It’s easy to see the appeal of visiting the tiny British territory of Gibraltar. Not only is there the novelty of experiencing a small slice of British life surrounded by Spain, but Gibraltar also features the awe-inspiring sight of the Rock of Gibraltar, which is sure to make a strong first impression. Those with a passion for history or a love of sweeping vistas won’t be disappointed by a trip to this compact destination.
One nice thing about Gibraltar is that you can cover a lot of the territory’s sights in a relatively short amount of time. It’s actually possible to experience most of the best places to visit in Gibraltar in just one day of sightseeing if you know what you’re doing. Planning is the key here, because it helps to know what to expect to make the most of your time. It’s for that reason that we’ve put together this Gibraltar itinerary that covers how best to spend 1 day in Gibraltar sightseeing.
Best Time to Visit Gibraltar
Timing is always an important aspect of planning a trip, and planning a visit to Gibraltar is no different. Depending on what time of year you’re visiting Gibraltar, you can expect wildly different weather, accommodation rates, and numbers of other tourists. No two people are going to want the exact same thing from their trip, so it’s important to time your trip for what works for you.
Gibraltar is at its busiest during the summer months of June through August when holidaymakers descend to bask in its perfect weather. If spending time in the sun at the beach is a priority for you, then this is when you want to come.
However, if you’re not one for crowds and are more interested in sightseeing, then many say that autumn and spring are the best times to visit Gibraltar. During April, May, September, and October, Gibraltar becomes a fair bit less busy, while still offering really comfortable weather for being outdoors. What’s not to like about that?
How to Get Around Gibraltar
It’s no secret that Gibraltar is a small territory, covering just 6.7 km² (2.6 miles²). This is great news for visitors, because it means you really shouldn’t have much trouble getting about during your visit. While exploring the city center and the Gibraltar Nature Reserve, you really won’t have many alternatives to walking – that is, unless you’re doing a guided tour with a minibus.
There are certainly some parts of Gibraltar, like Europa Point, which you won’t want to get to by foot. In those situations, you’ll want to use the city’s network of buses that mainly run north-south through the territory. Gibraltar has seven different bus routes, with fares starting at £1.80 for a one-way adult ticket.
Where to Stay in Gibraltar
As you might expect with a small destination like Gibraltar, there isn’t a vast selection of options when it comes to accommodation. This can be both good and bad news when working out where to stay in Gibraltar, since fewer options makes deciding easier but also heightens the importance of booking in advance. Generally, the best places to stay in Gibraltar are found close to the city center, although you may find a good option or two in the Town Area or up in the North District.
If you’re looking to pamper yourself and experience the high life with a twist, be sure to stay at the Sunborn Gibraltar. This five-star luxury yacht docked at the Ocean Village Marina promises a fun experience with its casino, spa, and gym, while also providing lavish rooms and suites.
An option that delivers a welcome balance of affordability and comfort is the Ocean Heights apartments. Staying here near the North Bastion, you’ll have to yourself a duplex apartment that features many amenities like a full kitchen, sitting area, and dining area.
Those seeking a cost-effective option in Gibraltar will find that most budget accommodation lies north of the border in La Línea de la Concepción. However, one backpacker favorite in Gibraltar is the super centrally located Emile Hostel, where you’ll find well-priced dorm rooms and friendly staff.
For more accommodation options in Gibraltar check out Booking.com. They continuously offer the best rates and their custom service is on point.
The Perfect 1-Day Gibraltar Itinerary
It might seem strange to journey all the way to Gibraltar if there’s supposedly only one day’s worth of activities waiting for you. But that’s not what we’re saying, really. You could easily spend a week soaking up the warm weather and snoozing at the beach. Instead, the point we’re making is that you can cover many of the main sights of Gibraltar in a single dedicated day of sightseeing. What follows is a Gibraltar travel itinerary that details the best things to do in Gibraltar to help you maximize the time you do have, however long it may be.
