Situated between Spain and Africa, Gibraltar has long been called the “key to the Mediterranean”. And though it’s very small (just three miles long and less than a mile wide!), this British Overseas Territory has a lot to offer.

Home to Barbary monkeys, elegant Palladian architecture, white sand beaches and blisteringly hot blue skies – as well as red pillar boxes, British-style pubs and more fish and chip shops than you can count – Gibraltar is totally unique.

If you’re looking to enjoy some sun, sea and sand, yet not feel like you’ve strayed too far from home, Gibraltar may be the perfect break. To inspire you, here are eight things to see and do in Gibraltar.

1. Ride the Gibraltar cable car to the top of the Rock

If Gibraltar is famous for one thing, it’s indisputably the Rock of Gibraltar – a 400-metre high monolithic limestone cliff that’s home to many of Gibraltar’s most popular attractions. The first thing most visitors want to do when they arrive is to head to the top of the Rock, where you can enjoy sensational views of three countries (Gibraltar, Spain, and Morocco), as well as two continents: Europe and Africa.

If you’re feeling energetic, you might want to walk up the Mediterranean Steps – but this is very challenging, and most people travel up via the Gibraltar Cable Car. Constructed in 1966, this aerial tramway only takes six minutes to reach the summit, but provides you with truly breathtaking views of the Mediterranean as you ascend. There’s also an interesting audio guide you can listen to along the way. Whatever you do, don’t forget your camera!

2. See the monkeys at the Gibraltar Nature Reserve

When you get off the cable car you’ll have arrived in the Gibraltar Nature Reserve, which is a protected area of flora and fauna that covers nearly 40% of the territory. While there is plenty of interesting wildlife to be spotted here (including red foxes, mouse-eared bats, lizards, and snakes), the reserve is best known for being the home of Gibraltar’s Barbary macaques. This species of monkey is native to Morocco, and these apes are the only wild monkeys in Europe.

Legend has it that when the monkeys leave Gibraltar, the Brits will too… but so far these animals look very content on the Rock! The monkeys can be spotted everywhere in the reserve, but the best place to see them is the famous Apes’ Den, where you can get a close-up look at the macaques. If they see a camera, some might even pose for you! While the monkeys are cheeky and curious, do bear in mind that they’re wild animals and can bite – as well as pickpocket some of your possessions!

3. Explore St Michael’s Cave

Another one of Gibraltar’s main attractions located on the Rock is St Michael’s Cave – a network of limestone chambers and tunnels that were once the homes of Neolithic people some 40,000 years ago. Gibraltar has more than 150 caves, but St Michael’s is easily the largest, and the caves and tunnels here are so deep and mysterious that for years people thought there was a 15-mile tunnel that ran all the way to Africa. While this isn’t true, St Michael’s Cave is still a geographical marvel.

The biggest part of the cave – the Upper Hall – is connected to a smaller hall by five different passages. And as you walk around, admiring the spectacular stalactites, stalagmites,and underground lakes, it may feel as though you’ve entered another world. In the past, these chambers were used for defensive purposes by both the Moors and Spaniards, and today they’re used for music, ballet, and drama performances. The Cathedral Cave is an underground concert hall that seats 400 people!

4. Wander around the old town

One of the most exceptional things about Gibraltar is the way it merges Spanish scenery with African wildlife, yet has a strangely British culture. Strolling through the old town is the best way to experience this bizarre yet enjoyable blend. Walking past traditional British pubs, English street signs and supermarkets like Morrisons will make you think you’re back home… yet the searing blue skies and dramatic cliff backdrop will tell you otherwise.

Gibraltar is also known for its architecture, and the old town is the best place to admire these curious buildings. Here, British Military styles blend with Moorish and Spanish influences to create a style of architecture that’s entirely distinct. Keep an eye out for Palladian houses, Genoese shutters, arched doorways, and English Regency ironwork balconies.

Once you’ve got your fill of architecture, head to the lively Casemates Square – and if you fancy a pint, pop into the popular Lord Nelson pub!

