How to ROCK Shopping in Gibraltar
Europe’s quirkiest high street mapped out in 5 Easy Steps
+ Best exchange rates, swerving the border queue and other insider tips!
There’s no high street on earth quite like Main Street Gibraltar. Shop for VAT-free bargains inside the walls of a fortress city where old curiosity shops squeeze in between British chain stores. Hang out in an 18th century hangman’s square at the bottom, chat to Lord Nelson at the top!
The Governor’s stately home, the Gibraltar Parliament and the Rock’s version of 10 Downing Street share this pedestrianised duty-free walk through history with branches of Mango, Monsoon and M&S.
LOOK UP for a glimpse into Gibraltar’s past, enshrined in decorative Portuguese tiles, Genoese shutters and elegant British wrought-iron balconies - architectural gems that quite literally go over most visitors’ heads.
On Saturdays at 12 noon a posse of musket-toting soldiers in red military uniforms will plunge you back into the pageantry of the past. Their Main Street march re-enacts the Ceremony of the Keys, when the gates to the city would be locked nightly against maurauders.
Did we also mention the orange trees, the Med sunshine and the abundence of congenial spots to kick back and watch the retail world go by?
Main Street is only 1km long – half the size of Oxford Street. You shouldn’t skip any of it - especially if you want the best exchange rate in town!
But it’s not all about shopping. Main Street is an artery leading to the heart of Gibraltar, finishing up a monkey’s jump from the Botanic Gardens’ mini-zoo and the Cable Car. Dad can take the kids to meet the Rock’s loveable Barbary macaques leaving Mum to shop in peace!
scroll for a stroll through Main Street
1. Grand Casemates Square
The grand gateway to Main Street used to be a military execution ground and it’s still the place to hang out! Souvenir shops and cafes are set up inside the fortress walls and you can get fab views of the square and Moorish Castle from the balcony up top. Come summer sun or winter heat lamps, it’s a wonderful people-watching square.
Worth checking out:
The fish is from Gibraltar Territorial Waters but there are no cows or fields on the Rock so everything else hails from Spain or Morocco. Trading since 1929, listen out for Yanito, the local lingo - a mash-up of English, Spanish and words of their own invention!
The first place you come to as you hop off the bus in Market Place. Open Mon-Sat, 08.00-14.00.
Lord Nelson Pub
Tucked away in a sunny corner of Casemates, this English sports bar is run by the Rock’s biggest restaurant family. Good pub grub and - as you’ll see from the sign - daddy day care!
2. Lower Main Street
The busiest end of Main Street, crammed with duty-free everything. It starts with Debenhams, flagship store of the ICC Centre, a quirky shopping mall attached to a multi-storey car park – great if it’s raining. There’s a mini-Eroski Supermarket where you can buy Waitrose products.
S.M. Seruya beside Debenhams is the Rock’s top perfumery chain selling everything from Chanel fragrances to MAC cosmetics. Their made-to-order gift baskets are famous in these parts.
Other top shops in this sector:
Peacocks, Boux Avenue, Dorothy Perkins,Wallis, Evans, Matalan (towards bottom end of Lower Main St), Mango (midway), Top Shop, Mothercare (top end of Lower Main St).
Also worth checking out:
The Diamond District
Many of the jewellry shops including Rolex and Pandora cluster midway along Lower Main Street. Gibraltar is the very place for weddings as John and Yoko knew. If you can’t run to a real diamond, check out the fab range of lookalike Cubic Zirconia jewellery.
Gibraltar’s coolest department store is three floors of retail heaven with a mid-to-high-end brand mix - from Clarks shoes and Converse trainers to designer numbers by Armani, Guess, Hugo Boss, Desigual and Versace.
The Royal Gibraltar Post Office has had mail deliveries licked since 1857. Send off your holiday postcards here or invest in some commemorative Gibraltar stamps.
Trading cameras in Main Street since the days of the Box Brownie, today the focus has widened to drone cameras and GoPros, smartphones, Segway scooters and a wider stock of accessories than many British retailers.
Old Curiosity Shops
Don’t forget the side streets - they’re crammed with fascinating Dickensian emporiums.
Not everything is cheaper than Spain or Britain but close ties to north Africa across the Gibraltar Strait keep the tradition of haggling alive in some local shops. Do your homework on prices first and you’ll be able to barter with the best!
