Malaga is often overlooked when it comes to great cities to visit in Spain. Thousands flock to Barcelona, Valencia and Seville for weekend breaks but Malaga doesn’t attract the huge crowds of tourists that these other cities do. On a recent trip to the popular seaside resort of Fuengirola I decided to check out Malaga for myself and see what it has to offer as a city.
The easiest and cheapest way to get from Fuengirola to Malaga is by train. The train station in Fuengirola is very central and tickets are easy to get from self service machines inside the station (you can select English as your language of preference, don’t worry!) A return train ticket to Malaga is around 6 Euros. The trains are regular and very clean. The journey takes around 50 minutes and it’s a pleasant journey with much of the line following the coast so you can see the sea and all the popular resorts such as Benalmadena and Torremolinos along the way.
There are 2 train stations in Malaga; the ‘Maria Zambrano Station’ and ‘Malaga Centro Alamada’. For the city centre attractions and shops you need to get off at Centro (the train terminates here so there’s no risk of being carried off somewhere else!) The main city centre is just a short stroll from the station and you cannot miss the main shopping area as it’s really just one long, straight street. The shopping here is much as you would expect from any large city; there are large Zara and Mango stores like you expect to find in all large towns or cities in Spain, but there are also little boutiques tucked away down the narrow streets and lots of attractive cafes with seating outside where you can sit and people watch. Malaga does really feel like a very ‘European’ city in that respect.
When you get into the centre of the city you can’t help but notice the Alcazaba and the Gibralfaro Castle perched high on the mountainside above the city. We decided to venture here first. You pay to see both attractions at the foot of the hill (next to the Roman amphitheatre which is also an impressive sight.) The climb up to the Alcazaba is a steady incline so you can take your time and there are so many different bits to see on the walk up it really doesn’t feel like a chore. The Alcazaba was built in the 11th century and it is one of the best preserved Arab constructions in Andalusia. Having visited the Alhambra this was still an impressive sight and the views of the city from its many towers are also stunning.
From the Alcazaba you can continue upwards to the Gibralfaro. This is a steeper climb and young children or the elderly may find this a struggle (especially in the midday heat!) but the fantastic views from the top make it worthwhile and there is also a museum within the castle grounds that we found interesting. Unlike the Alhambra, neither the Alcazaba nor the Gibralfro were heaving with crowds so you feel you can take your time to wander around and really take in the sights. From the top of the Gibralaro you can also see the famous Malaga Bullring which was built in 1876 and is still packed with up to 14,000 spectators for some of the biggest fights in Spain.
After an afternoon of sightseeing we were feeling pretty hungry and thirsty so we headed to ‘Bodega Bar El Pimpi’, one of the most famous eateries and wine bars in the city. It is located just opposite the Roman theatre and it is easy to spot with the huge barrels of wine stacked up outside which guests can scribble their messages on. I have also been here in the evening and you have to wait some time to get a table outside as it is so popular with the locals and tourists but it really is the best spot in the city to sit and watch the world go by so wait and it’s worth it! The menu is very Andalusian with lots of ‘Pescado Frito’ (fried fish), olives, breads, bocadillas (small sandwiches.) Its food you can graze on while you enjoy a glass of the fortified wine that this place is also famous for! In the evenings locals can sit for hours drinking gallons of Malaga Sherry and eating bocadillas while people come and go from their group. It’s all very relaxed and Mediterranean!
After lunch we decided to visit Malaga Cathedral which is just as impressive inside as out. The gardens around the Cathedral are also very pretty and we sat and enjoyed a beer in one of the bars that look out onto the cathedral grounds.
Lots of people do not know that Malaga is the birthplace of Picasso and the Picasso Museum is also in this part of city down one of the narrow streets very close to the cathedral. All the main attractions are signposted so you can find your way around easily. The city is also fairly compact so walking around it in a day is no problem. There are lots of beautiful buildings like the Town Hall and the House of the Consulate that are also worth taking a look at. It really is a very attractive city.
After all our sightseeing, eating and drinking we decided to spend a few hours on the beach just to chill out before our train journey home. You can walk down to the beach through the wonderful gardens that run the length of the main street. There are cafes within the gardens and shaded areas where you can sit and relax; it’s well worth a wander through here.
The beach in Malaga is very much full of young people. This is a university city and it was heaving with students on the day we visited but it was a Saturday so I think it would be quieter in the week. There are a few beach bars living the front and children’s play areas but really if you want to visit a beach I’d say stick to Fuengirola or Benalmadena where things are a little less hectic!
I would highly recommend a visit to Malaga. It makes a refreshing change from days spent on a sun lounger by the pool! The city has a really nice vibe to it. It’s busy enough to have a buzz about it, but not so busy that you feel stressed out. The city is brimming with history and stunning architecture but it also has some great restaurants and bars if you simply fancy going out for a nice meal and some drinks. It is so easy to get to from the resorts on the Costa del Sol that there is really no excuse not to visit this attractive and vibrant city.