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If you’ve just flown into Málaga airport and quickly driven through the outskirts of the city it’s likely that you’re not that impressed. Indeed the view of Málaga from the motorway is not a pretty one but don’t be fooled, it hides a fantastic, bustling Mediterranean city, full of history, nightlife and a real melting pot of cultures. If you’re staying in Nerja, or any of the surrounding coastal towns you really should put one day aside to visit Málaga, walk its streets and see what it has to offer. With so many places to visit and avenues to explore we thought we’d put a little list of things to do in Málaga together for you, made up of our teams personal favourites and those of locals to the city.
If you’re going to Málaga from Nerja we recommend taking the bus as parking in the city can be costly and a bit of a hassle if you don’t know where you’re heading for. Get the bus from the bus station on the N340 and ask for a return ticket from Málaga (Málaga ida y vuelta in Spanish). There are a number of buses that go (almost) directly to the city throughout the day so we recommend taking one of those and saving yourself a bit of time. Once in Málaga you ideally should get off at the port. This stop is just after an underground car park and you’ll likely see horse and carts waiting to take tourists on a trip of the city. Now you’re in the centre with all the best bits accessible to you by foot.
Gibralfaro Castle & Alcazaba of Málaga
No list is complete without a mention for these two fortresses. Located almost next to each other on the eastern edge of the historical centre of Málaga they offer some of the best views over the city with the walls of the Alcazaba blending into the buildings in the old town.
The Alcazaba was built by the Hammudid dynasty in the 11th century and is the best persevered Alcazaba (Citadel) in Spain. It was the governing fortress / palace of the cities Muslim rulers who were removed from power once the Catholic Monarchs Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon laid siege to the city in 1487. It has beautiful gardens to stroll through and is often referred to as a miniature Alhambra de Granada. Entrance tickets are also very cheap at just over €2 per person.
The Gibralfaro castle is found on the Montes de Málaga hills which have been the location of various defensive structures since 929AD. The structure that is present today principally dates from the 14th century when the existing fortification was enlarged by Yusef 1, Sultan of Granada who also joined it to the Alcazaba. The Gibralfaro is surrounded by a dense pine wood and makes for a lovely walk in peaceful surroundings just a stone’s throw from the city centre. The path up may be steep but you’ll be rewarded once again with fantastic views over the city. Entrance fee is just over €2 however you can get a joint entrance ticket to both the Alcazaba and Gibralfaro for approximately €3.50.
El Pimpi on the edge of Málaga’s old town is found just across from the entrance to the Alcazaba and Roman amphitheatre and is one of the oldest bodegas in the city, famous for its sweet wine. It’s one of those places that is a must see for tourists with famous faces such as John Malkovich, Antonio Banderas, Placido Domingo and Sean Connery all having visited and had their picture taken. It has sometimes been labelled as a bit touristy but it attracts locals as well as visitors to the city and is a pleasant place to have a coffee or tapas either outside or within its labyrinth of rooms and patios.
El Pedregalejo promenade
This is an area that you’re unlikely to find on any tourist guides but is a favourite little spot of the Exploreneja.com team. El Pedregalejo is a neighbourhood of Málaga on the eastern edge of the city about 10 minutes from the centre. The buildings of the area themselves are not particularly attractive however the sea front is a great, vibrant place to be on a sunny day or during the early evening. It’s made up of a series of man-made horse shoe coves with bars and chiringuitos behind with views over to the port in the distance. El Pedregalejo is a neighbourhood with a surprising mix of nationalities thanks to the many language schools on its doorstep giving its promenade area a young, funky, international and laid back atmosphere. If you want to get here from the centre then you’ll need to use a city bus, from Nerja you can go by car as you can usually find parking spaces in the backstreets.
Calle Larios is THE main street in Málaga and the fifth most expensive retail space in Spain. Previously the site of houses this stretch linking the Plaza de la Constitucion with the port was redeveloped in 1886 and is now a 16m wide pedestrianized street that leads you into the narrow alleyways of the old town of Málaga. It’s a buzzing place, particularly in the evenings with lots of tapas bars and restaurants leading off from it. Parking your car here is possible with a large underground car park across from the street however it is rather expensive but during festivals, particularly Christmas it is worth it with Calle Larios decorated with hundreds of lights and a very large Christmas tree at the end in the Plaza de la Constitucion.
Málaga cathedral was built between 1528 and 1782 and consists of a naïve, two aisles and an 84 meter tower, making it the second highest cathedral in Andalusia. The majority of the cathedral reflects a renaissance style although there are also aspects of baroque too. It has the affectionate local nickname of “La Manquita” which roughly translates to “The One-Armed Lady” as the south tower, one of two towers in the original design, was unfinished due to money being sent to help fund the American War of Independence against the British.
If you visit the cathedral be sure to take a camera as although the use of a flash is not allowed there’s no problem with you snapping away as you walk around it. Also bear in mind that as a religious attraction there is a loose dress code so no miniskirts or shorts, go dressed respectfully.
The cathedral is open for visits from 10am until 6pm Monday to Friday, 10am until 5pm on Saturdays and 2pm until 6pm on Sundays. Entrance is €5 although there are reduced rates for groups and children. On Sundays entrance is free.
Pablo Picasso was born in Málaga on the 25th of October 1881 and to mark this famous child of the city in 2003 a museum was opened in the old town to showcase some of his works. Amongst the collection you’ll find paintings, ceramics and sculptures from the famous artist and co-founder of the cubist style. The museum is a two minute walk away from the cathedral and a similar distance from Picasso’s actual birth place in the Plaza de la Merced where the house is also open to the public.
The museum has 12 halls dedicated to the permanent exhibition including some of his classic works such as Olga Kokhlova with Mantilla (Barcelona 1917), Mother and Child (1921-1922) and Portrait of Paulo with white hat (1923). It’s also worth knowing that the museum has space for other temporary exhibits so it’s always worth checking the official site here to see what else will be displayed.
If you’d like to take a look at the Picasso museum it’s open from 10am to 8pm Tuesday to Thursday, 10pm to 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays and 10am to 8pm on Sundays and public holidays. Entrance for the permanent exhibit is €6, temporary exhibitions €4.50 or €9 for both. Discounts are available for the over 65’s, students with ID and groups.
Museum of Art and Popular Customs
This immaculate little museum can be easily overlooked, not drawing the crowds of some of the others in the city however it’s a fascinating and quirky insight into life in the region and the ways and customs of its people. Located in an old 17th century inn and costing only €2 to get in, it’s a museum originally recommended to us by locals and we have to agree with them. It’s worth taking a look.