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Travel Report: Cool Spots Around Gibraltar.

Visit Gibraltar the South Bastion 1540

Cool Spots Around Gibraltar.

March 2017.

I will always look back on my visit to Gibraltar with a lot of fondness. I arrived as a somewhat curious traveller keen to hike its famous rock and check out what Spanish Britain looked and felt like.

What I found was a tiny territory that is a visual feast, a rival even to some of mainland Spain’s Andalusian highlights. My priority had been to explore the varied wonders of Gibraltar Nature Reserve. It did not disappoint. Neither did the wondrous Mediterranean Steps hike, with its delicious sea views and historic batteries.

Having already published those magnificent highlights, this piece wraps up the rest of my explorations. So, without further ado, here are my Cool Spots Around Gibraltar

Grand Casemates Square Cool Spots Around Gibraltar

Grand Casemates Square.

My wanderings around the town began at Grand Casemates Square, which dates back to 1817. In fact, Gibraltar’s largest public square takes its name from the bombproof military barracks that once operated here. The renowned British Army engineer William Green was largely responsible for the design of the barracks, while the square soon served as the site of Gibraltar’s military parades. And, naturally, public executions.

Cool Spots Around Gibraltar.

Grand Casemates Square.

Grand Casemates Square.

What remains of those barracks now houses Gibraltar’s main bubble of cafes, bars, pubs and restaurants. When the weather is fine, chairs and tables fill the square, the entire place awash with chatter and the clinking of knives, forks and spoons. 

Above all, I liked how the square celebrates its history. Not only with the barracks themselves, but through the little souvenir stores selling British Army badges, fridge magnets and toy soldiers. One store even had a guy outside dressed in a retro Royal Gibraltar Regiment uniform. Yes, he was more than happy to pose for photographs. 

Man wearing Royal Gibraltar Regiment uniform

Cool Spots Around Gibraltar.

Back in 2017, Grand Casemates Square was also home to Gibraltar Crystal, a handmade glassware museum and factory. For decades this impressive store showcased some of the finest glass art products in Europe.

RIP Gibraltar Crystal.

Gibraltar Crystal.

Photo courtesy of Eric Roy. 

Moreover, the space included a small workshop where you could watch highly skilled glass-blowers at work. Unfortunately, Gibraltar Crystal closed down in September 2019. A branch of the Hong-Kong based digital bank, Xapo, replaced it. Depressing.  

Gibraltar Crystal.

Visiting Gibraltar Crystal.


After a year living in the Spanish city of Malaga, I was excited at the prospect of an authentic English breakfast. And boy oh boy was I spoilt for choice, with just about every place on the square claiming to have the best in town. Eventually, after several loops, I put my trust in the Lord Nelson Pub

Lord Nelson Pub Cool Spots Around Gibraltar

Cool Spots Around Gibraltar.

Inside, the pub channels the vibe of Admiral Horatio Nelson and The Battle of Trafalgar. There are sails on the ceiling, along with a giant Union Jack, designed to feel like the great man’s legendary ship, HMS Victory.

Furthermore, one can find a veritable gallery of black and white photos from the archives. Some may find the place a bit kitschy, others will feel it has genuine charm. My own position, however, was somewhere between the two.

Inside the Lord Nelson Pub in Gibraltar

Lord Nelson Pub.

According to online reviews, Lord Nelson is one of Gibraltar’s most boisterous spots. Indeed they show live sports and regularly hold quiz and karaoke nights. From what I hear it can get quite rowdy, with several reviewers complaining of antisocial behaviour. Hm, I’m definitely pleased that I went for a morning visit. As for the breakfast, it was solid if not spectacular, nicely setting me up for my first hike up The Rock.  

English breakfast at Lord Nelson Pub in Gibraltar

Breakfast at the Lord Nelson Pub.

From Grand Casemates Square I took a stroll down Main StreetAlthough it dates back to the 14th century, the street was obliterated by French and Spanish forces in a combined attack during the Great Siege of Gibraltar between 1779-1783. 

