Gibraltar

Gibraltar is fascinating! Poised at the entrance of the Mediterranean Sea, this 2.6 square mile peninsula is dominated by the Rock of Gibraltar, surrounded by defense walls, filled with history and specializes in charm.

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1 Introduction to Gibraltar

Gibraltar covers only 2.6 miles. Yet its position at the entry of the Mediterranean Sea – only 15 miles by water from North Africa – has etched its place in history for over 50,000 years. Among the people who lived here are Neanderthals, Phoenicians, Romans, Visigoths, Moors and Spanish. Since 1713, it has been under British rule. Gibraltar is now mostly self-governed yet remains a British Overseas Territory. Its most famous geological feature is the Rock of Gibraltar, seen here from the west. This massive limestone promontory is two miles square with an elevation of almost 1,400 feet. At the base of The Rock is the delightful city of Gibraltar with 33,000 people. You will enjoy their hospitality while you explore the landmarks and fortifications that reflect their unique and proud history.

[36.121820, -5.340433]
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2 Moorish Castle on Rock of Gibraltar in Gibraltar

If you arrive in Gibraltar by ship, you will see this medieval fort overlooking the city on the east side of the Rock of Gibraltar. This is the partial ruins of the Moorish Castle. While the Moors controlled Gibraltar for over 700 years, they named the city Medina Al Fath. Their two occupations were from 711 until 1309 and again in 1350 until conquered by King Henry IV of Castile in 1462. The Moors first built this impressive fortification around 1160. Much of it was destroyed during a series of battles between the Castilians and Moors during the first half of the 14th century. When the Moors regained control, they rebuilt El Castillo including the Tower of Homage seen here. The enormous keep measures 3,400 square feet. This is a fascinating place to visit when exploring all of the sites at the Upper Rock Nature Reserve.

Moorish Castle, 5 Moorish Castle Estate, Gibraltar GX11 1AA, Gibraltar
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3 North Bastion in Gibraltar

Gibraltar is a promontory surrounded by water except for the isthmus connected to Spain. This vulnerability to a land attack prompted the Kingdom of Castile to build the Giralda Tower in 1309 immediately after defeating the Moors. When the Moors regained control in 1333, they enhanced the tower and wall along the harbor. In 1462, the Spanish ousted the Moors for the last time. About a century later, Philip II of Spain determined the northern defenses were totally inadequate. The king ordered the construction of an enormous curtainwall. It was named Baluarte San Pablo meaning St. Paul’s Bastion. When the British seized Gibraltar in the early 18th century, they spent years expanding the fortification. They also armed it with 13 cannons pointing out of the embrasures toward the sea, harbor and land. North Bastion was critical during the British victory over Spain during the Siege of Gibraltar of 1727.

North Bastion, Corral Rd, Gibraltar GX11 1AA, Gibraltar
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4 Grand Casement Gates in Gibraltar

During the 18th century, Waterport Gate was the only passage from the wharf, through the North Bastion and into the northern section of city. In 1824, an expanded portal was created for carriages. A second archway was added in 1884 to accommodate two-way traffic. These are called the Grand Casemates Gates. Fortunately for you, it is now a lot easier to enter. No more heavily armed curtainwalls to worry about. No menacing military guards to contend with. In a few more steps you will begin exploring Gibraltar.

Waterport Rd & Glacis Rd, Gibraltar GX11 1AA, Gibraltar
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5 Grand Casemates Square in Gibraltar

You have arrived at Grand Casemates Square. Encircling Gibraltar’s largest and busiest plaza are plenty of bars, restaurants and cafes tucked within historic buildings and bursting out into outdoor seating. The arches behind you are part of the Grand Casemates, a military barracks completed by the British in 1817. This has been the city’s epicenter since the 14th century. Now you are part of it. If you want to sound like a local, then call this haven for socializing, nightlife and people watching the Casemates.

Casemates Square, Gibraltar GX11 1AA, Gibraltar
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6 Main Street in Gibraltar

As the name implies, Main Street is the major, pedestrian-only road running north to south through Gibraltar. Shoppers will be tempted at every step. The stores cover the gamut from luxury brands, souvenir shops and boutiques. The local currency is the Gibraltar pound. Its value is linked to the British pound so notes from either place can be used. To make you feel less guilty about spending, you will be happy to learn Gibraltar is a VAT-free jurisdiction. Main Street is also the location of many of the city’s landmarks. They all had to be rebuilt after the brutal assaults during the Great Siege of Gibraltar (1779 – 1783) when the Spanish tried to regain control of the city from the British.

