Travel: What to do in Malaga

So it’s that time again…when the English weather is getting you down and the call of Spain is just too strong. One of the many great things about living in London is that you’re so close to so many places and it can be really cheap to get there. Which is why we try to hop on the plane to Spain and discover a new city every year.

This year we’re heading to Malaga. I’ve flown in here before many times before heading to the likes of Marbella, Estepona, Benalmadena and Rincon. But I’ve never actually stayed in Malaga. And thinking about it, I don’t believe I know anyone who has. Well boo to all of us…and time to rectify that.

Malaga is an ancient city and was first colonised by the Phoenicians in 1000BC. Since then it’s been ruled by the Greeks, the Carthiginians, the Romans, the Visigoths, the Moors and the Christians (in the form of their conquerors Ferdinand and Isabella). So a lot’s gone on here and you can see the many contrasting influences as you explore the city.

There’s plenty to explore – and what a joy to discover that Malaga is awesome.  Yes, I do overuse this word a bit, but Malaga is truly awesome. Here’s what you have to do when you visit.

Meander through the marble streets

Come on, any city with marble streets has to be great doesn’t it. The centre of the Malaga’s Old Town is mainly marble – and lined with cafes, bars and restaurants wherever you look. This is some sort of Spanish heaven where you never have to walk more than a couple of metres from establishment to establishment.

And aside from that beautiful buildings, plazas, fountains, flowers and trees abound. It’s a joy to wander these streets.

Malaga: plaza
Fountains, beautiful architecture and blue skies…no wonder I look so happy
Malaga: palm trees
Picturesque palms tower over the sunny streets
Malaga: flowers
Many homes are festooned with flowers and greenery

One of those stunning buildings is the imposing cathedral, built between 1528 and 1782. Nicknamed “the unfinished” by locals it only has one tower instead of the two originally planned as the money for the second one was used to fund the American Civil War – not sure why exactly. It’s a truly beautiful cathedral surrounded by stylish plazas and blooming flowers, but once you’ve heard the story all you can think when you look at it is it really doesn’t look finished.

Malaga: cathedral
The one (and only) tower of the grand cathedral

Get cultural in the museums

Malaga is also a cultural paradise. There are over 40 museums to explore. Seriously! The Museum of Malaga, in another beautiful building, displays a wide range of art and there’s more in the Carmen Thyssen Museum. Of course you can’t not visit the Picasso Museum (he was born here). There’s also a music museum, and one dedicated to glass and crystal plus the brightly coloured cube near the harbour that is the Centre Pompidou, to name just a few. If you’re an avid museum goer you’re gonna be busy…and happy.

Malaga: Museums
The Picasso museum is one of many in this cerebral city

Ride the topless bus

I always think this is a great way to get your bearings in any city – and take some great pictures from on high. It’s the bus that’s topless you see, not the sightseers. Malaga’s tour takes in all the major highlights, heading up high to the castle and fabulous views over the Old Town and the ocean.

Malaga: tourist bus
Loving Malaga’s tourist bus ride

Visit the food market

No one will be surprised to see this on my list. I usually head straight for the food market whenever I go to a new place and fantasise about living there, shopping in the market and cooking up all sorts of mouthwatering local dishes. Malaga food market (Mercardo Central de Ataranzas) is a proper food market – as in one where the locals all do their daily shop – it’s not just for tourists as they proudly pointed out. The array of produce is incredible and it’s all so fresh! Spanish food markets rock!

Malaga: olives
Oh the olives in the market! Extraordinary…
Malaga: meat in market
Spanish meat in all its splendour is a joyful sight
Malaga: fruit and veg
Such glorious fruit and veg displays
Malaga: fruit and veg market
What a bountiful land Spain is

Go to the beach and chill in a chiringuito

As well as being a bustling, stylish city, Malaga has myriad beaches, so there’s plenty of chiringuito choices.

Okay, I think this is officially my favourite word ever – chiringuito. It’s basically a beach bar/restaurant in Spain – so three of my favourite things in one, well four if you count Spain! What’s not to love? It’s the perfect place to stop for liquid refreshment at any time of day and the food is usually excellent, too. Even better, if you have all day, settle down on one of the beach beds that are normally set up beside the bar and spend your day drifting from sand to sea to chiringuito. Now that’s the way to spend the day.

Malaga: chiringuito
Happiness is a cerveza at the chiringuito
Malaga: beaches
Beckoning beach beds and a sparkling sea
Malaga: beaches
So many beaches, just not enough beach time

Soak up the historical buildings

The many influences that have shaped this amazing city are evident in its buildings. There’s La Alcazaba, a Moorish palace built on the remains of the Roman theatre (see what I mean) which is also another museum. Next door is the Castle of Gibralfaro high on the hill overlooking Malaga – it was built to defend La Acazaba.

Other than the aforementioned cathedral there’s also the beautiful Iglesia Santiago – the oldes church in Malaga and the home church of the Picasso family. The majestic Baroque Episcopal Palace stands in front of the cathedral.

And then there’s the Bull’s Arena, built in 1874. La plaza de Toros La Malagueta can seat 14,000 people. Not that bull fighting’s my thing, but it is part of Spanish history.

Revel in the restaurants

So many of them it’s mind-boggling and we were only in Malaga’s restaurantland for three days! We did our best though, and managed to try a few. The food was outstanding – definitely a highlight of our trip. Here’s a taster – a fabulous take on a traditional Spanish favourite – roast suckling pig.

Malaga: roast suckling pig
Malaga offers plenty of food to surprise and delight

But there’s too much to write about here in this post already crammed with information about marvellous Malaga. I’m just going to have to tackle the food separately in another post. Something to look forward to. As I am my next trip to Malaga – I’m certainly going back to this unexpectedly awesome Spanish city.

Where to stay

We stayed at the Hotel Soho Boutique Bahia Malaga which is right on the edge of the Old Town. A really great location close to most of the main attractions, myriad restaurants and bars and even not far from the beach. The rooms are large, modern and comfortable. There’s also a fabulous roof terrace and bar where you can take in views across the city. Something more for me to smile about. Can you spot the unfinished cathedral and the castle on the hill in the distance?

Malaga: Hotel rooftop
How I love a rooftop bar




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