Cool Spots Around Gibraltar.

Main Street Cool Spots Around Gibraltar

Cool Spots Around Gibraltar.

Its subsequent regeneration began in the early 1800s. Today the street buzzes with pedestrians, even on a rainy day like this one. For me, it was simply a wonder to experience this typical British high street with its Boots, WH Smith and red telephone boxes and postboxes.

Red telephone boxes in Gibraltar.

Main Street.

In Malaga I had no access to authentic British treats. Hence I excitedly ducked into Bubbles Newsagents to grab a few of my favourite chocolate bars: a Double Decker and a Galaxy Ripple. What’s more, I picked up a copy of The Daily Telegraph, why not.

Bubbles Newsagents in Gibraltar.

Cool Spots Around Gibraltar.

And of course Gibraltar couldn’t be an authentic British territory without lots and lots of pubs. Indeed I passed plenty more as I explored Main Street and its many side lanes. The Star Bar, for example, is reportedly Gibraltar’s oldest drinking den. They say Christopher Columbus once popped in for a meal on his way to the Americas! Elsewhere, I caught glimpses of The Horseshoe and The Angry Friar, all charming enough from the outside but with very patchy online reviews.

The Horseshoe Pub Cool Spots Around Gibraltar

Cool Spots Around Gibraltar.

On my second day, I went for a drink and a bite in The Clipper, located in Irish Town. The interior is a mix of modern decor and a traditional nautical theme, while I had no complaints about my cold beer and beefy burger. In contrast, I was less impressed when the waiter didn’t bring me any change after I paid. Several online reviewers have mentioned that staff here typically assume that they can keep what’s left as a tip. Very cheeky. 


The Clipper Pub Cool Spots Around Gibraltar

Cool Spots Around Gibraltar.

A short walk from The Clipper lies John Mackintosh Squarehome to the handsome City Hall, where the mayor of Gibraltar has his office. John Mackintosh was a Gibraltar-born businessman who made his fortune selling coal to The British Navy. He was also a committed philanthropist who focused on the needs of the sick and poor. Among his many other efforts, he set up a public education trust fund and paid for an extension to the territory’s main hospital.

John Mackintosh Square in Gibraltar

John Mackintosh Square.

As for City Hall, constructed in 1819, this was once the private mansion of a wealthy Jewish English merchant by the name of Aaron Cardozo. In his later years he acted as the consul to Tunis and Algiers. Some articles claim he was even friends with Lord Nelson, who came to the house several times for dinner. 

City Hall Cool Spots Around Gibraltar

Cool Spots Around Gibraltar.

Speaking of Nelson, you can find a statue dedicated to the great man at Gibraltar’s South Bastion, a surviving part of the town’s fortifications. Local authorities unveiled the statue in 2005 to celebrate the 200 year anniversary of his triumph (and death) at the Battle of Trafalgar. Amazingly, several pieces of copper in the statue came directly from the remains of HMS Victory! 

Visit Gibraltar the South Bastion 1540

Lord Nelson. He gets around.

Staying with The Battle of Trafalgar, some of the men killed in action rest right here at Trafalgar CemeteryIt’s a very pretty graveyard and a much welcome leafy respite from the buzz of the town. 

Cool Spots Around Gibraltar.

Trafalgar Cemetery Cool Spots Around Gibraltar

Trafalgar Cemetery.

Trafalgar Cemetery served as Gibraltar’s main graveyard until 1814, after which it fell into disrepair. Originally known as Southport Ditch Cemetery, it enjoyed a big cleanup and some landscaping throughout the 1980s and 90s. Burials no longer take place here, but it does host an annual ceremony to mark Trafalgar Day on October the 21st. 

Trafalgar Cemetery in Gibraltar.

Cool Spots Around Gibraltar.