41 Main St, Gibraltar GX11 1AA, Gibraltar
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7 British Pillar Box in Gibraltar

Recognizing a red, cast iron British pillar box is easy, despite the 150 different designs since they were introduced in the United Kingdom in 1852. Those sent to British Overseas Territories had a black top. They typically have a single mail slot. This one with a double aperture bears the E2R Royal Cypher of Queen Elizabeth II. It is positioned outside of the Royal Gibraltar Post Office on Main Street. This has been the main post office since 1858. You will discover other models of British post boxes in Gibraltar. They represent the reign of each monarch since Queen Victoria.

104 Main St, Gibraltar GX11 1AA, Gibraltar
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8 Parliament House in Gibraltar

Watch for this pink façade on Main Street. Local merchants built it in 1817 as the Exchange and Commercial Library. Since 1950, it has been a central government building. First it was the Legislative Council. In 1969, it became the House of Assembly. Finally, it was renamed the Parliament House in 2007. Inside is the chamber where the 17 members of Parliament meet. The Gibraltar Parliament is located in John Mackintosh Square. This large commons was called Plaza Mayor under Spanish rule from 1462 until 1704. Also in this square are Ayuntamiento de Gibraltar (City Hall) and a Tourist information Office.

Parliament House, John Mackintosh Square, Gibraltar GX11 1AA, Gibraltar
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9 Coat of Arms of Gibraltar in Gibraltar

Isabella I was Queen of Castile from 1474 until 1504. Together with her husband, Ferdinand II of Aragon, these Catholic Monarchs unified Spain and launched the Age of Exploration by funding the first voyage of Christopher Columbus. In 1502, they passed a Royal Warrant establishing this escutcheon as the coat of arms of Gibraltar. The three castles represent Castile. The key symbolizes Gibraltar’s position as the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea. This is the oldest coat of arms of all British Overseas Territories.

Parliament House, John Mackintosh Square, Gibraltar GX11 1AA, Gibraltar
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10 Cathedral of St. Mary the Crowned in Gibraltar

When the Spanish ousted the Moors in 1462, they initially converted a central mosque into a church. After Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon were married in 1469, they ordered the construction of the Cathedral of St. Mary the Crowned. During the Great Siege of Gibraltar, when the Spanish attempted to regain control from the British, the Catholic church was repeatedly assaulted. By the end of the war in 1783, the cathedral was in shambles. It was rebuilt in 1810. The clock tower was added a decade later. The façade was replaced in 1931.

215 Main Street, Gibraltar GX11 1AA, Gibraltar
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11 Coronation of Mary at Cathedral of St. Mary the Crowned in Gibraltar

Within an arched pediment above the entrance to the Cathedral of St. Mary the Crowned is a painting on ceramic tiles. The artwork depicts the Coronation of the Virgin Mary in Heaven. On the left is Christ. On the right is God the Father. Above her head and the crown is a dove representing the Holy Spirit. This is very similar to a Baroque oil painting by famous Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens created in 1633 named The Coronation of the Virgin.

215 Main Street, Gibraltar GX11 1AA, Gibraltar
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12 Royal Engineers’ Monument in Gibraltar

In 1772, the British Army formed a unit of 68 military engineers to enhance Gibraltar’s fortifications. They were called the Company of Soldier Artificers. Among their biggest accomplishments was the construction of the King’s Bastion. During the Great Siege of Gibraltar (1779 – 1783), they tunneled through the Rock of Gibraltar so cannons could better destroy the advancing Spanish troops. In 1787, they were granted the Royal designation and became the Corps of Royal Engineers. This bronze statue of an 18th century artificer honors all of their contributions to the defense of Gibraltar. The Royal Engineers’ Monument was erected on Main Street in 1994.

206 Main St, Gibraltar GX11 1AA, Gibraltar
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13 Air Raid Shelter Number 8 in Gibraltar

There are defenses with battle scars across Gibraltar from wars throughout its history dating back to the 12th century. Among them are air-raid shelters built in 1939. Other World War II preparations were digging 30 miles of tunnels in The Rock, installing anti-aircraft batteries and evacuating all of the citizens in 1940. Support for the Allies included an airfield for bombers, a staging zone for over a half million troops plus accommodating thousands of warships passing through the strait.

46 Line Wall Rd, Gibraltar GX11 1AA, Gibraltar
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14 Governor’s Parade in Gibraltar

One of the smallest and most overlooked squares in Gibraltar is Governor’s Parade. The name is derived from the nearby residences of the first three British governors during the early 18th century. It was temporarily renamed Gunner’s Parade when a Royal Artillery Barracks was built on the site in 1802. Two years later, a shopkeeper who lived here was the first person to contract yellow fever, an epidemic that would kill over 6,000 people within the first 12 months. The same year, the prestigious Garrison Library building was finished on the plaza’s eastern edge. Fifty years later, St Andrew’s Church was dedicated on the south side.