However, before we get to our Gibraltar itinerary, we just wanted to remind you to purchase travel insurance. You never know what will happen and, trust us, you do not want to get stuck with thousands of dollars in medical bills. As a wise man once said, “If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.” So don’t leave home without it.
We personally use and recommend SafetyWing. For only around $10 a week, it’s really a no-brainer. You can get a quick, non-binding quote below:
With the important matter of insurance covered, we can now delve into what to do in Gibraltar in 1 day to guarantee you see the best of Gibraltar.
The City Center
The best place to start getting a sense of what life is like in this fascinating destination is with the territory’s main city center.
One of the most important spots in the city center is Grand Casemates Square, the largest square in Gibraltar. There you’ll find the historic Grand Casemates building that once served as a fortified barracks, as well as quite a few restaurants and cafés. Around Casemates Square, you can also get your first glimpse of Gibraltar’s fortifications with the likes of the Grand Battery, the North Bastion, and the Landport Tunnel.
But there’s much more to see in the city center, so it’s best to take a stroll south down Main Street through the heart of the city. Along Main Street, you’ll find countless shops and boutique stores, landmarks like the Cathedral of Saint Mary the Crowned and the Governor’s Residence, plus cute touches like the red ER Royal Mail post boxes outside the Royal Gibraltar Post Office.
Sitting just up the hill from the city center is Gibraltar’s Moorish Castle, a historical landmark that will have possibly already caught your attention. The history of the castle dates back to the Moorish occupation in the eighth century, although only certain fragments of the castle have survived to the present day. When visiting the castle complex, the main attractions are the Tower of Homage and the Gate House, although visitors do also get their first view out over the city from here before journeying up to viewpoints on the Rock.
Gibraltar Botanic Gardens
At the southern end of Main Street, you’ll find the splendid Gibraltar Botanic Gardens. These serene subtropical gardens were established in 1816 for soldiers stationed in Gibraltar and, as a result, feature several military monuments among their densely packed six hectares of vegetation. Besides leisurely strolling around the gardens, visitors can also take guided tours or pop into the small Alameda Wildlife Park to see native and exotic animals in the park’s conservation program.
Gibraltar Nature Reserve and O’Hara’s Battery
Covering around 40% of the territory within Gibraltar’s borders, the Gibraltar Nature Reserve is where many visitors find themselves spending most of their time. This vast area blankets the famous Rock of Gibraltar and is home to the highest parts of the territory, their viewpoints, and plenty of old military installations.
To reach the most interesting parts of the Gibraltar Nature Reserve, visitors can either hike up the hill’s winding paths or simply hop aboard the Gibraltar Cable Car. From the top of the cable car station, trails lead to various lookouts that show off stunning panoramic views on both sides of the peninsula.
One of the best viewpoints can be found at O’Hara’s Battery, which, at an elevation of 426 meters (1,398 feet), is the highest point of Gibraltar. At many of the batteries and lookouts, travelers will encounter the cheeky Barbary macaques, semiwild monkeys that call the reserve home. While they are funny to watch and tempting to photograph, be careful as they’re prone to steal food and rummage through bags when given the opportunity.
WWII Tunnels and Great Siege Tunnels
Because Gibraltar has long served as a vital military outpost for the United Kingdom, it’s covered in military fortifications from the past few centuries. But the military additions to the peninsula also included almost 55 kilometers (34 miles) of tunnels, sections of which tourists are able to visit and explore.
The World War II Tunnels and the Great Siege Tunnels (built to defend against France and Spain between 1779 and 1783) are two places open to the public and both located at the northern end of the Gibraltar Nature Reserve. In each, visitors can learn about the history, the use of these tunnels, and what it was like to live down there.
Saint Michael’s Cave
You need only visit Saint Michael’s Cave to see that not all of the attractions within the Gibraltar Nature Reserve relate to military history and viewpoints. Found a little ways south of the cable car station, the cave is full of stalagmites and stalactites that are brilliantly illuminated to highlight their details. Saint Michael’s Cave isn’t the only cave in Gibraltar, but it’s easily the most impressive, in part thanks to its Cathedral Cave, which now acts as an auditorium.
