Of all the cities in Andalucia, Málaga has to count as one of the most visitor friendly. Since the first years of the 21st century, it has pulled itself up from an industrially depressed city to a vibrant place with no shortage of things to do and places to go. Many visitors today are from the cruise ships that dock in the modern marina, in town for a few hours, barely able to scratch the surface of what the city has to offer. Below the surface, there is enough to see and do to keep anybody interested for a week if not longer.
Málaga is fortunate in that it has been in existence for over 3000 years. It has a historical foundation on which to build and much of the ancient structure is still there to be seen. In more modern times the city has seen a plethora of art galleries and museums either newly open or be redeveloped. We take a look at the oldest attractions and then move on to the more unusual.
Read about Malaga City
Most of the Roman remains now lie beneath the streets. The Roman Theatre, however, has been excavated and is open to the public. It is one of the more impressive theatres in Spain with a well thought out Interpretation Centre.
Read more about the Roman Theatre
Rising high above the Roman Theatre, the 11th-century Alcazaba and Gibralfaro occupy a prominent hill in the centre of the city. The Alcazaba rivals the one in Almeria for beauty, as one would expect from a palace built for Badis el Ziri, the King of Granada. Within its walls, you will find a fascinating exhibition of ornate glassware dating back through the Moorish period.
The Gibralfaro was built somewhat later than the Alcazaba. Until the introduction of gunpowder, there was little concern about the hill that rises behind the Alcazaba. In the 14th century, Yusuf I, Sultan of Granada, saw that there could be a problem and ordered the building of the castle you see today.
A ticket to both attractions can be purchased. The walk between the two is through beautiful gardens but be warned, parts of the trail are steep.
Read more about the Alcazaba and Gibralfaro
In 1862 Hans Christian Anderson said of the English Cemetery, ‘it is my favourite place in Málaga’.
Up to 1831 English Protestants, being deemed heretics, had been denied burial in Catholic churchyards and cemeteries. Indeed, in Málaga, they were interred at low tide on the beach from whence their corpses were washed out to sea to the consternation of fishermen and grieving relatives alike.
The situation changed in 1830 when Spanish King Ferdinand VII, bowing to British diplomatic pressure, initiated by William Mark, British Consul in Málaga, officially allowed the establishment of Protestant cemeteries in towns where British Consuls resided. Mark had by then obtained local permission to acquire land for his small cemetery about a mile from the centre of the town upon a hillside slightly above the beach to the east of the old Moorish fortress.
Now open to the public, it is a delightful place, full of history.
Read more about the English Cemetery
From the late 19th century to the present day and into the future. Being a bit of a nerd when it comes to motor cars, this museum was an eye-opener for me. How the vehicle changed with the fashions and lifestyle of the day and how they developed as a result of the demands of drivers.
Read more about the Museum of Automobiles
At what point does graffiti become art? In the Lagunillas area of the city, that question seems to have been answered. Lagunillas has always been and still is today, one of the more deprived areas of the city. Some of its inhabitants expressed their frustrations, hopes and desires in graphic form. Today these remarkable pieces of art are being preserved.
Read more about the Street Art of Malaga
In the 19th Century, the Marquis of Casa Loring built a country house and planted the gardens with tropical and subtropical flora from America, Asia, Africa and Oceania. In 1943 it was declared a historical and artistic garden. In 1990 it was purchased by Málaga City Council and opened to the public in 1994. Situated on the outskirts of the city, these gardens have 6 kilometres of paths along which you can stroll in a tranquil atmosphere far removed from the hubbub of the city.
Read more about La Concepción gardens
One of the oldest shipyards in Spain, Astilleros Nereo is on the eastern side of the city. The traditional jabega is still made here in a way that has not changed for 3000 years. Astilleros Nereo is much more than just a boatyard. Marine engineers from all over the world visit to investigate and learn traditional crafts. The wooden skeleton in the yard is one of their more ambitious projects, building an 18th-century brigantine using the techniques available four hundred years ago.
Read more about Astilleros Nereo
On the portside you will find a concrete and glass structure that houses the new Maritime Museum. Most passers bye miss the point. This museum is dedicated to just one small part of the oceans, the Alboran Sea, that is the sea over the tectonic plate beneath the Gibraltar Strait that extends into the Mediterranean. The Alboran is the migratory route taken, or habitat of, a surprising variety of species including Great White Sharks, Great Hammerhead and 46 other shark species, Killer Whales, Sperm Whales and Fin Whales, five species of turtle and four of dolphin. In addition, the museum has a small aquarium and several research projects underway. One fascinates children; it is a Turtle Patio, where turtles recover from various illnesses before being re-introduced to the wild.
Read more about the Maritime Museum
Alongside Málaga airport is one of the least visited museums in the city, the airport museum. The museum traces the history of Málaga airport from its inception in 1919 to, almost, the present day. The original control tower was perched on top of a building that looks suspiciously like a finca but was, in fact, the departure and arrivals area until the 1960s. There are not many old planes to look at; the appeal is in the examination of the nitty-gritty of flight. How and on what passengers dined, the seating arrangements, the uniforms, the declining degree of comfort and service as airlines vied to fly more passengers more economically.
Read more about the Airport Museum
The glass museum is housed in the ancestral home of a Belgian aristocrat who conducts tours of his home, an 18th-century mansion in the centre of the city. Just one of his eccentricities is rescuing stained glass windows from English churches and restoring them. His knowledge of glassware is deep and profound.
Read more about the Glass Museum
So there you have it, my pick of the things to do in Malaga and I did not mention Picasso once.
Nick has lived and worked in Andalucia for over 20 years. He and his partner, Julie Evans, have travelled extensively and dug deep into the history and culture, producing authoritative articles on all aspects of the region. Nick has written four books about Andalucia and writes articles for other websites and blogs.
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Submitted by Diana James on 24 Aug 2019
Very interesting. We have had a flat in front of Muelle UNO since 1968 and so have seen all the changes. And although we come and go we really love it
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