Malaga is the capital of Provence of Malaga in Andalusia and a striking city in the south of the country barely 200kms from North Africa. My trip to Córdoba and Granada had to have Malaga included because Malaga airport is the easiest way to get to Andalusia and while Granada has an airport it is small with relatively fewer international connections. I added Malaga as a stop on the way but the city came with a few extras both other cities didn’t have; beach, bigger gay scene and Alcazaba!
Read my country guide about Spain to find answers to all your questions for a comfortable trip.
Located on Costa del Sol (Coast of the Sun) the city is one of the oldest cities in world along with being one of the sunniest in Europe with golden sand beaches and a grand port along with newly renovated city centre that feels like a beautiful open museum.
The Moorish citadels of Alcazaba and Gibrafuera on top of mountains overlook the sixth-largest city in Spain which gave birth to artists and celebrities that are world-famous and they loved Malaga unwaveringly till they died. The most notable are Pablo Picasso and Antonio Bendares.
The city is perfect for a two-day trip in which you can relax, do some sightseeing, go to the beach, have great food, party like a rockstar and go back content and happy…
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Semana Santa is one of the most important weeks for religious people in Andalusia, people carry these huge floats each weighing more than 5 tonnes. The processions are absolutely amazing and a must watch… #Spain #Malaga #SemanaSanta #HolyWeek #Procession #PassionOfChrist #Float #Andalusia #Holiday #Jesus #Fraternities #SemanaSantaSpain #SemanaSantaProcession #SemanaSanta2016 #SemanaSantaMalaga
All Things Malaga
To and from Airport
Malaga has a big international airport which is very convenient to get to and from. A lot of cheap airlines fly to Malaga airport from all across Europe and in summers even from New York. The airport is quite modern with good connections to and from the city both by bus and train. You can take the train that runs every 20 minutes, will cost roughly €1.80 one way and will take 10-15 minutes and will drop you at Centro station. The bus takes longer, roughly around 30 minutes and costs more (bizarre!).
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Public transport in Malaga is quite good but honestly, you don’t need to take public transport anywhere because you can see most of the things in the city centre on foot. The main bus station and the new train station Maria Zambrano are located a little outside the city centre but taxis are quite cheap and easy to find.
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Free Walking Tour
There is a few walking tours available for Malaga and honestly, I don’t remember which one I went with but the guide was quite amazing and kept it quite light and took us to the oldest wine shop in the city for a quick taste as well. I would definitely recommend going with a free walking tour to hear some interesting local stories about the city and its monuments.
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Malaga has a great food scene with a lot of food options available throughout the city, especially in the city centre. I added the link to a couple of places but the food was quite good everywhere especially the Tapas. The best option for food was Mercado de la Merced which is a new market near Plaza de la Merced and has a lot of food stalls that server different local and international specialities. I had a couple of meals at the place and it never disappointed me, taste or price-wise! In the evenings it is quite cool to hang around there because there are quite a few bars across the street near the square and you will meet a lot of locals. This is also where most of the gay bars are located. The rest of the restaurants are located in the nooks and crannies of the city and you will love discovering some great places.
Malaga is famous for its sweet wines like Moscatel which are mostly dessert wines and you should head to Antigua Casa de Guardia to enjoy the oldest wine bar in the city where they still serve age the wine in wooden barrels and serve you right from the barrel. It was a fun experience.
Malaga has an established and big gay scene in the city and also in nearby Tormelinos on its fabulous beaches. There’s a lot of gay bars and clubs but don’t forget this is South of Spain and bars open around 10-11pm and clubs are not open before 1 am so pace yourself accordingly. The city has some gay bars and beaches and then you travel to Torremolinos which is gayer with more gay bars, clubs and beaches. I really enjoyed spending time in Carmen bar and El Theatro Club in the city centre and if you want to party hard you can head to Mykonos in Torremolinos which has great views as well.
Grindr is also quite widely used and guys are quite open about sexuality here than I imagined, Malaga being relatively conservative compared to bigger cities like Madrid and Barcelona. Drugs scene is relatively mixed and most of the guys are friendly. I met 3 guys who showed me around and I went to Malagueta beach and Toremelinos with my newfound friends..
