Capital of the Costa del Sol most people only know Malaga as the airport into which they fly when visiting one of the many holiday resorts along Spain’s southern coast. Much underrated it has a vibrant old town, countless tapas bars and sun drenched beach promenades not to mention fabulous shopping opportunities and the long anticipated Picasso Museum. Most importantly it remains a genuine Andalucian city with a fascinating history, its Moorish roots can be detected in the architecture of many of its buildings particularly in the historic centre around La Alcazaba. Avoid the sprawling concrete suburbs and instead concentrate on the compact and mostly pedestrianised centre, which can be easily explored on foot. For some shade Malaga’s main park contains beautiful tropical flowering trees and runs alongside the Paseo del Parque, locals can be seen strolling along here. Finally being on the Costa del Sol there are also plenty of beaches to chose from with a long lazy lunch by the seaside sampling freshly caught seafood being a truly memorable experience.
A testament to the city’s Moorish ancestry Alcazaba is a palace dating back to the 11th century which now houses an archaeological museum. Its located on Gibralfaro (which means light house) Hill at the top of which sits Castillo de Gibralfaro, a 14th century fortress which offers impressive views of the port, opening up into the Mediterranean as well as the famous Malagueta bullring which sits at the foot of the same hill.
Next on your itinerary should be the baroque cathedral on Calle Molina Lario, affectionately known as ‘La Manquita’ loosely interpreted as ‘one-armed woman’ referring to its missing east bell tower!
Malaga’s most famous son Pablo Picasso spent his childhood here and his birthplace at Plaza de la Merced has been turned into a museum named Fundacion Picasso (Picasso Foundation). However the must-see museum is the Museo Picasso Malaga housed in a 16th century Palace (Palacio Condes de Buenavista) which boasts a collection spanning the artist’s 76-year career most of which were donated by his daughter-in law Christine Ruiz-Picasso.
For shopping visit Malaga’s version of Bond Street named Calle Marques de Larios, which is flanked by expensive boutiques and runs north to Plaza de la Constitucion. The alleyways and tiny squares either side are well worth exploring.
Malaga city has its own beaches however its well worth jumping on a local bus (or a leisurely stroll along the promenade) and heading for one of the smaller nearby villages (El Pedregalejo or El Palo both good examples) for some unspoilt sun worshipping. Alternatively for some glamour head to Marbella and Puerto Banus the playground of the rich and famous.
Malaga’s nightlife is worth experiencing just keep in mind that like many other Mediterranean towns and cities it won’t get busy till midnight. Wandering from one tapas bar to another is an authentic way of sampling many local delicacies, mingling with Malaguenos and soaking up the atmosphere.
Getting around Malaga centre is best done on foot as many streets are pedestrianised however for travelling further afield a local coastal rail link connects Malaga to most of the Costa del Sol. The local bus network may appear confusing at first but is certainly comprehensive and much used by locals. For specific destinations it may be worth speaking with your receptionist or the staff at the tourist office.