From Picasso to sardines, Tripbod Ana shares 10 things that you shouldn’t miss on a visit to the capital of the Costa del Sol.
1. Gibralfaro Castle, the Alcazaba and Roman Theatre
One spot I love to visit is the 14th century castle of Gibralfaro with its picturesque viewpoint, from which you can enjoy the most beautiful views of the city. From here I recommend walking along the wall that connects the castle with the gardens, fountains and beautiful courtyard of the Alcazaba. I love watching the sunset from here and I discovered that it is a lovely place for a Sunday afternoon stroll, as after 2pm admission is free (other times it’s €3.55 for both monuments). Finally, don’t miss the Roman Theatre, built by Emperor Augustus and rediscovered in 1951. Nowadays it shows open-air performances on show (admission is free).
2. Try the sweet Malaga wine
There are two great places in Malaga’s old town if you want to try the best local wines or eat the most authentic local cuisine. I like to go to the atmospheric wine bar, Pimpi, in the afternoon or late evening for a glass of sweet Malaga wine. It’s typical old Malaga, full of ancient tiles, barrels and signed photos of the celebrities who have visited over the years. Another favourite spot is La Casa del Guardia or ‘The Guardhouse’ which is the oldest tavern in Malaga.
3. Picasso Museum
Unmissable. Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga, and there’s a museum dedicated to him in the Palace of Condes de Buenavista, a Renaissance building decorated with Moorish elements that has been restored in a Modern style. In the museum you can see more than 200 paintings, early academic studies and re-workings of old masters by one of the greatest painters of the twentieth century. While you’re there peek into the basement which has remains of Phoenician Malaga (7th century BC) and traces of Roman architecture.
4. Eat grilled sardines and take a swim at the beach
Another of my favourite Malaga neighbourhoods is the old fishing district of El Palo, where I love to go to eat espeto de sardinas (grilled sardines) or pescaito frito (fried fish) – both of which can be found at any beach bar here. Grilled sardines are the most typical dish in Malaga, consisting of six sardines pierced on a stick, cooked on the embers of the fire right on the beach – the cost is around €20–30. If you want to sit down and have a proper meal, try the restaurant Palo El Tintero (the Inkwell), a unique place where the waiters pass around the tables to auction each dish (better if you know some Spanish!). After your meal, enjoy a swim from one of the beaches of Pedregalejo, a trendy area well-known to Malaga locals for its friendly and relaxed atmosphere. I like to end my day here, stopping at the beach and enjoying a chilled drink on one of the café terraces.
5. The Manquita - Malaga’s cathedral
La Manquita is a much-loved symbol of the city, founded in the 15th century on the site of a mosque. Its nickname, used by all locals, means 'one armed woman', because the south tower was never finished. We’re so proud of having such an original cathedral! Legend claims that the funding for the cathedral's completion was donated to the colonists’ cause during the American War of Independence. If you go into the cathedral, take a look at the intricate details of the figures sculpted within the choir stalls made by Pedro de Mena.
6. An evening walk with coffee, tea and fritters
Don’t miss merienda time in Malaga, which is a must between 5 and 7pm! I like to walk down Calle Larios (the main artery of the city), Granada street, the square of La Merced and Molina Larios street. I usually stop at a cafe and have a coffee – maybe una nube (a cloud), un sombre (a shadow), un mitad (a half), or un cortado (a cut). If I am hungry I go to Casa Aranda to eat churros (fritters) with coffee, or have a crepe or cake at one of the fantastic tea shops in San Agustin Street. If I’m feeling a bit more chic and elegant, I’ll go to the terrace of the AC Malaga Palacio to have a drink while enjoying the stunning views of the cathedral.
7. Pier 1 Port of Malaga and the Palm of Surprises
My favourite new neighbourhood for walking is Peir I Port of Malaga, a wide space opened in 2011 that has amazing views of Gibralfaro Castle and Alcazaba. It’s a magical place at night, with bars, restaurants, shops and ice cream parlours. You can walk all the way to the end, where it joins the Malagueta area, and finish up with a swim at the beach or drinks on the promenade. Or both!
8. Conception Botanical Garden
I love this place, it is beautiful, an oasis of peace in the city that is a perfect place to take a break and relax, to sit and read in the lush vegetation, enjoy the tranquil paths and admire the charming ornate fountains. It also has one of the most magnificent tropical and subtropical gardens in Europe. Admission is only €5.20, and for this you have the option of taking a guided tour – which I highly recommend, because the garden has a great history and the guides are an absolute delight.
9. Thyssen Museum
This museum opened in 2011, and has a vast collection of nineteenth-century Spanish paintings, but what I like most about it is the building, which has a lovely interior courtyard and very stylish gift shop.
10. Hang out
The people of Malaga are known for being open, friendly, cheerful and hospitable, and I recommend going out after 11.30pm to see just how true this. The best place to do it is Mitjana Square in the old centre of town, which is packed with people and energy every evening. Just show up and mingle!
Tripbod Ana M Ramos is a native of Malaga and a tourism professional who loves to explore her city and find its hidden gems.