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Gibraltar, still sparkling

Gibraltar, still sparkling
  • Christmas

  • Some traditional events have had to be cancelled and others moved online, but the Rock is still a great place for a festive day out or a short break

Yes, there is a global pandemic and yes, there is still uncertainty over Brexit but somehow Gibraltar never loses its sparkle, atmosphere and feeling of good cheer. Despite the Covid-19 restrictions Christmas here is an experience like no other so if you’re feeling festive, or especially if you’re not at the moment, this is one of the very best places to be.

Before the big day arrives, however, there is something we all claim to hate but secretly love to do, and that is Christmas gift shopping. Gibraltar town centre should really be nicknamed Aladdin’s Cave because it is an absolute treasure trove of lovely things you won’t find elsewhere. Main Street has a great festive atmosphere as you look for that special present, but don’t forget to check out the narrow historic streets nearby, with a surprising array of interesting shops and some very good cafés, bars and restaurants.

It’s worth bearing in mind that VAT-free Gibraltar is an excellent place to snap up a bargain. You can pay in cash in Gibraltar in pounds sterling or euros, and most credit and debit cards are accepted. Oh, and another advantage of shopping here is that there are no communication problems - everyone speaks English.

When you have shopped until you’re ready to drop and are in need of sustenance, or just fancy a delicious meal or snack, you will be spoiled for choice. Like shopping, food is another reason on its own to come to Gibraltar: it is fast gaining a reputation as a foodie paradise through the variety of cuisines, the quality of products and the number of great places to eat.

Year-round attractions

It would be a shame to be in Gibraltar and not see some of the sights, though, because despite its small size there is an amazing amount to do and the vast majority of attractions are open as normal at this time of year, with Covid-19 precautions for your safety.

In fact, while you’re shopping or just strolling around and soaking up the ambience in the town centre, you will pass or be close to several places of interest. Two cathedrals, for a start: the Catholic St Mary the Crowned and the Anglican Holy Trinity are almost opposite each other and the beautiful King’s Chapel, beside the Convent, which is the residence of the Governor of Gibraltar, is just a little further on.

Close to the cathedrals, in Bomb House Lane, is the Gibraltar NationalMuseum, another treasure trove but one containing fascinating historical finds, 14th-century Moorish baths, exhibitions, archaeological excavations in the gardens, and Nana and Flint, lifesized reconstructions of a Neanderthal mother and child. The World Heritage Site of Gorham’s Cave, in Gibraltar, is the last known home of the Neanderthals.

Continuing along Main Street, past the Convent and No. 6 Convent Place, which is Gibraltar’s equivalent to 10 Downing Street, you will come to the Trafalgar Cemetery. This was in use from 1798 to 1814 and some victims of the Battle of Trafalgar are among those who rest here.

Just a little further on is the cable car station, which operates several times an hour throughout the day. This is one of Gibraltar’s longest-established tourist attractions and definitely the most exciting way to get up to the top of the Rock. Next door are the lovely Alameda botanical gardens and wildlife conservation park, a peaceful oasis with flora and fauna from all over the world.

For those with more time to explore, Gibraltar’s other attractions include the Skywalk, Upper Rock Nature Reserve (home to the famous Barbary macaques), the Windsor suspension bridge, Great Siege Tunnels, World War Tunnels, Moorish castle, marinas and much more.

What you won’t find in Gibraltar is doom and gloom. Christmas is a time of celebration and enjoyment and this is one place that keeps its sparkle. And what’s more, it is happy to share.