I’m a fan of looking for destinations near me as you don’t need to go far to visit incredible places. I was in Malaga, in my hometown, so I looked at day trips from Malaga and found a Malaga to Gibraltar trip!
I used to hear that Gibraltar wasn’t worth visiting, I was told “it’s very small” and “there is nothing to do there.” Although I listen to advice and recommendations, it doesn’t mean I take them. Many of these people had never visited Gibraltar, anyway.
You need to check things for yourself, especially when it comes to travelling somewhere new. Where it may not be interesting or beautiful to someone, it may be to you. So, go ahead and create your own perception about a destination.
In this blog, I’m going to tell you the best things to do in Gibraltar in a day, why Gibraltar is worth visiting and other interesting facts and tips about this destination.
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Malaga to Gibraltar Day Trip – 12 Best Things to Do and See
What makes Gibraltar unique?
Gibraltar is a very interesting place and I didn’t know about it until I visited and learnt more about its history and culture. Gibraltar is located in the Spanish peninsula, however, it has belonged to the United Kingdom since the War of Spanish Succession in 1704.
After 1704, the Spanish have tried to get Gibraltar back many times, however, they haven’t been successful. At the same time, Gibraltar has had the opportunity to vote on what country they think they belonged to and they always voted (since the 60s) to be a dependency of the United Kingdom.
Gibraltar is a place where many influences and cultures come together. You can see all the Spanish, British, Maltese and Moroccan influences in the country – their buildings, street names, and population.
I find it a very unique place because of its location and diversity.
I must admit I thought that it was only influenced by Spanish and British (as it belongs to the UK), but I was very surprised to find out about their other influences.
It has its British touch, but I wouldn’t say it looks like the UK at all! The sunny weather and colourful buildings made me feel I was somewhere else. Also, although the official language is English, most people are bilingual as they know Spanish.
However, they also have their unique language called llanito, a mixture of mainly British English and Andalusian Spanish, but also other languages such as Maltese, Portuguese, Genoese, etc.
How to get from Malaga to Gibraltar
Malaga to Gibraltar is approximately 1 hour and 50 minutes or 1 hour and 30 minutes drive if you pay the toll, so it’s the perfect day trip.
If you don’t have a driving license to rent a car or simply can’t be bothered to drive. There are incredible tours you can book.
I have done the one day tour Malaga and Costa del Sol to Gibraltar with Get your Guide. Although I didn’t have enough time to do everything, you get plenty of time to visit the main attractions. The guide was knowledgeable and helpful, but what I liked the most about the tour was the fact that you can choose between having free time or doing tours with them.
I normally prefer to explore things by myself so this was a win-win. Despite that, during our coach trip, the guide told us a bit about Gibraltar’s history and culture which made our coach journey more enjoyable and interesting.
If you prefer exploring and learning about Gibraltar through a local guide, look at this tour. The tour includes tickets for St Michael’s Cave too.
📌 Related blog: 24 Incredible Day Trips From Malaga
What to do in Gibraltar in one day
Gibraltar Cable Car
If you don’t want to spend time walking all your way to Top of the Rock, I highly recommend taking the cable car as it will take you there in less than 7 minutes and you get impressive views of Spain and Gibraltar.
The cable car is located at the end of Main Street right next to the Alameda Botanical Gardens, so it’s easy to find. The major question I had was what package to get as there are different prices and activities.
Before getting into the ticket office, there were a couple of tour guides trying to sell us a different option to explore Top of the Rock and Nature Reserve.
They told us we could get the van tour that takes you to all the main spots, so you don’t waste your time and energy walking. However, I wasn’t convinced at all since I always find walking and exploring myself more exciting whereas the van tour offers limited time in each place!
Initially, I wanted to buy a return cable car ticket which included admission to the Nature Reserve, however, I’m glad that the woman behind the counter was very friendly and highly recommended buying a one-way ticket and then walking down, so we could visit more places.
Find cable car opening times and other important information here.
Top of the Rock and Upper Nature Reserve
This is Gibraltar’s most famous attraction and the first thing that comes to anyone’s mind. Top of the Rock is also known for its monkeys.
