Visiting Malaga, the most beautiful things to see and do
In this article you will find the essentials for your visit to Malaga:
- a quick summary of the history of Malaga,
- the main monuments to see
- the historical streets and neighbourhoods to know
- the symbols of Malaga
- some of the 40 museums in the city
- some places to have a drink and some tapas
- ideas for outings and activities around Malaga
At the bottom of the article, you will find all the places indicated on a map.
First of all, a quick history of the city of Málaga, which allows you to understand the immense heritage and wealth of the city
- Malaga was founded by the Phoenicians in the 8th century BC. They gave it the name of Malakka. The foundations of the Gibralfaro castle (which can be visited) date from this period!
- In 576 BC, the Carthaginians took control of the city.
- In 219 BC, following the Punic Wars, the city became Roman.
- Following the decadence of Rome, the Vandals took advantage of this to take the city around 410 AD.
- Then the city was then taken by the Visigoths,
- then by the Byzantine emperor Justinian
- and finally again by the Visigoths.
- In the 13th century, Malaga was conquered by the Moors in 743. It was then attached to the Emirate of Cordoba under the name of Mālaqah (Arabic: مالقة).
- The city was reconquered by the Catholic kings almost 8 centuries later, on 19 August 1487.
Main monuments to visit in Malaga
The Alcazaba, from the Arabic al-Qasbah, which means “citadel.”
- It is a palace, but also a fortress, built in the 11th century. It is located next to the Gibralfaro castle, but they are two separate monuments. They are also from different periods.
- This palace was inhabited by the governor of the city during the Muslim period.
- It was later inhabited, after the Reconquest of 1487, by kings such as Philip IV and Charles III. It is a magnificent stop on any visit to Malaga.
The Cathedral of the Incarnation
- It was built between 1528 and 1782. It is one of the main monuments of the Renaissance in Andalusia, with its baroque style façade. This cathedral is nicknamed la Manquita (it means like one-armed woman). Indeed, the second tower was never built, which gives it a singular vision for a cathedral.
- Its location next to the Alcazaba is explained by the fact that it was built over the city’s former great mosque. It is also located inside the old Muslim fortifications.
- The Patio de los Naranjos (Orange Tree Courtyard) has been preserved from this period.
- It is a fortress castle that was built in the 14th century by Yusuf I, Nasrid king of Granada. It was built on Phoenician foundations. The Phoenicians had built a lighthouse on top of this mountain. This is what gave it its name! It was called Jbel-faro by the Arabs and later became Gibralfaro.
- It was used to house the troops in charge of protecting the Alcazaba.
If you visit it, you can enjoy magnificent views of the city and its surroundings.
- You can also see the Rif (a mountain range in Morocco) and the Strait of Gibraltar.
The Roman Theatre
- It is also located in the city centre, at the foot of the Alcazaba hill.
- It is in a very good state of preservation despite its incredible history. It is the main vestige of the Roman era in the city of Malacca.
- Under Augustus, the first Roman emperor (and adopted son of Julius Caesar) Malaga saw the construction of this theatre (1st century AD). During this Roman period, Málaga was famous for the manufacture of Garum, which was exported to Rome.
- This Roman theatre was used as such until the 3rd century. It was then used as a cemetery for almost three centuries. After the Arab invasion, it was partially destroyed to use the stones for the construction of the Alcazaba.
- It was forgotten until very recently…. until 1951. At that time it was decided to demolish a building: the “casa de la cultura”. Following this destruction, the Roman theatre was discovered underneath… That was just 70 years ago! The Malagueños will quickly give a new name to the destroyed building: “la casa de la incultura”!
- For the record, the famous actor and child of Malaga, Antonio Banderas started acting in these Roman arenas. Indeed, Antonio Banderas, a young football player, was injured and stopped playing the sport, so he enrolled in theatre classes as a teenager.
- In the 70s, he began to perform plays that had been banned under Franco. They were therefore performed underground, in the Roman theatre!
Plaza de toros de la malagueta
- The Plaza de Toros was built in 1874 in the neo-Mudejar style. Inside you will find the Antonio Ordoñez Bullfighting Museum.
The main churches to visit in Malaga
There are many churches in Malaga. Here are 5 that are worth seeing.
Santuario de la Victoria
- This church was built on the exact spot where the armies of the Catholic Kings settled during the siege of the city in 1487. Its construction started in the same year, 1487.
- This church is worth seeing if only to see the magnificent altarpiece above the altar.
Parroquia de los Santos Mártires Ciriaco y Paula
- This parish church was also built in 1487. It is dedicated to the martyrs of the town.
- The interior of the church is in the baroque style. It is probably the one I prefer for its aesthetics inside. On the outside it has a Mudejar-style turret.
Iglesia San Juan Bautista
- It was built in 1490 and is known for its beautiful chapels inside.
Parroquia Santiago Apóstol Málaga
- This church was built in 1490 and its peculiarity is that it has a Mudejar style bell tower. It was in this church that the most famous painter in the world was baptised. Picasso’s baptismal certificate is on display.
