The main attractions of Gibraltar are its varied wildlife and rich history. This pocket-sized British territory has elements of Jewish, North African and Spanish culture too, and is the perfect size for a day visit.
Crossing the border is a unique experience in itself for two reasons:
- Pedestrians and drivers alike must cross the airport runway to enter Gibraltar! This is a really novel experience, especially for kids and keen plane-spotters!
- Crossing the border induces a quick culture shock – with the Spanish town of La Línea de la Concepción on one side to the very British street names, road signs and telephone boxes on the other.
Did you know? – There are plans to build a tunnel under the runway, which would allow people to cross from underneath.
Rock of Gibraltar
By catching the cable car up to the top of the famous Rock of Gibraltar, you will be able to see views of Spain and Northern Africa in the distance on a clear day. The Rock is also where most of the island’s charismatic macaque monkeys live, and the kids will be guaranteed to see some up close since they are accustomed to tourists – it could well end up being one of the most memorable parts of their trip!
Purchasing extra tickets along with the ticket for the cable car itself will allow you to visit the other attractions on the rock. All of these are included in the ‘Upper Rock Nature Reserve’ ticket: St. Michael’s Cave, Military Heritage Centre, ‘Gibraltar: A City Under Siege’ exhibition, the Moorish Castle and the Great Siege Tunnels.
St. Michael’s Cave
A vast underground wonderland, this cave full of stalagmites and stalactites is the result of natural processes.
Groups can tour the caves to find out their story, from their military use to the discovery of the lower cave, and to experience the sheer beauty that nature has created.
The exact date of construction is unknown, although it is thought that it began in the 8th Century AD. It was built by the Moroccan Marinid dynasty in around the 8th Century AD. Although the original castle stretched all the way from the Upper Rock to the sea, now just the Tower of Homage and some terraces and battlements remain.
Here kids can learn about Gibraltar’s distant past; namely, the Moorish occupation, which lasted over 700 years.
The Great Siege Tunnels
The Great Siege of Gibraltar refers to an attempt by France and Spain to capture Gibraltar from the British during the American War of Independence. It is the longest siege to be endured by the British Armed Forces.
This self-guided exhibition covers part of the defence system which was carved out of the rock, which was extended and re-used in World War II. Students will be able to learn more about the history of this strategically important landmass, and attempts by different powers to occupy it over the centuries.
Military Heritage Centre
Located in Princess Caroline’s Battery, built in 1732. Here you can learn about war artefacts such as shells, gun hoists and weapons used by the British Army in Gibraltar. There are also artefacts dating back to the Great Siege of 1783.
‘Gibraltar: A City Under Siege’ exhibition
The buildings in this small exhibition originate from the start of the British occupation of Gibraltar in the 1700s. The most fascinating part of this exhibition is the graffiti drawn by soldiers to keep them from dozing off during long shifts guarding the area, for which the punishment would have been death.
The exhibition gives students an insight into the experiences of the people who lived through the Great Siege including the hardships of enduring disease, lack of resources and strict military discipline.
Dolphin Boat trip
Taking a boat trip just a few km from the coast means you are almost guaranteed to see one or two of the species of dolphins which populate the waters between Gibraltar and Spain.
The trip begins at a beautiful but lively marina in the North District, and lasts around one hour.
Running through the centre of Gibraltar’s town area is its very own High Street where many Brits in Gibraltar go to find comforts from home – from familiar clothing brands, to tea and confectionary. Here the cultural exchange will be in reverse – you may find yourself explaining what you’ve bought to your Spanish chaperone!
If the kids fancy a shopping trip, remind them to bring some British currency!
Did you know? – Gibraltar uses British Sterling currency, but they also have Gibraltar-issued notes and coins which look different. These are not valid back in the UK!
Journey time to Gibraltar: 1 hour 45 on the coach