Travels in Spain – Andalucía, Malaga

Malaga Postcard

It was our final day in Andalucía.  The sun was shining.  We debated changing our plans.  We decided to stick to the agreed itinerary and drive to Málaga.  After breakfast we checked out of the hotel and headed south to the city which happens to be the birthplace of the artist Pablo Picasso, the actor Antonio Banderas and the golfer Miguel Ángel Jiménez.

It took about an hour to drive to the city and when we arrived I was horrified to discover just how big it is and difficult to navigate.  Málaga is the sixth largest city in Spain and the biggest most southerly city in all of Europe (apologies to Valletta which is slightly further south but only half the size).  Eventually we found a parking space in an underground car park and emerged from subterranean level blinking into bright sunlight somewhere close to the old town.

The journey had been stressful.  We needed a drink.  We found a pavement bar close to the centre and found a vacant table where we could examine the city map and get our bearings.

Malaga Andalucia Spain

It was Saturday and Málaga was busy.  There was a cruise ship in the harbour and tourists were wandering around like a plague of locusts, local people were out shopping (Kim reliably informs me that this is what people do on a Saturday morning) and the area was well provided for by roaming street entertainers.  We stayed for a while and after paying the staggeringly high bill then wandered off in the direction of the cathedral but we didn’t go inside because having just spent so much on a beer we were put off by the cost of admission so instead we made our way to the harbour and after that the beach.

Malaga Beach

It has to be said that this is a very good beach indeed and we walked for a couple of miles along a promenade which ran adjacent to a crescent arc of lush caramel sand and gentle blue water that softly caressed the inviting shoreline.  As we walked we assessed the beach restaurants where fresh fish and bubbling paella was being prepared on flaming barbeques and made a decision where we might eat.

Unfortunately we left this a bit late and by the time we had decided our first, second and third choices were all full up with no prospect of available tables for at least an hour or more.  So we walked some more and then some more again and when we guessed that the time might be right we returned to our first choice and luckily there was a table free and we enjoyed a meal of fresh red snapper and a house salad.  It tasted divine.

Malaga Cathedral

After lunch we walked back to the city centre and while Kim went to the shops I returned to the cathedral.  There was a service in place now which meant there was no longer an admission fee and because that is the sort of good luck that I really appreciate I took advantage of my good fortune, wandered inside and mingled with the worshippers until it was all over and then spent an agreeable thirty minutes exploring the church and the side chapels before stepping back into the sun-splashed streets.

Aging Hippies Costa Del Sol

I confess that I hadn’t been absolutely sure that I would like Malaga, it once had a reputation for boozy Brits and cheap holidays but this is a city that has thoroughly reinvented itself. Gone is its seedy reputation as a playground for misbehaving tourists and instead the capital of the Costa Del Sol has been revived as a cultural destination only narrowly missing out to Donostia-San Sebastián as the 2016 European Capital of Culture.  As I stepped out of the Cathedral I knew that I liked it here.

Malaga is a business hub and a tourist city now but it has a long and varied history.  The Romans built a city here and we walked alongside the ancient theatre, the Moors were here of course before the Reconquista and then the Christians built a castle on the site of an abandoned Alcazaba.

Malaga Bullring

Málaga was one of the locations where Muslim rule persisted the longest, having been part of the Emirate of Granada. While most other parts of the peninsula had already been won back the Moors still occupied Málaga. It was finally retaken by Christian forces in August 1487, only five years before the fall of Granada.  The Muslim inhabitants resisted assaults and artillery bombardments before hunger forced them to surrender – virtually the entire population was sold into slavery – that is Christian charity for you!

We paid the modest admission price and then climbed steadily towards the top.  The lower areas of the castle are functional and militaristic but at the top there is a Palace almost as good as that at the Alhambra with shaded gardens where sunshine was trying to break in like a thief, fine Moorish architecture and a sense that this was once a place not just of military muscle but also of intellectual appreciation of the finer things in mediaeval life.

When we arrived six hours earlier we wondered how we would fill the day as we waited for our flight home but as it happened the day was slipping away rapidly now as we left the castle and returned to the car park along a busy street that was filling up with local people out for a wander around the Saturday night streets.

