The Town / Main Street, Gibraltar
Gibraltar’s Main Street it's were you can find a lot of shops selling duty free items as cigarettes, drinks, electronics and jewellery. There are also the familiar shops as we have in Britain as Marks & Spencer’s, Morrison’s, BHS, Dorothy Perkins and many more.
I have only taken a stroll a few times through it as our apartment was on the corner of the Main Street and we couldn't really avoided.
Most of the side streets lead to the Main Street.
The shops are open from 8.30am until 6.00pm and closed on Sundays.
In a colony that's as English as Gibraltar obviously is, stumbling across a well-lit branch of Britain's most omnipresent department store chain doesn't exactly come as a surprise. This one is appropriately air-conditioned and appropriately loaded with an abbreviated but still very British collection of men's and women's clothing. Yes, you can buy an umbrella, a Burberry raincoat, and all manner of headgear, as well as porcelain from Wedgwood and English marmalade made with (guess what?) Spanish oranges. Be alert to the fact that this particular store appears in two separate branches along the same street, almost immediately adjacent to one another.
The land border was only reopened in 1982. the Spanish dictator Franco had closed the land border in 1969 and was forever trying to find ways to isolate Gibraltar. Many of these stunts worked, at least for a while.
Gibraltar needed the Spanish workers, and the Spanish workers were all too happy to work in Gibraltar, given that they were on British wage scales and subject to British labor law, conditions that were far better than what they had in Spain.
Gibraltar has the strangest system imaginable. The main north-south thoroughfare, Winston Churchill Blvd intersects the runways of the airport. Gibraltar is not a high volume airport, generally it only receives low cost carriers from several airports in the UK.
But get this.. personnel will come and barricade the main street, when an airplane is supposed to land or take off! We had it happen to us, we were getting ready to go back to Spain and had to wait a few minutes for the airplane to safely land, the barricades were removed and everyone was on his way.
There are plans underway to construct a tunnel because of the increase in air traffic, especially since Easyjet started flying here. At present, if several planes are landing/taking off the main street could be closed/blocked for up to two hours. Plans for a wider highway that goes around have been presented, but construction apparently hasn't started yet.
This pedestrianised street is the main place for shopping, commerce and entertainment. Leading from it are many side streets that are also worth exploring. If you've come from the UK you'll recognise many of the shops here and be able to buy many of products you can at home.
The gardens were opened in 1816 as the Alameda Gardens. The name coming from the Spanish, Alamo, which was a tree grown along the Grand Parade. In the 1970's the gardens fell into disrepair and remained like that until the early 1990's when they were converted into the Gibraltar Botanic Gardens. Today as well as a being a lovely place to visit, they are used for conservation and education puposes. As you walk round them you'll see many plants that are native only to Gibraltar.
After dark Casemates Square and the bars & restaurants in the nearby streets were quite busy. Many of the other streets I walked along were almost deserted. However, Gibraltar had a relaxed feel to it at night and I felt totally safe walking about.
Prince Edward Gate, built in 1790, was incorporated into Charles V walls. It got its name a couple of decades later after Prince Edward, the father of Queen Victoria who was governor of Gibraltar from 1802 to 1820.
Gibraltar’s main pedestrian street with most shops is Main Street. It starts at Casemates Square and goes down to Sothport Gate. Some sights, like the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, are located there too. If you are into duty free shopping, that is the place you should go too. Many goods are cheaper than in Britain or Spain. However, keep an eye on the price as many are especially aimed at tourists and charge touristy prices. The same goes for all the pubs and restaurants un the street too.
Some time ago, Gibraltar was kind of divided into several quarters. Giving the size of Gibraltar, I still do not know which purpose it had, but anyway, we have an Irish twon consisting of more or less a single street. Do not expect a never-ending St. Patrick’s Day Party but nice old town houses with some good bars and restaurants. And yes, some of them are Irish-themed too.
Southport Gate, originally called “Puerta del Africa”, is part of the defence system constructed by Emperor Charles V in the mid-16th century. Together with the walls which bear his name, they defended the city from invasions from the South for several centuries. His coat of arms as well as several other symbols (including the Pillars of Hercules) can be seen over the outer right arch (when lokking towards the city center). They were not removed when the English captured Gibraltar in 1704, the coat of arms remained untouched, even when the gate was refurbished in the 19th century. Southport Gate, however, was not the first gate to stand on this position. In pre-moorish times, there was already a fortress on that spot.
At Linewall Road, close to the Piazza, two russian cannons are displayed. They were captured in the crimean war and brought to Gibraltar in 1858. There are two more of them somewhere else in Gibraltar, but I haven’t seen them. The WWI memorial between them was unveiled in 1923.
Once built on the site of a former hospital, the current City Hall has seen many roles. It was built in 1815 as a family mansion for the Cardozo family, it served as a prison, a hotel and was intended to be the post office when the government bought it in 1920. After a four-year-period of refurbishment, the building became the City Hall in 1924.
The parliament building dates from 1817 and was built as an exchange hall, but was partly used also as a library. In 1969, it was opened as a “House of Assembly”, which was the term used for local parliaments of territories with only limited autonomy. In 2006, it became the Gibraltar parliament.
Although Gibraltar has not a large population, it has two cathedrals, an Anglican and a Roman Catholic one. St. Mary The Crowned is the Catholic Cathedral which is located at Main street. It stands on the same spot of the former mosque which was decreed after the Reconquista and use as a church for several years. The present building was once larger, but was remodeled by the British during the Great Siege while the clocktower was added in 1820. The inner court is the remnant of the former Mosques bigger court. Several small statues are noteworthy, including a stone place for a priest who was murdered in 1885 and a copy of the statue of our lady of Europe (The oroginal one is in the shrine at Europe point).