Gibraltar Introduction Walking Tour, Gibraltar

Gibraltar Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Gibraltar

"Burn your boats," said the Berber commander Tariq bin Ziyad, addressing his troops. The year was 711 AD. Tariq had landed in Gibraltar with his small force, invading the Kingdom of the Visigoths. The men were nervous. Their numbers were few compared to the enemy. After burning their only means of escape, they went on to conquer the Iberian Peninsula.

The Rock of Gibraltar was called the "Mount of Tariq" ("Jabal Tariq" in Arabic). This was corrupted in time to "Gibraltar." Gibraltar remained under Islamic rule until 1462. One remnant of the "City of Victory," the Moorish Castle, remains standing today. In 1704 the Rock was conquered by the British.

The Rock is a honeycomb of connecting caves, tunnels, and secret roads. The Upper Rock holds a nature preserve harboring a population of monkeys called Barbary Macaques. The vast grotto, previously inhabited by Neanderthals, is now known as St Michael's Cave and often used for modern-day concerts.

Ride the cable car to the top of the Rock. The Skywalk is an 8,000-square-foot glass platform with 360-degree vistas of the Strait of Gibraltar and the shores of Africa.

On the southern tip of Gibraltar is the Europa Point Lighthouse, where the Atlantic meets the Mediterranean. Gibraltar's charming city area features British-style pubs, Mediterranean-style architecture, tax-free shopping, and a variety of eateries. Casemates Square is the social heart of Gibraltar. It is bordered by a gallery of old military casemates converted into shops and cafes.

Moorish-revival Holy Trinity Cathedral dates from 1832. The Cathedral of St. Mary the Crowned, a Roman Catholic church, dates from 1492. Irish Town, like Main Street, is a busy commercial street. It is named for the Irish women that accompanied a regiment billeted there in the 1720s.

The biggest festival of the year in Gibraltar is National Day, held every September. At other times, there are chess and singing competitions and an international regatta in April. Boxing Day is celebrated with a Polar Bear Swim. The first major festival is the Three Kings Cavalcade.

In ancient Greek mythology, the Rock of Gibraltar is one of the Pillars of Hercules that marks the end of the known world. Today Gibraltar is a destination for exploration. Lots to see and adventures to be had. With GPSmyCity as your guide, you have no excuse not to come.
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Gibraltar Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Gibraltar Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: Gibraltar » Gibraltar (See other walking tours in Gibraltar)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.9 Km or 1.2 Miles
Author: nataly
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Grand Casemates Square
  • Irish Town
  • Main Street
  • Cathedral of St. Mary the Crowned
  • Gibraltar National Museum
  • Cathedral of the Holy Trinity
  • Trafalgar Cemetery
  • Gibraltar Botanic Gardens
  • Gibraltar Cable Car
Grand Casemates Square

1) Grand Casemates Square

In May 1160, Moroccans ran their galleys ashore on the sandy beach at Gibraltar. The expedition had been sent by the Almohad Ruler Abd al-Mu'min to lay the foundations of the city of his dreams, The City of Victory ( Medinat al-Fath). The beach was underwater at high tide and bare at low tide. The dream city was never finished.

In 1309 Ferdinand IV of Castile ordered a galley house built. The area around the galley house was protected by Moorish walls, and the Giralda Tower Bastian was installed by Ferdinand and strengthened in August 1492. The esplanade, immediately south of the tower enclosure known as "La Barcina," is now Grand Casemates Square.

In the 18th century, Gibraltar was a target of sieges by Spanish forces. In 1770 Chief Military Engineer Willam Green began developing bombproof casemates for artillery and barracks on the north side of the square. Grand Casemates Square is named for the gallery of former casemates now used as shops, pubs, and restaurants.

The square has been used as a military parade ground and a place for ceremonies and executions. Until the 1990s, it was also a car park. After the discovery of the old Galley House foundations, the square was pedestrianized. It is now a venue for cultural events, concerts, and celebrations.
Irish Town

2) Irish Town

Irish Town is a street, not a town. It is one of the oldest, if not the oldest street in Gibraltar. It extends from Main Street, south of Casemates Square, and parallel to the fortified Line Wall. Not only is it, not a town, it is not Irish. When the British arrived in 1704, Irish Town was called Saint Anne's Street.

There was a convent on the street called Convent of Mercy (Convento de la Merced). The Meridian Order was dedicated to rescuing Christian prisoners of the Barbary Pirates. Columns of the cloister currently help support the north wall of Cork's Wine Bar. The convent was taken over by the British Navy to be used as a storehouse.

