As a major tourist destination in Spain, Malaga is an essential stop in most Mediterranean cruise routes and is the most popular summer destination for Europeans. But is Malaga all it’s made out to be? Go beyond the touristy-clodded beach towns and you’ll find a charismatic side to Malaga that few see. In the old city centre of Malaga, you’ll find charming streets lined with the usual traditional stores and cafeterias as well as emblematic monuments such as the Alcazaba fortification and Roman theatre ruins.
What you will manage to see and do in Malaga depends on how long you’ll be here for – you can easily combine a visit to Malaga city with a beach vacation along Costa del Sol. If you are on a short vacation or simply stopping by, there are plenty of attractions in Costa del Sol as well as free things to do in Costal del Sol that can make your trip worthy and memorable. If you’re short of time, check out our 2-days in Malaga itinerary suggestions.
Malaga, Andalusia’s sweetheart, is located along the sun-kissed southern coast – Costa del Sol – of the Iberian Peninsula. It is located within close proximity to the coastal cities of Gibraltar, Tarifa and Cadiz. Within a short drive away from the Malaga city are the famous tourist beach towns of Torremolinos, Marbella and Fuengirola – in summer, populations here swell up to triple of its usual capacity. As the jewel of Andalusia, it is also several hours away from the other Andalusian cities such as Granada, Seville and Cordoba – making it an excellent beach getaway destination from these locations.
How to get to Malaga
International visitors can easily fly direct to Malaga International Airport, one of Spain’s biggest airports. Malaga Airport is located 8 km from the city centre with excellent communication links to the whole of the Costa del Sol. Most of the traffic handled by the airport is from the European Union. London-Gatwick is the destination with the greatest number of passengers, followed by Manchester, Dublin, London-Luton, Paris Charles De Gaulle and Brussels. The airport also serves destinations in the U.S., Mexico and the Cairibbean.
By train, Malaga is well connected to Madrid, with a high-speed train (AVE) taking just 2.5hours to complete the journey. Prices are not cheap though, with one-way fare starting from 68 euros. Madrid is well connected to other cities via Spanish trains as well, such Barcelona (6hours), Granada (1.5hours) and Valencia (3.5hours – high speed).
Buses represent one of the best ways to travel in Spain and Malaga is well connected to all the major Spanish cities. Buses in Spain are efficient, punctual and comfortable, even for long-distance journeys.
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>> Getting from Madrid to Malaga
What to Do and See
Museo Pablo Picasso
The father of cubism was born here on October 25th 1881. Malaga has never forgotten its local hero. The city is home to no less than three museums dedicated to keeping the artist’s memory alive. The Museo Picasso Málaga opened in 2003 in the Buenavista Palace, and has 155 works donated by members of Picasso’s family.
Enclosing the old centre of Malaga, the Alcazaba is a Moorish fortification created in the 8th century to serve as the palace of the governors of the city. It is the best-preserved alcazaba, meaning citadel, in Spain. Next to the entrance to the Alcazaba are the ruins of a Roman theatre dating to the 2nd century which is undergoing restoration.
Visit the Gibralfaro
Poised on the hilltop overlooking Malaga old town, the Gibralfaro is an ancient fortress on mount of 131 meters that is closely linked to the Alcazaba. It dates back to the time when the Phoenicians founded the present city of Malaga. The name is derived from the Phoenician word for light, Jbel-Faro, meaning “Rock of Light”. The castle overlooks the modern city of Málaga and the Mediterranean Sea.
Malaga’s main shopping avenue is ablaze with the new season’s collections. Calle Marques de Larioshas got it going on when it comes to finding quality one-offs. As well as flashy designer boutiques, there are bohemian galleries and those ubiquitous family-run huckster shops that you always seem to come across on Spanish side-streets.
Try Malaga Sweet Wine
Malaga is best known as the birthplace of specialty sweet wine, Malaga (named after the city). Evidently, this is where you come to try the best sweet wine. The wine is produced using grapes grown in the región and has acquired a special flavor from the combination of natural earth and sunny climate. One place highly recommended by locals is the Antigua Casa de Guardia.
Day Trips from Malaga
Thanks to its convenient location, there are several excellent day trip options from Malaga. One of them include the Finca del a Concepción (La Concepcíon Estate): a botanical and archaeological garden exuding a relaxing atmosphere and an alluring setting. Other nearby destinations worth visiting include the Alhambra in Granada, El Torcal National Park, the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Caves of Nerja. These are all within a 2-hour drive and offer a glimpse of Andalusia’s countryside.
Where to Stay in Malaga
There are a variety of places to stay, varying in price range and style, that exist in convenient locations around Malaga. From high-range luxury hotels to beachfront resort to simple backpacker’s hostels, you can find a myriad of accommodation scattered throughout the city. If you’re looking for a good location, your best bet would be to stay in the old town. If you’re seeking a relaxing vacation on the beach, then the beach resorts in the nearby towns such as Torremolinos might be right up your alley. For travelers who like a bargain, there are many inexpensive Malaga hostels that provide comfortable rooms, a great location, and a beautiful view of the Alhambra for both families and groups of friends. There are also cheap hotels in Malaga and short-term-apartments that have prices ranging down to €37 a night.
Photo credit: Wikipedia