If you're pressed for time, we suggest you bypass most of the attractions of Gibraltar and concentrate instead on the Upper Rock Nature Preserve, accessible from Jews' Gate, where you will find St. Michael's Cave, the Apes' Den, the Great Siege Tunnels, and the ruins of the old Moorish Castle. All of these attractions are open daily from 9:30am to 6:30pm. A combination ticket to the attractions costs £7.50 ($15) and includes the price of the one-way cable car to the Upper Rock. You can purchase a ticket for only the cable car if you wish, a round-trip ticket going for £6.50 ($13), plus individual tickets to the attractions. The cable-car departure point is signposted near the eastern end of Main Street in the center of Gibraltar. Cable cars (tel. 350-778-26) depart every 10 minutes from 9:30am to 5:15pm, with the last return at 5:45pm.
The cable car stops first at the Apes' Den, along Old Queen's Road. Here you can see the famous Barbary apes cavorting on the sides of rocks. Despite their name, they aren't really apes but cinnamon-colored tail-less monkeys (macaques). Legend has it that the first monkeys were either brought in by the Moors or that they found their way through a tunnel that linked St. Michael's Cave with Africa. Regular mealtimes -- the monkeys are fed daily at 8am and 4pm by a member of the Gibraltar Regiment -- have helped to stop their descending to the town for food. The monkeys are carefully tended and protected by the British, since they have a saying: "When the apes leave the Rock, so will the British."
The other two major attractions here are in opposite directions from the Apes' Den. To reach St. Michael's Cave, you have to walk east along Queen's Road. The caves are a natural grotto whose magnificent auditorium is used for concerts and other live performances. The lower cave and lake, reached by guided tour, are connected to the Upper Cave (open to the public) by a passage spanning the 15- to 45m (50- to 150-ft.) difference in depth. A labyrinth of passages has formed naturally in the porous rock and it's possible for even an amateur to travel for miles underground.
The final of the big three attractions, the Great Siege Tunnels are at the western end of the nature preserve, facing Spain. To reach them, you have to walk west along Queen's Road, bypassing the Apes' Den.
There are fine observation points along the road with views over the harbor and toward Spain. At the end of the road, you reach the Upper Galleries, now known as the Great Siege Tunnels. These are not picture galleries but large tunnels hewn in solid rock that are used mostly as vantage points for guns hauled up to the Rock to protect it from the Spanish mainland. The tunnels were carved out during the Great Siege of 1779 to 1782. Governor Lord Napier entertained Ulysses S. Grant, the former U.S. president, in 1878, with a banquet here in St. George's Hall.
Directly south of the tunnels are the ruins of the Moorish Castle, which you can skip if you're short of time. It was constructed by the descendants of Tariq who captured the Rock in 711. The nearby Tower of Homage dates from 1333, dominating the only land entrance to Gibraltar. The tower and adjoining walls are floodlit at night, a dramatic sight for passengers on ships sailing through the Straits of Gibraltar. Little remains of the original castle, other than parts of its outer walls running between the castle, the harbor, and the ancient Moorish Pier.
Most day-trippers end their sightseeing of Gibraltar at this point. Those who want to make a full day of it return to the Apes' Den and take the cable car back down into the center of Gibraltar, where they can explore some of the city attractions. A few hearty souls walk down the mountain, some of them spending as much as 2 hours doing so.
Once you reach the heart of town you can cover the attractions immediately below on foot.
Gibraltar Museum, Bomb House Lane (tel. 350-742-89; www.gib.gi/museum), is installed in a 14th-century Muslim bathhouse. The museum is close to the Roman Catholic cathedral, just off Main Street. To anyone intrigued with the history of the Rock, the exhibits are fascinating. There is a large-scale model of the Rock, showing every dwelling existing in 1865, plus the land reclamations since then. There is also a reproduction of the famous "Gibraltar woman," the ancient skull discovered in 1848 in Forbes's Quarry. Other exhibits depict the history, from prehistoric cave-dwelling days to the present. There is a mass of artifacts, cannonballs, weapons, and military uniforms. Charging £2 ($4) for admission, the museum is open Monday to Friday from 10am to 6pm and on Saturday from 10am to 2pm.
Convent and King's Chapel, Main Street, is the official residence of the governor, Queen Elizabeth's representative on Gibraltar. The changing of the guard takes place every Monday at 10:30am -- a ceremonial occasion with the full band and the governor and his family on the balcony to take the salute. The convent was named in 1531 when a wealthy Spaniard gave the Franciscan friars land, materials, and money to erect a convent and a chapel for the burial of himself and his family. There is no sign today of their graves. King's Chapel is open to view, but the convent, a private home, is not. There is a 1,000-year-old dragon tree standing on the grounds that you can see if you look down the hill behind the Roman Catholic cathedral.
Main Street, which means what it says, runs from Casemates Square, the street proceeding between old buildings and modern stores past the Main Post Office and on to the Piazza, a colonnaded entrance to a paved square where people drink, children play, and desultory business is conducted.
A wander among the narrow lanes and streets leading into Main Street will give you a sense of the past. You come next to the square facing the impressive Roman Catholic cathedral, a converted mosque and one of the first buildings on the Rock. Then it's on to Cathedral Square where the Anglican Cathedral faces a green garden and the harbor.
Just outside the town gate, where there was once a drawbridge and a moat, is the Trafalgar Cemetery, a charming garden blazing with geraniums. Tombstones commemorate many who fell in the battles of Algeciras, Trafalgar, Cádiz, and Málaga in the early years of the 19th century.
For a final look at Gibraltar, many visitors like to head out to Europa Point, called by many visitors "the end of Europe." Europa Point can either be a stop on your taxi tour or you can reach it from the center of Gibraltar via bus no. 3 or 1B from Line Wall Road, just off Main Street. Departures are every 15 minutes during the day and cost 70p ($1.40) one-way.
The most southerly point in Europe is actually Tarifa, which is in Spain and can be viewed in the distance. Europa Point was one of the two ancient Pillars of Hercules. The other so-called pillar is 23km (14 miles) across the Straits of Gibraltar in North Africa. At Europa Point is the lighthouse built in 1841 by Trinity House, the general lighthouse and pilotage authority for Great Britain, incorporated in 1514 by Henry VIII.
Standing by the lighthouse, you can see across the straits to the west of Ceuta to Jebel Musa (formerly Mount Abyla), the other Pillar of Hercules. Here also is Lloyd's of London's only foreign spotting station, recording every merchant ship entering or leaving the Mediterranean.
On Europa Road, back toward the town and east of the Rock, is the Chapel of Our Lady of Europa. This chapel is much venerated and often saluted by passing vessels. Before the lighthouse was built, the small chapel kept a light burning day and night to warn vessels of the treacherous passage. This small Catholic chapel, converted in 1462, was once a mosque. Today there is a small museum with a 1462 statue of the Madonna and some artifacts. Admission is free and the chapel can be entered Monday to Friday from 10am to 7pm.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.