If you appreciate the cemetery’s peaceful greenery, chances are you’re going to love the splendid Gibraltar Botanic Gardens. Created in 1816, this lush 15-acre compound was the brainchild of Sir George Don, then Gibraltar Lieutenant-Governor. 

Gibraltar Botanic Gardens

Gibraltar Botanic Gardens.

Don’s vision was that the gardens would provide the territory’s soldiers with a place to relax when not on duty up at the fortress. It was a fantastic gesture, no wonder the compound’s main gates are named after him. 

La Alameda Gardens in Gibraltar.

Cool Spots Around Gibraltar.

The gardens open between 08:00 and (roughly) sunset every day. I spent a lovely hour strolling along the various Jurassic limestone rock pathways. So much care has gone into the place and its immaculate collections of flowers, plants, bushes and towering cacti.

Gibraltar Botanic Gardens.

A tall cactus at Gibraltar Botanic Gardens

Cool Spots Around Gibraltar.

Here and there, I came across wooden benches dedicated to the lives of dearly missed Gibraltarians. A statue of the James Joyce character Molly Bloom meanwhile (from his 1922 novel Ulyssesjoined the garden in 2001 to celebrate 200 years of the Gibraltar Chronicle, the territory’s national newspaper.

Molly Bloom Statue Cool Spots Around Gibraltar

Gibraltar Botanic Gardens.

It was also fun to see how local children contribute to Gibraltar Botanic Gardens. My favourite project was this playful Vegetable Patch, complete with homemade scarecrows and a Bee Hotel for the local honey-making community.

Children's Vegetable Garden Gibraltar Botanic Gardens

Cool Spots Around Gibraltar.

The gardens also gave me a look at the wonderful Rock Hotel, Gibraltar’s iconic white Art Deco delight. Built in 1932 by the Scottish peer John Crichton-Stuart, it has hosted a string of high profile guests during its 90 year history. Sarah Churchill, daughter of Winston, got married to Thomas Touchet-Jesson in the hotel in 1962.

The Rock Hotel Cool Spots Around Gibraltar

The Rock Hotel!

The actor Sean Connery spent his honeymoon here following his marriage to the actress and author Diane Cilento. As did John Lennon and Yoko Ono, who stayed for a few days in March, 1969. A few years later I would see an exhibit on their Gibraltar stay in the excellent  Double Fantasy Exhibition at The Museum of Liverpool.

Cool Spots Around Gibraltar.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono in Gibraltar

John and Yoko digging Gibraltar.

Last… but definitely not least… I simply could not leave this British territory without grabbing a much-missed Indian feast. Luckily there are plentiful options scattered around town. In the end, I went for an early evening thali set at Curry and Sushi on Parliament Lane.

Putting the weird Indian-Japanese thing to one side, I can report that the food was both excellent and reasonably priced. The location is great too, tucked away in a quiet side street. Cheers Gibraltar, you “rock”.

Lunch at Curry and Sushi in Gibraltar

Cool Spots Around Gibraltar.

Like this? Check out my other reports on Gibraltar.

You might also like to read my zillion articles from across Spain.

I’ve been living, working and traveling all over the world since 2001. So why not check out my huge library of travel reports from over 30 countries.

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  • thomasstigwikman

    Gibraltar seems like a really cool spot. I’ve never been there. I have to visit one day.

    October 5, 2022 - 11:07 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Hi Thomas, thanks for leaving a comment. I appreciate your recent follow and likes, I’m glad you are enjoying my articles. Gibraltar is definitely unique and far prettier than perhaps it gets credit for. Hope you get to go one day…

      October 5, 2022 - 11:14 am Reply
  • qprgary

    Spent so much time in Malaga and never even thought of Gib. Must get a look at it now. Thanks Leighton.

    October 5, 2022 - 12:02 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Cheers Gary! I’m sure you wouldn’t be disappointed. Thanks for reading.

