Having made my long-awaited return to the fair shores of Spain last week, its only right that I let you all in on just where my lovely bodice ended up. Unlike my first entry from the UK into Madrid just over four months ago, this time around I decided to shake it (and myself) up a bit and fly into the coastal city of Málaga.
My expectations mightn’t have been too high (images of drunken British holidaymakers on the Costa del Sol can break even the hardest of hearts) but that’s not to say that Spain’s sixth biggest city left me a broken wreck of a man (well worse than I already was anyway). In fact it surprised me.
An Adventurer Returns
But don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to portray that I landed in Málaga without a care in the world. The fact is that coming back to Spain felt incredibly nerve-wracking (even for a man of steel like myself).
Being back in the UK for a month, I felt myself falling into a comfortable kind of stupor (you’ve seen how my studies suffered) and was beginning to lose my sense of adventure, delaying obvious things like buying a flight ticket back, purchasing travel insurance and even deciding on an itinerary.
The closer it got into January the more I was wondering if I’d ever return. Then I simply bit the bullet and booked a flight, rather arbitrarily, to Málaga one morning, breaking myself out of my stupor.
A decision well-made? I’d say so. Málaga’s a soothing sort of place (good with the nerves) and has got plenty to see and do to float any Spanish culture boat. As it turns out – as you’ll soon see from my recommendations below – I had a “whale” of a time (trying to keep in with the nautical theme there).
So without any more delay, here are my top picks for Málaga. If you’re wondering what to see in Spain then look no further my little researcher.
Alcazaba de Málaga
As you can see in the video below, I had a rather jolly time at Málaga’s 11th century Moorish fort, the alcazaba. Paying a pretty measly Eur 2.10 to enter in through its main entrance off the plush Alcazabilla, I enjoyed walking amongst its winding paths and taking in views over the city that grew better with each step.
Yeah there was a slight downside. Like seeing a Spanish tourist (an elderly female) rip down her trousers and underwear to squat and unleash a torrent of warm pee barely yards into the structure itself – I wonder what the Moors would have made of that? – but I didn’t let that spoil my visit.
Wandering through the Alcazaba’s ornate gardens and climbing up onto its towers, I was able to get a sense of the buildings former glory prior to the post-pee period in the era of Taifa of Badis King of Granada. Luckily the damage from the urine was so minimal I don’t think they’ll need to carry out any restorative measures on a scale with that of 1930s big update.
Go just before the light begins to dim (in winter it’s open until 7pm, summer until 8pm) for the best views. If you’re feeling up to it (I wasn’t) you can also hike up to the Alcazaba’s counterpart, the Castillo de Gibralfaro (the building you see at the top of the hill).
Alcazaba, C/Alcazabilla 2
At the base of the Alcazaba, just as you make your way into the centre of the city, you’ll spot Malaga’s Roman Theatre. Free to enter (but closed at the time I was there for small restorations – damn these archaeological types) you can walk directly into the centre circle or take in some sun on the ancient stone steps.
It might not be as pretty (or as well preserved) as Mérida’s grand example, but it’s still worth a quick peek. Russell Crowe Gladiator impressions strictly banned of course. I won’t let you have your revenge in any life.
Teatro Romano, C/Alcazabilla 8
Just round the corner from both the Alcazaba and the Roman Theatre is a neat little Moroccan-style teashop with views overlooking the courtyard of the 16th century church of San Agustín.
Recommended to me by my Couch Surfing hosts Isra and Ana, I tucked into a warm pot of Earl Grey (1.80 Eur) here while sitting on the wicker stools outside and enjoying the central bustle. This is a great spot to strike up a conversation with a local – and as two middle-aged French women attested – you’ll have to be patient with the service too. But then you already knew of Spain’s reputation for that right?
La Téteria, C/San Agustín 9
Walk through the centre of the city through the streets lined with restaurants, kebab houses and tourist gift shops and you’ll come to the big opening of the Plaza Merced. This is where all the best bars in Málaga are located with many also doubling as cool daytime spots thanks to free wireless internet connections.
It’s also here you can get up close and personal with Málaga’s most famous icon, a certain Pablo Picasso. Born in the city, there’s an eerie statue of him (in his old age) reclining on one of the benches in the corner of the square.
At first I thought it was one of the best street performers I’d ever seen. I had to kiss it to be sure.
At one Euro you might as well nip into the building where the great Cubist artist was born. A small museum complete with a few objects and artefacts, there’s not much to keep you here, but the black and white photographs that line the staircase make it worthwhile.
You can also read about what a horny little boy Pablo was. I never knew he had so many different wives. Kids out of wedlock too? Oh the scandal!
Museo Casa Natal de Picasso, Plaza Merced 15
Interestingly the Picasso Museum is a much more spectacular building than the one in which he was born. Located about a one minutes walk away from La Téteria, the museum houses lots of works previously in the hands of private collectors, family and friends (including a work of American literary queen Gertrude Stein).
Home to a permanent collection of Picasso works (and representing all his major periods – including my favourite the “blue” one), the Picasso Museum also features a changing exhibition in its other galleries. I just dropped the 8 Eur for the main one. I wasn’t disappointed.
Picasso Museum, Palacio de Buenavista, C/San Agustin 8
Warned that it wasn’t anywhere near as spectacular as that of Granada’s, I only walked up to the outside of Málaga Cathedral and didn’t actually pay the 5 Eur to enter inside. Located in the centre of the city it’s impossible to miss, the only problem is it closes early at 5.30pm.
Catedral de Malaga, C/Molina Lario 9
Does it make me a bad tourist that I shirked the Cathedral to instead head to El Pimpi, a really funky bar set close to the Alcazaba? They had mosto (a sweet wine of Málaga made from Muscat grapes) and everything!
El Pimpi, C/Granada
So while my trip to Málaga didn’t quite extend to enjoying its summer beaches and getting in with the sun, sex, and sin of the Costa del Sol, I can still say I had a pretty decent time.
If you’re looking for what to see in Spain there’s a tonne to do here, as well as some great seafood restaurants that I’m not going to lie and say I went to!
What do you think of Málaga? Worth a stay?