The closest gay beach to the city is Guadalmar but getting to it is a bit tricky unless you have a car and the water isn’t as clear so you are better off going to Eden or Gato Lounge beaches in Torremolinos. You can take the bus 110 from the Port which takes you directly to Torremolinos city centre or take the train from Centro Almeida Station which runs every half an hour so depending on your locations choose one. The train takes roughly 25 minutes and costs around €3 return.
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Spa & Hammam
Andalusia has a good selection of Moorish style Hammams and Malaga is no exception. I spent the last evening of my stay in Hammam Al Andalus banos Arabes in Malaga. They have other hammams in Granada, Cordoba and Madrid. It is so relaxing and tranquil. I just fell asleep on the marble stone enjoying its heat after the scrub and massage. I’d highly recommend this clean and serene place for a visit especially because it was quite cheap but try booking it in advance.
Another good Hammam is El Hammam in the city centre and offers similar services but it is located in the old Arabic baths. Link is here and advance booking is recommended.
You can also buy Malaga Pass that gives you access and entrance to quite a few places but unless you want to use public transport extensively and enter quite a few places like museums and galleries. It is available in different durations and you can buy it here. Generally, you can easily do without it and buy the entrance tickets on the spot as and when needed.
You can learn how to manage your budget during travelling in this guide.
Day 1 in Malaga started with amazing sunshine for me and after a good night sleep, I was ready to leave Cordoba and Granada behind and see this beautiful city. Most of the activity on the streets starts around 10 or 11 am and you can eat in peace before in some small square enjoying the spring sun.
Constitution Square –> Malaga Cathedral –-> Picasso Museum –-> Roman Theatre –-> Hammam –-> Merced Square –-> Picasso House –-> Merced Market
Constitution Square (Plaza de la Constitución)
Plaza de la Constitucion has been the centre of life in Malaga for centuries. It used to host the city hall, Mayor’s house, jail, markets and what not and it still is the centrepiece of all fares and celebrations and this is where most of the walking tours start. The square and main street of Malaga Calle Larios both are pedestrianised and have plenty of cafes and restaurants around. The square had seating on both sides for the main Easter procession event but we started our tour shortly.
The walk from Constitution square to Malaga cathedral will show you the market which was closed on the day due to Easter and then through the streets of the old city centre to this impressive mammoth of the church. It was built on the site of a previous mosque after Reconquista. The church is also called La Manquita affectionately which translates to One-Armed Lady.
The reason for this name is the unfinished tower of the cathedral. Originally the cathedral was commissioned to have two towers but lack of funds only allowed one tower to be completed and it is still considered incomplete after centuries of construction that resulted in a building possessing features from Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles.
Inside the cathedral the main hall is magnificent and the detailed work, especially of mahogany and cedarwood, is so intricate and beautiful. The finished tower is quite impressive and because it was Easter it was a little extra busy but that just made the experience better.
Entrance to museum and cathedral is €5 but gardens are free to enjoy. The gardens outside are another spectacle and you can clearly see the Moorish influence in them. The fountains and ponds create a very serene environment around the cathedral.
Malaga is very proud of Picasso and you can see his statue, his house and then this Museum if you’re a Picasso fan. The museum has permanent and temporary exhibitions that change throughout the year. You can check the details here.
To buy the tickets use this link. I would highly recommend buying tickets in advance because it is a very famous place and long queues prevented me from going in as well. It has impressive reviews though and has ceramics, drawings, paintings, etches and sculptures donated by Picasso family.
Roman Theatre (El Teatro Romano)
The oldest surviving monument in the city and right at the doorstep of Alcazaba, this Roman theatre is like an open museum and you can see the ruins even while passing by. Made in first century BC it later provided stones for Alcazaba fortress and Moors used it as a quary and finally it fell to disuse and for centuries lay under piles of rubble. It was finally excavated and today it is a proud monument for Malaga. There is a visitor centre next to the Roman Theatre where you can learn about the history and since I was in no mood to lean about Romans with the hammam waiting, I passed on it and headed to my massage appointment.
Hammam Al Andalus banos Arabes
Hammam is not just a spa and it is closely linked to the Muslim way of ablutions and cleaning. In old times hammams used to be the centre of all grooming activities from scrubbing to shaving, nails grooming to massages and baths. Gender segregation was strictly maintained and it was a ritual that provided the social aspect as well.
This hammam, however, is obviously more modern but the open and clean environment helped me relax, definitely worth a visit and not too expensive either. It is the perfect little break between a day of sightseeing and a night out.
