Home Europe One Day in Gibraltar – What to See

One Day in Gibraltar – What to See

by Andy Vanr

Explore all the best things to see and do especially the Gibraltar Nature Reserve at the top of the Rock. The Rock of Gibraltar is one of most impressive landscapes in Europe.

We’ve got tips to help you get the most out of a one-day visit to Gibraltar, including getting to the top of the Rock. Gibraltar is an easy day trip from Spain. 

Gibraltar One Day Itinerary

This itinerary covers what to see in Gibraltar in one day:

If time permits, add a 2nd Day in Gibraltar.

Gibraltar Walking Map

Here is what you’ll see on this Gibraltar itinerary.

Gibraltar satellite map showing roads attractions
Click on the above walking map of Gibraltar for an interactive version.

Gibraltar Nature Reserve

In 1993, land was set aside by the government as the Upper Rock Nature Reserve. The nature reserve was expanded in 2013 and the larger area became the Gibraltar Nature Reserve.  This expansion added further protections to the habitats and species of the region.  The park now covers about 40% of Gibraltar’s land area.

The easiest way to get into the Gibraltar Nature Reserve is by cable car which goes to the top of the Rock.  The Cable Car parking lot is located at the southern end of Main Street.

Before arriving in Gibraltar, review our section about purchasing Cable Car Tickets. Be sure to select the ticket that includes the Nature Reserve.

From the station at Top of the Rock, walk the roads and trails to visit these sites in the Nature Reserve:

Down tree-lined paved roadway
Walk from Top Station to the attractions of the nature reserve.

How long does it take to walk the Gibraltar Nature Reserve?

In total, we spent 4 hours visiting the sites of the nature reserve.  Be prepared for a lot of walking.

1.  From Top Station to St. Michael’s Cave: 800 metres, 1 hour.

2.  From St. Michael’s Cave to the Windsor Suspension Bridge: 900 metres, 1 hour.

3.  How long does it take to walk down the Rock of Gibraltar?
From the Windsor Suspension Bridge to the park exit it is 2 kilometres and took us 2 hours.

Aerial view urban area water
The urban area of Gibraltar is at the base of the rock on the western side.

Top of the Rock of Gibraltar

The Top of Rock is the best place to look out over Gibraltar.  The cable car travels up 412 metres arriving at Top Station in just 6 minutes, bypassing Middle Station. The cable car does not stop at Middle Station from April to October.

At the summit, step out onto the terrace for some spectacular views.  On a clear day, it’s easy to see Africa.  Marvel at the cargo ships passing through the Strait of Gibraltar, between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.

Urban area rock peak building terraces
The Cable Car station is on the top of the Rock. The terrace at the station provides a great 360 viewpoint.

Top Station has a café, restaurant and gift shop.  Enjoy a rest and then continue via a series of walking trails to access the rest of the Nature Reserve. Visitors are asked to eat any food within the building to avoid feeding the wandering Barbary Apes who are master food thieves.

Skywalk Gibraltar

The Skywalk is a glass-panel walkway 340 metres above the sea.  Enjoy the 360-degree view of two continents from this terrace.  Visitors fearful of heights should be reassured of their safety as the walkway is made of 4 layers of glass (with a total thickness of 4 centimetres).

Valerie on glass floor surrounded by glass walls and a hillside
The glass walkway is a great vantage point to see the wide expanse of the Mediterranean Sea and the shoreline below. Val is not afraid of heights but if you are, you may want to avoid this stop.
Val on a platform with rock cliff background
The Skywalk provides a great view of the east side of the Rock of Gibraltar.

St. Michael’s Cave

Wander St. Michael’s Cave and see huge stalactites and stalagmites.  The cave was prepared as an emergency hospital during WWII, but never used.

An immersive light and sound show projects onto the walls and rock formations for an interesting sensory experience. The cave has a large 600-seat amphitheatre that hosts concerts and special events.

Stalactites curtains form angel shape lit in colour
This curtain of stalactites was discovered during the creation of the sound and light show called the Awakening. This formation is called the Angel.
Hanging stalactites limestone cave
Walk through the cave to see the beautiful hanging formations, caused by water working its way from the surface down through the limestone rock layers.

If time permits, book the 3-hour Lower Cave Tour to go further into the cave system, including a stop at an underground lake.

