Curro Cabrera Vallecillo at the Museo Taurino, located opposite the city’s bullring.
It’s fair to say that La Línea often gets overlooked by the hundreds of tourists flocking into Gibraltar every day.
However, this historical border city has been intrinsically linked with the British overseas territory since the latter came into existence in 1713, following a combined British and Dutch attack.
Since then something of a symbiotic relationship has developed between the two neighbours, but many sightseers may be unaware that just like Gibraltar, there’s a lot to see and do in La Línea.
Take for example the 152 World War Two bunkers that are peppered around the city centre.
Built under the orders of none other than Hitler himself, some of the best preserved of these wartime relics can be found in the Reina Sofía Park.
History buffs will know that they were constructed following the invasion of France, when Germany hatched a plan to conquer the Rock under the codename of Operation Felix.
Between 1940 and 1941 German engineers oversaw the construction of the bunkers, but following the Third Reich’s defeat against Russia, the shelters took on a defensive role from the allied forces based in Gibraltar.
Interestingly enough, it was also a set of war torn circumstances that saw the birth of the city of La Línea (yes it’s a city, it has a Cathedral!)
Following the sieges of Gibraltar in 1727 and 1779 to 1783 by Spanish troops hoping to recapture the Rock, the Spanish government built a line of fortifications called ‘La Línea de Gibraltar’ (literally the line) to isolate this British outpost from mainland Spain.
In 1731 construction began on the two strongholds of Santa Bárbara and San Felipe, which were united in the middle by a large wall to consolidate the Spanish presence in the area.
The fortifications were finished in 1735 but it was from a camp of merchants who supplied the Spanish military that gave rise to modern day La Línea, as up until 1870 the area was part of San Roque.
Nowadays, the city has a bustling population of just over 70,000 people, of which more than 10,000 are foreign residents.
So it’s no surprise that the tourism department has decided to promote La Línea with free-guided tours, upon which I found myself invited to earlier this month.
Although they need to be organised in advance, the tours are in English and include stops at: the Cathedral, the bullring, the bullfighting museum, the Manuel Alés Art Gallery and the fortifications at Santa Bárbara – the latter having been almost completely destroyed by British forces, I must add.
One of the most noteworthy stops was the quaint Museo Taurino (bullfighting museum), opposite the bullring on Calle San José.
Originally a house, this museum contains one of the largest and most important collections of bull related memorabilia in Spain.
Thousands of photos adorn every inch of wall space including snaps of a seven-year-old Antonio Banderas in the ring and Che Guevara at a fight in Madrid.
A shrine can also be found in the museum, where bullfighters still say a quick prayer before battle.
For the bargain entrance price of three euros, owner Curro Cabrera Vallecillo will also throw in a beer and a tapa in the museum’s traditional bar, which I highly recommend (looks like a good place to watch football too).
Heading back into the centre, you’ll discover a picturesque maze of streets dotted with traditional tapas bars and plenty of hustle and bustle.
Among those highly recommended by locals are La Bodeguiya and Casa Puri, while Marisquería Mara won first prize in a recent tapas competition.
Also worth keeping an eye out for are the tapas tours that are organised several times a year by the town hall.
They normally feature around 16 bars which entice food lovers through their doors with delicious delicacies, as well as a glass of wine of small beer, for the small sum of 2.50 euros.
While on the tour we also viewed the Congress Palace, which is equipped with a 1,000-seat auditorium to host concerts and shows throughout the year.
A bustling daily street market merits a visit too, while the lively indoor market of Mercado de la Concepción offers customers everything from fresh fish and meat, to local chesses and wine.
If that’s not enough to whet your appetite for visiting La Línea, there are also 17 kilometres of virgin beaches and stunning views of the Rock of Gibraltar to boot.
Perhaps the most exciting news though are the ambitious plans to build a new sports port in the next two years called Marina Alcaidesa, where it’s hoped a thriving water sports community will develop alongside new bars, restaurants and shops.
So if you fancy discovering a bit of culture and history in this overlooked city, visit the Tourist Office opposite the border or call them on 956 171 998.
New English speaking club for La Línea
A new social club for the town’s English speaking residents has been set up in the last few months called 2 Oceans. Scottish ex pat Eric Young was one of the driving forces behind the club, which aims to help foreign residents get more involved in La Línea’s city life. Backed by the Town Hall, the club officially starts in January and offers members: a weekly lunch club on Wednesday at the Sport’s bar in Constitution Square, Spanish classes every Tuesday and a weekly meeting for members to discuss future events.
As part of the club’s plans it’s hoped a new Roller Skating Club will be set up in La Línea by Eric, who used to coach teams back in the UK. In addition, a Foreign Residents’ Help desk is located at La Línea Tourist office, which is open every Tuesday and Thursday from10am to1pm, to help residents with local problems. For more information on 2 Oceans contact Eric on 665 373 275, Diane on 956 761 561 or drop into the Tourist Office to fill out a membership form.