The views you get from Top of the Rock are amazing – you can see Spain, Gibraltar and Africa at the same time.
Top of the Rock is in the Upper Nature Reserve which has other stunning attractions.
The Skywalk offers breathtaking 360º views of Top of the Rock, Catalan Bay and other beautiful points. If you aren’t scared of heights and walking on a floor of glass, you’ll absolutely love it.
The only thing that disappointed me is how small it is. If you check it out on the internet or Instagram, you may think it’s quite big. Despite that, it’s quite impressive!
Gibraltar is perfect for hiking and Mediterranean Steps will definitely keep you fit. Hike to the highest point of Top of the Rock while you contemplate the stunning nature and impressive views.
Like many of Gibraltars’ attractions, Mediterranean Steps were created as part of a communication system for soldiers to allow access to different defence posts. These include the famous O’Hara’s Battery.
St Michael’s Cave
St Michael’s Cave is a network of caves made of limestone, which are found on the Rock of Gibraltar. It’s lovely to see the cave formations, however, you cannot access all the areas inside the cave.
Although you can see some colours in the picture below, these are simply the lights used inside the caves, but the caves don’t have these colours at all.
The most impressive part of St Michael’s Cave is the polished stalagmite. This stalagmite broke and fell thousands of years ago and as a result of this, the Rock of Gibraltar was shaken. You can also see this type of stalagmite in the Caves of Nerja.
I must admit I was very excited about seeing these monkeys, known as Barbary macaques, living freely in their natural habitat.
However, once I got there, I got very scared. My partner and I came out of the cable car and went through some stairs to get to the viewpoint next to the restaurant, and there was a monkey with its baby.
They looked so cute, so my partner went to take a picture a bit closer and then passed to get to the other side, but the monkey jumped into his bag and tried to steal it, but my partner moved quickly, and luckily nothing happened!
I managed to go through without being attacked, but my heart was beating 100 per hour. Now, we laugh, but it wasn’t funny at that moment.
I am not saying all monkeys are like the one I’ve just told you about, but be careful and don’t touch them even if they jump to your back. At the same time, if you’re wearing a backpack, put it on your chest rather than your back as it’s easier for monkeys to steal it from you.
Some of the monkeys I saw later seemed friendlier and I saw a man taking a selfie with one. So it may depend on the monkey.
Anyway, you’ll see monkeys eating fruits and vegetables that are provided by local restaurants. However, you aren’t allowed to feed them, and if you do so, you’ll get a big fine, as monkeys are protected.
Gibraltar is the only European country where this wild monkey population lives. They are originally from Africa and it’s unknown how these monkeys arrived in Gibraltar.
Although the population of these monkeys is decreasing in Africa, the Gibraltar population is increasing and nowadays there are approximately 300 monkeys in Gibraltar Nature Reserve.
There is a legend that says that Churchill commanded bringing monkeys to Gibraltar as they were disappearing. For him, having monkeys on Top of the Rock was a symbol of Britishness and as long as there were monkeys in Gibraltar, Gibraltar would belong to the UK.
This is probably one of the most important features of Top of the Rock. This castle was built in 1160CE, however, it was ransacked by the Spanish, and what you can see today is the last rebuilt in the 14th Century by Abu-l-Hasan.
Please don’t make the same mistake as me, I thought you could access the Moorish Castle from the city centre, but it wasn’t the case, so I managed to get very close (to take the picture below) but unfortunately I couldn’t get inside.
You need to access through the Nature Reserve!
Sacred Heart Church
Sacred Heart Church is a hidden gem in Gibraltar!
When I was walking down from Top of the Rock, I came across this beautiful and impressive church. Although I didn’t get in because it was closed, I loved the architecture and the pink and lively flowers around it.
I just wished I could get in and contemplate it as I’ve heard it’s very impressive inside too.
Gibraltar has a couple of beaches and Catalan Bay, also known as “La Caleta”, is my favourite for many reasons.
On this beautiful beach, you can enjoy the clear turquoise water and white sand. But if you prefer to explore or you’re looking for a spot for pictures, this is your place too.
There are colourful pastel buildings that make this place more magical.
Here is where you want to be if you’re looking for something to eat or do some shopping.
