Málaga, the all-round city, is one of the most visitor friendly in Andalucia. It has been in existence for over 3000 years
Old kiosko Malaga
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 2000 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. In this article we take a look at my top ten attractions in Málaga. But first, lets look at the modern city.
It is over 2,000 years since the Phoenicians set sail from Málaga. They would undoubtedly be impressed by the modern port and marina surrounded on two sides by restaurants offering an international cuisine and shops with a range of designer labels. The port is becoming a favourite destination for the cruise ships that ply the Mediterranean.
Behind the cathedral is another, older but no less opulent, shopping area with more traditional pavement cafes. In the vicinity of the Picasso Museum you will also find restaurants and tapas bars offering a selection of the local food. This area is a favourite place for the local population, the Malagueños.
To experience the atmosphere and have a real taste of Malaga then you must visit Bodega Bar El Pimpi, just opposite the Roman Theatre. Bar El Pimpi is one of the oldest bodegas in the city. It is a rabbit warren of passages, cubby holes, nooks and crannies, all decorated with old photographs of the city, posters and paintings. The drinks bars are mahogony, the beer pumps are real and the food is pretty good too. As with many restaurants, the fish and meat you are invited to eat is enticingly displayed. At El Pimpi they go one step further and present a colourful display of the huge range of fruit and vegetables to be found on the menu. Bodega Bar El Pimpi epitomises the essence of Malaga. It is fun, colourful and exhuberant with a rich vein of history running through.
Of all the cities in Andalucia, there must be more street entertainers in Málaga than in any other. Every day of the week you will find musicians performing, many of them very good, on street corners and in the main shopping streets, outside markets, in the gardens and in pedestrian subways. You will also see many accomplished living statues, some so realistic that they make you jump when they move. Its all good fun.
Roman Theatre at Malaga
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.
Gibralfaro from Alcazabar
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.
English Cemetery Malaga
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.
Automobile Museum Malaga
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.
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.
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.
The Loring family also had a habit of purloining Roman artifacts from all over Andalucia. They moved much of the statuary to their gardens for the delectation of their upper crust friends. Many of the remarkable finds are now in the Málaga Museum for everybody to appreciate.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So there you have it, my pick of the things to do in Málaga and I did not mention Picasso, the cities most prominent citizen, once.
Málaga has an excellent train service with stations between the city centre and the tourist resorts of Torremolinos, Benalmadena and Fuengirola. There is also a bus service both north and south of the city at regular intervals.