Much like a child caught up in a messy divorce, the tiny territory of Gibraltar finds itself being torn between two parents — The European Union and the United Kingdom. Its sovereignty has been a source of contention between Spain and England ever since the Brits captured it in 1704, and a battle of words is percolating again with the announcement that the EU might be giving Spain a powerful veto voice in the Brexit talks.
Situated less than eight miles across the water from Morocco, and the rest of the African continent, Gibraltar has been an important crossroads of the world for several millennia. Making it the perfect base camp for adventures. Tangier is a quick ferry ride away, and you can walk into Spain from your hotel room in minutes — the entire territory is only 2.6 square miles long. Its people speak English, love beer, and the average temperatures never drop below 56 degrees. So before things get too crazy with the Brexit mess, book a trip to this small slice of London Town on the Mediterranean.
What to See
The myths say that massive Rock of Gibraltar, that dominates the small territory, rising over 1,200 feet into the sky, is one half of a mountain that Hercules split to open the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean. One thing is certain, a hike to the top of the behemoth is a must. Up top you can visit the Upper Rock Nature Reserve, home to the Barbary macaque, the only wild monkey population left on the European continent, and see the numerous migratory birds that rest there during their journeys. After a visit you can catch a cable car back down to the bottom to head over to the Great Siege Tunnels, your ticket to the reserve will get you in. British soldiers hewed a system of tunnels and gun emplacements during a siege by the Spanish from 1779–’83, and the Allies used them during World War II.
There are over 30 miles of tunnels and galleries throughout the Rock. Most are off limits, but the largest cave, St. Michael’s, is open to the public. There are spectacular stalactites and stalagmites of varying colors, numerous smaller chambers to explore, and it is used for small concerts throughout the year.
Where to Stay
The best location to stay is also the priciest, but the views make it all worthwhile. The Rock Hotel is a 4-star art deco masterpiece hugging the side of the Rock with views of the African Mountains just across the way. It offers an afternoon tea, has an open-air seawater pool, and is right next door to the nature reserve.
If you are looking to save a little cash, the Bristol Hotel is situated in the heart of downtown, offering access to all that the city has to offer. The large pool in the courtyard is the perfect place to relax after a day in the sun.
What to Eat & Drink
Gibraltar feels a bit like a 1950’s London theme park, with red telephone boxes, fish-and-chips stands, and numerous pubs throughout. Embrace it at The Angry Friar, the best place to have a pint with some bangers and mash. Situated in the heart of town, it has the feel of an old English pub — dark wood paneling, football on television, and Fullers on tap. Jury’s Wine Café and Wine Bar offers a bit more upscale offerings with over 40 different wines to choose from, a full coffee bar, and a Michelin-trained executive chef helming the kitchen, turning out culinary gems. The Lounge Gastro Bar is more wide-ranging, with dishes from sushi to fish and chips, along with an impressive array of handcrafted cocktails, and, best of all, seating directly on the main harbor.