Malaga – A Genuine Surprise - March 2015
Sharon Allen – 06-03-2015 – Malaga – A Genuine Surprise
I have been to Malaga several times when I have been to the Costa Del Sol – or I should say I have been to the airport because my memory and opinion of Malaga as an industrial city with no character is greatly mistaken.
When I saw this port on the itinerary for my Canary Island cruise on Norwegian Spirit in December I have to admit that I was jumping up and down in excitement and actually thought it could be a day to stay on the ship and enjoy the facilities on-board. However, when we arrived on a crisp but sunny day the contrast of the brilliant blue sparkling Mediterranean Sea against the stretch of beach, surrounded by an interesting array of buildings we knew we had to go and explore this city.
We decided to take the Hop on Hop off tour, iconic to so many tourist destinations around the world. We have done these before and know it is a great way to experience a destination in a short space of time, offering an overall impression of an area whilst learning about the history of the place as you sit back relax and enjoy the scenery.
There were two options on the tour, we could have stayed on the bus for a full tour of the city with audio commentary that takes around 90 minutes or to hop on and off and experience each attraction en route – we decided to do the latter and make it a full day.
Travelling through the city you get a real sense of the history and culture of Malaga as you move from one area to the next and see the different styles of architecture, from the Roman ruins to the glorious Baroque buildings to the romantic Moorish fortress all joined by orange tree lined boulevards. We visited mid-December and were lucky enough to see the beautiful poinsettia arrangements that adorned the streets. Also, on the open top bus you get to experience the wonderful mix of aromas from the pine trees to orange groves, and the coffee shops to tapas bar and to watch the local people go about their daily lives in this bustling city.
Our first stop was The Alcazaba, which in Arabic means Citadel, is Malaga’s most important landmark. This is the best-preserved Moorish fortress in Spain and set high in the mountains and overlooking the city. The Alcazaba is one of two Moorish fortresses, the other being the Castillo de Gibralfaro, which is visited later in the tour.
As you walk into The Alcazaba a peaceful atmosphere welcomes you and you can feel the history and contemplate what life was like centuries ago as you wander along the cobbled footpaths. You are surrounded by beautiful gardens where ornate arches lead you through to tiny patios and fountains and a myriad of small rooms featuring authentic artefacts. Whilst me and my husband enjoyed walking around the grounds and getting the feel of this wonderful palace the children were busy hiding in the turrets and were more impressed with the military figures on display. This is definitely worth the small entry fee and the remarkable views over the city and out to sea is an added bonus.
Our next stop was the ornate Baroque Cathedral. The cathedral was originally planed to have two towers, but due to lack of funds this resulted in the completion of only one and today this is affectionately known to locals as ‘La Manquita” loosely interpreted as ‘one armed woman’. This is located right in the centre of the city and is worth the few euros to pop in an experience the wonderful architecture.
Our tour than took us to Gibralfaro Castle. There is not really much of a castle remaining and after the Alcazaba the grounds are slightly disappointing and there is not much information about the history of the attraction itself, however the highlight is the beautiful panoramic views it offers over Malaga city and out across the port to sea.
It is a lovely walk up to the castle, although uphill on cobbled pathways that may be difficult for some vistors, once there you can continue to walk the castle walls for a 360 view of the city, which are simply breathtaking, and worth the physical effort. We particularly enjoyed looking out over the Bull Ring, or Plaza de Toros. From here you can see full arena that is still home to bullfights that can be seen from April to September, and during the Malaga Fair ‘Feria de Agosto’ in August there are bullfights almost daily.
After our exercise around the castle we were ready for lunch so we headed back to the centre of Malaga. We wanted to experience authentic Spanish tapas and were not disappointed in the selection of options available to us. We selected a small café down a side street and ordered a range of tapas and Sangria, which were delicious and great value.
It is easy to get lost in centre of Malaga as you wander among the melee of tiny streets with interesting tapas bars, restaurants, and even teterias (Moorish tearooms), and browse the eclectic mix of shops and markets, and it was not long before we came across Picasso’s house and museum. This is the birthplace of the world famous artist Pablo Picasso has been an official heritage site since 1983.
We re-joined the tour and our final stop of the day was the Roman Theatre, located at the foot of the Alcazabar. This is the oldest monument in Malaga and has been beautifully restored and includes all the elements of the theatre, such as the stage, orchestra area and seating along with a small visitor centre that includes the story of the restoration too.
Our tour of Malaga really showed us what this beautiful has to offer. It took us through its rich history from the Roman theatre to the Moorish architecture and onto the Baroque Cathedral and traditional Spanish bullring and yet amongst this is a bustling modern city. The wonderful atmosphere, beautiful location and range of things to see and do has definitely left me with a desire to return.