The question remains, where does the "Irish" come in? There are theories. A likely one is that an Irish regiment was barracked on the street in the 18th century. In those days, it was not uncommon for women to accompany regiments abroad. This regiment, therefore, being Irish, would have a goodly supply of Irish women. It's a theory.

In 1759, Es Hayim, the "Tree of Life" synagogue, was established in Irish Town. It is one of the four synagogues in Gibraltar. The outstanding building on the street is the red brick Victorian-era police station on the corner of Irish Town and Cloister Ramp. Other structures include The "Panorama" newspaper building and Barclays Bank.
Main Street

3) Main Street (must see)

Formerly called Real Street (Calle Real), the route of Main Street was established with the opening of the Africa Gate, now called the Southport Gates, in 1575. During the Great Siege of Gibraltar, from 1779 to 1783, by the French and Spanish fleets, houses on the street were bombarded and mostly destroyed.

The street was rebuilt, as ordered by the British Governor Charles O'Hara, in 1801. The facade of the Cathedral of St. Mary the Crowned was downsized, and the street straightened. The street today is mainly devoted to commerce and shopping. It is pedestrianized and runs north-south through the old part of town.

Buildings lining the street show Genoese, Portuguese, Andalusian, Moorish, and British Regency styles of architecture. The ground floors mostly have shops. The upper floors are for offices and lodging for tourists.

Outstanding buildings on Main Street are the Cathedral of St. Mary the Crowned, the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, the Governor's Residence, the Law Courts, Parliament, Ince's Hall Theatre, John Mackintosh Hall, King's Chapel, and the Post Office.
Cathedral of St. Mary the Crowned

4) Cathedral of St. Mary the Crowned

Saint Mary the Crowned (Santa Maria la Coronada) is Gibraltar's Roman Catholic cathedral. When the city was retaken from the Moors in 1492, the main mosque in town was stripped of its Islamic trappings and rededicated as a parish church called Saint Mary the Crowned and Saint Bernard (Santa Maria la Coronada y San Bernardo).

The church was demolished by the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, and a new Gothic-style church replaced it. The coats of arms of the Catholic Monarchs and Emperor Charles V can be seen today in the courtyard. The courtyard is the remains of the larger Moorish court of the mosque. The Cathedral of St. Mary was dedicated in August 1492.

The worst siege of Gibraltar was the massive onslaught by Spanish and French forces in the Great Siege of 1779 - 1783. After it was over, all that remained of the cathedral were four exterior walls, some columns, the vaulted ceilings over the altars, and the shortened bell tower.

The Cathedral of St. Mary today has a unique style, combining both Gothic and Renaissance elements. The facade is colored a dusty pink. The central portal is flanked by fluted white-edged pilasters, two on each side. Above the entrance is an arched pediment.

Inside the cathedral are the High Altar and the altars of the Blessed Sacrament, St. Anthony, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and St. Bernard. The Chapel of Our Lady of Lourdes is on the left side, near the patio entrance.
Gibraltar National Museum

5) Gibraltar National Museum

The Gibraltar skull, presented by the Museum Society of Gibraltar in 1848, was unique. It was Neanderthal. This was hard evidence of human settlement in Gibraltar from the earliest days. In 1930, the Gibraltar Society, under General Sir Alexander Godley, Governor of Gibraltar, opened the Gibraltar National Museum.

The Ordnance House (also known as "Bomb House") was chosen as the home for the museum. This was fortuitous. In the basement of the house was a Moorish bath. The bath was built in the 14th century when the Marinid Sultanate dynasty ruled. Designed similarly to the Roman Hypocaust system, it is among the best preserved Moorish bath houses in Europe.

The museum building is located opposite the Cathedral of Saint Mary the Crowned, down Bomb House Lane, just off Main Street. There is a modest admission fee. There is a small room where a 15-minute film shows the geological history of Gibraltar.

In the other rooms are artifacts dating back 20,000 years. Before the entrance to the Moorish baths are two cases of large Roman-era oyster shells. Upstairs is an Egyptian mummy from 800 BC found floating in the bay in 1930 and a 1:600 scale model of Gibraltar Rock made by Lieutenant Charles Warren in 1865.
Cathedral of the Holy Trinity

6) Cathedral of the Holy Trinity

The Holy Trinity is one of two cathedrals on the Rock of Gibraltar. Trinity is Anglican. The other cathedral, St. Mary the Crowned, is Roman Catholic. Holy Trinity was built as a church between 1825 and 1832 by the British Army Royal Engineers, commanded by Colonel Pilkington, under Governor, John Pitt. The church was dedicated to St. Bernard.

The church was raised to cathedral status in 1842. It became the diocese for Anglican worship in both Gibraltar and Europe. Currently, it also serves as a concerts and events venue.

