La Línea de la Concepción: Frontier Town in the Shadow of the Rock of Gibraltar

La Línea de la Concepción

When Netflix released “La Línea: La Sombra del Narco” in 2020 it came as quite a revelation to me. The series follows the local Guardia Civil police officers in La Línea de la Concepción and their ongoing battle against crime gangs who smuggle tobacco from Gibraltar and marijuana from Morocco. I’ve stayed in the town many times over the years and whilst recognising that it’s a poor frontier town, I never found it anything other than quite a charming old place with welcoming local people. Here’s my overview of the town which is quite different than the one portrayed by Netflix.

La Línea de la Concepción is Spain’s port town which borders Gibraltar. On first sight having left the main N340 Cadiz to Malaga road heading for Gibraltar there seems little to detain you in La Línea as you pass the smokey chimneys of the power station and enter an uninspiring port town. However, don’t let first impressions prevail. Just behind the run-down looking apartments is a pretty old centre buzzing with locals at one of the town’s many outdoor cafés.

Considering the inflated cost of staying in Gibraltar, La Linea is well worth considering as an alternative as the old town centre is only a few minutes stroll from the border post. Also if you’re driving here for a day trip to Gibraltar it’s not worth the hassle of taking your car over the border as the traffic jams on both sides really can spoil the day out. Just find the border and find a parking space in the streets next to the McDonalds and walk across.

Santuario de la Inmaculada Concepción in La Línea de la Concepción
Three Grapes Monument Outside the Santuario de la Inmaculada Concepción – La Línea de la Concepción

The most important tourist attraction in La Linea is the Parroquia de la Inmaculada, a beautiful 19th century colonial style church. Calle Duque de Tetuán just west of the church is characterised by the New Orleans like buildings on its corner and some interesting bars serving up typical local fried fish dishes.

East of the church is the main pedestrianised street of Calle Real where most of the inhabitants of La Linea seem to pass their time in the long line of cafés and cake shops that line the street. Towards the end on the right is c/Ramón y Cajal which takes you into Plaza Cruz Herrera, a lively square with some good local bars. At the end of Calle Real turn right and you’ll find a few more nice bars notably Puerta del Sol and Taberna de Juan which is also a fine choice for dinner. The main post office (Correos) is directly opposite.

Staying in La Linea

The Iberostar City Gibraltar hotel is very handy being on the Paseo Maritimo just 300m from the border. The AC La Linea is 2km from Gibraltar on the same road and is another fine option which offers some very attractive deals. One of the best budget options is Hostal Carlos on c/Carboneras which is a well looked after place right in the town centre. It’s well worth booking in advance as it is frequently full. Hostal La Campana on the opposite side of the street is a pleasant alternative.

Where to Eat in La Linea

The restaurant which adjoins Hostal Carlos is a real gem. Its fairly basic dining room is largely frequented by local workmen attracted by an amazing range of dishes which are available on all of its fixed price three course menus which include a bottle of Rioja wine per couple. Starters include salads, soups, omelettes, paella and even chips and eggs whilst main courses include a surprisingly large selection of meat and fish dishes. The staff are always busy, very friendly and the menus are translated into English. Provided you’re not looking for something too fancy this is well worth a visit.

Along c/Carboneras there’s a selection of interesting places to eat. Tapas Bar Patagonia next to Hostal Carboneras serves up some fine meat tapas whilst La Opereta a little further down is a pricey but high quality restaurant which also offers a good selection of tapas at its downstairs bar. La Tasca is another good choice for meat dishes and El Rincón around the corner in the alley that leads to the town hall serves cheap daily menus and tapas.

Rock of Gibraltar

Crossing the Border

Make sure you remember your passport as it is required to cross over to Gibraltar. Also if you’re doing any duty free shopping over there don’t exceed your allowance as the Spanish police will search your bags and confiscate anything extra. And one other tip … if you decide to drive over the border and anyone approaches you whilst you’re in the traffic jam don’t hand over money for the Gibraltar entance permit they assure you that you’ll need once you get to the customs post. There is no such thing and it’s just a scam. All you need is your passport.

