Malaga (600,000 inhabitants) is the capital of the Costa del Sol plus the province with the same name. After Seville, it is the second city in Andalusia and the sixth in Spain. For decades Malaga airport was the only place of tourist interest, but this has changed completely. Malaga nowadays gets the stamp ‘hip & trendy‘ and rightly so!
Ideal city trip in summer and winter
The Town Council luckily saw the enormous potential of this sunny city on the Mediterranean. The centre was rigorously renovated, the number of museums increased to 20 and a fashionable cruise ship promenade, Muelle Uno, was constructed. And -not unimportantly- with the arrival of more tourism, the catering industry has also grown explosively. The city attracts many young people and especially many language students for a short Spanish course.
The reason for the complete overhaul at that time was the election of the European Capital of Culture 2016. This honor eventually went to San Sebastian in northern Spain, but this did not spoil the fun. Picasso’s hometown is now firmly on the map as a top destination for both summer and winter. Like competitor Barcelona, the city is blessed with good beaches, but in terms of sun guarantee, the southernmost of the two wins with ease. And when the Northern European is scraping the frost flowers from his car windows in winter, in Malaga it can easily be up to 20 degrees. This is often the decisive factor for an ideal city trip or round trip through Andalusia, for which Malaga is the perfect starting point.
Beaches, Pedregalejo and El Palo
The combination of city life with long beaches makes the provincial capital absolutely unique. La Malagueta is probably the most famous beach, but there are beaches to be discovered in the west too. The total coast of Malaga is connected by boulevards and pathways for walking, skating or cycling. Nice destination towards the east: Restaurant Baños del Carmen and afterwards the districts of Pedregalejo and El Palo. It took me years to discover, but from restaurant Pez Tomillo (recommended) you reach quite unexpectedly a long boulevard with dozens of restaurants and chiringuitos (fish restaurants). Incidentally, both Pedregalejo and El Palo are now very popular with foreign investors who want to rent their home to tourists.
Malaga was never well known for its rich history, but there are several beautiful buildings, especially in the eastern part of the city centre. For example, you can visit the famous cathedral of Malaga from 1528. The characteristic detail is that due to lack of money the construction was never fully completed and a tower is missing. This is why this large cathedral is popularly called “La Manquita” (the lame).
Alcazaba & Castillo de Gibralfaro
A must-do when visiting Malaga is the Alcazaba, the old castle on the east side of the centre. It has a surprisingly green garden and water flows everywhere. At the top of the mountain is the Castillo de Gibralfaro, a ruin of a Moorish castle. From the Alcazaba you can -with a little fitness- walk further up the hill along a walled path. The beautiful view is an extra welcome reward! Here you look over the old city centre, the rose garden, the Roman theatre, the bullring and the new harbour promenade Muelle Uno. But you can also choose the bus route that leads you along the Parador state hotel.
Hospitality and food culture
Malaga is hot & booming, also in the culinary field! It is now bursting with hip or authentic tapas bars and restaurants. It is lively at night to the north of Calle Larios and the Malagueños prefer to stay late at night with friends or family on one of the innumerable terraces of the centre. The lighter ‘cena’ (dinner) usually consists of sharing ‘raciones’ (portions). In addition, in the tapas bars you often get a free small tapas that you can choose yourself in the display
Fancy a terrace but have the children with you? View all the restaurants and bars that are adjacent to a playground here. Also a nice way to get to know the city it through the beautiful view of a rooftop terrace!
Picasso and museums
Painter Pablo Picasso was born in Málaga (although he left here at a young age) and this is something the city is visibly proud of. On the corner of the Plaza de la Merced you will find the house of birth of Picasso, with only sculpture art. The Picasso museum itself is located elsewhere in the city. Malaga also has many other museums, including the Thyssen Museum, a wine museum, a music museum (fun interactive for children) and a car museum.
Plaza de la Merced
Plaza de la Merced is always cosy with trendy eateries and there are regular market stalls. In the spring, the trees with purple foliage are beautiful! The Picasso statue sits in front of his original home. It´s an ideal place to meet up because from here you easily walk into town along the Roman theatre at the foot of the Alcazaba. It´s also close to the Cervantes theatre for a culture night out!
A nice parking garage Alcazaba is the one at Plaza de la Merced (almost under the castle, just after the tunnel). This is located right in the centre and parking is not too expensive here.
As in many large cities, you can take a touristic ‘hop-on hop-off’ bus trip with a red open double-decker. Although already 10 years ago, my own experience was not positive. Difficult to understand commentary and nothing special. It is convenient to reach the higher castle without exhausting climbing, but regular buses and taxis also go there. A rental bike, electrical step or even a Segway are pleasant alternatives.
Luxury cruise terminal Muelle Uno
The city has an important port with many luxury cruise ships in addition to the transport of goods. A few years ago, a very fashionable new harbour promenade called ‘Muelle Uno‘ was built, with restaurants, shops and entertainment. If you walk down the main shopping street Calle Larios towards the sea, you are there in no time. Especially in the summer, the location offers welcome cooling and you can also perform several (simple) trips on the water from here. For example by catamaran or on a boat with a transparent bottom.
Botanical garden La Concepcion
There is a botanical garden, the ‘Finca de la Concepción‘, 7 kilometres from the city. Since 1850 all kinds of exotic plants and palms have been planted here that survive well in the warm climate of Andalusia. Even if you are not a flora connoisseur, it is a relaxing visit for part of the day. In the long summer evenings theatricalised tours can be booked.
Malaga´s rose garden
Next the town hall of Malaga has a rose garden with no fewer than 70 different varieties of roses (more than 10,000 specimens, sorted by colour and type). These Pedro Luis Alonso gardens were created in 1948 and are the largest collection of roses in Southern Europe. They are a botanical study object and it is nice to walk through them all year round, for example on the way to Muelle Uno. You will find the gardens near the Alcazaba on the Alameda.
Semana Santa Easter Procession
Malaga is famous for its largest Easter processions during Semana Santa. The city is known to have the biggest and heaviest ´tronas´ of Spain, which is impressive to watch in real life. Malaga gets completely turned upside down this week and there are dozens of processions that can last for hours, even at night.
- If you want practical shopping besides Calle Larios and El Corte Ingles, you can also choose the pleasant outlet shopping mall Plaza Mayor near the airport with parking in front of the door.
- Malaga has a covered permanent market from Monday to Saturday and a flea market on Sundays.
- Feria: mid August
- Taxi: tel. 952 327 950
Tips for living in Malaga: Legal advice for buying a house in Malaga.