The building design style is Moorish. The characteristic horseshoe arches date from the time of the Moorish occupation of the Iberian Peninsula. The building remained under Moorish auspices until 1704 when Britain took control of the Rock. The interior is plain and simple. It has one nave ceiling supported by arches and columns.

The pews are from the Naval dockyard at Chatham, England. When the dockyard was closed, the pews from the Church of St. George in the dockyard were donated to the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Gibraltar. The music gallery is over the main entrance. The gallery organ is from 1880.

A chapel dedicated to St. George is in the south aisle. It was established in memory of all those who died in the Mediterranean Theatre of World War II.
Trafalgar Cemetery

7) Trafalgar Cemetery

Only two sailors killed in the Battle of Trafalgar are buried in Trafalgar Cemetery. They are Willian Forster, aged 20, Lieutenant on HMS Colossus, and Thomas Norman, aged 36, Captain of Marines on HMS Mars. Also interred at the cemetery are those who died in other sea battles and the yellow fever epidemics of 1804 and 1814.

The cemetery is not now used for burials. It was abandoned for a long time and finally restored in 1992 as a site for a memorial to the Battle of Trafalgar. A memorial ceremony is held each year on Trafalgar Day, the nearest Sunday to the anniversary of the battle which took place on October 21st, 1805.

Formerly known as the Southport Ditch Cemetery, the site was consecrated in June 1798. It was often thought to be a part of St. Jago's or Deadman's Cemetery. St. Jago's was on the north side of Charles V Wall. Battle survivors who died in Gibraltar were buried in St Jago's. Anyone killed in battle went overboard, often while under fire.

The Trafalgar Monument was unveiled in 1992 by Governor Admiral Sir Derek Refell. The monument is an anchor with an inscription and a statue of Lord Horatio Nelson by sculptor John Doubleday. The cemetery is listed by the Gibraltar Heritage Trust.
Gibraltar Botanic Gardens

8) Gibraltar Botanic Gardens

The Gibraltar Botanical Gardens are also called La Alameda Gardens. The word "Alameda" is derived from the Spanish word "alamo," meaning poplar. "Alameda" indicates a tree-lined avenue or promenade. The trees were often poplar.

In 1815, the Botanical Gardens were commissioned by Governor General George Don. He aimed to create green space for off-duty soldiers and the public to recreate themselves. General George said he desired "a walk around the Grand Alameda."

Giuseppe Codali, a landscape designer from Bergamo, Italy, arrived in Gibraltar in the 1870s. He was commissioned to transform the Alameda grounds into a landscape garden and recreational park. He also created the gardens of the Law Courts and other gardens both in Gibraltar and Spain.

Giuseppe's best work on the Alameda is the Dell, an Italian sunken garden under the Giuseppe Copdali Bridge. The Alameda was laid out with a web of connecting paths and terraces. Guns and memorial busts in the gardens affirm Gibaltar's military history. By the 1970s, the gardens had become deteriorated. They were rehabilitated in 1991.

The greenery of the Gardens includes plants and trees from the Iberian Peninsula and abroad, especially tropical and subtropical areas of the world.
Gibraltar Cable Car

9) Gibraltar Cable Car (must see)

Next to the Alameda Gardens at the southern end of Main Street is the aerial tramway Gibraltar Cable Car (Teleferico de Gibraltar). The Cable Car was built in 1986 by Von Roll Holding as designed by architect Brian Helliwell. The Cable Car top station was built on the site of the old Signal Hill Battery on 1,200-foot-high Signal Hill.

The remains of an earlier cable station used to bring supplies to the top of Signal Hill by rope are still around. Under the top Station, there is an old military tunnel that runs east and west through the hill. In 1986 the cable cars were replaced, and the Top Station was renovated and refurbished.

The cars travel midway up the Rock from the Base Station to the Ape's Den. From there it's non-stop to the top. It's over 2,000 feet between the two stations. The cars can take 30 passengers and an attendant up or down. Each trip takes about six minutes, traveling at the rate of 11.2 mph. Audio tour guides comment on the sights.

At the top are a restaurant, cafe, and restrooms. Terraces offer breathtaking views of the Strait of Gibraltar in the direction of Morocco, and the Bay of Gibraltar, looking to Algeciras and Marbella. Buses 2, 3, and 4 stop here. There is parking in the Grand Parade by the Base Station.

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You really can’t avoid the Rock of Gibraltar when visiting the British Overseas Territory on the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula. Just like the streets lined with British-style red phone booths and historical buildings, this prominent limestone rock formation, overlooking the Strait of Gibraltar from an elevation of 426 meters (1,398 feet) above sea level, creates a distinctive atmosphere...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.5 Km or 2.8 Miles