3. John Mackintosh Square
Main Street comes to a halfway halt in this leafy square, colloquially known as the Piazza. It’s the new location of Gibraltar Tourist Office - see the i for Information sign on the left of the picture. The grand building in the foreground is City Hall where the Mayor works. Currently that’s Kaiane Aldorino who was the 2009 Miss World.
The hot seat of government backs onto the square. Take a ‘parliamentary seat’ for British fish and chips at the restaurant out front which shares the same building!
Gibraltar has several handy public loos. This one matches the elegance of John Mackintosh Square.
4. Upper Main Street
M & S is a big draw for overseas visitors but many don’t make it past here which is a shame. Some of Main Street’s best boutiques, pubs and cultural sights are found in this sector so it’s well worth the extra 10 minute-walk.
Turn right at the statue in our picture into Bomb House Lane for the Gibraltar Museum where you can meet Nana and Flint, the Rock’s famous Neanderthal citizens.
Other popular British stores in this sector:
Holland & Barrett, Tommy Hilfiger, Early Learning Centre, Next, Monsoon, Arpe shoes
Also worth checking out:
The Royal Calpe
The hidden beer garden at the back is a winner on sunny days. The inside’s decorated with Royal Calpe Hunt memorabilia from the days when Gibraltarians chased foxes across the Spanish countryside and King Edward VII of England was a patron.
Cathedral of St. Mary the Crowned
This impressive 15th century Gothic-style cathedral next to M&S used to be a mosque. The delightful courtyard inside is all that remains of the original Moorish building.
If you’re looking for a change from chain store footwear you’ll fall in love with Shoe’s designer range of soft Italian leather boots, shoes and handbags.
Next to the Law Courts and a great ‘witness box’ for people-watching. This chic cafe does a roaring trade in legal lunches and eggs Benedict breakfasts. It’s open from the crack 07.00 on weekdays, 09.00 at weekends.
Gibraltar’s 10 Downing Street where the Chief Minister spends his working day, guarded by gleaming cannons. A photo stop is de rigeur.
If you’re lucky you’ll catch the changing of the guard outside the Governor’s official residence, opposite No. 6, which takes place several times a day.
A genuine Old Curiosity Shop, trading in rare antiquities for three generations. It’s also a burea de change! And this one offers the best rate in town - maybe because it’s the furthest to walk to! It’s just up from No. 6.
Open Mon-Fri 09.00-19.00
You’ll find it all over town but when you spot this striking mural you’ve reached the end of Main Street.
Beyond the city gates …
Nelson’s talking statue and Trafalgar Cemetry are just the other side of the southern wall. From here, it’s 5-minutes walk to the Cable Car, Botanic Gardens & Alameda Conservation Park Zoo.
But there’s still one more shopping street to discover…
5. Irish Town
It’s a lane rather than a town and you won’t hear much Gaelic these days but its quirky shops have Irish charm. It was once home to18th century Irish women sent to Gibraltar to provide ‘female company’ for the troops.
For those in the know, it’s also a great short cut to Upper Main Street and John Mackintosh Square when Main Street’s chocabloc with cruise ship visitors. It starts around the corner from Debenhams and runs parallel to Main Street.
Worth checking out:
Supplying coffee to Gibraltar since 1888, this higgledy-piggledy cafe has oodles of old world atmosphere and a great lunchtime salad bar.
For all things Apple – MAC computers, iPhones, TV apps and repairs.
Corks Wine Bar
One of Gibraltar’s trendiest meeting and eating places with a glassed-in patio-style frontage and comfy inside seating.
Download this handy Gibraltar Bus Route Planner
It’s not in Main Street but we couldn’t leave out Morrisons’ most popular superstore.
Expat Brits shop here for a taste of home because it’s so well-stocked with things you can’t always find in Spain, from Christmas turkeys to Easter eggs and British bangers to English cuts of meat.
You get 3 hours of FREE PARKING – time for a quick nip into town? Only if you’re quick. Exceeding your time limit by the merest minute will get you clamped!
Swerving the Border Queue
Over 11,000 cross-border workers do the daily commute from Spain to Gibraltar so traffic is always heavy on weekday mornings and evenings. Weekends in summer are another peak time. Watch out for kamikaze moped riders and cyclists! Check out the Frontier Queue Live.
Know Your Consumer Rights
Can you return sale goods? When are you entitled to a cash refund? What happens if you find the same thing cheaper up the road? Gibraltar Office of Fair Trading has published a new guide to help you with your shopping queries. Download it HERE.
Main Street Mapped
Main Street highlights to help you get your bearings.
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