Taxis are available as you arrive in Gibraltar to take you to the town centre. There are also minibuses offering tours to the top of the Rock and the price includes all entrance fees. Alternatively, just walk across the runway towards town and you’ll be there in 10 minutes.

Top 10 Tourist Attractions in La Linea

In spite of the portrayal of La Línea de la Concepción as a dangerous drug smuggling town in the Netflix series “La Línea: La Sombra del Narco”, the reality is quite different. Indeed there are ongoing issues with criminal gangs who smuggle hashis and tobacco across the sea around La Linea. However, as a visitor you’re highly unlikely to be caught up in this excitement. Instead you’ll find a charming old town with plenty of interesting things to see and do.

Mirador del Higuerón

The Mirador del Higuerón viewpoint offers one of the best views of the entire town, with the Rock of Gibraltar in the background and, on clear days, even the African coast. The viewpoint is located 10km north of La Línea de la Concepción on the A-383 approach road. It’s a great spot from which to start exploring the town.

Santuario de la Inmaculada Concepción

Located in the historic centre, the Sanctuary of the Immaculate Conception is a small church built in 1879 in colonial style. The exterior is simple and is crowned by a bell tower. Inside, the beautiful altarpiece of the seventeenth century is worth visiting. Outside, in Plaza de la Iglesia, stands the Three Grapes Monument which is a tribute to the women of the town.

Fuerte de Santa Bárbara

The Fort of Santa Barbara is a cultural heritage site that was part of a military fortification of the 18th century. It was built to defend against possible attacks from the British territory of the Rock. Today you can only see its ruins as it was destroyed in 1810 to prevent it from falling into the hands of Napoleon’s troops during the the Peninsular War (1807–1814).

Bunkers of La Línea de la Concepción

Due to the outbreak of World War II, Franco ordered the construction of 498 bunkers to defend the Strait of Gibraltar. La Línea de la Concepción has the highest concentration of bunkers in Spain, many of which can be visited with a guided tour. 10 bunkers have been rehabilitated, including machine gun nests in the Reina Sofía Park and the Wall and Bastion of San Benito, accompanied by an artillery bunker and a machine gun bunker. The ruins of the Fort of San Felipe can also be visited.

Parque Reina Sofía

The Queen Sofía Park spans nearly 18 hectares and features several war bunkers, playgrounds, skate parks, and the largest centenary dragon tree in continental Europe. It’s a great spot for a leisurely stroll and its Wednesday street market attracts many visitors.

La Linea in Cadiz

Parroquia Nuestra Señora del Carmen

Located in the fishing district of La Atunara, the Virgen del Carmen Church is named after the patron saint of sailors. It was the second parish church created in the town in the 1940s and stands out for its simplicity. On 16th July every summer the statue of the Virgen del Carmen is paraded across the bay on a fishing boat which is a great event to witness if you happen to be in the area at that time.

Playa de Poniente

La Linea’s city beach lies just a short stroll from the town centre and the border with Gibraltar. It offers great views of the Rock, good facilities and a beach bar. The parking is a regulated blue zone, so keep in mind that you may have to pay for parking if you’re visiting by car. Other beaches in the area include La Atunara Beach, Levante Beach, and Santa Barbara Beach.

Puerto Alcaidesa Marina

At the end of Playa de Poniente, the Alacaidesa Marina is a popular berthing spot for yachts on the Medietrranean circuit. It also serves as the departure point for whale watching excursion around the Rock. It offers parking places for caravans and motorhomes with facilities and 24-hour security surveillance. Visitors can also sleep in one of its colourful Amsterdam-style boat houses in the Boat Haus Mediterranean Experience.

Cruz de Herrera Museum

Located next to the Town Hall and surrounded by gardens, the Cruz de Herrera Museum is the cultural gem of La Línea de la Concepción. This art gallery exhibits more than 200 paintings by the local painter, José Cruz de Herrera (1890-1972). His best-known works are colourful portraits of Andalucían and Arabic women. The museum is a must-see for art lovers visiting the town.