The Rock Hotel, Gibraltar

If you were to ask travel lovers to name the most famous hotels in the world – independent hotels, rather than brands – The Rock Hotel in Gibraltar is up there with the grandest grande dames of the industry.”

Hotel Essence Photography

Photo shoot for the Rock Hotel Gibraltar

The Rock Hotel is a landmark hotel located in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar, which is located at the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula.

Gibraltar covers an area of 6.7 km2 (2.6 square miles) and is bordered to the north by Spain, being attached to the mainland at Cadiz province´s coastal town of La Linea de Concepción. The landscape of this tiny territory, surrounded on three sides by the Mediterranean, is dominated by the Rock of Gibraltar, known by the Romans as Mons Calpe.

Good weather is essential for hotel photography, and for this photoshoot we needed crystal-clear views over the Strait of Gibraltar to Morocco, just 14 km away, as well as west to The Bay of Algeciras.

In Spring 2023, we had perfect weather conditions for the shoot, with incredibly clear, sharp light. Jebel Musa, part of the Rif mountain range, across the sea in Morocco, seemed so close that you could reach out and touch it. Shooting in April had the added advantage that the hotel’s famous wisteria-covered terrace was in full bloom. Flowers give added colour and vibrancy to hotel images.

Hotel Essence was proud to create a comprehensive portfolio of images for this landmark heritage hotel, which dates from 1932 and has hosted many Hollywood stars and distinguished guests over the decades, such as Sean Connery, Sir John Mills, Noel Coward and Errol Flynn, as well as Sir Winston Churchill. Its iconic lettering harks back to the era of Art Deco.

This shoot was an extensive project covering architectural photography, interiors, emblematic views across the Mediterranean to Africa, essence details, portraits, the pool, and much more. Not only documenting the spaces, but also capturing the essence, the spirit of the hotel.

The Hotel Experience

The hotel isn’t a five-star establishment; it is a well-established four star and is very comfortably appointed, with plenty of character. It enjoys a spectacular location, from the Jurassic limestone mountain rising up behind, to the breath-taking views across to the Bay of Algeciras and the Spanish coastline beyond on the right-hand side, and the North African coastline across the Mediterranean to the left . The Rock Hotel has a unique magic and charm thanks to its history, character and extraordinary views.

Some of the staff members have dedicated more than 40 years of service in the hotel, and between them offer a trilingual mix of Spanish, English and Arabic languages, to reflect the territory’s multicultural location between two continents. This cultural diversity can also be seen in the culinary offering, from the traditional Great British Afternoon Tea to the excellent Moroccan chicken pastilla (pie): crisp light filo pastry filled with chicken , topped with toasted almonds.

Whatever you are doing, whether dining, enjoying a drink on the terrace, swimming in the outdoor pool, or chilling in the hotel garden, the views are a huge part of the experience.As well as the views of Spain and Morocco, from the hotel you can also see the botanical gardens, the old Royal Navy dockyard, and  the harbour protected by the outer harbour wall, called the South Mole.

In addition, the view is far from static: there is non-stop shipping activity during the day, with vessels of all sizes coming into dock in Gibraltar, or simply passing between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, to the west – the Strait of Gibraltar is a busy maritime channel – while at night, you can see sparking lights stretching along the coastline. It is mesmerising to take in the three different countries – the UK, of which Gibraltar is an overseas territory; Spain,  across the land border; and Morocco,  over the sea – all from your room. Every room in The Rock Hotel enjoys views of this intriguing seascape.


“Each of the 94 bedrooms enjoys sea views, which makes it a wonderful hotel to stay in. for both business and leisure”

Hotel Essence Photography

The Rock Hotel Bedrooms


“This is an historic hotel, where you can see multi-generational families enjoying the views and facilities, including the 3.6-hectare garden and the biggest pool in Gibraltar”.

Hotel Essence Photography

The Rock Hotel swimming pool


The Rock Hotel history

The hotel was designed and built by Scottish peer and keen architecture aficionado John Crichton-Stuart, the 4th Marquess of Bute, in Art Deco style. It opened in 1932, and soon gained the reputation as one of Europe’s finest hotels.

The Rock Hotel quickly became a favored destination for royalty, celebrities, and discerning travelers. Notable guests included Sir Winston Churchill, Errol Flynn, and Sean Connery, further enhancing the hotel’s reputation as an exclusive haven.

“If you were to ask travel lovers to name the most famous hotels in the world -independent hotels, rather than brands – The Rock Hotel, Gibraltar is up there with the grand dames of the industry.”

During World War II, Gibraltar played a crucial role as a British stronghold within mainland Europe. The Rock Hotel, being strategically positioned between Europe and Africa, witnessed the dramatic events that unfolded on both continents. The hotel served as a refuge for military officers, providing them with respite from the chaos of war. It even accommodated American troops stationed in Gibraltar as part of their North African campaign.

After the war, The Rock Hotel regained its former glory, resuming its role as a supremely elegant landmark hotel, welcoming visitors from all corners of the globe. In 1959, the Rock Hotel was acquired by the Bland Group and, since then, has been nurtured by the Gaggero family, throughout the generations.

In December 1963, the Greek cruise ship TMS Lakonia, carrying mostly British passengers, was badly damaged by a large fire while sailing from Southampton to Madeira. An RAF plane was dispatched from Gibraltar, dropping survival equipment, pinpointing survivors in the sea, and guiding the rescue with flares – the disaster took place at night. Some survivors were taken to Gibraltar, and stayed at The Rock Hotel. Since then, the tragic incident has been an important part of Gibraltar’s history, and when the TMS Lakonia 50th anniversary commemorative ceremony was held in 2013, the obvious place to have tea afterwards was at this iconic hotel.

Over its 89 years, the hotel has witnessed countless joyous occasions and celebrations, serving as the ideal location for those seeking to commemorate life’s milestones in an extraordinary setting.

Meetings and Conferences


The Rock Hotel today

The hotel’s General Manager, Charles Danio, retired recently, and CEO Nicholas Gaggero is heading the team in the search for the next GM in The Rock Hotel´s nearly 100-year history.

Interior designer Christina Mathieu is overseeing the refurbishments, with some exciting bold colours and original art to be added to the lounge and dining areas.

In terms of the future, there are plans to totally redesign the 5th floor, which was formerly office spaces, and will become luxurious penthouse suites due to open in the summer of 2024.


The photography crew for this project consisted of photographer Michelle Chaplow; photography assistant Marcos Meider; stylist Allan James Stuart; and production manager Chris John.


Excellent in every respect, the team demonstrated exceptional communication skills, exhibited flexibility in planning, and delivered work of the highest quality that exceeded our expectations.

Nicholas Gaggero, Chief Executive Officer The Rock Hotel Gibraltar