Plaza de la Merced
Walking through the streets with graffiti around Picasso to the restored Roman theatre we finally arrived at Plaza de la Merced which is one of the best spots in the city to hang out, party or simply to soak some sun. This is where Calle Granada ends and you can see an obelisk in the centre of the square which is a tribute to 49 soldiers who died as part of a rebellion and were honoured including a Scotsman.
The square is close to El Carmen and Babia bars and you can meet a lot of people here especially out on the street when the weather is nice.
A good way to end the tour for the first day is to visit the birth house of Pablo Ruiz Picasso, one of the most famous jewels in the crown of Malaga and the city loves him as much as he loved it during his lifetime. This is the house where Picasso was born, although he and his family moved to a nearby house in the same square but you can feel how it must have influenced him in his younger years. The building was opened in the 1990s by the king and queen of Spain.
Mercado de la Merced
This modern food market is at the heart of the food revolution in Malaga and you have quite a few different stalls and places to choose from. Don’t forget to try the cheese one. I provided the review link in the food section already. It is quite modern and has a lot of space so chill out with good drinking options as well.
I met a guy from Grindr who took me around and we finally ended up in Theatro with his friends. I finally got home around 4 am when the party was still growing.
A day spent looking around Malaga was great last night and loved going out but I certainly could not go back without seeing Alcazaba and the city beach. I had to catch my flight in the evening back but if I’ve had additional time, I would definitely visit Torremolinos after lunch which is quite easy and if you can stay the night and enjoy the party scene in this gay paradise. I have made it part of the itinerary to reflect this.
Alcazaba & Gibralfaro
Alcazaba is not a single palace but a palace complex which was originally built on top of Roman ruins and provided the much needed fortification and protection around the city from the pirates. It is 3 centuries older than Alhambra in Granada and Alcazar in Seville and is much simpler in its approach than the later built complexes that are more intricately and lavishly decorated and designed.
You will need to buy the tickets at the foot of the hill which can be long so either use Malaga Pass or buy the tickets there. The queue wasn’t too bad and I was ready to climb to the top in a few minutes.
Tip: You definitely need sturdy shoes for this climb and don’t forget to carry some water with you especially if you are going all the way to Gibralfaro. There are a few shops across the square to pick up snacks and water.
Alcazaba was a fortification more than anything else and it was so good the two concentric walls are still in good condition out of three and the views from the top and along the way are just stunning. The walk up is quite twisty turny but every few steps you come across interesting stuff not to forget the greenery that keeps the whole route refreshing. The gardens in different areas and all levels especially around the main palace are beautiful and there are many fountains which is mind-boggling and I kept wondering how would they be bringing water all the way up to the mountain top.
The actual palace is small and nowhere was grand as Alhambra but you can see the style and taste is very similar. There is a museum which you can enter or you have the option to go to the side walls or on top to see the beautiful port of Malaga and Malaguetta beach as well as the sprawling city on the other city. Despite there being a lot of tourists I loved the serenity and peace it provides once you find a beautiful corner and watch people come and go.
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The climb up to Gibralfaro is quite steep and with the sun shining and the view of the beach from the palace, I decided to drop it and go down to meet my newly made friend and head to the beach.
Gibralfaro is an older fortress on the top and you can walk up from the base of Alcazaba or take the taxi from the back road but it is not in as good a condition as Alcazaba but if you like the views this is a good point to watch the sunset.
Malagueta Beach (Playa de la Malagueta)
The beach is quite close to the city and once you come down from Alcazaba you can be on the beach in 15 minutes on foot. The walk takes you to the end of the city centre and you turn towards the harbour. The beach is quite comfortable and cheap and we got some cocktails and chilled out in the sun. The water was moderately cold but not too bad for this time of the year. Soon enough the smell of grilles anchovies and fish surrounded us prompting some serious hunger pangs and we ordered a platter of grilled seafood which was delicious with just salt and lemon to be washed down with cocktails and then a quick nap.
Torremolinos City & Beach
The bus will drop you in the city centre. You will get plenty of time to explore it later and should head directly to the beach of your choice; gay beach like Eden if you want. There are sunbeds and loungers available and the transport to and from Malaga is quite frequent and runs till quite late. If you do want to party, however, I would suggest staying the night over and exploring this city next day before heading back or you can take a taxi back to Malaga if it is quite late and you’d want to go back to your hotel.
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