Malaga, despite being one of Spain’s largest cities (it is the 2nd largest city in Andalucia) and a transport hub for those heading to the historical sites in Seville, Granada and Cordoba, is one of the most underrated destinations in Spain and often relegated to the obligatory one-night transit. I came here expecting nothing but was pleasantly surprised by the chill vibe, pleasant coastal scenery as well as the preponderance of great eating places across the city.
the city’s seaside is a great place for a paseo (or a stroll)… it’s lined by lots of bars and chic restaurants serving spanish fare focusing on seafood
The city is located in the costa del sol, near the southern tip of Spain. Geographically, it is closer to Africa than it is to Madrid. As Malaga is situated on the coast, its weather is milder and more pleasant than Granada or Seville, where it can get unbearably hot. This city is also the transport hub of Andalucia so getting here is a breeze. Tons of budget airlines fly to Malaga from all over Europe. In that sense, lots of people do make it here but few ever get to see the city. Those who do often stay just to sleep before transiting to beach getaways like Marbella or to Granada. I made my way to Malaga after Granada, and like most visitors, did not expect much aside from the customary transit stop. But as I discovered, Malaga does have its charms and deserves at least a day of exploration.
the imposing baroque-style facade of the cathedral of malaga
We landed in Malaga just after the chaos that was the feria which lasted for about a week and which resulted in thousands of party-goers recovering from serious hangovers. Still, there was no shortage of people in the city center. Marked by the imposing Malaga Cathedral, the centro is a hodgepodge of fine dining restaurants, watering holes and museums worthy of a visit. Their cathedral isn’t really top-of-mind where Spanish churches are concerned, but out of the 8 or so cities we visited, this was one of my favorites. There’s just something about that baroque facade that I haven’t seen anywhere else.
the pedestrianized city center of malaga
Rather than being cooped up inside the hostel or hotel while waiting for your next flight/bus/car ride out, it’s actually a great idea to stroll around the city center. Unlike the city centers of most other major cities in Andalucia, the one in Malaga is mostly pedestrianized and makes for a fantastic venue for street scene photo shots. The buildings in this area are mostly done in the 19th century style Spanish architecture. Or if shopping is your thing, all the well-known stores are found there as well.
a group of old men (and a lady!) jamming in a random roadside cafe… and they’re great at it too
Malaga is also well-known as the birthplace of one of the world’s most iconic painters, Pablo Picasso. There is a museum (admission: Eur 8) built in his honor in the city, located not far from the cathedral. It features mostly his early works, though a few famous ones can also be spotted here and there.
the city hall (ayuntamiento) of malaga
Though not as pronounced nor as impressive as the ones in Seville or Granada, the city also has a few buildings dating back from the Moorish period. This includes the Alcazaba and the Castillo de Gibralfaro which are both perched on a hill. The Alcazaba itself is located in a lower part of the hill, and can be accessed either by foot or via elevator. As I surveyed the building, it dawned upon me how similar it looked to certain parts of the Alhambra in Granada, though this certainly looked a lot more simple. There’s little of the detailed carvings that I saw in Granada, but like alcazabas elsewhere in Spain, the entrances were marked by multifoil arches and gardens with fountains separated certain sections of the citadel.
at the alcazaba
From the Alcazaba, the Castillo is actually a further climb uphill. The castle is also accessible by foot, though the direct link with the alcazaba was closed at the time of our visit. Instead, we took the public bus (#35) from the bus stop in the Paseo Parque just across the ayuntamiento (city hall) of Malaga to save us the trouble. There’s not much that’s left now except for the main castle structure, but it’s worthy of around an hour’s (or less) visit if just for the view. There’s a magnificent view of the coastal parts of Malaga from above including the city’s bullring.
view of malaga’s skyline from the castilo de gibralfaro
While it can sometimes be a pain in Spain to differentiate between the tourist trap restaurants and the genuinely good ones, Malaga is a refreshing change. Since the culinary scene here mostly caters to locals, one need not look too far to find a good and authentic place to eat. We tried La Rebana which is located near the cathedral. Foie gras reigns supreme in their menu and we tried the foie gras with salted nougat which was just superb! They also have a fine selection of tapas. It’s too bad we were in Malaga for only one full day. We would have wanted to try many more restaurants in the city. A must-try in Malaga are coquitas or clams cooked in white wine.
the foie gras….mmmm…
I know a lot of people who transited in Malaga and just headed directly to their next destination without giving this city a second look. But if you’re there anyway, might as well have a look-see. For those with one day to spare, a daytrip around Malaga is definitely warranted. It may not have any must-see sights, but it has a great urban vibe that only sea-fronting cities can give, and as far as sea-fronting cities go, Malaga certainly knows how to take advantage of its strengths.
Calle Molina Lario 4
Tel:+34 952 608 534