The city that came from no where and stole our hearts!
We have just spent a week in Malaga on an intensive Spanish course, trying to brush up on our Spanish language skills as much as possible before we jetted off to South America! We chose to do the course in Malaga as we could get cheap & direct flights from the UK, and due to its location in the South of Spain, we fancied some sunshine!
We had been looking into courses in Seville and Granada, but the logistics of Malaga made sense, even if it wasn't our favourite Spanish city. The truth is, in the past year we have flown into Malaga airport at least 3 times but have never spent anytime there except to grab a quick tapa before the next bus or train journey to some other corner of Spain.
Despite never having spent time in the city, we didn't have high expectations and I really don't know why. I suppose no one really talks about Malaga. You hear about the stunning architecture in Seville, or the mouth watering paella from Valencia, but Malaga? What do you associate with Malaga?
Well after spending one week there, when I think of Malaga I see picturesque, weaving lanes perfect to meander down, whilst tapas bars invade from either side. A lively city filled with Spaniards, cervezas and more pinchos than you could ever possibly eat. I love that Malaga feels authentically Andalusian despite being in the tourist hub of the Costa Del Sol plus there's enough things to do in Malaga to keep you occupied.
5 best things to do in malaga
Malaga isn't a huge city, therefore it is easy enough to walk to all main attractions and sights without any difficulty. As always, like any city we would recommend you do the free city walking tour. This enables you to get your bearings and learn about the history of Malaga.
1. Visit the Roman amphitheatre & the Alcazaba.
The Alcazaba is a fortress which was built between 1057 and 1063 - so it's old. Very old. And it is one of the most important buildings remaining from the muslim-era of Spain. Today you can wander around the Alcazaba, its entrance is just next to the Roman ampitheatre and its gardens enable you to look over the theatre from a height. The theatre itself wasn't discovered until 1953, and today sits displayed beneath the walls of the Alcazaba.
2. Wander down to Malaga's port
Malaga's port is one of the busiest ports on the Mediterranean and has been in use since 600 BC. Today, all along the water front is filled with restaurants, cafes and shops and even pop up bars. It's the perfect place to amble along on a nice day. This is also where the Michelin star restaurant Jose Carlos is situated if you want to try the very best of Andalusian food.
3. Visit the Castillo De Gibralfaro
The Castle of Gibralfaro offers incredible views over the city of Malaga. Entrance costs €2.20 per person and enables you to explore the grounds of the castle and take in the breathtaking views over Malaga and the Mediterranean Sea.
4. Visit the museum of Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga, Spain, and today there is a museum in remembrance and celebration of this world renowned artist. Entrance to the museum costs €10 (reduced for children and consessions) and enables you to view the collection of Pablo's paintings. Opening times are from 10am until 6pm November to February, and 10am to 7pm in summer.
5. Wander around the old town and visit its various tapas bars
With more tapas than you know what to do with, you should wander down through the interwining lanes of Malaga's old town which is bustling with tapas bars and sample the city's famous pinchos and croquettes. We ate so much tapas in Malaga, with our favourite bar being Lola's. Despite only opening in 2010, its decor and setting made it feel like it had been an essential part of Malaga cuisine for much longer. We also heard great things about El Meson De Cervantes, but every time we tried to go, we could never get a table! Next time we are in Malaga, we will be more organised and book a table in advance!
There are literally hundreds of tapas bars and restaurants scattered throughout Malaga's winding streets; countless hidden gems serving the most delicious tapas, you would need to spend a year in Malaga to get around them all!
where to stay in malaga
There is an array of accommodation available in Malaga to suit all budgets. As we were there for 1 week, we wanted our own apartment with a kitchen and living space so opted for the H2M apartments located about a 15 minute walk to the heart of the city. These apartments were clean, spacious and came with all the basic things we needed such as a washing machine and stove!
If you are looking for a more luxurious stay then check out Patio De Arance. These are apartments in the heart of Malaga which get great reviews and don't break the bank either! Similarly, if you want a more budget option then the best hostel in Malaga has to be Picnic Dreams Boutique Hostel. It's in a great location, only 100m from the Picasso Museum and it has a roof terrace, plus all rooms have an en-suite bathroom and air-con.
daytrips from malaga
One of the great things about Malaga, is that it is a perfect location to visit so many other places in Spain. The South of Spain is brimming with pretty little towns, incredible hikes and thriving cities. These are some of the best day trips to do from Malaga;
1. El Caminito Del Rey
In English, this translates to The Kings Little Pathway after it was walked by King Alfonso XIII in 1921, and was once often referred to as Spain's most dangerous hike. However, in 2015 the Spanish government improved the path and made the hike much safer than it used to be. This incredible hike is 7.7km long over Rio Guadahorce and offers heart racing views at every turn. It is less than an hours drive from Malaga, although if you aren't renting a car then you can take the train from El Churro station which leaves twice daily. The Caminito Del Rey is the perfect spot for a day of adventure!
Ronda is as mountaintop city, 1.5 hours from Malaga. The city is carved into the walls of a deep gorge creating a spellbinding, and utterly unique setting. The old town of Ronda is filled with tapas restaurants and bars, and it also where bullfighting was first created. You can travel to Ronda by car, bus or train with various options available from Malaga.
Granada is one of our favourite cities in all of Spain; home to the incredible Alhambra, winding streets lined with Orange Blossom trees, the most beautiful buildings peppered throughout the city and of course, the amazing tapas. Granada is a city which feels alive and vibrant, and it combines all the things we love about Spain. It is only 1.5 hours from Malaga, with buses and trains leaving regularly, the is a great place to visit on a day trip from Malaga.
Malaga seems to be a city which is often overlooked; however I am so glad we decided to spend a week there as opposed to somewhere else in Spain. Not only is it a great place within itself, but it is in a prime location for exploring some other incredible places in the south of Spain.