      October 5, 2022 - 12:03 pm Reply
  • Anna

    I enjoyed my visit to Gibraltar, but didn’t see nearly as much as you! Just returned from Siem Reap – I had an awesome time!!! It will probably take me a year to write about it, I’m so slow! Lol. Cheers!

    October 5, 2022 - 12:43 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Anna, glad you had a great time and are back safely. Very much looking forward to your articles, it will be great to see how Siem Reap is doing these days.

      October 5, 2022 - 12:47 pm Reply
  • Stan

    well leighton, a concise and neatly packaged roundup of gibraltar’s discreet bits. I think most bloggers haven’t covered these less touristy spots, hats off to you. the rock hotel looks like a gem, as does the botanic garden.

    October 5, 2022 - 1:16 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Stan, it is a somewhat discreet collection of bits and bobs. But I think these collected sights are every bit as essential as the Rock and its wonderful nature trails. Thanks, as always, for your readership.

      October 5, 2022 - 1:18 pm Reply
  • wetanddustyroads

    Just look at the lovely glass vases – we watched the process of glass blowing in Malta too…it was fascinating to see. What a shame this one closed. For sure Leighton, that breakfast will take you up and down the famous Rock of Gibraltar in no time! There are definitely nice places in and around Gibraltar – so much history, inviting squares (and bars) and a beautiful park…thanks for sharing your visit!

    October 5, 2022 - 1:30 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Corna, for your enthusiasm, even for a muddled Cool Spots piece like this. I do feel Gibraltar needs a bit more blog love. 🇬🇮 Hopefully, it’s a case of job done. Hope all is well with you!

      October 5, 2022 - 1:36 pm Reply
      • wetanddustyroads

        You certainly introduced Gibraltar very well – it feels like I climbed those 1000 Mediterranean steps (or maybe it was a little less ☺️) with you! All is well on this side of the world, thank you… spring is in the air!

        October 5, 2022 - 2:07 pm
  • kagould17

    So many interesting things in such a tiny package. I hate the entitled attitudes of the tourist restaurant waiters. They seem to forget, they will make good tips more often if they treat the customers with respect. Looks like you had a bit of rain during your stay, Leighton. Was this a fond remembrance of English weather or do they get a lot of rain there regularly? I am enjoying your posts on this spot. Cheers. Allan

    October 5, 2022 - 4:53 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Yes, there was a fair bit of rain that weekend unfortunately. Which is not typical for Gibraltar, so I got a bit unlucky there. Glad you enjoyed this miniseries Allan, it’ll be a brand new location on Sunday.

      October 5, 2022 - 5:21 pm Reply
  • Lyssy In The City

    Great recap! There sure is a variety of things to do and see. It’s always nice being able to spend enough time in a new place to feel like you really got to see it all.

    October 5, 2022 - 4:54 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      This was a very short trip by my standards. Three days, two nights. But actually if you manage your time well you can really see most of Gibraltar in that time. Can’t say that about many countries!

      October 5, 2022 - 5:23 pm Reply
  • hollymrichards

    No matter what and where you write about your posts always have me itching to go somewhere to check it out. This sounds like a wonderful place to visit and get a taste of home without actually going home.

    October 5, 2022 - 5:20 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Aw, that’s very kind of you to say Holly. Yes, Gibraltar is a weird hybrid of the very familiar and the unfamiliar. A quite unique place in many respects and one I’m glad I got the chance to explore, albeit briefly.

      October 10, 2022 - 6:33 pm Reply
  • grandmisadventures

    I think Gibraltar is definitely being added to my list. What a cool place and so full of interesting spots. Dinner at Lord Nelson looks like a riotous good time and the cemetery looks not only beautiful but also more artistic than a lot of cemeteries. The layout of it is so pretty! Yup, Gibraltar is going on my list 🙂

    October 5, 2022 - 5:35 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Meg for following me on yet another series. Hope life is treating you well as we edge towards winter. We have a week of rain, wind and general chilliness here in Georgia. I guess it’s all downhill from here, though we don’t really mind, as it was a relentlessly hot summer.

