Gibraltar’s appeal never wanes, even during the winter months, which, despite the occasional day or two of rain, can rarely be called dreary.From mid-November, shopping centres, Main Street and the nearby squares and back streets are simply buzzing, not to mention twinkling, with the anticipation of Christmas.The tourists may have aimed to visit this jewel of the Mediterranean off-peak, but by taking a tour around Gibraltar during the lead up to Christmas and they are in for a treat.
Gibraltar’s unique blend of different cultures and traditions means that we can find a bit of everything here.There are Christmas trees up in squares and parks, glowing with fairly lights.Residents festoon their balconies with glitz and illuminated figures.Schools, malls, homes, shops are strung with tinsel, baubles and lights, and every weekend there are fundraising events, a Christmas fair for children in the city centre, craft fairs, stalls and street entertainment – including visits from Santa Claus!
Restaurants tweak their menus to reflect some of the delicacies of the season – roast turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce for some, or salmon and fish platters for others, as small examples – all with a backdrop of stunning views across the Bay and the Straits of Gibraltar.There are superb restaurants just within a short taxi ride from the cruise terminal or the coach park and an utter treat for tourists to fuel them on their way.
And yet, the more traditional Mediterranean Christmas can also be found here.The churches display beautiful and lovingly constructed nativity scenes, el “Belen”, a link to Gibraltar’s Spanish roots.The Cathedral of St Mary the Crowned, frequented by tourists exploring Gibraltar’s beautiful old buildings, displays a particular splendid Belen and this is visited and admired by tourists, local worshipers and many, many children who gaze at the tiny details in wonder.Another can be found at Sir John Mackintosh Square.In the background there will be the traditional sounds of “villancicos”, old Spanish Christmas carols.
And after a day of touring the Rock, taking in the sights, indulging in duty-free shopping in Gibraltar’s Main Street, seasonably stocked with top international brands, there is a wealth of entertainment available.Christmas concerts at numerous venues, from children’s carol services (these often bring a lump to the throat of the most hardy of travellers) to candle-lit classical concerts at St Michael’s Cave, a haunting, beautiful venue to pause and reflect in the dark of midwinter.
Anyone spending time in Gibraltar at Christmas, whether as part of a tour or dropping in to shop, is in for a treat.