Malaga city break

Malaga is hot — literally and metaphorically — it’s a big, vibrant and very Spanish city. The authorities have invested huge sums of ‘Eurocash’ in cultural and infrastructure developments, even though the proposed new rail line to Estepona has yet to happen and the city’s bid for City of Culture 2016 was not successful. A few days in buzzing Malaga before going elsewhere on the Costa del Sol or in the province of Andalucia can be good fun.

 

Malaga was founded by the Phoenicians and was subsequently a Roman, Byzantine, and Arab city. It was not united with the rest of Spain until the fifteenth century. Excavated Roman and Arab architecture feature in new city centre archaeological pedestrian and museum spaces. Today the city has some grand spaces between the tower block suburbs and the port including the nineteenth century Paseo del Parque, created on reclaimed land between the cathedral and the port; Paseo Marques de Larios, a wide, glamorous pedestrianised shopping street; the Plaza de Merced, currently being refurbished and the streets and squares of bars and cafes around the cathedral have the castle/palace/gardens/wooded hillside of Gibralfaro as a backdrop. A number of private and public galleries and museums have been created recently celebrating the creative and historical inheritance of the city.

Getting there

The new terminal buildings at the airport are the main point of entry for millions of tourists each year pouring into the Costa del Sol region of Andalucia; the port has a newly built cruise ship terminal and a daily ferry to the Spanish enclave of Melilla on the north African coast in addition to accommodating coastal bulk products and container ships; the new Maria Zambrano Train Station accommodates local trains to the airport and onwards to Fuengerola and AVE high speed trains to Madrid and Barcelona; the bus terminal is 50 metres from the new railway station.

Getting around

The city can seem deceptively complex, but we were often surprised to find how close the important features are, just by taking the right route. It pays to get a good map of the central area to get your bearings.

Malaga Accomodation

Accommodation in Malaga city is largely business oriented. Our experience is at the AC Malaga Palacio, recently taken over by the Marriot group. Most of the rooms overlook the Paseo del Parque and the port, with ferries arriving everyday and often huge cruise ships that disgorge their passengers into a stream of coaches to visit the city sites.

The large breakfast room usually has dynamic business people on mobile phones and lap-tops, a selection of fruit and pastries, but hot breakfast options are now from the buffet rather than cooked to order. There is a rooftop restaurant with views of the castle and across the city and a small, often windy rooftop pool with loungers and waiter service for drinks and snacks. Great after a hot day doing business or sightseeting.

Eating and drinking

Being out and about is an important part of life for Malaguenos and the city is full of options from humble neighborhood bars to Michelin starred restauarants. Tapas is the real thing in Malaga and nowhere more so than the informal and very popular Campana bar on Calle Granada: boiled or grilled prawns, boquerones, calamares, patatas bravas and tortillitas de camerones are our favorites, we have yet to sample the razor clams! Slightly more formal is the Queseria on Calle Pastor Sanchez that, you guessed it, specializes in cheese and jamon iberico plates, cheese toasts and an excellent wine list. A find for us this trip was the bars on and around the Plaza del Teatro Cervantes that has cheaper drinks than those in the Plaza del Obispo opposite the cathedral, plus free entertainment—juggling when we were there! 

Being out late is possibly the best thing about Malaga in the summer. With July daytime temperatures reaching towards the forties Celsius: when the sun goes down, the evenings are a very pleasant respite from the heat, so bars and restaurants are regularly open to midnight and two am at the weekends.

Malaga’s most famous sons are Pablo Picasso and Antonio Banderas, but we’ve yet to go to the Picasso Museum or House and we can’t recall a film we’ve seen starring Antonio Banderas. We enjoy Malaga for it’s quintessential big city Spanishness, mixing upmarket shopping, lively markets, village-like barrios — plus beaches, a busy port and views from the castle and Moorish palace.

CAC Malaga

The Contemporary Arts Centre is a refurbished market building from the pre-WW2 period, designed in a severe functionalist style with a triangular plan to fit the site beside the mouth of the River Guadalmedina. It has a permanent collection including an intriguing video piece by Bill Viola and space for visiting exhibitions too. We caught Luc Tuymans ‘sombre aura’ paintings on contemporary themes and Guillermo Pérez Villalta’s work on ‘The Metamorphoses and other Mythologies’ — loopy shapes on vaguely classical backgrounds. It also has a good art bookshop and a café restaurant with outdoor space beside the river, unfortunately closed when we visited mid-morning. The period architectural elements have been retained in the redesign of the interior spaces and it’s free!

Alcazaba of Malaga

Located on the lower part of the ridge overlooking the city that also has contemporary gardens, wooded walks and the Gibralfaro castle and Parador hotel at it’s summit, this is a wonderful respite from the heat of the city and a great deal for ‘pensionistas’ like us. The zig-zag fortified entrance route leads through protective fortifications to a series of Arabic style gardens with a small channel of water running down from a roman marble bath to parterres of roses in small-scale enclosures with views over the port and city rooftops. 

Mercado de Atarazanas

Spain’s municipal markets are a wonderful institution, the refurbished market in Malaga is a vibrant daily occurrence in the centre of the city. Specialist sections include meats and meat products, fish and all types of seafood, fruit and vegetables and nuts and dried fruits. The main entrance features the gateway to the Moorish shipyard on the same site before the reclamation of land allowed the Alamada Principal to be created, a nineteenth century double avenue, now the central stop for local buses.