      October 5, 2022 - 5:39 pm Reply
      • grandmisadventures

        If only the pleasant months of spring and fall could last longer so we didn’t have the terrible heat of summer and the bitter cold of winter. Looking forward to following your next series of adventures 🙂

        October 5, 2022 - 5:42 pm
  • Memo

    A very welcome whirlwind tour. Makes me sorry that we couldn’t fit it into our tour of Spain. Would love to visit the botanical gardens and sit for a Speckled Hen at the Clipper. Any blog with a photo of John and Yoko and a mouthwatering pic of a full English breakfast is bound to satisfy. And I want to use one of those red phone boxes just so I can say I did it.

    October 5, 2022 - 5:44 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Ha, they were operational too! Which I think is rarely the case these days, certainly in The UK from my experiences earlier this year. Thanks Memo for crossing off yet another series. The next article will be packed full of familiar faces. Until then…

      October 5, 2022 - 5:53 pm Reply
  • Travels Through My Lens

    I had no idea there is so much to do and see in Gibraltar. I’m even more excited about our upcoming visit in a few months time. I love a full UK breakfast; they fuel one up and keep you going until it’s time to hit the pub in the late afternoon. Thanks for sharing!

    October 5, 2022 - 6:13 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Tricia, I’m with you on the English breakfast. It’s one of those things I ‘really’ miss from back home. I actually have them so rarely these days that I feel it’s such a treat when I do. Thanks for joining me on this miniseries from Gibraltar!

      October 9, 2022 - 3:50 pm Reply
  • Little Miss Traveller

    This post has made me want to go back there soon. How I loved my stay. Such a shame you seemed to have some wet weather. The Gibraltar guards parade through the town centre at 12.00 noon each Saturday playing instruments, and all dressed like the one in your photo! Is it still warm and sunny with you now?

    October 5, 2022 - 10:21 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      The rain wasn’t much of a problem in terms of hampering my plans. I was living in Malaga at the time where summer just about never ends, so it was somewhat amusing to arrive in a British territory and boom.. it starts raining. I think I was up on The Rock when the parade was taking place. Sadly, the weather has turned here in Batumi. We’ve got a week of overcast skies, rain and a bit of wind. But still, the views from our balcony are a privilege. Thanks for reading Marion.

      October 5, 2022 - 10:25 pm Reply
  • Mike and Kellye Hefner

    It’s all so pretty! The city and the buildings – especially in the rain, the botanical gardens, and even the cemetery are just beautiful. If I ever got to go to Gibraltar, I would definitely want to visit Star Bar. I’ve already checked out their menu and the Portuguese Pork Burger looks amazing! So sad that the Gibraltar Crystal Company has gone out of business. It looks like they had gorgeous glassware, which is one of my weaknesses. I really enjoyed the post, Leighton!

    October 5, 2022 - 11:36 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Brilliant that you checked out the menu at Star Bar Kellye! I really should’ve gone and had a look, guess I was too hung up on getting that Indian food. Interesting to know you have a thing for glassware, do you have much of a collection? Thanks for following this miniseries.

      October 6, 2022 - 10:10 am Reply
  • Tanja

    great post! I’d love to visit it.

    October 6, 2022 - 1:12 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Tanja, hope you get there someday.

      October 6, 2022 - 10:02 am Reply
  • Rebecca

    Thanks for sharing your cool spots to check out in Gibraltar, Leighton! I admit, I hadn’t much interest in visiting it before, but now I believe it’d be fascinating to check out a “Spanish Britain” if I return to Spain someday! I can imagine that it’s a great place for British visitors and expats to experience a “home away from home,” especially with easy accessibility to a solid English breakfast and people…all the while enjoying the warm, beach life all around!

    October 6, 2022 - 7:26 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Rebecca, I think Gibraltar can easily be incorporated into a spell of exploring around Andalusia for example. There is so much to see and do in Southern Spain, it’s no wonder Gibraltar often gets overlooked.

