Main Street in Gibraltar has a history dating back to the 14th century. There are references made to it back when the “Africa Gate”, now Southport Gates, were constructed in 1552.
Today, Main Street in Gibraltar draws millions of visitors each year known so well for its duty-free goods. With literally hundreds of shops to peruse, visitors have an enormous selection of goods to choose from. Whether visiting Gibraltar for the bliss sunshine, to enjoy some English treats, or to sample the fine cuisine, the great majority of them will no doubt head to Main Street, Gibraltar’s central shopping district for some of the best value for money shopping known to the Mediterranean.
Most of Gibraltar’s retail establishments are located on Main Street. Running through the pedestrianised old town from Casemates Square all the way up to Southport Gates, it almost covers the entire length of the city, its buildings exhibiting a blend of Andalusian, Moorish, Portuguese, Genoese, and British architecture. Alongside the more traditional shops, mostly lined on the ground floor, visitors will recognise familiar high street brands and chains, intertwined with souvenir and handicraft shops. The upper floors generally provide residential accommodation or office space for local businesses.
Shops along this pedestrian-friendly thoroughfare sell pretty much everything, including cosmetics, perfumery, jewellery, designer glasses, tobacco and spirits, high end linens and electronics. Marks & Spencer, Holland and Barrett, BHS, Next, F&F, Pandora, Dorothy Perkins and Boux Avenue are to name but a few of the big name brands. Having said that, many high quality locally-owned and family-run businesses will sell you everything from duty-free perfumes, name brand cameras to cute and cuddly monkey souvenirs. A suggestion too, as with anywhere else you would do your shopping, it’s a good idea to compare the price of your desired products at several shops before purchasing them, in order to get the best value for your money.
Dating back to the 18th Century, merchants, traders and shopkeepers established their businesses in Gibraltar, many of which are still run by the direct descendants of the families that instituted them. Gibraltar’s geographic location was nothing short of perfect for merchants back then to port and trade their goods. What makes Main Street even more unique when comparing it with other shopping districts around the world, is due to its historical transformation over time. The Gibraltarian population has evolved through an entire mixture of Spanish, Moorish, Portuguese, Italian and Jewish cultures, giving it a most unusual and intriguing flare experienced nowhere else in the world.
During the Great Siege of Gibraltar, between 1779 and 1783, when French and Spanish made a combined attack on the city, it was recorded by Col John Drinkwater that almost every building on Main Street, after being bombarded by ships from the harbour, were left with only their bare shells remaining.
Apart from the many tax free items that can be bought in Gibraltar, Main Street is especially well known for its low cost and extremely broad selection of tobacco and spirits. Shoppers can take full advantage of these tax free items, paying much less for them here than they would anywhere else in Europe. Take for example a shop like Stagnetto’s. Personally knowing the owners of the vineyards, distilleries and tobacco plants, they boast one of the finest selections of wines, spirits and cigars you will find on the planet.
On a side note on this matter. Be very cautious with customs. When returning to your country after your visit to Gibraltar, be familiar with the restrictions of what you’re allowed to bring in. Customs at the Spanish boarder in particular will scrutinise purchases made on such items in Gibraltar. If exceeding the quota, you will be expected to pay a tax or even have the items confiscated. If traveling to the UK or other countries in the EU directly from Gibraltar, please be aware that you are only allowed limited quantities of certain items. While making your purchases, enquire on the latest restrictions. Shop owners will be more than willing to advise you accordingly.
And don’t forget. Gibraltar’s VAT free allurement doesn’t just appeal to tobacco and alcohol customers. Visitors can enjoy a 21% saving on all luxury items too. Perfumes, watches, jewellery, electronic devices, computer software, designer clothing and sunglasses, are to name but a few of the VAT free, zero import duty, bargains to be taken advantage of. The local currency is the Gibraltar Pound, equivalent to Sterling, so for UK visitors there is no costly currency conversion to be made. This also means that UK bank cards can be utilised with no fear of exchange rate losses being incurred.
Something to be aware of too. If visiting with EUROS in your wallet, almost all shops in Gibraltar will accept them, but be advised that you will be accepting exchange rates charged by each individual trader, which can end up being quite different from that of the local banks. As there is no law in place to govern this, shop owners are free to charge whatever rate they like. Best advise would be to exchange your euros to sterling at one of the many exchange kiosks located on Main Street, or at one of the local banks. If you decide to pay in euros, most shops will give you change in pounds. For UK visitors, keep in mind that although UK sterling is fine to pay with in Gibraltar, the Gibraltar pound is not a legal tender back in the UK.
As a last note on shopping in Gibraltar, just behind Casemates Square, you will find the Gibraltar Public Market. This fantastic indoor market was inaugurated in 1929. Here you will discover many local delicacies, a wide selection of fruit and vegetables, an assortment of fish, and many other interesting goodies to perk your interest.
Main street Gibraltar offers you such a diverse array of goods at such wonderful prices that you won’t know what to purchase first. Branching out in many places, adjoining with other lanes and small byways, filled with history and intriguing charm, Main Street continues to live up to its nick name, the Shopping Centre of the Mediterranean.
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