Among golfers, Malaga, the largest city on the Costa del Sol, is mainly known as a transit city. After arriving, they usually travel directly to one of the other coastal towns on the “Costa del Golf”. Here, golfers play for days on the most beautiful courses before flying back to their home countries. We too have been guilty of this. Except for the last time we went golfing near the birthplace of Pablo Picasso. We glued a few days onto our lovely stay in southern Spain and then got to know a fantastic city full of historical and cultural highlights. We think Malaga is a city that we would love to visit again thanks to its beaches, walking opportunities, architectural sights, museums and lively nightlife.
Means of exploring Malaga
A good way to get to know a city quickly is with a bicycle tour. This is particularly true of Malaga. Cycling as a means of transport is heavily promoted in the city. Many Malagueños nowadays take their bikes to work, or use them recreationally in their free time. Bike tours are also organised in Malaga. Among others by the organisation Baja Bikes. Accompanied by an English-speaking guide, you cycle past the biggest sights. Since the guide lives in Malaga, you’ll hear and see things you won’t find in travel guides. Really fun to do! By the way, Baja Bikes also has a culinary bike tour: the Malaga Tapas Tour.
Of course, you can also take an organised city tour. Or explore the city walking on your own.
What you should not miss during your city break to Malaga
Whether you explore the city on foot or by bike, the following sights should not be missing from your visit:
The 11th-century Alcazaba is one of Malaga’s top attractions and an absolute must-see during your stay in this fine city. Alcazaba is derived from the Arabic word al-qasbah meaning (more or less) citadel. This ancient, best-preserved Moorish citadel in the whole of Spain, is set against a hillside in the middle of the city. A little higher up the hill is Gibralfaro Castle. From here, the citadel has been defended against multiple invaders throughout its eventful history.
What makes the citadel worth a visit is not only its interesting history. It is mainly the architectural beauty of the complex and its rich Moorish ornamentation. It is reminiscent of the architecture of the Alhambra in Granada because of the play of light and the beautiful, watery patios. The use of parts of the nearby Roman Theatre, such as some fine columns, is stunning, too.
Inside the citadel, visit the former Moorish palaces, including the Palacio Nazari. In addition, stroll through the gardens and along the high fortress walls. You will then get great views of the city’s historic centre, the port, the bay and the mountainous surroundings.
Castillo de Gibralfaro
Atop the 130-metre-high Gibralfaro hill, lies the Gibralfaro Castle. This castle was built in the 14th century to defend the Alcazaba citadel. The Moors also built a mosque inside the castle. However, the house of worship disappeared when the Catholics conquered the city including the castle from the Moors in 1487. The Spanish still used the castle as a military base until the early 20th century.
The castle houses a small museum including clothing and weapons from the last six centuries. You also have a catering establishment there. But we think the real highlight of the castle is the view. From the castle walls, for instance, you can see the Alcazaba beautifully at your feet. But also the rest of the city, including the port and the coastline. In addition, from above, you look right into Malaga’s bullring.
From the historic centre and the citadel, a sometimes steep path leads up the hill to the castle. Count on about 15 to 20 minutes of walking. In summer, climb the hill early in the morning. This is because it can get quite hot here during the day in the sun.
Jardín Botánico Histórico La Concepción
We have made a habit of also visiting at least one big park during a city break. We can then escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a while and relax among all the greenery.
In Malaga, you have several parks and gardens that are definitely worth a visit. But the one you must have seen as a nature lover is the La Concepción botanical garden. This 55-hectare garden was laid out in English style in the mid-19th century. You will find an impressive collection of tropical and subtropical plants. And, of course, the requisite ponds and even waterfalls. The botanical garden is located at the foot of the Montes de Malaga, about five kilometres by bike from the city centre. From here you also have a fine view of the city.
Parque de Málaga
Of a different order from the botanical garden but equally beautiful and pleasant park in Malaga is the Parque de Málaga. This narrow but elongated park is located between Plaza de General Torrijos and Plaza de la Marina. Malagueños, young and old, like to make use of this green oasis, partly because of the shade of the wide palm tree leaves. But the park is also a feast for the eyes thanks to its ornate Baroque and Renaissance statues and fountains. Besides mostly subtropical plants, you also have a beautiful rose garden there, amid orange trees and cypress trees.
Catedral de Málaga
Wherever you are in Malaga’s historic centre, the cathedral is visible almost everywhere. The beautiful church owes this mainly to its height: at 84 metres, the tower is the second tallest church tower in Andalusia after that of La Giralda in Seville. Construction of Malaga Cathedral began in the early 16th century. But construction subsequently took more than 200 years. As a result, the end result became an interesting combination of Renaissance and Baroque styles. You can see these different styles especially on the outside. Incidentally, the church was never finally finished due to lack of money.
