Andalucia with Kids: Gibraltar

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Ok, so Gibraltar isn’t really part of Andalucia and in fact, is not part of Spain at all! It’s actually a British overseas territory! It’s a great place to visit while in Andalucia though and we loved our day there.

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Looking towards Gibraltar from the parking lot in Spain.

After checking out of our first hotel on Christmas Eve, we headed to Marbella, about an hour out of Malaga to our next hotel, Marriott’s Marbella Beach Resort, where we would stay until after Christmas. We had a lovely Christmas there (the girls even got to see Santa Claus) and really enjoyed our time hanging out with family.

Gibraltar was about 1 hour away from where we were staying. We went the day after Christmas, and while many of the shops were closed due to Boxing Day, all the main attractions and restaurants still seemed open and we were able to still have a wonderful day there.

In 1704, British and Dutch warships captured Gibraltar from the Spanish. Britain gained full control of Gibraltar by 1713, although the Spanish unsuccessfully tried to regain control in 1727 and 1779-1783 (during the American Revolution).

In World War II, most of the city’s population was evacuated and Gibraltar was strengthened as a military fortress. In 2002, the Gibraltarians overwhelmingly rejected a proposal of shared sovereignty between Spain and Britain. It seems as if the area has been a bit of a tough subject between the two countries.

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Driving up the rock.
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The first monkeys we saw were at St. Michael’s Cave.

When we arrived, we parked on the Spanish side of the border in a huge parking lot next to border control. We showed our passports and went through security and arrived in Gibraltar. From there, we took a bus to the city centre and grabbed some fish and chips at one of the restaurants.

After lunch, we did a taxi tour of the area. The tour was 1.5 hours and the driver spoke perfect English and Spanish. Our girls sat on our laps for the tour.

Our driver was very knowledgeable about the area and history and talked in between stops about Gibraltar.

Our first stop was at the Pillars of Hercules. According to Greek mythology, when Hercules had to perform his 12 labors, he had to cross a mountain that was Atlas. Instead of climbing it, he used his super strength and smashed through it, connecting the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. One part of the split mountain is believed to be Gibraltar. The stop had a large  plaque and fantastic ocean views.

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A plaque we saw near the Ape’s Den.

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Our next stop was St. Michael’s Cave. This is a network of limestone caves that are very beautiful. When we got out of the taxi van, we also saw our first peek of the barbary macaque monkeys that Gibraltar is famous for having. The girls were very excited to see the wild monkeys and Adeline especially loved pointing out any baby ones that we saw.

The caves themselves are gorgeous and there are different colored lights shining around the cave while music plays. There’s even an auditorium inside where concerts are performed throughout the year. It was a little wet inside, so we had to keep an eye especially on our toddler that she didn’t slip at all.

Fun Fact: If anyone is a fan of the Royal British family or the show, The Crown, there’s a plaque right inside the cave that mentions Queen Elizabeth II’s visit in 1954. We had just started watching the show where they had talked about her tour, including Gibraltar, so it was kind of a neat thing to see.

Our third stop on our taxi tour was to the “Ape’s Den” (Queen’s Gate) up on the top of the rock in Gibraltar. This is where many of the barbary macaques live and gather and is also a great place to check out the stunning views.

The barbary macaques are the only wild monkeys found in Europe. It’s important to remember that while these monkeys are used to humans being nearby, they are still wild and one should not pet or feed them. We were excited to see the monkeys and knew that our girls would love it as well, but we made sure to keep all of our bags in the taxi while we got out and walked around and we also made sure not to get too close to any of the monkeys. We saw one monkey hop on top of a woman’s head after discovering that she had chocolate and we very much wanted to avoid a similar experience. Luckily, everything went very smoothly and we had a lot of fun watching the monkeys hop and climb around everywhere.

The views from the high up on the rock were also amazing! We could see Spain on one side and then way off in the distance we could see Morocco from the other side. Gorgeous.

Our last stop on our tour was to the World War II tunnels. We only had 15 minutes, so Aaron, his dad, London, and I quickly explored them while his mom stayed in the car with a napping Adeline. London fell asleep in Aaron’s arms as soon as we were inside the cave, so it was nice that both girls got to nap a bit during the day.

The tunnels were basically like an underground city that was used during World War II. The entire 16,000 strong garrison could live under there with enough food for 16 months! We only saw the first little bit of the tunnels, but it had cannons lined up pointing out of small openings in the mountain. It was neat to see and I only wish we could have explored more.

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The view right outside the World War II tunnels
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Driving past an old Moorish castle

The taxi tour then brought us back down the rock and into the main part of Gibraltar. We walked along the main street a bit, checking out the stores, but then headed back to the bus to go back to border control and head home.

We had a great time visiting Gibraltar and I think our tour was the perfect way to explore the sites. I would definitely recommend a visit if you’re ever in the area!

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The colorful streets of Gibraltar.

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Final Thoughts:

  • Gibraltar was a great day trip. It’s very unique and different from everywhere we visited in Spain.
  • Everything was pretty kid friendly, although we only used the stroller at the beginning and end of the trip. The stops on our tour was short enough that our kids had no issue walking or being held by us.
  • There are other options other than a taxi tour to explore the rock. We saw people walking up (it did seem like a difficult walk though) and there’s also a cable car that can take you to the top of the rock. We felt that for our family, the taxi tour was the best option and I was very happy with our trip.
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