Gibraltar’s biggest festival of the year is its annual National Day, held each September 10 to commemorate the first sovereign referendum. Gibraltar also hosts annual chess and singing competitions, as well as an international boat regatta in April. After Christmas, Boxing Day is celebrated with the Polar Bear Swim and the eve of Epiphany with the Three Kings Cavalcade parade.
Three Kings Cavalcade
Gibraltar’s first major festival of the year takes place on the day before Epiphany, when people in costumes toss sweets to the townsfolk during the annual Three Kings Cavalcade parade along Main Street. Marching bands play lively music and prizes are presented for the most impressive floats.
Gibraltar Chess Festival
Each year between January and February, the four-star Caleta Hotel hosts one of the world’s most prestigious chess tournaments. Nearly 60 Grand Masters participate in the Gibraltar Chess Festival, whose final event boasts around 240 players from around the world.
Gibraltar International Boat Show
Although luxury yachts are the star of this April event, automobiles, fashion, dance, and music are also main attractions. Gibraltar’s police and navy display their latest vessels, while the water zone at the Ocean Village Marina offers dolphin watching tours, canoe racing, and scuba diving lessons.
Gibraltar National Day
Gibraltar’s most important national holiday takes place on September 10, the anniversary of the 1967 sovereignty referendum, when citizens voted to stay under British sovereignty instead of joining Spain. Residents dress in white and red, the colors of their flag, and join a lively street fest on the Naval Grounds. A food fair showcasing some of Gibraltar’s tastiest dishes takes place at the John Mackintosh Square, while Grand Casemates offers a children’s corner filled with amusement rides and bouncy castle. Fireworks are held over the Bay of Gibraltar and 30,000 red and white balloons representing Gibraltar’s total population are released into the sky.
Gibraltar Song Festival
The most talented local musicians get the opportunity to share the stage with some of the world’s most famous musical acts at the annual Gibraltar Song Festival. This early September event features a songwriting contest where hundreds of people around the world compete to win a large cash prize. All proceeds are donated directly to area charities.
Polar Bear Swim
Gibraltar is not usually overly cold at Christmas, but the waters of Catalan Bay are frigid on this Boxing Day event where dozens of brave (or crazy?) people take the plunge during the city’s annual Polar Bear Swim. Warm mulled wine and mince pies help bathers warm up once they return to dry land.