look out for water fountains (or ask at cafes) for a refill.
- Suncream: We’re both redheads and burn so easily. The sun in southern Spain is strong so you’ll want some suncream too!
- A camera: Cause, y’know you’re gonna want to take pictures!
- Good walking shoes: Gibraltar is best explored on foot so make sure you’ve worn your good walking shoes for your day in Gibraltar.
What currency do they accept in Gibraltar?
As Gibraltar is a British overseas territory the main currency is the Pound Sterling. Most businesses will accept euros but your change will most likely be given back in euros.
What to do in one day in Gibraltar
For such a small place there’s plenty to keep you entertained for a day trip in Gibraltar. Here are some of the things we did in Gibraltar, as well as some extras!
Go To The Top Of The Rock Of Gibraltar
You can’t miss the Rock of Gibraltar. I really mean it. You can’t help but see it when you approach the border. The Rock of Gibraltar rises 426m above sea level and has huge historical significance as well as some fantastic views. On a clear day it’s said you can even see out to Africa!
One of the things you must do on a day trip to Gibraltar is to make it to the top of the rock. You can drive, get the cable car or hike. Since you’re reading my blog I’m going to assume you like hiking! In which case, check out these options below!
Hike the Mediterranean Steps
This is the steepest way to get to the top of the rock. It’s like being on a stair climber at the gym for a few hours. Only with better views. You’ll climb 240m up on a route .86miles in length. That should give you an idea as to how steep it is.
The trail starts quite level as you’ll wind along the side of the rock, but intermittently you’ll hit points of steep, switchback steps.
Eventually you’ll crest the rock at its highest point near O’Hara’s Battery. From here you can either go down the way you came, or take O’Hara Road and pass by lots of natural and historical sites (most listed below as further activities for your day in Gibraltar.
Ride the Cable Car
If you don’t fancy the walk then you can also ride the cable car to the top of the rock. It’s worth getting the cable car ticket which also includes the entrance to the nature reserve (£22) and activities listed below. However you can also buy tickets for the below activities without the cable car.
Explore St Michael’s Caves
One of the most impressive adventures on Gibraltar are St Michael’s Caves. The caves are a series of limestone chambers and tunnels that go so deep people used to say they must’ve gone all the way to Africa!
There’s an upper section and a lower section which are linked with drops of up to 45m.
Originally these were used as when defending Gibraltar from attacks by the Moors and the Spanish. They were also once prepared to be used as a hospital during WW2 but were never actually used.
Nowadays they make a great area to explore and they also house a 600 person auditorium where concerts take places.
See the Great Siege Tunnels
Underneath the massive rock of Gibraltar are miles and miles of underground tunnels. The oldest were dug during the 1779–83 Great Siege of Gibraltar. No longer needed as a defence mechanism, you can now explore the tunnels, ducking and squeezing as you go, on your day trip to Gibraltar.
Visit the Barbary Macaques
Gibraltar’s most famous residents are arguably the Barbary Macaques. These apes are said to be the only free living apes in the whole of Europe! You can visit them at Apes Den on the rock and watch as they jump around and play together.
Be careful with your belongings as they tend to steal things they think might be tasty. Also, do not feed the apes for many reasons, one of which being the fine of thousands of £££s you’ll get!
Roam the Moorish Castle
We paid a visit to the Moorish Castle during our day in Gibraltar and loved exploring the gatehouse and the walls. Partly because there were some super views from up there! Unlike some castles (particularly those castles in Scotland) there still plenty to see here and it’s easy to image people running about whilst under siege!
Relax On The Beach
Gibraltar is home to six beaches which is incredible for such a small place. If you’ve been holidaying in Spain then chances are you’re probably staying near some great beaches already. But, if you want more beaches then check out one in Gibraltar.
For sandy beaches, head to Sandy Bay, Eastern Beach, Catalan Bay, and Western Beach. The beach at Catalan Bay is backed by a charming village, while Eastern Beach is close to the international airport, so you can watch the planes come in while you swim. The other two known as Camp Bay and Little Bay are rocky beaches but they also have lidos for swimming.
The Alameda Botanic Gardens
If you love flowers and plants then visit the Alameda Botanic Gardens. The gardens are filled with palms, pines, olives and plants from all over the world. You’ll find flora from California, Asia and even Australia!
See the Ibrahim-Al-Ibrahim Mosque
The Ibrahim-Al-Ibrahim mosque is the southernmost mosque in mainland Europe. It’s also extremely lavish and ornate.