We originally planned to visit Malaga for a very specific purpose, El Caminito del Rey (King’s Hike). I had seen a video of this hike and told Diem that I really wanted to do it. I really didn’t think much about it until a couple of days before we would arrive in Malaga. I thought it would be a normal hike or maybe be similar to Cinque Terre where you have to pay to hike the path. Much to my dismay you need to book tickets far in advance, at least more than 3 days. All the dates that we would be in Malaga were sold out. I was pretty devastated, so don’t make the same mistake I did and book in advance.
The friends we met in Barcelona had just come from Malaga so they gave us some good recommendations and we decided to make the most of our time there. Malaga is known as being the birthplace of Pablo Picasso and is a bustling coastal beach town with a deep history heavily influenced by the Moorish occupation. We took a 3 PM bus from Seville to Malaga and got in around 6 PM. We grabbed dinner at Vineria Cervantes which is in a nice area of town with lots of restaurants and the Cervantes theater around the corner. After dinner we made our way back and went to bed.
On our first full day we walked to the Mercado Central Altarazanas (Central Market) to have a look at the different stalls and have lunch. The building is a 19th-century structure, a soaring industrial space with massive stained-glass windows at either end. The market isn’t all that big but there were a number of stands selling fresh fruit, seafood, flowers, candies and a number of restaurants. The entire market smelled like fresh seafood though so were excited to try some. We picked one of the stalls and had some octopus, salmon, and shrimps kebabs and a couple of beers. The kebabs were pretty good and came with a nice sauce. It wasn’t much food though and Diem heard about some fried calamari at the market that was supposed to be delicious. We searched around for it but couldn’t fine it so we tried another stall we got a shrimp and monkfish kebab and some paella instead. We haven’t had too much paella in Spain but this one was probably the best we had. It was served out of a gigantic wok and the shrimp and fresh seafood really popped with the rice. After lunch we decided to walk around town to explore the city. We went down by the marina and walked through the Paseo Espana Park. The park itself isn’t all that special but it’s a nice little pedestrian walkway down by the water. It was getting pretty hot and the flies were bugging us so we just went back to the apartment. For dinner we went to La Tranca in the Cervantes area again for some more tapas and some wine. The place was pretty packed with lots of drunk people even though it was early for Spain (6 PM). The wine was delicious and the tapas were pretty decent and much more reasonably priced than Barcelona. We went back, watched movies, and then went to bed.
We had been reading that it was going to rain the entire next day so we kind of planned a rest day. We were pleasantly surprised that the day cleared up around noon so we decided to go out and have lunch. We stopped at Casa Aranda to try their famous "chocolate con churros," which brought us back to San Diego churros, and some grilled cheese sandwiches. Since it was sunny out, we decided to see the Alcazaba Fortress and the Castle of Gibralfaro. The combined ticket for both sites was only 3.55€ each. We first stopped to take a closer look at the Roman Theatre which is free and open to the public. It is located right at the entrance to the Alcazaba and it’s a nice little amphitheater. The theater was rediscovered in 1951 when they were doing some construction in the area. There’s a small building with some exhibits and history of the theater but doesn’t take that long to see and isn’t that interesting.
Both the Alcazaba and Gibralfaro were built during the Taifa period (11th century) and extended during the Nasrid period (13th and 14th centuries). The Alcazaba stands on a hill within the city. Originally, it defended the city from the incursions of pirates. Later, in the 11th century, it was completely rebuilt by the Hammudid dynasty. We went in the Alcazaba up the hill and were able to walk around the outer walls which overlooks the city and the sea and visit most of the interior. We just came from Sevilla and after seeing the Alcazar there, you could definitely see the similarities in design. However, the Alcazar was much more lavish and beautiful than the Alcazaba.
We next walked to the Castle of Gibralfaro further up the hill. The castle and the Alcazaba are actually connected in their interiors, but the public has to exit the Alcazaba and walk up the exterior. The views of the city and ocean at the Castles are better than the Alcazaba so I would say if you had to pick one, do the Gibralfaro. Right after we got inside the Castle, it started raining so I grabbed some wine at the bar and Diem got some tea, so lame :P. After the rain died down a bit and we finished our drinks, we went back down to the city and to the apartment to rest. Our first choice for dinner was closed and we wound up having dinner at Noviembre, a burger place in the Cervantes district. The burger was pretty meh, and we went back to the apartment after dinner to take it easy.
On our last full day in Malaga I went for a run in the morning before it got too hot. I went down by the Malagueta beach where they had a number of different sand sculptures that were pretty cool. Further down, there was a small town called El Palo which had a number of beach side restaurants serving fresh seafood that looked delicious. After I got back, we grabbed some breakfast empanadas at La Canastra and decided to do a free walking tour of Malaga at 11:00 AM. Sandeman’s doesn’t do the tours here but the tour guide we had was pretty good. We started at Plaza de la Constitucion where they used to host bull fighting before the arena was built. Next we walked down the main street, Calle Larios, which was lined with Christmas lights. The lights looked pretty extensive and seemed like they would be amazing to see at night. We came back to Calle Larios that night hoping to see the street lit up but were disappointed when we saw all the lights were off.
The tour guide next led us by the Picasso Museum. Picasso was born in Malaga and grew up there under the tutelage of his dad who was also a painter. The tour guide explained Picasso started his career with realistic paintings of grown up issues. He showed us an early piece, “Science and Charity,” of a woman on her deathbed that Picasso painted when he was 15. We next went to the Cathedral of Malaga. We lucked out that it was Sunday and it was free to go inside. We went in and looked around and it was pretty impressive. The cathedral has beautiful, high ceilings and along the walls of the interior there are different statues, organs, and stained glass windows. You could also see from both the outside and inside of the Cathedral that they didn’t complete the buildings. The tour guide explained that the city lost some funding during construction and therefore only one of the towers was completed, some windows weren’t stained glass on one side, and some parts of the interior were empty where it looked like a statue would go. He also talked about the Moorish invasion and how the Cathedral was built on top of the old mosque and you could see parts of the building that were the old Muslim architecture and parts that were the new Christian/Gothic architecture.
We next got a nice free wine tasting at Despacho de Vino and walked through winery of El Pimpi. He then took us by the Roman Theater that we saw the day before. Along the way he explained that Malaga was famous for its garum, a fermented fish sauce used as a condiment. Next to the Roman Theater there were the ruins of an old garum factory. The guide said that is still made in Malaga today but it is not as popular as it used to be. He then took us along the outside of the Alcazaba. He talked about the history of the fortress and the construction of the building. He also talked about how the Christians took back the city from the Moors by laying siege to the fortress instead of storming the strong fortifications. We ended the tour next to a statue of Picasso and next to the house where he was born. He told us Picasso’s full name (Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso) which honors a variety of relatives and saints. We grabbed lunch at Le Chuga that was recommended by tour guide. We then walked back to apartment for nap and researched visa for Turkey and tours for Morocco. We were supposed to head out again to go to the Picasso Museum but we were too tired so we just got dinner at El Meson de Cervantes and went back to bed.
I’m still really disappointed that we didn’t get to hike the Caminito del Rey. We also didn’t spend any time at the beach which I always enjoy. Still, we had a good time in Malaga and the old town is very walkable. Additionally, anywhere Antonio Banderas was born and currently has a house can’t be bad.
See the full gallery of our time in Malaga here: Malaga, Spain