      October 6, 2022 - 10:13 am Reply
  • La Potosina

    Thanks for sharing your pictures and stories of Gibraltar. When I was in the U.S. Navy, we passed through Gibraltar by ship on our way to Europe. I remember being so excited to see the Rock of Gibraltar for the first time, even though we were just passing through. Too bad we didn’t stop to visit; I wish we would’ve stopped and toured this amazing place.

    October 6, 2022 - 8:25 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey, thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment. I am sure you saw some incredible places during your time in the U.S. Navy. My dad also worked for them, managing a U.S. residential base in West Ruislip, England in the 1980s. Hope you get to explore Gibraltar someday.

      October 6, 2022 - 10:16 am Reply
      • La Potosina

        Thank you! I hope so too!

        October 9, 2022 - 6:45 am
  • WanderingCanadians

    It does seem like there are a lot of cool spots and pubs to explore in Gibraltar. I was not expecting to see cacti there! And the Trafalgar Cemetery looks so interesting. I’m such a fan of old cemeteries. Thanks for sharing. Linda

    October 6, 2022 - 2:25 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for checking in, guys. Great to hear we have another member for the WordPress Cemeteries Appreciation Club.

      October 6, 2022 - 2:29 pm Reply
  • NortheastAllie

    It seems like there are a lot of really neat and interesting areas in Gibraltar! The restaurants look awesome, and the Botanic Gardens seem like a nature oasis too.

    October 6, 2022 - 8:33 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      There’s definitely a lot packed into this tiny territory. Thanks for following my adventures in Gibraltar Allie.

      October 6, 2022 - 8:48 pm Reply

    I definitely want to visit Gibraltar and see it for myself, but this post shows that it’s even more British than I imagined. I guess I pictured a Spanish town with British influences rather than a British town in Spain. It even has the rain soaked streets judging by your photos! Still on my list though…

    October 6, 2022 - 8:48 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      I was unlucky with the rain, by all accounts. Sun and blue skies is the norm for most of the year, so hopefully you guys wouldn’t be as unfortunate as I was. Thanks for following this miniseries!

      October 6, 2022 - 8:51 pm Reply
  • NattyTravels

    Oh, I’d love to go to Gibraltar. I’ve been eyeing this place for quite some time. I’m not sure why, because I know it is British territory, but I was surprised to learn there was a British high street with stores such as boots and WH Smith I just didn’t expect that. Regardless, it looks like such a great place to experience.

    October 6, 2022 - 9:12 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Gibraltar is a lot of fun Natty, I’m sure you’d enjoy a visit. You could tie it up with seeing a bit of Southern Spain.

      October 6, 2022 - 10:00 pm Reply
  • travelling_han

    I really need to get to Gib! It feels like one of those places that’s always been top 10 on the list, but then constantly just pipped to the post by somewhere else.

    October 7, 2022 - 12:26 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      I think when you eventually make it, you’ll really like the cut of its “gib” and will be glad you came 😉

      October 7, 2022 - 12:32 pm Reply
  • rkrontheroad

    Such a British feel, even with a little rain. You must have felt right at home. I’m glad you could still see that cool sculpture of the glass blower.

    October 9, 2022 - 2:20 am Reply
    • Leighton

      It really did feel like a little slice of home. Just what I needed after a year based in southern Spain. Cheers, Ruth.

      October 9, 2022 - 9:39 am Reply
  • ThingsHelenLoves

    Love the look of Gibraltar, it seems like such a curiously British-but-not place. Really liked the look of Trafalgar Cemetery, it’s a bit different. Really liked the style of this post, felt like a relaxed wander round all the places waiting to be discovered by a first time visitor.

    October 22, 2022 - 2:28 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Helen, I agree that Gibraltar occupies a strange and curious place in our history. I’m glad you enjoyed this roundup of bits and bobs 🙂

      October 22, 2022 - 5:37 pm Reply

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