Known to many as the capital of the Costa del Sol, Malaga is more than a coastal city. You will learn about Spain’s Islamic past in the palace of the Royal Alexaba Fortress, while Pablo Picasso was born here, so there are museums that shed light on its early years.
And during the city’s famous festivals you can also get to know Andalusian culture, watch flamenco shows and consume cherries, in the part of the country from which they originate. And in case you need to mention, the world – famous beaches, resorts and golf courses of the Costa del Sol can hardly be closer.
1. La Alcaza
With powerful walls visible from almost anywhere in the city, Malaga’s Alcazaba is a Moorish fortress palace and an important monument from the Islamic period.
It was first established in the 8th century and strengthened and expanded over the next five centuries. On this hill are two sets of walls defending an inner and outer fortress.
The outer fortress contains the palace’s stunning gardens with fountains and gates that the Arabs built from ancient Roman pillars.
Within the second set of walls is the palace and luxurious residences spread over three peaceful courtyard gardens.
2. The Roman Theater
Just down the hill, beyond the outer walls of the Alcazaba is the best ancient monument in the city.
The theater was in use for about 300 years until the 200s, but was then forgotten and even served as a quarry during the Moorish period.
The building was only rediscovered in 1951 and considering everything it went through it is actually in pretty good condition today.
Several layers of 16-foot-high cave (Scout Circle) seating have remained intact and there is a recently opened visitor center that displays some of the site’s finds, including amphorae and everyday tools.
3. Scholarship Cathedral
The construction of the city’s cathedral took more than 150 years, as did a kind of fusion of Renaissance and Baroque styles.
The façade for example was one of the last parts completed and is appropriately magnificent, with arches, columns and stone reliefs depicting saints.
The northern tower of the cathedral is 84 meters high, second only in Andalusia to La Giralda in Seville.
It was supposed to be a southern tower, but instead funds were diverted to help America gain independence from the British.
You can read about it on the cathedral information board where the tower should have been.
4. Castillo de Gibrelfaro
Like the Alcaza, this fortress at the top of a hill towers over the city. This is a majestic landmark that you may recognize from Malaga and the symbols of the wider province.
Unlike Alcaza the site has a more warlike purpose, with observation towers and embankments still standing today, competing with the pines on the hillside.
There has been a fortress here since the Phoenicians more than 2,500 years ago and this castle was a major siege site in 1487.
The Muslim Malgeonius held out against King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella for three months before surrendering when they ran out of food.
5. Museo del Vidrio
This intriguing little museum is housed in a charming old 17th-century house, with exposed beams on the ceilings, period furniture and tasteful decoration.
What people come to see is the large collection of antique glassware that spans several thousand years.
There are works from a variety of ancient cultures: Phoenicians, Romans, ancient Greeks and Egyptians.
Check out the green Roman glass bowl, still complete 2,000 years later.
Below you will see beautiful Venetian items, glass vessels from the Dutch golden age of the 17th century and a collection of English lead glass including urns and glasses of wine from the 15th century.
Want to explore Malaga’s nightlife? Try Malaga: an evening of crawling pubs and clubs or Malaga: an evening of wine and tapas tours
6. Atrences Market
As in most of Spain, the central market is such a focal point in everyday life in Malaga that you must see it for yourself.
Locals prefer the stalls at Ataranzas because of the freshness, and because the prices are reasonable.
It is also simply a charming building, with an elegant canopy of iron and glass, Mudéjar arches and a magnificent stained glass window.
Come buy all the usual market produce, like fruits and vegetables, meat (both raw and meat), cheese, fresh bread and some local honey or cherries.
There are also bars where you can get a tapa with a cold glass of croche campo.
7. Scholarship Park
When the heat is on, this boardwalk is like diving into the thicket, and you’d be amazed at how cool it can be, even in summer.
The wide and lush fringes of the towering palm trees provide plenty of shade on the three main hiking trails.
There is also something surreal about seeing ornate pieces of Baroque and Renaissance sculptures and fountains surrounded by subtropical plants.
In front of the city council building is a beautiful rose garden, surrounded by orange trees and cypresses.
8. Car and Fashion Museum
Here is an attraction that celebrates the better things in life. Both boys and girls will find something to admire.