Windsor Suspension Bridge

For a quick adrenaline rush, walk across the Windsor Suspension Bridge.  This 71-metre long bridge crosses a 50-metre deep gorge.  Enjoy views of the bay and the city below.

Suspension bridge ravine below cliff background
The Windsor Suspension Bridge is firmly attached on both ends by anchors 12 metres into the rock face.

Apes’ Den – The Barbary Apes

The most obvious, and often persistent, residents of the Nature Reserve are the monkeys. They are Barbary macaques.  Originating from Africa, it is not certain how or when they arrived in Gibraltar.  Today, there are several groups of macaques.  They populate both the top of the rock and below, near the Apes’ Den.

They tend to congregate at the Apes’ Den so it’s a great place for photos. Nature reserve staff often place feeding stations at the Den and elsewhere in the park for the macaques.  This gives visitors plenty of chances to take photographs safely.

The macaques are always looking for human food.  Don’t feed them.  Hide any food and don’t interact with them as they can become aggressive.

Ape wall ship at sea mountains behind
Barbary macaques, native to Africa, were introduced at some point to Gibraltar. They’ve been here ever since and are a star attraction.
Ape walks wall ships at sea
The macaques often use the Charles V Wall as an easy route from one part of the nature reserve to another.

The macaques are often seen travelling up and down a set of stairs near the Apes’ Den.  This staircase is the Charles V Wall.

The original wall was built by the Moors for climbing straight up the Rock.  In the 16th century, after pirates attacked, the wall was redesigned and rebuilt to defend the city from future attacks.

Looking down hillside wall to buildings sea
A stunning view of the Charles V Wall and Africa in the distance from the area of the Apes’ Den.

Continue down the roadway and arrive at the Princess Caroline’s Battery. 

Princess Caroline’s Battery – Military Heritage Centre

The original battery was completed in 1732 and saw action during the Great Siege.  Damaged at the time of the Siege, the gun emplacement has been upgraded several times. The final upgrade, in 1905, was to a 6 inch Mark VII gun, which has now been removed.

Enjoy the great views of Gibraltar from this battery viewpoint.

The Military Heritage Centre is within the battery.  This small museum has exhibits of armoury artifacts, including gun shells.  It includes a memorial to those regiments who defended the territory of Gibraltar.

Valerie in front of a white military battery with 3 flags
Val is posing in front of the battery. It’s been decommissioned and its underground magazine houses the Military Heritage Centre.

Walk up the road for 300 metres to see the Great Siege Tunnels.

Great Siege Tunnels

The British created these amazing defensive tunnels during the years of the Great Siege.

The Great Siege was a series of attempts, between 1779 and 1783, to drive the British off of the Rock of Gibraltar.

In 1779, through a combination of digging by hand and blasting the rock, the British created a tunnel 113 metres long.  Four gun emplacements mounted at the air shaft openings created a remarkable defensive system to protect this territory.  Further tunnels were added over time right up to World War II.

Continue walking down the hill noting the Lime Kiln on the left.

Round brick structure central open doorway
The kilns were used in the early 20th century.

The Lime Kiln dates back to the early 1900s.  It was restored by the Gibraltar National Museum.  The kilns produced lime used to white wash buildings.

Further down the road is another military foundation. 

City Under Siege Exhibition

The site was originally the Willis’ Magazine, used for gunpowder storage. It is now the “City Under Siege” Exhibition. 

Life-sized figures are used to recreate scenes of how the military and civilians coped during the difficult years of the Great Siege.

Boredom and alcohol often contributed to tension and internal fights within the colony.  Officers needed to curtail this with strict discipline to restore order.  Flogging with a nine-tailed whip was a common form of punishment.

Roofless building woman baby cannon background military officer flogging shirtless man
To keep order during the Seige, officers used strict discipline. Flogging with a nine-tailed whip was a common form of punishment.

Take a quick walk through this exhibit and continue down the road to the WWII tunnels.

World War II Tunnels

In anticipation of the World War II allied invasion of North Africa, the Great Siege Tunnels were fortified and expanded.  These lower tunnels were created providing additional space for equipment, food and troop accommodation.

In total, this underground city could house a 16,000-person garrison.  For an additional fee, there are 30-minute tours which visit a portion of this massive network of World War II Tunnels.

Concrete opening cliff wall
These tunnels were added to the Great Seige Tunnels during World War II.