One last stop worth making time for is the very southern point of Gibraltar, Europa Point. There you’ll find a bevy of sights to see, but probably the most moving is the view across the Strait of Gibraltar to the distant shores of Africa. The most well-known landmark at Europa Point is the picturesque Europa Point Lighthouse, but you’ll also come across the Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim Mosque, the Shrine of Our Lady of Europe, and several old military batteries.
Have More Than 24 Hours in Gibraltar?
You shouldn’t have too much difficulty working your way through the city’s most popular attractions with 24 hours in Gibraltar. If you do have more time for sightseeing, however, there are several different ways to best use your extra time. One option is to find all the remaining attractions in Gibraltar because there’s always something more to see and do there. Alternatively, you could venture out from Gibraltar and do a day trip to somewhere nearby in Spain. Below are a few options.
Revisit Gibraltar Nature Reserve
During your first day in Gibraltar, you’ll really only have had time for a few of the best known sights in the Gibraltar Nature Reserve, but there’s much more to see there if you have a little more time.
If you took the cable car up and down during your first visit, consider taking the winding trails and roads up this time around to the ample nature across the hillside. For a real challenge, though, head to the southeastern end of the reserve and take the daunting Mediterranean Steps. There you’ll climb a daunting zig-zag staircase that leads up to Lord Airey’s Battery, a viewpoint close to the reserve’s highest peak.
In recent years, several new attractions have been added to the reserve to create interesting sightseeing perspectives. One such attraction is the Windsor Suspension Bridge, a 71-metre (233 feet) bridge that offers wonderful views over a local gorge. Then there’s Skywalk Gibraltar, a glass-bottomed terrace that floats precariously off the reserve’s eastern cliffs, granting dizzying views of the reserve and coast below.
With more time in Gibraltar, why not take the opportunity to pop over the border into Spain and visit the ever-lovable town of Tarifa. The small seaside town of Tarifa sits on the Strait of Gibraltar at the southernmost point of Spain and enchants most travelers who give it a chance.
Much of the appeal of Tarifa lies in its beautiful beaches, with Playa de Los Lances the closest beach to the town center and also one of the town’s finest. There you can chill by the water or be a bit more active, as the waters off Tarifa are quite popular with those looking to go kiteboarding, windsurfing, and surfing. A more relaxed option is to head out on a whale and dolphin-watching tour, as the creatures regularly appear off the town’s shore.
Those looking to do some sightseeing in Tarifa will come across a few attractions among its small but dense town center. The hulking figure of Castillo de Guzman el Bueno is surely the most obvious landmark, but there are also the old town gates and churches to admire. Really, though, it’s the laid-back vibe and whitewashed homes of Tarifa that are likely to most appeal to tourists not interested in spending all day at the beach.
While you are so close to the region of Andalusia, why not consider a day trip to Marbella, one of the region’s liveliest cities? Marbella is exceedingly popular with international travelers due to its beaches and nightlife, but there’s definitely enough in this seaside city to keep you entertained for the day.
Begin your sightseeing with the gorgeous houses of Marbella Old Town, a mix of whitewashed buildings and boldly colored homes surrounded by lots of greenery. At the heart of the Old Town lies the main square of Plaza de los Naranjos where you can unwind with a drink and people watch. On the northeastern edge of the Old Town, you’ll see what remains of the city’s crumbling medieval walls.
Away from the historical center of Marbella, activities for visitors tend to get a bit more indulgent. Marbella is packed with shopping boutiques where you can find all manner of clothes, jewelry, and more to test the limits of your suitcase with, as well as plenty of restaurants serving up typical Spanish dishes. Many of the options for both of these activities can be found along Avenida del Mar and Paseo Maritimo, two pedestrian areas close to the city’s waterfront.
There you have a rundown of what you can visit in Gibraltar in one day of busy sightseeing. Gibraltar may be a small territory, but many travelers who visit come away surprised at how just much it offers.