5. Visit the Gibraltar National Museum

From its landscape to its history, Gibraltar is entirely unique. And if you’d like to learn more about this territory’s rich history, culture, and natural history – be sure to head to the Gibraltar National Museum. Here you can step back millions of years as you learn how the Earth’s tectonic plates lifted layers of Jurassic limestone so high that it eventually created the iconic Rock of Gibraltar.

If you’re interested in more recent history, you can learn about how the Phoenician and Carthaginian sea-traders began visiting Gibraltar’s caves, and how the Berbers came to rule for over 750 years. And of course, you’ll learn all about how Gibraltar became a British territory! Be sure to visit the well-preserved 14th-century Moorish Baths in the basement, and don’t forget to check out the Great Siege of Gibraltar exhibit.

6. Explore the Gibraltar War Tunnels

Over the years Gibraltar has withstood many sieges, but as you’ll have learned in the museum, none were so fierce as the 1779–83 Great Siege of Gibraltar. It was this siege that led to the first tunnels being dug beneath the Rock of Gibraltar, and it was thanks to these tunnels that Britain emerged victorious. Over the years, more tunnels were carved – particularly in the Second World War. And today there are over 30 miles of underground tunnels under the Rock!

Visiting the Gibraltar War Tunnels is an exceptional experience, as without being inside the tunnels, and ducking and squeezing your way around them, you can’t really understand what an incredible feat of engineering they are.

In the Great Siege Tunnels, you can learn how a small group of men spent weeks boring through the rock to make passageways using only manual labour. Then, in the World War II Tunnels, you can learn about how the caves were prepared as a hospital (though never used).

7. Relax in the Gibraltar Botanic Gardens

If you’ve had your fill of caves and underground tunnels and fancy being in the fresh air, then you should definitely pay a visit to the gorgeous Gibraltar Botanic Gardens – also known as La Alameda Gardens.

Located at the end of Main Street, near the entrance to the cable car station, this is a hidden gem of subtropical flowers and plants. Created in 1886 so the soldiers stationed here had somewhere to relax, today the gardens offer just as much respite from Gibraltar’s busy sights.

Trees here include the Stone Pine, the wild Olive, and the Dragon Tree, and some are more than 200 years old, predating the garden itself. While at the gardens you might also want to visit the Alameda Wildlife Conservation Park, which is a small zoo that’s home to rescued animals who can’t be returned to the wild. There’s also an open-air theatre here that hosts many interesting cultural and musical events, so you might be lucky enough to catch one.

8. Go dolphin-watching

The deep blue waters off Gibraltar are teeming with marine wildlife – from whales to blue-fin tuna to dolphins including the Common Dolphin, Bottlenose Dolphin and the Striped Dolphin. If you’d like to enjoy some sea air, an exciting boat ride and an aquatic adventure (and have a chance to closely observe these fascinating and intelligent mammals), then why not book a dolphin-watching tour?

There are many dolphin-watching tours you can join, though Dolphin Adventure and Dolphin Safari are two of the most popular. The Bay of Algeciras is known for being a great place to see dolphins, especially at sunset when they’re most energetic. And during these fun tours, you can often spot hundreds of dolphins as they cruise and leap through the waves. As the sun sets on the water, you’re sure to get some exceptional photo opportunities – particularly with the dramatic Rock looming in the background.

Where to stay in Gibraltar

Because Gibraltar is so tiny (at around three miles long, and one mile wide), choosing accommodation is much easier. Wherever you stay, you’ll never be too far from amenities and popular points of interest.

Find accommodation in Gibraltar

Final thoughts…

For such a small destination, Gibraltar packs a real punch when it comes to attractions. From mysterious underground caves and tunnels to pristine botanical gardens and a quirky old town (not to mention chances to get up close to wild monkeys and dolphins), Gibraltar has something for everyone… which is quite the feat considering its tiny size!

This is a place where you can take advantage of stunning natural surroundings and beautiful Mediterranean weather, and yet – if you fancy it – still enjoy a icy pint at a traditional British pub at the end of the day, followed by some authentic fish and chips!