5 Bishop Rapallo's Ramp, Gibraltar GX11 1AA, Gibraltar
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15 Garrison Library in Gibraltar

This is Library Ramp adjacent to the Gibraltar Garrison Library. The military library was founded in 1793. This building opened in 1804 based on the design of Captain Fyers of the Royal Engineers. The primary mission was for training young officers. Yet it grew into an exclusive social club for officers of the British garrison. Since 2011, the reference library has been managed by the Ministry of Culture. The Gibraltar Garrison Library has an extensive collection of over 45,000 books plus every edition of the Gibraltar Chronicle newspaper since its first printing in 1801.

6 Library Ramp, Gibraltar GX11 1AA, Gibraltar
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16 Sacred Heart Church in Gibraltar

Most tourists miss the opportunity to see this gorgeous Gothic church because it is located along Castle Road, one of the narrow and twisting streets in the Upper Town section of Gibraltar. After 14 years of construction, this marvelous Roman Catholic church was finished in 1888. This is one of the city’s six churches serving the 72% of Gibraltar’s population who are Catholic.

1 Lime Kiln Steps, Gibraltar GX11 1AA, Gibraltar
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17 Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Gibraltar

Prior to the 1830s, British officers attended services at King’s Chapel. But there was not a Protestant church for Gibraltar citizens. In 1823, Governor John Pitt, Earl of Chatham, submitted a proposal for a new church. The Colonial Office delayed approval until 1825. Before this building was finished in 1832, it became a hospital to treat victims of yellow fever. This plague killed nearly 10,000 soldiers and citizens during outbreaks in Gibraltar from 1804 through 1828. In 1838, this was finally consecrated as an Anglican church and became a cathedral in 1842. The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity has a distinctive Moorish Revival design with several horseshoe arches gracing the yellow and white façade.

Cathedral Square, Gibraltar GX11 1AA, Gibraltar
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18 Inside Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Gibraltar

The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity escaped damage during World War II. However, it suffered significantly when the RFA Bedenham, a naval armament carrier, exploded at Gun Wharf in 1951. All of the shattered stained-glass shards were reconfigured into the arched Ascension window above the altar.

Cathedral Square, Gibraltar GX11 1AA, Gibraltar
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19 Former Gibraltar Law Courts in Gibraltar

You are standing outside of the gate where Sean Connery got married in 1962, the same year he began his role as James Bond. John Lennon and Yoko Ono also exchanged vows here on March 20, 1969. This courthouse was built in 1820. Gibraltar’s judiciary consists of lower courts for criminal and civil jurisdictions, the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals. The highest level is the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London. Above the courthouse is the United Kingdom’s Royal Arms, supported by a golden lion and silver unicorn. New facilities for the Gibraltar Law Courts were built in 2012.

296 Main St, Gibraltar GX11 1AA, Gibraltar
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20 The Convent Now Governor’s Residence in Gibraltar

When Franciscan friars settled in Gibraltar, they built this monastery in 1531 in a poor neighborhood named La Turba. Nearly 200 years later, this Early Georgian property was converted into the residence for the Governor of Gibraltar. This is the highest position for this British Overseas Territory. The governor is appointed by the British monarch who is the head of state.

285 Main St, Gibraltar GX11 1AA, Gibraltar
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21 Royal Gibraltar Regiment Guard in Gibraltar

This guard stationed at the governor’s residence is wearing the khaki service dress uniform. He is part of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment. This began as an infantry and artillery unit in 1958. They were granted the Royal title by Queen Elizabeth II in 1999. Gibraltar’s governor is the commander-in-chief of this military force. Ask a tourist office for the schedule of the changing of the guard in front of The Convent.

285 Main St, Gibraltar GX11 1AA, Gibraltar
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22 King’s Chapel in Gibraltar

Adjacent to The Convent is a former Franciscan chapel built in 1532. The Church of the Convent was Gibraltar’s first purpose-built Christian church. Two others existed but had been converted from mosques. When Spanish rule ended in 1704 during the War of Spanish Succession, Britain gained control of Gibraltar. They claimed this for the Church of England, renamed it the King’s Chapel and closed all other places of worship. The building was heavily damaged by Spanish and French forces during the Great Siege of Gibraltar (1779 – 1783). When it was repaired in 1788, only a small section of the original nave was salvaged as a church. The balance was incorporated into the governor’s residence. The chapel has a long history of closures, refurbishments and changes in denomination. Today, it offers interdenominational Christian services and is a tourist attraction.