Paseo del Parque

A wonderful green lung for the city, created either side of an extension of the Alamada Principal and parallel to the Guadiaro Quay, comprising 800 metre long walkways through a collection of botanical specimen trees, shrubs and flowers, a contemporary style fountain and pond, two small children’s playgrounds with accompanying bars and a small stage and tiered seating with another bar that has occasional performances and film shows in the evening. Beyond the Paseo del Parque, across another road is the refurbished Guadiaro Quay: a park designed in a contemporary minimalist style, comprising a sinuous giant pergola and glass pavilions raised on glass encased plinths, leading to the yacht marina and access road to the cruise liner terminal. The Paseo del Parque also leads to a rose garden surrounded by orange and cypress trees next to the Town Hall, and the gardens called Jardines de Puerta Oscura (Dark Entrance Gardens) with a steep path and steps up to the Gilbalfaro castle and Parador hotel at the top. There is a bar on the bus turnaround near the entrance to castle and the hotel has a terrace with fabulous views where the service is more formal, but the prices for light meals and drinks are not outrageous, considering the location.

Calle Marquės de Larios

Possibly the most beautiful shopping street, named after the family who built it, who apparently still own many buildings, this pedestrian street is paved with marble and has a continuous awning during the summer months to shade visitors and is the main location for Semana Santa processions around Easter. 

La Conception Botanical Garden

This is a large park on the outskirts of Malaga, on the road to Antequera, which is good for a half day trip by bus or car. You can follow various routes round the plantings to gain a perspective of plants and trees from around the world.

Eating and drinking

Being out and about is an important part of life for Malaguenos and the city is full of options from humble neighborhood bars to Michelin starred restauarants. Tapas is the real thing in Malaga and nowhere more so than the informal and very popular Campana bar on Calle Granada: boiled or grilled prawns, boquerones, calamares, patatas bravas and tortillitas de camerones are our favorites, we have yet to sample the razor clams! Slightly more formal is the Queseria on Calle Pastor Sanchez that, you guessed it, specializes in cheese and jamon iberico plates, cheese toasts and an excellent wine list. A find for us this trip was the bars on and around the Plaza del Teatro Cervantes that has cheaper drinks than those in the Plaza del Obispo opposite the cathedral, plus free entertainment—juggling when we were there! 

Being out late is possibly the best thing about Malaga in the summer. With July daytime temperatures reaching towards the forties Celsius: when the sun goes down, the evenings are a very pleasant respite from the heat, so bars and restaurants are regularly open to midnight and two am at the weekends.

Malaga’s most famous sons are Pablo Picasso and Antonio Banderas, but we’ve yet to go to the Picasso Museum or House and we can’t recall a film we’ve seen starring Antonio Banderas. We enjoy Malaga for it’s quintessential big city Spanishness, mixing upmarket shopping, lively markets, village-like barrios — plus beaches, a busy port and views from the castle and Moorish palace.

CAC Malaga

The Contemporary Arts Centre is a refurbished market building from the pre-WW2 period, designed in a severe functionalist style with a triangular plan to fit the site beside the mouth of the River Guadalmedina. It has a permanent collection including an intriguing video piece by Bill Viola and space for visiting exhibitions too. We caught Luc Tuymans ‘sombre aura’ paintings on contemporary themes and Guillermo Pérez Villalta’s work on ‘The Metamorphoses and other Mythologies’ — loopy shapes on vaguely classical backgrounds. It also has a good art bookshop and a café restaurant with outdoor space beside the river, unfortunately closed when we visited mid-morning. The period architectural elements have been retained in the redesign of the interior spaces and it’s free!

Alcazaba of Malaga

Located on the lower part of the ridge overlooking the city that also has contemporary gardens, wooded walks and the Gibralfaro castle and Parador hotel at it’s summit, this is a wonderful respite from the heat of the city and a great deal for ‘pensionistas’ like us. The zig-zag fortified entrance route leads through protective fortifications to a series of Arabic style gardens with a small channel of water running down from a roman marble bath to parterres of roses in small-scale enclosures with views over the port and city rooftops. 

Mercado de Atarazanas

Spain’s municipal markets are a wonderful institution, the refurbished market in Malaga is a vibrant daily occurrence in the centre of the city. Specialist sections include meats and meat products, fish and all types of seafood, fruit and vegetables and nuts and dried fruits. The main entrance features the gateway to the Moorish shipyard on the same site before the reclamation of land allowed the Alamada Principal to be created, a nineteenth century double avenue, now the central stop for local buses.

Paseo del Parque

A wonderful green lung for the city, created either side of an extension of the Alamada Principal and parallel to the Guadiaro Quay, comprising 800 metre long walkways through a collection of botanical specimen trees, shrubs and flowers, a contemporary style fountain and pond, two small children’s playgrounds with accompanying bars and a small stage and tiered seating with another bar that has occasional performances and film shows in the evening. Beyond the Paseo del Parque, across another road is the refurbished Guadiaro Quay: a park designed in a contemporary minimalist style, comprising a sinuous giant pergola and glass pavilions raised on glass encased plinths, leading to the yacht marina and access road to the cruise liner terminal. The Paseo del Parque also leads to a rose garden surrounded by orange and cypress trees next to the Town Hall, and the gardens called Jardines de Puerta Oscura (Dark Entrance Gardens) with a steep path and steps up to the Gilbalfaro castle and Parador hotel at the top. There is a bar on the bus turnaround near the entrance to castle and the hotel has a terrace with fabulous views where the service is more formal, but the prices for light meals and drinks are not outrageous, considering the location.

Calle Marquės de Larios

Possibly the most beautiful shopping street, named after the family who built it, who apparently still own many buildings, this pedestrian street is paved with marble and has a continuous awning during the summer months to shade visitors and is the main location for Semana Santa processions around Easter. 

La Conception Botanical Garden

This is a large park on the outskirts of Malaga, on the road to Antequera, which is good for a half day trip by bus or car. You can follow various routes round the plantings to gain a perspective of plants and trees from around the world.