Tower of Homage
Start your walking tour of Gibraltar’s architectural gems with its Moorish citadel, the most visibly arresting feature of which is its forbidding Tower of Homage. This is the highest tower that remains from Spain’s time under Arabic dominion. Though there has been a fortress on this site since the 8th century, much of what we see today – including the tower – dates from Gibraltar’s second Moorish period (1350 to 1462) as it sustained extensive damage during the Moors’ re-capturing of the territory.
Cathedral of St Mary The Crowned
From the fort, stroll southwards through the beginnings of the old town to visit Gibraltar’s cathedrals. The Roman Catholic St Mary the Crowned Cathedral was opened in 1462 by Spain’s dual Monarchs, King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castille, who had the church constructed on the site of an old mosque. To further remind worshippers that Gibraltar’s time under Moorish rule was over, the monarchs placed their coat of arms in the cathedral’s central courtyard – which is now a lovely place in which to escape from the strong summer sun.
Holy Trinity Cathedral
From the Roman Catholic cathedral, it’s just a few minutes’ walk to the Church of England’s Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. It was completed in 1832 and is a fine example of Moorish revivalist architecture, as can be seen from the elegant arched entrances; indeed, from the outside you’d be forgiven for thinking this was a mosque rather than a church. The building required a new roof and windows after being seriously damaged in 1951, when the RFA Bedenham battleship exploded in the nearby docks.
After the cathedrals, stroll south down Main Street, the old town´s central thoroughfare. You’ll soon reach the 16th century Convent, one of this area’s most notable buildings. It dates from 1531 and was originally used as a convent for Franciscan monks, but since 1728 it has been the official residence of the Governor of Gibraltar. Behind its austere façade, mysterious goings-on have made this building one of the most haunted in Europe, it is said. Frequently-sighted is the “Lady in Grey”, who roams corridors and sets off alarms in locked and unused rooms.
From the Convent it’s just a few minutes to the cable car base station, from where you’re taken up to nature’s contribution to this territory’s intriguing architecture. From the 400-metre high peak of the Rock, you can enjoy views of Spain and Africa as you mingle with the country’s famous Barbery macaques – the only population of wild monkeys in Europe. Set deep into the ground beneath you are the Great Siege Tunnels, a network of subterranean corridors that were built for defense purposes during the 1779-1783 Great Siege of Gibraltar.
Upon coming back down to earth, you´ll find yourself in the heart of Gibraltar’s old town, a lively cluster of streets and squares that looks out to the Andalusian town of Algeciras across the bay. This area is home to a fascinating blend of architectural styles that reflect Gibraltar’s multi-faceted history and culture: traditional British pubs and red telephone boxes mingle with Moorish facades and Andalusian townhouses. Indeed, it is precisely this mix of influences that gives Gibraltar its unique ambience.
From the old down, head south down Europa Road to wind up your walking tour. Built between 1995-97, the Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim mosque dominates Europa Point, the southern tip of the island. This is the most southerly mosque in continental Europe and houses a school, library and lecture theatre as well as space for worship. From the rocky terrain that surrounds it you have a good view of Gibraltar’s lighthouse and, just 13 miles away cross the Straits, the north coast of Morocco. On a particularly clear day you can also make out the Jebel Musa mountain, which legend says was once one with the Rock before Hercules crashed through them and created the two Pillars of Hercules.