Continue down the road to the Moorish Castle.

Moorish Castle

Visit the ruins of this 14th-century Moorish Castle

The first castle was built in 711 AD by the Moor’s leader Tarik ibn Ziyad.  Subsequent fortifications were built and destroyed over years of conquest.

Today, the main feature is the Tower of Homage. It was rebuilt in 1333 when the castle was recaptured.

Stone castle tower door opening walkway bottom
The Tower of Homage is clearly visible above the Moorish Castle. Part of the castle also housed the prison of Gibraltar until it was relocated in 2010.

If time is tight, make it a quick visit. The great views of the city below are worth it.

Continue down Willis’s Road and toward Main Street.

Main Street – Pedestrian Street

Main Street begins at Grand Casemates Square. The area is full of restaurants and fast food outlets.  Historically this square was the site of military barracks. In a slightly more gruesome part of its history, public executions were held here. 

South on Main Street, there are some other stops of historical significanceOptional stops include: the Governor’s Residence, the Trafalgar cemetery, and another portion of the historic Charles V Wall.

Up painted staircase between building banner hanging centre
The Union Jack Steps are an alternative way to get to the top of the Rock of Gibraltar. (Don’t forget there is an entrance fee.)

Be sure to visit the Gibraltar Museum, located just off of Main Street on Bomb House Lane.

Gibraltar National Museum

This museum explores the culture and history of Gibraltar.  Learn about the area’s prehistory, including the discovery of a Neanderthal skull.  There are many exhibits about the Great Siege of 1779 to 1783.

The Gibraltar Museum sits on top of the remains of a preserved 14th-century Moorish bath house which can also be visited.

Continue south to return to the Cable Car parking lot and the end of this 1-day trip to Gibraltar.

2 Days – More Things To Do in Gibraltar

On a 2nd Day in Gibraltar, take some time to tour the southern part of Gibraltar.  Visit the UNESCO Gorham’s Cave Viewing platform.  The nearby Mediterranean Steps provide a challenging climb to explore more of the area.

Gorham’s Cave Complex

The Gorham’s Cave Complex was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to evidence of occupation by Neanderthals. The cluster of sea-level caves contains archaeological evidence of human occupation 32,000 ago.

From the Viewing Platform, located at the 1st/2nd Europa Advance Batteries, see the sea caves in the distance.  There are interpretative panels and a short video explaining the caves and the Neanderthal people that occupied this area.

Due to the archaeological sensitivity of the area, tours of the caves are subject to quotas.  To book a tour, contact the Interpretation Centre in advance of visiting.

After the caves, visit the Mediterranean Steps, a historically significant trail primarily within the World Heritage Site.

Shadowed vertical cliff face water at base
The east side of the Rock of Gibraltar is almost vertical.

Mediterranean Steps

Historians believe that humans used a trail in this area for thousands of years.  In the modern era, the British built a trail climbing to the Rock’s summit.

This is a challenging hike with breathtaking and panoramic views on the climb up.

Martin’s Path, near Jews Gate is the beginning of the trail to the Mediterranean Steps.  This is near the southern entrance of Nature Preserve.  The trail begins at 180 metres above sea level.  It travels around the rock on the eastern side, where it joins the Mediterranean Steps. 

During this steep climb, pass two natural caves and the remnants of old military fortifications. The steps end at the 420-metre summit and the gun emplacement called O’Hara’s Battery.

Aerial view sandy beach protected by breakwaters
The Sandy Bay Beach was reconstructed with 50,000 tons of sand imported from the Sahara desert.

O’Hara’s Battery

This is the highest point in Gibraltar and has been used as a defensive position for centuries.  The battery was upgraded over the years, with its last gun mounted in 1901.  The 9.2-inch cannon was fired last in 1974 and had a range of 26 kilometres.

Hike down the mountain via O’Hara’s Road to end your second day.

Gibraltar – Know Before You Go

Below is information which will be helpful on a visit to Gibraltar.

Day Trip to Gibraltar

Gibraltar is an easy side trip to add to a travel itinerary of Spain. While bus service is available between most Spanish cities and Gibraltar, train service is not available.

Marbella to Gibraltar Day Trip

The one-way journey from Marbella to Gibraltar is about 80 kilometres and 1 hour by car. Bus service is available.