We stopped at a bar for a final drink and watched the evening entertainment and then reluctantly paid up, left, returned to the car and drove to the airport for our late night flight back to UK.

We had enjoyed our few days in Andalucía but with so much more to see we agreed that we would surely have to return.

Malaga Street Entertainers

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35 responses to “Travels in Spain – Andalucía, Malaga

  1. It all sounds divine, Andrew. Picturesque, loaded with history and picturesque architecture. 🙂 🙂 ❤

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  2. Andrew you and I may disagree on a few things but this line ….’There was a cruise ship in the harbour and tourists were wandering around like a plague of locusts’….we are singing from the same page of the songbook on this one!

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  3. The dog looks as if he’s seen it all before!

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  4. I enjoyed my time in Malaga very much and this was a great post to allow me to walk down memory lane. I’m pleased you eventually warmed to the place and I know how daunting it is to drive in the city as I also found it pretty terrifying!

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  5. Liking the sound of Malaga after reading your post. We’ve never been – just to the outskirts where we happened upon a huge fiesta/festival and got sidetracked by that (fabulous and non-touristy we loved it!). I think we need to go back and explore this city now.

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  6. It rained non stop when we went to Malaga so apart from quick looks in the cathedral and Picasso museum we were held prisoner in an underground bodega! Agree with you regarding cruise ships. Who in their right mind wants to be cooped up with 5k others and then herded round your destination in 3 hours flat!

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  7. Great stat about it being the biggest most southerly city. I was trying to think of its rivals – Palermo seemed pretty big when I went but must be a bit further north.

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  8. I love the header for this post. Another favorite is the great shot of the tourists (what wild outfits!) with the accordion player behind them. Such a great little vignette.

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  9. Malaga is my second favourite Spanish city, and I love it. The old bars are wonderful, the beach food is exceptional, and the people are Malaguenan before they are Spanish – if you know what I mean. I really enjoyed your report of the place and it’s nice to know you think you’ll return. If you ever feel like pushing the boat out, I recommend a night in the Parador with its marvellous views, lovely quiet rooms and great food and drink – they often offer deals out of season..

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  10. Slipping into the cathedral when there was a service and therefore no entry fee… my kind of travel, Andrew. 🙂 –Curt

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  11. We had a similar feeling driving into Seville. Why on earth have we done this!!! I loved the city but Mick developed a healthy loathing for it which he’s hanging onto. 🙂 Not helped because our second time there it never stopped raining and the Alcazar gardens were closed because it was ‘unsafe’ in the rain. 😦 I digress 🙂 I remember Malaga being very hot and sticky, and big! Nigh on 40 years ago. All that walking you did, Andrew- almost constitutes a Monday walk 🙂

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    • Seville drove me crazy, it is still top of my list of most difficult places to park in Spain. The easiest in my opinion was Toledo. I hope Mick might forgive it one day and you get a third visit there, the gardens are lovely. We did a lot of walking in Malaga, Kim had to stop and buy a new pair of shoes!

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      • Not more shoes! 🙂 We have seen the gardens in sunshine and yes- very beautiful. I need to go back for a river cruise and to see that funny waffle shaped shopping mall. Kim would like that bit 🙂

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  12. I visited Spain with my friends and had an amazing experience staying there. We were 10 members and stayed in local homestay in Spain which we booked from HeyBnb. As we stayed in local places we got to know what time tourist mostly visit, we know what are the places we can explore as we had no knowledge of the place before. The owners were very friendly and helpful. We also had local home made food and the place was quite safe and secure.For more information you can visit : http://www.heybnbworld.com/

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  13. Great article Andrew! I have yet to visit Spain though Monsieur went many years ago (before I knew him!) and our younger daughter has been a few times and loved it (not as far south as the Costa del Sol though). It seems such a varied place with so many different regions. I must admit before reading this my impression of Malaga was as a holiday spot for rowdy Brits so have been so interested to read your account here. I always find the history of a place fascinating too – sounds a great place to wander round and soak in the atmosphere!

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