For the guys there are 100 classic cars, including Maserati, Cadillac, Aston Martins and Bogtis.
The collection dates back to the earliest years of car travel with De Dion Botton from 1903.
As you travel through the decades, from the roaring 1920s to the Dolce Vita period of the 1950s, the museum adds a historical connection to the models on display.
A similar trip can be made over the years in the seven fashion galleries, where 200 original haute couture works are displayed.
9. Picasso’s Malaga
Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga, so no trip can be complete without respecting this 20th century icon.
First turn to his birthplace, or Casa Natal, in the Plaza de la Mercedes.
It is a few minutes walk from all of the city’s landmarks, and his parents rented the first floor for a few years in the early ’80s.
There is a small collection of his artwork as well as artifacts from his youth.
A larger display of his paintings can be seen at the Picasso Museum a few minutes away (tickets can be ordered here).
Many of them are from the formative years of the early 20th century (Olga Khuklova with Mantilla, 1917) but they illustrate the growth of the artist during this period.
La Malagueta on the waterfront of the city is good enough, but it is right in front of the busy N-340 and can be packed in the summer.
Still, the Costa del Sol is Europe’s sun and sand paradise, so you will have no trouble finding a better beach nearby.
Anyone who knows jumps into the car and leaves for Torremolinos, a pleasant driving distance of 20 minutes.
La Misericordia The Blue Flag winner is a delightful, wide and long sandy bay, washed away by moderate waves.
Los Alamos is equally charming, but a little more developed with backyard apartment complexes and summer beach concerts.
11. Scholarship Football Club
In the northern suburbs is La Rosaleda, a wonderful stadium with a capacity of 30,000 people.
Its home team, the CF Scholarship, has been in the Premier Division for almost a decade.
For a time Malaga underwent a huge investment from its Qatari owner, which propelled it to the Champions League, but it stopped pouring money into the club so they fell a bit behind.
Anyway, every week from August to May you can see here games from the best league in Europe, and there is also a tour of the stadium and museum documenting the famous players and trophies of the CF Scholarship.
If you want to try a completely local dish, then you can not go wrong with asepto (grilled sardines) at a local chiringuito (beach bar).
The classic way to make these is to dig a hole in the sand and light a fire, then roast the sardines over the coals.
Long and thick canes are usually used to skewer the sardines, and when they are done you can enjoy them with a squeeze of lemon and a glass of crisp white wine.
There is even a statue of “Asparto” who cooks sardines in Peso Maritimo de Antonio Machado of Malaga.
13. Samana Santa
Holy week is of course a big deal across Spain, but in Andalusia and especially in Malaga it is gaining deep meaning.
This is partly because the Catholic fraternities here (organizing and taking part) may be more prominent than elsewhere in Spain.
They will hold masses throughout the year and have more manpower to organize things for the big week.
The spectacular floats they carry in processions that take place from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday can be several feet high, and the Virgin statues are often adorned with splendor.
There is also a different feeling among Malagueños during Holy Week compared to other Spanish cities; Much less gloomy and more abundant here.
14. Priya de Agusto
Scholarship is a great city to visit at any time of the year, but in August it is a little more special.
In the Middle Ages it was one of the last cities in the Iberian Peninsula to return to Christian rule after the Islamic era.
A scholarship was taken on 14 August 1487, and this event is commemorated by the festival which lasts a week in the third week of August each year.
Most of all it gives you a good look at Andalusian culture, as toasts are made with pino (sherry), there are a lot of flamenco shows and there are daily bullfights in La Malagota.
The city streets are charming even in this period, decorated with flowers and paper lanterns.
After all, you’re in the Costa del Sol, which means you can barely go a few miles without tripping over a top-notch golf course.
10 kilometers along the coast from the city is the Parador de Málaga, an 18-hole track that welcomes players of all abilities.
So if you need to rediscover your swing then this is the place for you.
It is located in an invigorating landscape of dunes, palms and eucalyptus trees, and is one of the oldest routes in the country, dating to the 1920s.
On the western fringes of the city is Guadalhorce, an 18-hole track where you can play in a rather forgiving nine front, or go straight to a back nine laden with hazards that will test the best.
Further reading: The best places to visit in Spain
Where to stay: The best hotels in Malaga, Spain
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