Malaga is probably best known to most British tourists for its airport. It is the gateway to the Costa del Sol, a well known holiday destination for so many visitors from all over Europe. However, it’s well worth taking a closer look at the city itself because it has much to offer the city-break tourist.
For a start, Malaga can offer a welcome dose of warmth in the middle of the bleak British winter. It rarely gets really cold in Malaga, and it is often warm enough to sit at pavement cafés during the day even in December and January. The city lies just five miles from Malaga airport. There is an airport bus service which costs €2 and the train costs €1.70. Both take around 15 minutes.
Malaga is not jam-packed with monuments, but there is plenty to keep culture fans happy for a couple of days. Right in the centre of the city there are Phoenician and Roman remains and vestiges of the city’s Moorish heritage, opulent Baroque churches and stunning contemporary art and architecture. Spain’s celebrated painter, Pablo Picasso was born in the Plaza de la Merced in1881. His birthplace has been turned into a centre promoting contemporary art with a special emphasis on Picasso himself. The Picasso Museum is situated nearby in the heart of the old town. A temporary exhibition entitled “Picasso Family Album” runs until 6th October and is part of the programme celebrating the 10th anniversary of the opening of the museum. The exhibition traces Picasso’s artistic development through paintings of members of his extended family and includes works from private collections as well as from other museums. Admission: €4.50 (€9 including permanent collection).
The Carmen Thyssen Málaga Museum also attracts many visitors. The museum occupies the 16th-century Palacio de Villalón in the centre of the city, and displays the collections of the widow of Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza. Most of the works on display are from the 19th century, with the emphasis on Andalusian art. Artists include Zurbarán, Sorolla and Romero de Torres.
A visit to the Alcazaba should be on every tourist’s list. Strategically situated overlooking the sea and the city, the Alcazaba is a fortress, built in the 11th century by Malaga’s Arab rulers, which also served as a palace. Inside there is an archaeological museum where exhibits include Roman mosaics and Moorish ceramics. Parts of the structure are reminiscent of the Alhambra in Granada.
Rising above the Alcazaba is the Gibralfaro castle, built in the 14th century to protect the fortress. There is an exhibition area charting its history inside. The outdoor café is a great place to enjoy the panoramic views.
If you need a break from art and architecture, you should make a point of visiting La Concepción Botanic Garden. Rated as one of the best botanic gardens in Europe, La Concepción is a tropical paradise which combines formal gardens with a lush green forest. Created in the mid-19th century by an aristocratic couple, Jorge Loring Oyarzábal and his English wife Amalia Heredia Livermore, the gardens fell into decline but have been restored to their former glory by Malaga City Council. Following the basic route takes around an hour and a half, but you could easily spend all day there.
For those who prefer just to relax and unwind, Malaga is a great place to sit back and enjoy the laidback Mediterranean atmosphere. The city has been spruced up in recent years. Chic boutiques, gastrobars and cool cafés have sprung up alongside the traditional taverns in the winding lanes in the heart of the city, while the waterfront has been developed with a promenade, bars, restaurants and shops.
Málaga’s colourful market, the Mercado de Atarazanas, is one of the most appealing in all Andalucía. The stalls sell fresh fish, meat, spices, deli items, fruit and vegetables. The typical 19th-century iron structure reformed in 2010 incorporates the original Puerta de Atarazanas, the exquisitely crafted 14th-century Moorish gate than once connected the city with the port.
A stay in Malaga can also be combined with a visit to other marvellous cities of Andalucia such as Seville and Granada, but that’s a topic for another blog…..