Insider call Málaga the city of “Boquéron” which means anchovy in Spanish. The city’s gastronomy determined this nickname to the Andalusian fishermen city in fact of the high amount of anchovy fishing. Right in the middle of Costa del Sol, Malaga is one of the most touristic cities in Spain thanks to its beaches, innumerable sunny days and a gastronomy based on fish brought in daily by the fishermen at its port. Precisely, if anything distinguishes this Andalusian city it is their anchovies, which has converted into one of its main attractions and most recognized parts of its cultural identity.
Málaga is a briskly modern historic city yet but still has the atmosphere and swagger of a Mediterranean port. Admittedly, initial impressions can be discouraging as, like most Spanish cities, the shell is drab and industrial. But the kernel, the historic city center, is charming with its majestic, if peculiar, unfinished Gothic cathedral, surrounded by traditional balcony buildings, narrow pedestrian streets and some of the best tapas bars in the province. In recent years, the city has heavily invested in its culture and heritage with new museums, extensive restoration and a brand-new port development.
Málaga is a joy to stroll around, with a skyline that reflects the city’s eclectic character; church spires jostle for space with russet-red tiled roofs and lofty apartment buildings while, like a grand old dame, the 11th-century Gibralfaro castle sits grandly and provides the best view of all.
Here are the top things to do in Málaga:
- Museo Picasso: The Museo Picasso has an enviable collection of 204 works, 155 donated and 49 loaned to the museum by Christine Ruiz-Picasso (wife of Paul, Picasso’s eldest son) and Bernard Ruiz-Picasso (his grandson), and includes some wonderful paintings of the family, including the heartfelt Paulo con gorro blanco (Paulo with a white cap), a portrait of Picasso’s eldest son painted in the 1920s. Don’t miss the Phoenician, Roman, Islamic and Renaissance archaeological remains in the museum’s basement, discovered during construction works. There are also excellent year-round temporary exhibitions. Our Spanish school in Malaga is located on 200 metres from the Picasso museum!
- Catedral de Málaga: Málaga’s cathedral was started in the 16th century on the site of the former mosque. Of this, only the Patio de los Naranjos survives, a small courtyard of fragrant orange trees. Inside, the fabulous domed ceiling soars 40m into the air, while the vast colonnaded nave houses an enormous cedar-wood choir. Aisles give access to 15 chapels with gorgeous 18th-century retables and religious art. Climb the tower (200 steps) to enjoy stunning panoramic views of the city skyline and coast. Building the cathedral was an epic project which lasted some 200 years. Such was the project’s cost that by 1782 it was decided that work would stop. One of the two bell towers was left incomplete, hence the cathedral’s well-worn nickname, La Manquita (the one-armed lady). The cathedral’s museum displays a collection of religious items covering a period of 500 years.
- Castillo de Gibralfaro: One remnant of Málaga’s Islamic past is the craggy ramparts of the Castillo de Gibralfaro, spectacularly located high on the hill overlooking the city. Built by Abd ar-Rahman I, the 8th-century Cordoban emir, and later rebuilt in the 14th century when Málaga was the main port for the emirate of Granada, the castle originally acted as a lighthouse and military barracks. Nothing much is original in the castle’s interior, but the airy walkway around the ramparts affords the best views over Málaga. There is also a military museum, which includes a small scale model of the entire castle complex and the lower residence, the Alcazaba.The best way to reach the castle on foot is via the scenic Paseo Don Juan de Temboury, to the south of the Alcazaba. From here a path winds pleasantly (and steeply) through lushly gardened terraces with viewpoints over the city. Alternatively, you can drive up the Camino de Gibralfaro or take bus 35 from Avenida de Cervantes.
- Jardín Botánico La Concepción: Four kilometres north of the city center is this large botanical garden. Dating from the mid-19th century, it is the brainchild of a local aristocratic couple, British-born Amalia Heredia Livermore and her Spanish husband, Jorge Loring Oyarzabal. They decided to recreate a tropical forest near the shores of the Mediterranean. It is famous for its purple wisteria blooms in spring. By car, take the A45 Antequera road north from the Málaga ring road (A7) to Km166 and follow the signs for the ‘Jardín Botánico’.