302 Main Street, Gibraltar GX11 1AA, Gibraltar
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23 Convent Guard House in Gibraltar

Across Main Street from The Covent is this modest white Neoclassical building with two mounted artillery cannons in front. Historically, this was the Convent Guard House. Regiment Guards still emerge from a guardroom inside to patrol the governor’s residence. However, No. 6 Convent Place is primarily the headquarters for several departments of Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar including the Chief Minister’s office.

6 Convent Pl, Gibraltar GX11 1AA, Gibraltar
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24 New Southport Gate in Charles V Wall in Gibraltar

The Charles V Wall is a major, zigzagging curtainwall spanning from the Upper Rock of Gibraltar down to the south end of the city. This was Muralla de San Benito (St. Benedict’s Wall) when commissioned by Charles V during his reign as the King of Spain (1516 to 1556). Initial construction was complete in 1540 and then expanded until the end of the century. The only narrow entrance through the wall was Africa Gate, built in 1552. In 1883, this adjacent and much larger New Southport gate was constructed. On top is the coat of arms for Queen Victoria, the reigning monarch of the United Kingdom at the time.

St Jagos Arch, Trafalgar Rd, Gibraltar GX11 1AA, Gibraltar
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25 Referendum Gate in Charles V Wall in Gibraltar

There are three Southport Gates in the Charles V Wall. You were just introduced to two of them. The third, widest and most contemporary is the Referendum Gate. Since it was built in 1967, it has accommodated traffic into the south end of the city along Main Street.

Line Wall Rd & Trafalgar Rd, Gibraltar GX11 1AA, Gibraltar
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26 Lord Nelson Memorial at South Bastion in Gibraltar

This statue by sculptor John Doubleday was erected in 2005 on the 200th anniversary of the death of Horatio Nelson during the Battle of Trafalgar. Vice Admiral Nelson was a British officer in the Royal Navy. During his command of battles in the American Revolution, French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars, he gained the respect from his countrymen, servicemen and enemies while becoming one of Britain’s most celebrated military heroes. Part of the metal used to cast this memorial came from the HMS Victory, the ship he was commanding when he died. The tribute stands in front of the South Bastion. The Spanish called it the Bastion of Our Lady of the Rosary. It was built in the mid-16th century as part of the Charles V Wall and later enhanced by the British.

Horatio Nelson Statue, Gibraltar GX11 1AA, Gibraltar
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27 Entry Gate to The Alameda Gardens in Gibraltar

The Alameda Gardens are a must-visit attraction in Gibraltar. This entrance gate to the botanical gardens is named in honor of Sir George Don. As the Lieutenant-Governor of Gibraltar, he authorized the creation of a garden for garrison soldiers in 1816. They were significantly enhanced by head gardener Giuseppe Codali in the mid-19th century and fully restored in 1991. In Spain, the word alameda means a tree-lined promenade. This marvelous park is also called the Gibraltar Botanic Gardens. The bust in the background is the Eliott Memorial. General George Eliott masterminded The Great Sortie of 1781. Within an hour, over 2,200 British soldiers launched a surprise attack on Spanish troops and defeated them.

Red Sands Rd, Gibraltar GX11 1AA, Gibraltar
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28 Succulents at The Alameda Gardens in Gibraltar

If you enjoy strolling through botanical gardens, you will be impressed with The Alameda Gardens. The 15 acres are filled with blooming plants and unique trees from around the Mediterranean, South Africa and the Americas. Some species are over 200 years old. Among the numerous sections defined by walking paths are a few devoted to succulents including cacti from North America. The pad-shaped one shown here is a prickly pear (Opuntia). All of this wonderful plant life at the Gibraltar Botanic Gardens is also a haven for birds.

Red Sands Rd, Gibraltar GX11 1AA, Gibraltar
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29 Historic Guns at The Alameda Gardens in Gibraltar

There are several historic guns on display at The Alameda Gardens. This is one of four howitzers at the base of The Eliott Memorial. Three of these artillery pieces were cast in 1783 and the other in 1778. At the Wellington Memorial is a bronze 12 pounder dating from 1758 plus two 13 inch mortars. The two guns at the garden entry were seized from the Russians by the British during their victory in the Crimean War (1853 – 1856).

