|Gibraltar is an 18th-century British Regency town built on a 15th century Spanish town which was, in turn, built on a 12th century Moorish town. Major tourist sites and places of interest include St Michael’s Cave, situated 300m (1000ft) above sea level. This was known to the Romans for its fabulous stalactites and stalagmites. It is part of a complex series of interlinked caves including Leonora’s Cave and Lower St Michael’s Cave. Today, it is used for concerts and ballet. The Upper Galleries, hewn by hand from the Rock in 1782 house old cannons and tableaux evoking the Great Siege (1779-1783). The Apes’ Den is the home of the famous Barbary apes, which are in fact not apes but Macaque monkeys without tails.
The Gibraltar Museum contains caveman tools and ornaments excavated from the Rock’s caves, including an imitation of the Gibraltar Skull, the first Neanderthal skull found in Europe (1848). There are also exhibits from the Greek, Phoenician, Roman, Spanish, Moorish and British periods of the Rock’s history; a comprehensive collection of prints and lithographs; an assortment of weapons from 1727 to 1800; a large-scale model of the Rock made in 1865; and displays of fauna and flora. The museum itself was built above a spectacular and complete 14th-century Moorish Bath House.
Additional sites of interest are: the 14th-century keep of the much rebuilt Moorish Castle; the Shrine of Our Lady of Europe, a mosque before conversion to a Christian chapel in 1462, housing the 15th-century image of the Patroness of Gibraltar; the Lighthouse and new Mosque, brilliantly designed blending classic Islamic designs with modern facilities, located within a few yards of the Shrine of Our Lady of Europe; the ancient Nun’s Well, a Moorish cistern; the Rock Buster, a 100-ton gun; the 18th-century Garrison Library; Trafalgar Cemetery; Parson’s Lodge Battery (1865), above Rosia Bay; Alameda Gardens; Europa Point, just 26km (16 miles) from Africa; the almost-complete city walls, dating in part from the Moorish occupation.
Some popular tourist activities in Gibraltar are: the cable-car trip to the top of the Rock, stopping at the Apes’ Den on the way up; the Convent, residence of the Governor, and formerly a 16th-century Franciscan Monastic house; the Guided Walking Tour of Places of Worship, every Wednesday at 1000, including visits to Gibraltar’s two cathedrals, the Garrison chapel, a synagogue, the Presbyterian church and the Methodist chapel – all buildings of historical interest; the guided walking tour around the city walls, every Friday at 1030; and the Mediterranean Steps Walk which starts at O’Hara’s Battery (the highest point in Gibraltar), snakes down the eastern cliff and around the southern slopes to the western side of the Rock. Queensway Quay and Marina Quay (two modern marina developments) provide visitors with the chance to indulge in some serious people watching while sampling mouth-watering seafood in one of the many attractive harbour side restaurants.
Gibraltar has five beautiful beaches. On the east side are Eastern Beach, Catalan Bay and, towards the south, Sandy Bay, where the Rock is very sheer and parking difficult. Little Bay, a pebble beach, and Camp Bay/Keys Promenade are on the western coast.
Day trips to Ronda, Malaga and Jerez in Andalucia (the Spanish province) can be arranged from Gibraltar (see the Spain section for further information on Andalucia), as can day trips by air to Tangier.