- Paseo de España: A palm-lined extension of the Alameda, this park was created in the 1890s on land reclaimed from the sea. The garden along its southern side is full of exotic tropical plants and trees, making a pleasant refuge from the bustle of the city. Elderly and young malagueños (people from Málaga) stroll around and take shelter in the deep shade of the tall palms, and on Sundays buskers and entertainers play to the crowds.
- Mercado Atarazanas: North of the city’s main artery, the Alameda Principal, you’ll find this striking 19th-century iron-clad building, incorporating the original Moorish gate that once connected the city with the port. The magnificent stained-glass window depicts historical highlights of the city. The daily market here is pleasantly noisy and animated. Choose from swaying legs of ham and rolls of sausages or cheese, fish and endless varieties of olives. The fruit and veg stalls are the most colourful, selling everything that is in season, ranging from big misshapen tomatoes, sliced and served with olive oil, chopped garlic and rough salt, to large purple onions, mild-flavoured and sweet.
- Roman Theatre: Málaga’s Roman Theatre is one of the remaining symbols of Roman Hispania in the city. In addition to the theatre itself, it has a modern interpretation centre where new technologies present the life and customs of the time. The Theatre has also been returned to its original use and different types of shows take place inside. Discovered in 1951, it lay half-hidden for many years by the Casa de la Cultura (Culture House) building, built between 1940 to 1942 and renovated in the 1960s. It was during these works when the first signs of the Theatre were discovered and the Casa de Cultura was demolished to uncover and properly assess this theatre, which came to be a part of the cultural programmes of 1992. Excavations began by uncovering the proescenium, that is, the stage, remnants of the Orchestra, the place reserved for senators and the cavea. These stands have a 31-metre radius and reach a height of 16 metres; there are thirteen raised rows of seats and the entrances passageways, what is referred to as the vomitorium. Built in the time of Augustus in the 1st century AD, it was in use until the 3rd century. Much of its construction material such as stones, columns and carved stones were later used for building the Alcazaba. The interpretation centre is decorated on the outside by original fragments of the Lex Flavia Malacitana (municipal code of law, which granted free-born persons the privileges of Roman citizenship), recovered in the excavations.
- Alcazaba: This fortress palace, whose name in Arabic means citadel, is one of the city’s historical monuments and is much visited because of its history and beauty. The building that dates from the Muslim period is located at the foot of the Gibralfaro hill, crowned by the Arab defence works to which the Alcazaba is connected by a walled passage known as the Coracha. With the Roman Theatre and the Aduana Customs Building, this special corner offers the chance to observe Roman, Arab and Renaissance culture, all within a few yards of each other. If you have no time to visit Granada’s Alhambra? Then Málaga’s Alcazaba can provide a taster. The entrance is next to the Roman amphitheatre , from where a meandering path climbs amid lush greenery: crimson bougainvillea, lofty palms, fragrant jasmine bushes and rows of orange trees. Extensively restored, this palace-fortress dates from the 11th-century Moorish period; the caliphal horseshoe arches, courtyards and bubbling fountains are evocative of this influential period in Málaga’s history. Don’t miss the small archaeological museum located within the former servants’ quarters of the Nazari palace, with its exhibits of Moorish ceramics and pottery.
- Centre Pompidou: The center proposes all public to feel the experience of the Centre Pompidou through its wealthy collection, its excellent schedules, the mutual interference of artistic disciplines and its innovative mediation programs. Malaga, birthplace of Picasso and an international tourist destination place, positions the culture and the museums in the center of a new stage of its development
- Ronda: Explore the countryside and mountains of the province of Málaga, land of Bulls, olive trees, leather, great food and amazing views. Ronda, Arcos, Ubrique, El Bosque, Grazalema, Bornos, Algodonales are the so-called “pueblos blancos”= white villages Mostly famous for its cliffs, one impressive Bridge, the Oldest Bullfight Arena in the world, and is considered by many one of the most beautiful towns in Spain. The millennial city of Ronda possesses one of the most beautiful historical centres of Spain. Declared a Site of Cultural Interest in 1966, containing a rich and diverse historic heritage. The New Bridge is, together with the bullring of the Royal Cavalry Order of Ronda, symbol and soul of the city.