The smell of churros con chocolate is everywhere along C. Marqués de Larios. And so are shops selling snacks of chorizo and Spanish ham in paper cones (they are called cucuruchos). My first impressions of Malaga are all about good food. And good weather, t-shirt weather despite being early November. And the crowds of tourists in the historic town in the evening.
I have travelled Spain extensively over the years but Malaga and the southern part of Andalusia were still missing from my travel map. So when looking for a November holiday – and after deciding to remain in Europe instead of jetting to far-flung destinations – they quickly made it to the top of my wish list.
With only a few hours in Malaga before heading south, I tried to squeeze in as much as I could. Starting from the two main Moorish monuments in town: the Alcazaba and the Gibralfaro. If you have been to Andalusia (places like Sevilla, Granada, Cordoba), you’ll be familiar with the Moorish architecture of the region. Think arches, gardens, geometric patterns and arabesque motifs. I find it fascinating and I was keen to see the Malaga-version of it.
Built between the 11th-14th century, this impressive fortress is located on a hill in the centre of historic Malaga and is one of the best preserved alcazabas in Spain. It is an uphill walk through a number of gates (puertas) and around sturdy double walls with towers – this takes you from the outer citadel to the inner citadel, containing the palaces. Once I reached the inner citadel, I found myself walking around a couple of beautiful courtyards with fountains, lush gardens, balconies (Patio de los Naranjos and Patio de la Alberca). This area is known as the Cuartos de Granada and the Moorish architecture will remind you of the Alhambra itself. I spent a lot of time admiring the intricate details of the decorations, so beautiful! From the top of the hill there are also great panoramic views over Malaga, the port and the coast.
The Alcazaba takes 1-1.5 hours to visit and is definitely worth it! Entrance ticket is €3.5 and can be bought as combination with the Castillo de Gibralfaro higher up the hill (combined ticket €5.50). If you want to avoid the queues and the tourist crowds get there early in the morning, best before 10am.
Castillo de Gibralfaro
Gibralfaro is the second fortress in Malaga and the one dominating the city from a 132m hill (Gibralfaro hill). You can either catch bus 35 to the top or walk for around 20-30 minutes up the hill. I warn you: it is steep! Walking was my choice and I followed two very different routes: up via the Coracha way, the most scenic, shortest (0.9Km) and steepest, and down via Calle de Mundo, longer (1.8Km) and more gentle.
But what is the Castle of Gibralfaro? Mostly built in the 14th century – although it was started before the 11th century – it was a defence structure for the city of Malaga. Its solid double walls surround the area and you can walk all the way around them. Two main towers (Torre Mayor and Torre Blanca) feature here, as well as courtyards in the inner part of the castle. From the towers you can enjoy a 360-degree panorama of the city, the bay, the coast west and east and the mountains.
Catedral de la Incarnacion
Malaga´s cathedral is a Catholic church built between 1528 and 1782. It is in typical Reinassance and Baroque style and very beautiful inside.
Historic centre of Malaga
I walked around the historic centre for hours, on a quest for good photo opportunities. Narrow alleyways, wrought iron balconies with pots of flowers, interesting statues and fountains, quirky sculptures. Bars, cafes, restaurants, eateries of any sorts tempted me at every step. Then it was time to go. But I wish I had planned to spend more time in Malaga as it felt like there was so much more to see!
Public transport tip: there is a bus from Malaga airport to the centre of Malaga, the Airport Express, and the journey is 25-30 minutes (€4).