Malaga – an Under-appreciated City?

Perhaps you’ve not considered a visit to Malaga, beyond the airport that is! The city though is well worth a visit and should be on everybody’s itinerary 🙂

Although we spent 3 weeks at Cabopino back in 2017, only about 30 miles away from Malaga, and I flew into Malaga with the kids when they were younger (we were staying in Benalmadena), I have never actually been TO Malaga itself.

The perfect opportunity presented itself just before christmas when my son came to visit us during our latest stay at Cabopino, aided by the fact that we have brought the car with us this time 🙂

When we picked Sam up from the airport it was getting on for lunchtime and a little late for a day exploring the city, so we saved our visit for when we dropped him off a few days later.  This was on 20th December 2018 – the ‘Day of the Drones’.  And Sam was due to fly into Gatwick.  However he was advised to turn up and we watched him go through to security with no problems, so felt confident in leaving the airport and heading into the city.

With no particular plan (or clue to be honest) we headed towards the marina, as we felt this is always a good place to start.  Thinking we were really close and could walk from a spot near the beach we parked up and had a wander along the boulevard.  What a lovely first impression!  A wide tree-lined boulevard teeming with parakeets, a dedicated cycle path, ‘boris-bikes (although it appears you need to have registered in order to use them), several outdoor gyms (they’re everywhere in Spain – we suspect EU funding is involved) and chiringuitos galore 🙂

Seafront Promenade, Malaga
Seafront, Malaga

However, on checking google maps we found we were still about 3 miles away from the marina (and also the alcazar and castle), so back in the car we headed further into the city.

We parked easily in Parking Muelle Uno, an underground parking lot located centrally for the marina and the alcazar, cathedral, bull-ring and castle.  At just over 4Euros for the first hour and a little over 2Euros thereafter we were pleasantly surprised at the cost (only because it was so central to what we wanted to see and the main attractions – we normally balk at paying to park!)  (Just as an observation I hate the way the charges are shown in Spanish car-parks – they’re not per hour, they’re per minute and will have different rates for the 1st 15 or 30 minutes, the next 15 or 30 and so on – hugely confusing..)

We emerged into the sunshine beside the Centre Pompidou, an art gallery whose facade is a multi-coloured cube – a good landmark to head for when you’re looking for your car-park at the end of the day!  Beyond this was the shopping area by the marina of Muelle Uno – a fabulous choice of shops, restaurants, cafes and stalls awaits you – or simply a nice stroll admiring the boats and the water and the general ambience.

Muelle Uno, Malaga

After a quick bite to eat (I won’t tell you where as it’s embarrassing…) we crossed the busy road behind the car park, headed through the gardens and then started making our way up towards the castle (the Gibralfaro – a remnant of Moorish rule)  perched high up on the hill and overlooking the city.  This is a walk and a half (don’t attempt it if you don’t have at least a certain amount of fitness – and some water!), with several particular steep sections.  Shortly before the top is a Mirador (a good excuse to stop for a few minutes).

Part of the path up to the Castle, Malaga
View from the Mirador on the way to the castle, Malaga

On getting to the top we saw a bus dropping people off!  You have to buy your tickets from a machine (although there is a ‘cashier’ they won’t issue tickets) which doesn’t take credit cards.  We had already decided to buy the combined ticket for the castle and the alcazar for 3.55 euros each.  When I noticed the ‘no credit cards notice’ the lady next to me, who I think was actually American, said she would pay our entry if I didn’t have the cash.  Obviously I didn’t take her up on this but she absolutely made my day; she said that we had travelled a long way to be there and she lived there – such a breath of fresh air 🙂

The Gibralfaro is really quite complete (the outside walls anyway) and has amazing views over the city and the port; it also has a water fountain (for drinking – very handy as we had no water with us), a museum, cafe and toilets.

Gibralfaro, Malaga
View from the Gibralfaro, Malaga
View of the Pompidou Centre from the Gibralfaro, Malage

Once we had exhausted our visit (and ourselves to be honest) we headed back down the steep path heading for the alcazar.  It’s actually more difficult going down than up as it’s so steep in places that you have to really concentrate to make sure you don’t trip/slip and roll head first down the side of the hill!

Anyway we made it safely to halfway (you can use steps from here) where we could see the outer walls of the Alcazar and people walking around them.  It only took us about 20 minutes to find the entrance…. (we very nearly gave up 😦 )  In the end we walked past the gate that we had imagined was the entrance, around the corner and as you get into the square you will see where to go!

It was rather spectacular with probably more to see than the castle; however, we were rather tired by this point and probably didn’t appreciate it as much as it deserved.   On top of that my phone died shortly after arriving (so I only got a couple of photos), and Calv had forgotten to bring his camera.  One of the high points of the day (simply because we were so tired) was finding a lift to take us back to the bottom of the hill 🙂

Alcazar, Malaga
Alcazar, Malaga

One of the reasons my phone died was that I was getting constant updates from Sam throughout the day advising us of the status of his flight – which was in fact, eventually, cancelled.  So on leaving Malaga we went ‘home’ via Torremolinos where he was being put up in a 5* hotel!  It took us a while to find (as we had no google maps…) – we drove all the way down to one end of the seafront and then found it at the other end!  It was very nice though and I think Sam had a rather lovely evening in the end 🙂  We then got lost again trying to find the A7 to get home….!  (This is such a bad habit of ours!!)

So in conclusion a visit to Malaga is highly recommended.  Around christmas they also have light shows in the evening which came highly recommended and also, on 6th January (Epiphany), the ‘Festival of the 3 Kings’ or ‘Fiesta de los Reyes‘ is celebrated.  This is when the Spanish exchange presents and carnivals and celebrations are held throughout the country – with a particularly well-known celebration in Malaga.  It seems to be a bigger deal than Christmas over here.

We will most definitely make a return trip one day and see all the attractions that we missed this time.

Related content:

Campsite used: Cabopino (click for our review)

Other visits in the area: Ronda


Author: MandoraTheExplorer

Having given up full-time work we currently work a year to travel for 4-5 months, and we're hoping to continue this until we can retire properly! Currently living, and loving, life to the full :)

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