Catalan Bay: Gibraltar’s historic fishing village on the Mediterranean
22 September 2023
There’s so much more to discover when you visit Gibraltar, and when you stay at Bentley Holiday Apartments, it’s a great idea to take a step away from the traditional tourist routes – you never need to go far in Gibraltar to find yourself off the beaten track and immersed in local heritage and alternative scenery. Catalan Bay is just one of the gems little explored by tourists and visitors to the Rock. You might like to put it on your itinerary.
A historic name on the Rock
The second largest sandy beach in Gibraltar, Catalan Bay, or “La Caleta” as it’s locally known is the only village on the east side of the Rock. The bay’s name dates to the beginning of the seventeenth century where “La Caleta” is mentioned in a Royal Dispatch,. At the time it came under the jurisdiction of the Kingdom of Granada. The first mention of the village’s modern name appears in the mid-eighteenth century on British maps between the second & third sieges of Gibraltar.
Take in the views:
Historically a fishing village, today the Bay is a favourite for locals and visitors with its sandy beach on the Mediterranean side of the Rock and picturesque & colourful houses which climb up the side of the rock between the shore and road above. From early morning, you’ll be greeted by incredible sunrises over the sea (weather permitting) and views round the coast towards Estepona & Malaga on the Costa del Sol. Looking back, you’ll see the vertical lime-stone cliffs of Gibraltar’s east side tower above, a stark contrast to the more accessible west side Town and nature reserve.
When the Anglo-Dutch operation captured the Rock in 1704, an expedition of 350 Catalans landed in the bay, made up of two companies: the “Catalan Battery” and the “Catalan Company of Miquelets” which possibly gave the bay its original name of Catalan Battery. Some soldiers from these companies settled on the Rock and in the village which later became known as Catalan Bay. During the seventeenth & eighteenth Centuries, the east coast of Gibraltar was also settled by many Genoese, with the language becoming near equal on the Rock alongside English and Spanish. During the nineteenth century, the village became exclusively a fishing village with fishermen being granted permit from the Governor of Gibraltar. Today you’ll find many local surnames of descendants from this important Genoese influence on the Rock.
The culinary experience:
The second largest sandy beach in Gibraltar, the village itself is known for a selection of restaurants and tapas bars, calamares, boquerones, octopus and tuna when in season as well as other local catches which are always on the menu.
What to do in Catalan Bay
The east side of the Rock is known for treacherous currents which are warned with a red flag, prohibiting bathing, but on the most part, with good weather, the beach offers the opportunity for a relaxing swim or paddle-boarding to explore the many coves where the lime-stone cliffs meet the water. For the more adventurous, during the many warm months you’ll find the cliffs along the east coast a favourite for Deep Water Solo climbing, a format of sports climbing without harness with the protection of the water below.
If you’re looking for incredible scenery or amazing sunrises, a lazy day on the beach or something a little more adventurous, La Caleta and the east side of the Rock will give you a completely different perspective of Gibraltar.