The Ultimate Travel Guide to Malaga, Spain
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There must be something in the air in Malaga, the birthplace of multi-talented artist Pablo Picasso, which inspires art. In recent years an entire district, Soho/Lagunillas, has been rejuvenated and converted into a vast open-air museum of street art with massive murals and sculptures.
Malaga, the cosmopolitan port city in the south of Spain, is one of the oldest cities in the world and therefore isn’t short of historical sites either, from the castle of Gibralfaro and the adjacent Alcazabar towering over the city to a Roman theatre. Add to this 28 new and many older museums with world-renowned collections, lovely parks, an interesting port, tapas tours and great shopping and you’ll want to visit to experience the flair of southern Spain as soon as possible.
What falls a bit by the wayside are beaches, but, no problem, the Costa del Sol with resorts like Marbella or Nerja is only a short drive away. Somewhat closer beaches are about 2 miles away, but then, you haven’t come to Malaga for a sunbathing vacation.
In this Malaga Travel Guide blog, we listed helpful travel tips and advice on how to get there, get around, things to do, restaurants, best hotels, travel packages and more.
Best time to visit
Malaga is famous for her year-round sunshine and warm climate. Summers can be very hot, but winters are generally mild, so, any time is good for a visit, but it might be a good idea to avoid the summer months from June to August not only because of the heat but also because of the great number of national and international visitors that crowd the city and make for long waiting lines at attractions.
Easter Week, Semana Santa, is a big affair in Spain and especially in Andalusia. To see the devoted in processions very much like in Seville, make sure you make your travel arrangements and accommodation booking well in advance.
How to get there
Malaga airport serves many international airlines and is the 4th largest airport in Spain. You reach the city center by bus running from outside the arrivals hall and a light railway. Plenty of taxis are available too.
Malaga has an extensive and easy to negotiate bus system. The most interesting places, however, are best explored on foot. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes, Malaga has many broad avenues with ample pavements but also narrow cobbled side streets. You’ll have to do some climbing and negotiating several steps. If you have arrived by car leave it in one of the public car parks, a huge and central one being at the Corte Ingles and proceed by bus or on foot.
Places to stay
Parador de Malaga Gibralfaro
Address: Castillo de Gibralfaor s/n
Atop the Gibralfaro hill and opposite the Alcazaba, this 4star hotel offers all the luxury and amenities typical of Spain’s Paradores. The state-run paradores are often located in historic buildings or outstanding surroundings, as is this one. Surrounded by pine woods, you have extraordinary views over the city, a rooftop swimming pool, ample breakfast buffet and much more.
Vincci Seleccion Posada del Patio
Address: Pasillo de Santa Isabel 7
Within walking distance of the cathedral and Picasso Museum, this 5star hotel is ideally located. Rooms are ample and modern, there are bars and restaurants as well as a rooftop swimming pool. Even extra suites with more luxury like private terraces and welcome champagne are available on request.
Hotel Don Paco
Address: Salitre 53
This 3star comfortable but the older hotel is again located in the center of Malaga and within an easy walking distance of the Central bus/train station, the cathedral and the Picasso museum.
Best places to eat
Personally, I didn’t have a single sit down meal in Malaga because I’m such a fan of tapas and love to go from one bar to another when I feel hungry. You’ll be spoilt for choice in Malaga.
Let’s start with what is typical of Malaga. For breakfast: pitufos, little-grilled sandwiches with a drizzle of olive oil, squashed tomato and a slice of cured ham. Tejeringos, the Malaga version of churros, fried anchovies, sardines, and squid.
La Luz de Candela
Address: Calle dos Aceras 18-21
This restaurant offers ‘slow food’ Mediterranean cuisine in a cozy casual atmosphere. Seafood, meat but also vegetarian dishes are on the menu.
La Alacena de Francis
Address: Calle Montalban 1
Malaga is not only famous for the food but also for the wines, especially red wine to accompany every meal and, of course, the tapas. You’ll find enough Tapas bars as you walk along, but if you want to go on a tapas tour, you can do that too.
The owner is British and the tours are conducted in English and small groups to selected and tested tapas bars.
Language, currency and more
Due to the enormous number of foreign visitors, English is widely spoken. The currency is the EURO (€). Free wifi in every hotel and in some areas of the city.
Bear in mind, that the ‘siesta’, the lunch hour, is sacred in Spain, in the south even more so than in the north. Most shops close between 2pm and 5pm, sometimes even 6pm. The exceptions are big supermarkets and department stores. Banks open only from 9am to 2pm, not in the afternoon.
Lunch is eaten accordingly and dinner often doesn’t start until 9pm or 10pm.
Things to do and see
Supposing you stay in the Parador, the Castillo de Gibralfaro and the Alcazaba will be your first port of call. Both were built during the 11th and 13th century, first as a defense against pirates, then extended to serve as the royal residence during the Arab rule of Spain.
If you stay in the city center you may want to start your sightseeing by deciding what interests you most. Modern Art, antiquity, parks and promenades or just shopping? For me, it’s modern and urban art, so I start with a visit to the two most famous museums, the Picasso Museum and the Carmen Thyssen Museum.
Both are housed in historical buildings, so you get to enjoy the art together with the architecture.
Then I make my way to the lovely Alameda, a park divided by a broad walkway covered in brilliant tiles, with flowers, palm trees and tiled benches which is the northern border of Soho, the urban art district. Close to the Guadalmina river and the port I can’t get enough of the fabulous and monumental murals by famous urban artists.
It’s not only the art which makes the district so interesting, quaint shops, cafés, small restaurants and art galleries will keep you occupied for hours.
The proximity to the port invites a visit to see one of the biggest ports in the country. Container ships, cruise liners and private superyachts on their way to Puerto Banus maybe, catch your eye.
If you still feel like a bit of shopping, visit a nearby shopping mall, Muelle Uno.
The name already indicates the address. You’ll find chain stores as well as some designer boutiques, and a chic café with great views over the port. This mall is open from 12.am to 12pm, no siesta.
Two insider tips for museum fans like myself: the first is the wonderful glass museum in Plazuela Santisimo Christo Sangre 2. A collection of glass and chandeliers in a converted 18th-century townhouse on the first floor, furniture, and insights into the life of the time on the ground floor.
The second is magic: it combines exquisite vintage cars with fashion, all in an emblematic building of Malaga, La Tabacalera, a former tobacco factory. It’s the Car and Automobile Museum.
In Avenida de Sor Teresa Prat 15 near the airport. If you are so inclined, you can even hire a vintage convertible Rolls Royce plus chauffeur and have a spin feeling like a millionaire.
Mention needs to be made of the Cathedral which started as a Renaissance building and ended Baroque as well as the Church of the Sacred Heart and, for friends of nature, the Botanical garden.
As you can see, Malaga has so many things to offer for all tastes, that you just have to go and look for yourself!