The Rock of Gibraltar is Gibraltar territory’s biggest tourist attraction by far. The Upper Rock Nature Reserve is the official name of the site, but also goes by the “Top of the Rock” or just “The Rock.”
I spent a great day exploring the Upper Rock and all it had to offer and absolutely loved it (the beautiful weather didn’t hurt either). I can’t believe Gibraltar had never been on my radar before! The Rock was definitely one of the highlights of my Gibraltar trip. Here’s my guide for visiting the Rock!
The most famous inhabitant of the Upper Rock are the barbary macaques, the apes that are the unofficial symbol of the whole territory of Gibraltar. There are 8 different attractions within the Nature Reserve: the Cable Car Vantage Point, St. Michael’s Cave, Pillars of Hercules/Jews Gate, Ape’s Den, Great Siege Tunnels, City Under Siege Exhibition, WWII Tunnels, and the Moorish Castle. I’d highly recommend taking the Cable Car up to the top, as it saves you a few hours of very steep walking to get to the top, which is especially helpful since there’s a lot of walking around the Rock if you want to see all the sites. The top of the Cable Car has some nice views of Gibraltar, the Rock, and nearby Africa, so it was definitely worth it! Buying an all-inclusive ticket to the Upper Rock Nature Reserve (available with a Cable Car ticket, or on its own) was really helpful, as it gives you entry to all of the separate sites.
The barbary macaques are probably the most exciting part of a trip up the Rock. They are everywhere! Tourists are warned to not eat around the apes, or to carry food openly or in plastic bags (the apes associate plastic bags with food). There is also a 4000€ fine for feeding them.
St. Michael’s Cave was one of my favorite parts of the Rock—a huge cave that the Romans once thought was bottomless! They hold concerts in the cave, which I can only imagine would be the coolest thing ever.
Across the Rock from the cave are the Pillars of Hercules and Jews Gate, the southern most tip of the Upper Rock. The Pillars date back to ancient times and the Roman settlement. It’s worth the hike there just for the great views down the rest of the Rock and towards Europa Point.
Circling back down the Rock, the Ape’s Den is another huge spotting area for the barbary macaques. It’s also next to Charles V Wall, which was built in the 16th-century straight down the Rock. The apes really don’t bother tourists much, as long as you don’t bother them. You can get pretty close to them without them caring, as long as you clearly don’t have any food.
Going back across the Rock to the northern end, the Great Siege Tunnels were absolutely awesome. The tunnels were blasted through during the Siege of Gibraltar (1779-1783) and pass through the entire northern wall of the Rock. Not only is there lots of information on the Siege, but there’s also a section on how the tunnels were used during World War II. You can walk the length of the tunnels to see the eastern side of the Rock. Since there was all this information, I decided not to see the WWII Tunnels (you had to go on a guided tour, which was only offered once an hour and I didn’t want to wait).
The City Under Siege Exhibition is an open-air exhibit telling how life was during the Great Siege of Gibraltar. It wasn’t the most scintillating, but since it’s included in the ticket I wandered through. Basically, life was hard when the city was under siege.
The Moorish Castle was built in the 1300s. Not much remains today, but the views from the top of the city below are nice. I was chased out of the castle by a group of 4 hissing, spitting, yelling, and baring-their-teeth apes. They were all running past me and I couldn’t tell if they were after me or a different ape. It was the other ape, but it was still terrifying!!!
I loved my day exploring the Rock, and it’s absolutely one of Gibraltar’s top highlights. Seeing the apes was also seriously cool! I loved how it was both a nature reserve (lots of opportunities for hiking and wildlife) and also the more touristy part of the different sites around the Rock. You can’t miss a trip to the Top of the Rock while you’re in Gibraltar! And as Kanye and Jay-Z put it—how can you falter, when you’re the Rock of Gibraltar?
Have you ever been to the Rock of Gibraltar or another well-known nature reserve? Let me know in the comments below!