Red Sands Rd, Gibraltar GX11 1AA, Gibraltar
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30 Cable Car to Top of Rock of Gibraltar in Gibraltar

After visiting The Alameda Gardens, get ready for an uplifting experience aboard the Gibraltar Cable Car. This aerial tramway travels for six minutes up the east side of the Rock of Gibraltar with marvelous vistas along the way. The Top Station has an elevation of 1,352 feet. Be sure to pick up the Multimedia Guide to learn about all of the attractions to explore. This is included in your ticket price. There is a souvenir shop plus a café and restaurant at the station. If you want some adrenalin for dessert, then dare to step out onto the Skywalk. This glass walkway extends 22 feet for a vertigo-inducing view of 1,115 feet below you.

Cable Car Base Station, Red Sands Road, Gibraltar GX11 1AA, Gibraltar
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31 Pillars of Hercules on Rock of Gibraltar in Gibraltar

Hercules was a Roman god known for his exceptional strength. According to mythology, one of his incredible feats while performing the Twelve Labours was to smash through a mountain range connecting Europe and Africa. This created the Strait of Gibraltar. The water passage between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea is 36 miles long. A promontory in Morocco and the Rock of Gibraltar are called the Pillars of Hercules. This monument at the intersection of Queen’s Road and Engineer Road recognizes the Northern Pillar on The Rock. The relief of the world indicates Hercules’ act also created a portal to the New World. Up until that time, people believed the earth ended at this point.

Queen's Rd & Engineer Rd, Gibraltar GX11 1AA, Gibraltar
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32 St. Michael’s Cave on Rock of Gibraltar in Gibraltar

There are over 150 caves in the Rock of Gibraltar. The Romans considered the largest one to be bottomless while the Greeks believed it was the entry to the underworld Gates of Hades. Come see why over one million people visit St. Michael’s Cave each year. This limestone network of caravans is filled with incredible stalactites and stalagmites. Their dramatic shapes are enhanced by a light show in the Cathedral Cave since it was converted into an auditorium. This is also a concert venue with a seating capacity for 600 people.

St. Michael’s Cave, Spur Battery Rd, Gibraltar GX11 1AA, Gibraltar
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33 Gibraltar Nature Reserve on Rock of Gibraltar in Gibraltar

The Rock of Gibraltar is protected by the Gibraltar Nature Reserve. This includes visitor attractions managed by the Gibraltar Heritage Trust such as former military batteries and tunnels, St. Michael’s Cave and the Moorish Castle. The Rock also has a network of tree-lined trails and roads with over 600 species of plants and plenty of wildlife. The lookout terraces are equally impressive. On a clear day, you can see the North African coastline on the other side of the Strait of Gibraltar. These people are enjoying the elevated view of Gibraltar Harbor as they walk along Queen’s Road toward the Apes’ Den.

Queen's Road, Gibraltar GX11 1AA, Gibraltar
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34 Barbary Macaque on Rock of Gibraltar in Gibraltar

This adorable face is a Barbary macaque, one of about 600 wild monkeys living on the east side of the Rock of Gibraltar. Experts cannot agree on how or when they arrived from Morocco. Yet the population is growing and so are the numbers of tourists who visit them each year. The best place to see them is at Apes’ Den. Some people call them apes (which they are not). The locals call them monos (meaning monkeys). You will call them adorable as they pose for your selfie or group photo.

Apes’ Den, Old Queen's Rd, Gibraltar GX11 1AA, Gibraltar
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35 Barbary Macaque Management on Rock of Gibraltar in Gibraltar

Although the Barbary macaques are wild, they have been carefully managed and protected for over 100 years. They are fed daily. Veterinarians regularly examine them for health issues. Each one is photographed and tracked by a microchip for the duration of their 15 to 17 year lifespan. In the mid-1940s, new birth announcements appeared in the local newspaper. Why all of this attention? Several reasons. They are the last species of wild monkeys in Europe. They are great for tourism. And, according to legend, Britain will remain in control of Gibraltar until the last monkey dies.

Apes’ Den, Old Queen's Rd, Gibraltar GX11 1AA, Gibraltar
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36 Barbary Macaques’ Social Life on Rock of Gibraltar in Gibraltar

The longer you watch the Barbary macaques on The Rock, the more you can witness and appreciate their social life. Invariably, you can spot the alpha male’s vigilant eyes sweeping over his troop. The adolescents are the most likely to jump on car windows, grab a purse or boldly approach for a handout. The youngsters are busy playing tag like kids on a playground. Couples show affection by combing through each other’s hair. While mothers are suckling their babies or embracing their children.

Apes’ Den, Old Queen's Rd, Gibraltar GX11 1AA, Gibraltar
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