Malaga to Gibraltar Day Trip

From Malaga, a one-way trip to Gibraltar, by car, is about 135 kilometres and 1.5 hours. Bus service is available.

Seville to Gibraltar Day Trip

By car, the one-way journey between Seville and Gibraltar is about 200 kilometres and 2.3 hours. Bus service is available.

Gibraltar Border Crossing – The Frontier

Visitors can enter Gibraltar directly at the airport or cruise ship port.  Most visitors will arrive by land, crossing the border at the Spanish city of La Línea.  Crossing the Spain-Gibraltar border is a relatively simple procedure.  Just present your international identification, such as a passport, to enter.

The border area between La Linea and border control is often called The Frontier zone.  There are 3 ways to cross the Spain-Gibraltar border:

  1. Drive 
    There is often a lineup and wait to enter Gibraltar, but this is the easiest way to get into Gibraltar.  With our rental car, it took us only 20 minutes to cross the border.
  2. Shuttle
    There are shuttles that will take you from the Frontier zone straight into Gibraltar.  FREE Shuttle Note: If you purchase your cable car tickets at the Gibraltar Information Kiosk, located on the Spanish side of the border near Gibraltar Passport Control, you can take the free shuttle service to the cable car and back. The shuttle stop is just across the border.
  3. Walk
    Park your car in La Línea and walk across the border.  From Border Control to Grand Casemates Square is an easy 20 minute (1.3 kilometre) walk.

Whether you drive or walk, the most unusual part of entering Gibraltar is driving/walking straight through the middle of the Gibraltar airport runaway!

Road crossing airport runway urban area behind
Gibraltar’s airport runway is quite unique. Pedestrians and vehicles cross straight across through the middle of the runway.
Woman man walking pavement airport runway
Walking across an airport runway is a once in a lifetime experience for most people but in Gibraltar it is a regular occurrence.

Gibraltar Cable Car Tickets

We recommend you purchase tickets and take the cable car to the top of Gibraltar and the entrance of the Upper Rock Nature Reserve.

Where can I purchase Cable Car Tickets?

  1. Online
    Purchase Cable Car tickets in advance, online.
  2. At the Border 
    Purchase your tickets at the Gibraltar Information Kiosk on the Spanish side of border.  These tickets include the use of the FREE shuttle service to the cable car and back.
  3. At the Cable Car 
    Purchase tickets at the base station.  We recommend this method.  We drove to the cable car parking lot, purchased our tickets and travelled immediately to the top.

Note: The cable car runs year-round, EXCEPT for the month of November.

Cables down urban parking area water background
The easiest way to buy tickets to the Gibraltar Nature Reserve when driving to Gibraltar is to park in the Cable Car parking lot and buy them along with the ride to the top of the Rock.

What are my options when purchasing the Cable Car tickets?

There are 3 ticket options:

  1. Cable Car Return plus Nature Reserve
  2. Cable Car Return
  3. Cable Car One Way plus Nature Reserve

We selected Option 3. It allowed us to visit all of the sites and activities as we walked down the mountain.

Most visitors use the cable car to enter the park.  There are 2 other entrances to the Nature Reserve:

  • Jews Gate
  • Moorish Castle

At these locations, buy tickets and walk into the Nature Reserve.  Private taxis and tour buses will take you to these entrances.

Can I drive my car to the Gibraltar Nature Reserve?

Warning:  You can NOT drive your Rental CAR into the Nature Reserve.  Only guided taxis or bus tours are allowed.

What is Gibraltar?

Gibraltar is a small, 6.7-square kilometre territory, located at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula. It is surrounded by water on all sides except to the north where it borders Spain. More than half of the land area is covered by the Rock of Gibraltar, a huge ridge of sedimentary rock.  A densely populated town sits at the rock’s base on the western side. It is home to over 30,000 people.

The ancient Greeks described the Rock of Gibraltar as one of the two Pillars denoting “the ends of the known world”.  Gibraltar has always been an important strategic military site, due to its location between Europe and Africa.  The Rock was ruled by Spain until it was ceded to Great Britain in 1713. 

Although officially a British Territory, Gibraltar is self-governing with its own parliament and laws.

Tourists flock to Gibraltar in summer and on the weekends to stay at its resorts.

Stone steps between building landing with red phonebooth
There are reminders around Gibraltar that this is a British territory.

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