Status: British dependent territoryGibraltar, long famous as the "key to the Mediterranean", which has been held by Britain since 1704, lies near the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula.
The Rock of Gibraltar (Arabic Jebel al- Tarik) rears out of the sea on the east side of Algeciras Bay, linked with the mainland of Spain by a narrow isthmus. The town of Gibraltar lies on the west side of the Rock, which rises from the sea in a series of terraces. Since Gibraltar has for all practical purposes no sources of water of its own, large cisterns ("water catchments") have been hewn out of the rock at its higher east end. The only monkeys living wild in Europe are the Barbary apes of Gibraltar. The population of Gibraltar is a mixture of people from all parts of the British Isles, from Spain, Portugal, Morocco and other Mediterranean countries, as well as some Indians. The language pattern is equally mixed: in addition to English in all its variations and of course to Spanish, Gibraltar has a dialect of its own, basically Spanish but with an admixture of English. Since the withdrawal of most of the British troops and the loss in jobs which followed, Gibraltar has tried to attract investment from the EU and become a financial center. Tourism (4.1 million in 1991), the sale of stamps, and the commercial harbor are significant sources of income together with a modest degree of industry (oil, foodstuffs). The currency is the Gibraltar pound and since 1991 a coin worth 70 ECU (50 pounds) has been in circulation.TransportThe runway of the civil airport is built out into Algeciras bay and is crossed by the road to the Spanish frontier (with traffic light control), there are flights to London and Tangier (Morocco). There are also ferry services to and from Tangier.Vehicles on Gibraltar drive on the right.
At the southern tip of the peninsula is Europa Point, with a restaurant, a lighthouse and the old chapel of Nuestra Señora de Europa. From here there are magnificent views of Algeciras Bay, the African coast and Apes' Rock. On the east side of the Rock road runs from north to south by way of Eastern Beach and Catalan Bay Village (tourist center), below the Water Catchments, to Sandy Bay.
Gibraltar has been assigned to Britain since 1713. It enjoys self-government although Britain is involved with foreign affairs and internal security.
From the square Main Street, in which are most of Gibraltar's hotels, shops and public buildings, runs past the Post Office and the Exchange (with the Town Hall to the rear) to the Roman Catholic Cathedral, a former mosque which was rebuilt in Gothic style in 1502. Southwest of this are the Synagogue and, in Bomb House Lane, the Gibraltar Museum, the most striking item in which is a large model of the peninsula. In Cathedral Square stands the Moorish-style Anglican Cathedral (1821). Near the south end of Main Street is the Governor's Residence (the Convent), originally a Franciscan convent built in 1531.
Upper Rock Nature Reserve (Apes' Rock)
Apes' Rock is home to Barbary apes which are the only monkeys living wild in Europe. A British army corporal is assigned the duty of feeding these living symbols of Gibraltar. Visitors should be wary in their dealings with the apes, which tend to bite.Upper rock is a nature reserve and offers great views. It is also a good area for viewing migrations of birds between Africa and Europe.
The old town of Gibraltar, North Town, begins beyond the airport, which is laid out on the isthmus of level ground, with Casemates Square. Above this, to the east, is the Moorish Castle, originally built in the eighth Century and rebuilt by the Almohads in the 14th Century, of which only the keep and a few fragments of masonry remain.
From Main Street Willis' Road leads past the Moorish Castle into Queen's Road, a narrow road which runs along the Rock, half way up, affording fine views. At the near end of this road, on the left, are the Upper Galleries, which were hewn from the rock during the Franco-Spanish siege of Gibraltar in 1779-83 and still house cannon.
Alameda Botanic Gardens
At the end of Main Street are the Southport Gates, beyond which is the Alameda, a public garden with luxuriant subtropical vegetation and an open-air theater. At the north end of the gardens is a cableway running up to the Signal Station (395m/1295ft), near which are the Water Catchments (reservoirs).
On the east side of the Alameda is the beginning of Europa Road, a 5km/ 3mile long scenic road which climbs steeply up the west side of the Rock between the houses and gardens of South Town and then runs down between the jagged rock faces of Europa Pass.
St Michael's Cave
Farther south from the Highest Point a track leads off Queen's Road to St Michael's Cave, the largest cave on the Rock, with fine stalactites and stalagmites. In summer the cave is used as a concert hall. At the end of Queen's Road there is a sharp bend turning back into Europa Road.
The museum focuses on the cultural and natural history of Gibraltar, including the Strait of Gibraltar. Established in 1930, the museum is housed in Bomb House, the former residence of the Principal Artillery Officer.
Map of Gibraltar Attractions