In recent years, contributors to Trip Advisor have provided me with reliable and invaluable information about foreign destinations, hotels, restaurants, etc. In September, I decided to take my wife for a short break to Gibralter, which she had not previously visited. Many years ago, I was a frequent visitor, so for me this was to be a nostalgic trip. Decent hotel accommodation on Gibraltar in my day had been restricted to The Bristol and The Rock, with the latter preferred. These two hotels are still going strong, but have now been joined by The Caleta and The O'Callaghan Eliott. After reading all recent Trip Advisor opinions, I selected The O'Callaghan for our visit, mainly because of it's very convenient location. The hotel is situated adjacent to the centre of the town and only a few paces from the main shopping centre, the Museum (worth a visit), the Governer's Residence, Irish Town and several busy squares. Numerous bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants are within a 10 minute stroll. The principal marinas of Ocean Village and Queensway Quay are about 15 minutes walk, as is the historic Casemates Square. The cable car to the top of the rock is also about 15 minutes walk, but uphill in the opposite direction.
The O'Callaghan has a comfortable reception area and very friendly, helpful staff. The rooms are of a generous size and comfortably appointed. The bathrooms are modern and though without a bath, have an efficient high powered shower. Unfortunately, the bathroom lighting is very poor. Totally inadequate for females to make up and difficult for males to shave by. A room fridge is not included and contrary to previous reports, the hotel bar declined to provide an ice bucket. As mentioned by other contributors, the air conditioning units are old, but are adequate for September temperatures and are not noticeably noisier than most hotel air conditioning units. The bedrooms are efficiently serviced and provided with clean linen every day. The view from the bedrooms is limited. Sea views are available from even-numbered rooms on the 6th and 7th floors, but are not worth incurring a premium for the privilege. There is an efficient modern elevator system. An excellent breakfast is served in the small top floor restaurant from 7 to 10:30 am, but dinner in the hotel is not recommended. The swimming pool is clean and well maintained though unheated, but the sun loungers are dilapidated. The so-called gymnasium on the same level as the pool is empty except for one exercise bicycle !
Apparently, the maintenance of the swimming pool at about 8am involves extra pressure on the hotel water system. The results are that the WC in some bathrooms backfires, creating a sort of fountain with water cascading upwards by some 6" higher than the toilet seat. This lasts for only a few minutes, but could be a considerable shock to anyone sitting comfortably at the time ! In addition, raw smelly sewage is discharged from the drain into the bathroom shower tray. I don't know whether this is a daily event, but it happened in room 110 whilst we were present on Monday and Wednesday. When reported to the staff, they explained that it was caused by pressure from the swimming pool maintenance, but were not unduly concerned and seemed to accept it as normal !
Gibraltar is very small and it is easy to explore most of it on foot. There is an excellent, frequent and very cheap bus service, but a taxi is strongly advised from/to the airport, at a cost of £6, Buses run to the Spanish border and it is easy to walk across (minimal delay for pedestrians) into the border town of La Linea, but it is not worth the effort. La Linea is mainly shoddy 'new build' and appears predominatel comprised of fast food outlets and high density apartment blocks.
Pamphlets about Dolphin Watching and visits up the rock to see the apes, the Great Siege Tunnels and St Michaels Cave are available in the O'Callaghan foyer, as is a supply of very useful, complimentary street maps of Gibraltar. Organised visits up the rock are offered by mini-bus or taxi. Because the mornings are often misty and the narrow roads congested by cruise liner visitors during the day, it is advisable to visit the upper rock late in the afternoon. The demand is usually slackening off by then and it may be possible to negotiate a better price. We didn't want to be crowded into a mini-bus with strangers, so we used the Gibraltar Taxi Association. We were fortunate in meeting Albert,(tel:54015009) who offered private use of his eight seat taxi for £60, or £44 if we shared with another couple. Both fares included entrance tickets and Albert's tour guidance. Following a brief negotiation, we took the 'private' option. We were absolutely delighted with the experience and consider Albert to be excellent value. The cable car is expensive and apparently offers only restricted access to the sights, as well as involving a lot of walking along busy narrow steep roads.
The most popular Gibraltar restaurant on the Trip Advisor "top 37" list was 'Verdi Verdi (quote..."Great food, the only place to eat ). In fact Verdi Verdi turned out to be very small and not easy to find. Ambience was absent, seating was limited and the furniture appeared to be yellow formica. Consequently, we did not use it. However, we did use 'Gauchos' (Recommendation No 4) and enjoyed the atmosphere. Most of the meal was very good but, surprisingly, my steak was poor. At Queensway Quay 'The Boatyard' (recommendation No 3) seems to have ceased trading. 'On the Quay' (recommendation No 5) looked delightful but was expensive and not patronised. 'Casa Pepe' (No 14) had very enjoyable food served by friendly staff. We tried the largest and most popular restaurant, 'The Waterfront', which was also very good. All these restaurants are in delightful waterfront locations alongside a marina full of magnificent boats.
In addition, we visited Ocean Village, which is similar to Queensway Quay but less exclusive and more busy. Lots of waterfront restaurants surround the marina. We looked at 'Ipanema' (No 7) and 'The Mexican Grill Bar' (No 19) both of which looked tempting and were well patronised. However, we eventually settled for 'Biancas' which was recommended by one of the hotel receptionists and we enjoyed the best meal we have had for a very long time. It is an unpretentious waterside restaurant, but very popular and very reasonably priced. (In fact it was the cheapest of the restaurants we used.) The staff were delightfully accommodating, the wine was good value and my steak was absolutely superb, We cannot recommend Biancas too highly.
We briefly visited the Caleta Hotel, which has a superb location on the Eastern side of the rock, overlooking Catelan Bay, one of the very few Gibraltar sandy beaches. The sea view restaurant looks delightful and the pool area is infinitely superior to the O'Calaghan. For a quiet "sun and sea" Gibraltar holiday, the Caleta would probably be the best choice. The problem is that transport is necessary to reach Gibraltar town and it's activities. Though served by a good bus service, it stops at 9pm.
We also visited the Rock Hotel, where I often used to stay in years gone by. In our judgement it is still the most superior hotel in Gibraltar. The public areas are 'five star' standard and like the delightful balcony bar, have unobstructed views of the bay. The downside of the Rock Hotel is that it is too far to walk anywhere except the botanic gardens and the return journey from the town is ferociously uphill. The frequent bus service stops outside the hotel, but it is almost 100 feet lower than the entrance and reached by steps or by a very steep road. The swimming pool is also lower than the hotel so it is unlikely that the Rock Hotel toilets erupt during swimming pool maintenance, like those at the O'Callaghan. On our next visit to Gibraltar we plan to stay at the Rock Hotel.
Finally, do not buy (so-called ) Duty Free alcohol, tobacco or perfumeries at the outbound airport or on the flight. Prices in Gibraltar are much lower and the cheapest by a significant margin are available at Gibraltar Airport. Acess to the airport shops for alcohol, cigarretes and perfumeries is available to both inbound and outbound passengers, but choice of other goods, jewellery, etc is very limited.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.