On the inside, the cathedral is no less interesting. There are many chapels, each with its own meaning. In some are beautiful old altars from the 16th and 17th centuries. Also impressive is the chancel, carved entirely of wood, consisting of no fewer than 58 statues. Furthermore, the organ from the late 19th century is worth a mention. Experts say the 4,000 pipes produce a fantastic sound. You will find the historic building at the cosy but somewhat touristy Plaza del Obispo.
The Mercado Atarazanas is the covered market that, like in many other Spanish cities, fulfils the central point of daily life in Malaga. The Atarazanas is the most popular market among Málagueños because of the freshness and reasonable prices of the products. You can go there for the usual fresh produce such as fruit and vegetables, meat and fish, and bread and cheeses. But also for honey, nuts and tapas. There are several bars where you can get a glass of wine in addition to tapas.
But the market is more than just fresh food and drink. It is also simply a beautiful and atmospheric building. Truly a sight not to be missed during your city break. Mercado Atarazanas is located in the old town. The market is open Monday to Saturday until 2 p.m.
Malaga is home to several interesting museums. For example, for a rare, rainy day, or on a hot summer day to cool down. One of the popular museums is the Museo Carmen Thyssen. Here you have an excellent collection of Spanish paintings from the 19th and 20th centuries. Another is the Museo Interactivo de la Musica Málaga. Here you will find one of the largest collections of musical instruments in all of Europe. Furthermore, the Museo de Málaga is worth a visit. This largest museum in Andalusia is housed in the beautiful Palacio de Aduana. It is an archaeological and historical museum with more than 17,000 museum pieces!
But there is one museum anyway that you must have seen regardless of the weather in Malaga: the Museo Picasso Málaga. The museum is housed in the beautiful Palacio Buenavista, near the birthplace of artist Pablo Picasso. You’ll find around 200 of his works (not just paintings) from his first and last period in particular. Although Picasso’s most famous works hang in other museums, you simply must have been here. And if you haven’t had enough of Picasso after the museum, be sure to visit his birthplace. Here you will find artefacts that the most famous artist of the last century created during his childhood.
What to see and do outside Malaga
There is so much to see and do in the Malaga area that we will soon dedicate a blog to this. In that blog, we will take you to the most beautiful golf courses and the finest beaches. We will also tell you where you can enjoy cycling. And we describe some great walks you can do in this area. Like the famous Caminito del Rey.
Answers to frequently asked questions about a city break to Malaga
Malaga has a Mediterranean climate like the rest of Andalusia's coast. With an average of 300 days of sunshine, it is one of the sunniest cities in Europe. Because the city lies in the shelter of the northern mountains, Malaga has the warmest winter of any European city. This also makes the city and its surroundings a popular destination for northern and western European winter visitors.
Furthermore, due to the sea influence, summers are significantly less hot than in the rest of Andalusia. In this respect, Malaga is a perfect year-round city break destination. In the summer months, however, it can be particularly crowded. Especially in August when the Spaniards themselves have holidays. Want really lovely temperatures and not too crowded? Then the spring and autumn months are the most ideal months for a city trip to Malaga.
You can easily explore Malaga on foot. Most of Malaga's main tourist attractions are within walking distance of each other. On top of that, the historical centre is largely car-free. Due to the almost always sunny weather, it is therefore always great to get around on foot.
Another perfect option is by bike. Malaga has around 30 kilometres of cycle paths. But even outside the cycle paths and outside the city, the bike is an excellent means of transport. There are several locations where you can rent a bike (cheaply), such as Baja Bikes.
Fish lovers in particular find plenty to enjoy in Malaga. Usually, you can enjoy the most delicious fish dishes at the so-called chiringuitos: beach bars. One of the most famous chiringuitos is El Tintero. Instead of a menu, waiters sing what dishes they have on offer.
For good food at reasonable prices, head to the port area. Here you will find many restaurants, most of which also have a terrace overlooking the water. In the old town, there are particularly many good restaurants. As many as ten of them have a mention in the Michelin Guide. These are the best restaurants in Malaga.
Thanks in part to its sunny climate, Malaga has many squares with cosy terraces. You can go there for a cool drink or Moscatel, but often also for tapas. Some atmospheric squares for a drink are Plaza de las Flores and Plaza de la Merced. But you will also find fine spots near the port, such as Atlantis Sunset Lounge. In addition, Soho Malaga also has very nice terraces these days. Want to enjoy the warm sun on your terrace until late in the afternoon? Then visit one of the many roof terraces in Malaga. Like the ones at the Soho Bahia Hotel, AC Malaga Palacio or Hotel Molina Lario.
Malaga has an extraordinary amount of good accommodation, ranging from flats to hotels with the most beautiful roof terraces. Most of them are located in the old town. Many also have parking facilities. Overview of all accommodation in Malaga.
Special tours in Malaga
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