Shopping is one of the main activities you can do in Gibraltar and the reason behind this is that you don’t pay VAT on many products (i.e.electronic goods, cigarettes and alcohol, and these are cheaper than in Spain).
If you’re asking yourself what shops you’ll find in Gibraltar, there are many British High Street shops such as Marks & Spencer, Morrison’s, BHS, Evans and Dorothy Perkins.
So it’s the shopaholic paradise!
But not only that, there are plenty of restaurants to eat at too. You’ll find the traditional fish and chips, Turkish kebabs and much more, but I must say I struggled to find traditional Gibraltarian food.
I heard of calentita, translated as “the warm one”, which consists of chickpea flour, water and olive oil all topped with a touch of salt and pepper.
However, I didn’t see any places to get it from. Apparently, it’s prepared in the Calentita festival that promotes culture through food.
Apart from food and shopping, I loved the fact of exploring Gibraltar’s streets – colourful buildings, small terraces with flower pots, and stunning views from the hills.
Devils Gap Road
The location of this historic and instagrammable spot is near Sacred Heart Church. The steps have been painted with the Union Flag ever since Gibraltar’s first sovereignty referendum.
On the same street, you’ll also see an interesting house with plenty of pirate decorations that encourage you to take a picture.
Other tips for visiting Gibraltar
- Go early to avoid queues through the Spanish border as they can be very long.
- If you’re visiting Gibraltar for a day or two it may not be worth renting a car, unless you plan to visit other nearby Spanish towns and cities. Everything is within a walking distance or you can easily use public transport.
- Book accommodation away from the city centre or in La Linea, the Spanish town next to Gibraltar.
- Get travel insurance for your trip, this is a must!
So, is Gibraltar worth a day trip?
Of course! As you have seen above, there’s more than Top of the Rock in Gibraltar and I wish I stayed longer than a day.
I say so because you can definitely explore things slowly, spend one day on the beach or even go dolphin watching where you can see dolphins jump freely in the sea.
Despite that, Malaga to Gibraltar trip is a great option to explore the main attractions and save some money as accommodation in Gibraltar can be quite expensive.
I know that I will go back, but I felt lucky to visit this incredible place in such an uncertain time. We didn’t experience any car queues at the border or any attractions, things were calm and it wasn’t overcrowded like you’d experience in other summers.
Have you been to Gibraltar? If not, would you like to visit it? Let me know in the comments below.
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Basic information and facts about Gibraltar
Location: Europe, at the southern tip of the Spanish Peninsula.
Currency: Gibraltar pound. You can also pay with British pounds or euros, however, you’ll get Gibraltar pounds back. My advice is to pay by card.
Official language: British English – as it is a British territory.
National day: 10th of September.
Best time to visit Gibraltar: Spring and early autumn. Summers are ideal to visit the beach, but it can get very warm to do Top of the Rock. If you travel in summer, make sure you do Top of the Rock and Nature Reserve early in the morning.
There is only one airport in Gibraltar: Gibraltar International Airport.
Frequently asked questions about visiting Gibraltar
How do I spend a day in Gibraltar?
There are so many incredible things you can do in Gibraltar in one day. Here is a list of unmissable things to do during your trip:
- Go to the Upper Nature Reserve and Top of the Rock to get panoramic views of Gibraltar, Spain and Africa as well as see the famous monkeys.
- Visit St Michael’s Cave which is located in the Upper Nature Reserve.
- Go to the Moorish Castle.
- Discover the beautiful Sacred Heart Church.
- Shop at Gibraltar Main Street.
Can you walk everywhere in Gibraltar?
You can walk the island in 4 hours, however, if you’re visiting Gibraltar in one day and you want to go to the other side, you’ll have to use public transport or a taxi to save time.
What is the best time to visit Gibraltar?
The best months to visit Gibraltar for sightseeing are April to June and September to early November.
The best months to visit Gibraltar for a beach holiday are July, August and September.
Does it mean you shouldn’t visit Gibraltar the rest of the year? No, you can visit Gibraltar all year round as the minimum temperature is 11ºC degrees in winter.
However, it may rain and it’s not the best weather to go for a swim!
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