Malaga: travel guide for the smart traveller

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I have spent a lovely weekend in Malaga with my boyfriend. We both fell in love with the city and decided it deserved to dig deeper and so some good research before writing. In this blog/vlog you will find the result of this research: the best places to go to in Malaga, the best food and highlights of the city, its history and finally also what to avoid. You can either read or watch the video, your choice!

Why you should go to Malaga

What I loved the most of Malaga is the city centre. While Malaga is a very big city, the old centre is quite small and completely pedestrianised. I loved to stroll around the little streets and watch the people there living their lives, locals and tourists alike. Restaurants and taparías (restaurants that specialise in tapas) were always full and lively.

taparia Malaga Spain

As you may already know, in Spain people tend to eat quite late. It’s normal for them to have lunch at 3pm and dinner at 9pm or later. However, restaurants in Malaga were always full regardless of the time and it was difficult to find a place to stay. You almost get the feeling that people in Malaga spend their time eating out!

But when you find your table, you can just relax there and enjoy the great food and atmosphere. We spent a lot of time in the city centre and tried various places and different types of food. It was very relaxing and good for the spirit (and the belly too)!

History of Malaga

Malaga is a big city in Andalusia, which is the southernmost region in Spain. Apparently the city is also very ancient, being founded around 3000 years ago. To give you a well known comparison, London was founded by the Romans “only” 2000 years ago.

The first to arrive were the Phoenicians, who called the city Malaka. After them, arrived the Carthaginians (who had an empire in North Africa), and when they were eventually defeated by the Romans, Malaga became part of the Roman empire.

As we know, empires rise and empires fall.

So after the Romans it was the time of the Moors. The Arab empire reached its greatest expansion in the year 750AD, when the Caliphate occupied all Spain, Northern Africa, Arabic peninsula, and Persia.

The Moors gradually lost land in Spain tough, and eventually the Catholic Monarchs Isabella and Fernando jointly unified Spain as we know it today, with the so-called Reconquista, which ended in 1492 (a few months before Columbus came back from the Americas, effectively opening a new page in Spanish history).

In more recent history, Malaga is proud of having given birth to a few personalities, most notably the paintor Pablo Picasso and actor Antonio Banderas.

Today, in Malaga you can perceive this varied and rich history. We visited a Roman theater, a Moorish castle, and a Catholic Cathedral. You can also visit more than one Picasso museums (the art gallery, the house where Picasso was born, and the Picasso foundation).

What to visit

If you haven’t read the paragraph above, you may want to do it now, because the city’s attractions are linked to its history.

Roman Theater

The Roman theater is vey well preserved and every history geek should go and see it. I loved to sit in the middle of the theater and imagine how it must have been to be there millennia ago. Entrance is free.

Moorish Malaga: Alcazaba and Gibralfaro

Malaga Alcazaba and Gibralfaro

Close to the theater, there is the Alcazaba – a Moorish fortress built in the 11th century. You can visit inside and buy a combined ticket for the Gibralfaro (€3.5), which is the Moorish castle on top of a hill. The two are quite close, but mind that I haven’t used the word hill for nothing. It is a steep walk, so make sure you wear comfortable shoes (I have seen people walking bare-foot because they had made the wrong choice) and bring TONS of water.

Once you get to the top of the hill there is a viewpoint over the city. I have to say, tough, I have seen better and unless you are seriously into history you can avoid this visit. For me, the most interesting thing was seeing a 3D model of the city that showed the most important places and gave an idea of how the city evolved (I am a bit of a map geek too!). Also, to be fair, I can definitely say that you pay a fair price for what you get.

The Cathedral

Malaga cathedral

The Cathedral is in the pedestrian city centre and quite hard to miss. It’s huge and has a small garden outside. There is a ticket to visit (you can either visit the church, the museum, or go to the top. Of course, there are all sorts of ticket combinations).

We went on a Sunday morning and attended the service, which means we entered for free. You may find this weird – I am not religious but I like attending the Sunday Service! I have seen various ones in different countries, and I like to see how they all resemble each other to some extent but also have their differences. What I noticed about this one were the high number of people attending the service who were constantly using a fan. This is hardly surprising given how hot it was, but I still found it peculiar. Outside the cathedral there was also a stand selling fans!

The food

Spanish food, tapas, gazpacho, dried seeds

We absolutely loved the food. We opted for tapas, the typical Spanish food. Tapas can actually be pretty much anything, but the point is that the portion is very small. This is great because it means you can try and taste various things. We opted for a few classics of Spain:

  • Patatas bravas – potatoes with a spicy sauce
  • Croquetas de pollo – chicken croquette
  • Charcuterie: jamón iberico and chorizo
  • Gazpacho soup – a cold tomato soup

And to accompany that we often drank a cerveza (beer) or a copa de Sangria (the traditional fruity wine). Delicious!

We also bought a variety of seeds, dried fruits, and caramelised nuts. This is also very typical of Spain and in Malaga we could found stands selling those everywhere.

The Malagueta beach and the Harbour

The city centre of Malaga is also very close to the beach. Malagueta is quite popular with locals and tourists alike, mainly because it’s 15 minute walk from the centre. The beach itself it’s not great and the water didn’t encourage us to swim, but we rented 2 sun-beds and umbrella for €8 and spent a few relaxing hours there.

Much more interesting is the harbour. There is a promenade and a market full of stands – which is where we bought the seeds. I loved the atmosphere there both during the day and at night. But the best time to be there is probably sunset. We enjoyed a happy hour sitting on a sofa watching the sunset, it was a bit over-expensive but it was worth it!

What I didn’t like

If I have to put a negative note on my stay in Malaga, unfortunately this is about the service we received in various places. We often found rude people working in restaurants and renting the sun-beds. I have lived in Spain for a few months (Valencia and Bilbao) and I don’t remember having experienced anything similar. So maybe it was just us being unlucky?

Where to stay

Malaga is a very big city and I would really recommend to find a place near the city centre. We found an Airbnb flat in Plaza de la Merced, which is about the perfect location. Just outside the ancient walls, we were in the centre in a few minutes and to the beach in around 20 minutes.

The vlog

And finally, here you can find the vlog version of this blog. Enjoy!

3 Replies to “Malaga: travel guide for the smart traveller”

  1. Malaga looks awesome! I love how you used the model to show all the different spots! Such an awesome perspective!

    1. Thank you, Kevin! Yes I thought it gave a better idea than just a map, I’m glad you found this useful 🙂

  2. hi..
    i have heard that malaga is very beautiful place to visit but after seeing your post i am much more inspired to visit malaga. thanx for sharing such a beautiful and informative post regarding malaga.

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