A Mediterranean British rock 
The Upper Rock Nature Reserve
Tailless monkeys everywhere

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The city of Barbary apes

On any Mediterranean cruiseGibraltar’s interest essentially lies in its novelty: the genuine appeal of the strange, looming physical presence of its rock, and the dubious one of its preservation as one of Britain’s last remaining colonies. ..

During your excursion to Gibraltar you will discover the necessarily simple town layout, as it’s shoehorned into the narrow stretch of land on the peninsula’s western edge in the shadow of the towering Rock.

Main Street (La Calle Real) runs for most of the town’s length, a couple of blocks back from the port. On and around Main Street are most of the shops, together with many of the British-style pubs and hotels. From near the southern end of Main Street you can hop on a cable car, which will carry you up to the summit via Apes’ Den halfway up, a fairly reliable viewing point to see the tailless monkeys. Although not encouraged by the cable car’s fare structure, after riding to the top it’s possible to walk back down, a pleasant twenty- to thirty-minute stroll.

From The Top of the Rock you can look over the Strait of Gibraltar to the Atlas Mountains of Morocco and down to the town, the elaborate water-catchment system cut into the side of the rock.

The area at the top of the Rock, containing the Apes’ Den, St Michael’s Cave and other sights, is called the Upper Rock Nature Reserve. To walk down from The Top of the Rock (20min), follow Signal Station Road and St Michael’s Road to O’Hara’s Road and the Mediterranean Steps – a very steep descent most of the way down the east side, turning the southern corner of the Rock. You’ll pass through the Jews’ Gate and into Engineer Road, from where the return to town is through the Alameda Gardens.

Must see place in Gibraltar

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The British pillars of Hercules
The British pillars of Hercules

The main highlight of a cruise to Gibraltar is essentially its novelty: the genuine appeal of the strange, looming physical presence of its rock, and the dubious one of its preservation as one of Britain’s last remaining colonies.

For most of its history it has existed in a limbo between two worlds without being fully part of either. It’s a curious place to visit, not least to witness the bizarre process of its opening to mass tourism from the Costa del Sol. Ironically, this threatens both to destroy Gibraltar’s highly individual hybrid society and at the same time to make it much more British.

In recent years, the economic boom Gibraltar enjoyed throughout the 1980s, following the reopening of the border with Spain, has started to wane, and the future of the colony – whether its population agrees to it or not – is almost certain to involve closer ties with Spain. Yet Gibraltarians stubbornly cling to British status, and all their institutions are modelled on British lines. Contrary to popular belief, however, as you’ll discover during your MSC Mediterranean cruise to Gibraltar, they are of neither mainly Spanish nor British blood, but an ethnic mix descended from Genoese, Portuguese, Spanish, Menorcan, Jewish, Maltese and British forebears.