Iglesia del Santo Cristo de la Salud
- Inside it is possible to see a beautiful altarpiece!
Historic streets and areas to visit in Malaga
The Juderia of Malaga
The streets of the Jewish quarter from the Al-Andalus period transport us to another era. It is located behind the Picasso Museum, between Calle San Augustin and Calle Alcazabilla.
Marques de Larios Street
- This is the most famous street in Malaga. It is also the centre of the biggest popular fair in Andalusia: La Feria de Malaga in August. A feria to see but above all to experience!
- You often enter the city centre via this street, which is located opposite the port.
The Atarazanas market
- The Atarazanas market is not to be missed! It is a beautiful covered market with all the local and typical products. The building has kept its original structure from the Al-Andalus period.
- “Atarazanas” was the building of the shipyards of the Moorish period. The workers in these shipyards were mainly Mozarabes and Muladis.
Episcopal Palace of Malaga
- This episcopal palace is of great beauty. Its construction was started in 1762. It is located in the Plaza del Obispo, right next to the cathedral.
- The best thing to do is to stop for a drink in the square to contemplate the palace and the cathedral.
Plaza de la Merced
- This square near the city centre is really beautiful. Here you will find the house where Picasso was born and a life-size statue of the painter sitting on a bench.
- This is a botanical garden that runs parallel to the port (Muelle 1). It extends for 1 kilometre from the Plaza de la Marina to the Plaza de Toros de la Malagueta. This park is almost 130 years old and is a real haven of coolness in summer.
- It also allows you to admire plants from 5 continents, which from a botanical point of view is very rare. It really is a wonderful place to go for a walk.
La Cónsula Garden
- This is a 12-hectare botanical garden that today houses the Malaga Hotel School. The house and park belonged to the American couple Bill and Annie Davis in the 1960s. In 1959, E. Hemingway, who visited Andalusia many times, stayed at this property.
- He wrote a book about the rivalry between two bullfighters, one of whom was Antonio Ordonez. Below, a photo of Ernest Hemingway with Antonio Ordonez in Malaga in 1959.
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
The symbols of Malaga
These are the main symbols of Malaga and its people
The motto and titles given to Malaga :
- Here they are: “The first in the danger of freedom, the most noble, most loyal, most hospitable, most beneficent and always named City of Malaga”.
The patron saints of Malaga
- There are three of them. They are the martyrs San Ciriaco, Santa Paula and the Virgen de la Victoria
The popular emblems of Malaga :
- statue of El Cenachero. It represents a profession that has disappeared, that of a street vendor of fish.
- the biznaga created by the biznagero. The biznaga is a flower sold in the streets of Malaga. Its particularity is that this flower does not exist. It is the biznagero who makes it from jasmine flower buds and dry grass. Most of the time these flowers are pricked in a cactus leaf that the biznagero carries in his hand. Below is a statue of a biznagero:
- espeto de sardinas. The sardine skewer has become the typical dish in the chiriguintos of Málaga and the entire Costa del Sol. However, originally the king fish in Malaga was the anchovy, el boqueron. The Malagueños call themselves “los boquerones”!
Museums to visit in Malaga
- Malaga has an incredible number of museums. There are more than 40 in and around Malaga.
For those who wish to do so, you will find in this link (at the bottom of the page): the possibility to buy online the Malaga museum pass on the official website (there are several possible formulas).
Here are 2 museums that it would be a shame to miss
The Picasso Museum
- Picasso museum is a little wonder. It is located in the Buenavista Palace and allows you to admire some of his most famous works.
- In the following link you will find: Picasso’s full name
The Carmen Thyssen Museum
- This museum is also located in a beautiful palace. It is located in the Villalon Palace. In addition to temporary exhibitions, it offers the largest permanent collection of Andalusian paintings from the 19th century.
- The paintings show the way of life and customs of the time.
Drinks in Malaga
There are many good places to have a drink or a meal in Malaga.
Here is a suggestion of 4 places that I think are a must in Malaga
- This is a bodega founded in 1971, with a traditional decor. Today it has a great reputation, with many stars having left autographs on the walls of the bar. The food is very good. In fact, some of the fruit and vegetables are grown by the owners a few kilometres away in Axarquia.
- you should at least stop by the terrace with a magnificent view of the Alcazaba.
- This is a very unusual place. The restaurant is located in an antique shop! The food is traditional and good. There are also some tables outside. An ideal place for a good breakfast or to eat some tapas!
La Antigua Casa de Guardia
- A very typical bar, where the locals also come for a drink. It is a very famous place with the wine barrels behind the counter. The wines are drawn directly from the barrel. This is an opportunity to get to know Malaga wine, a natural sweet wine with some tapas.
- The production of wine in Malaga is one of the most ancient in Europe, in this link you will discover the cultivation of the moscatel vine, with which they also make the famous raisin, the pasa de Malaga!
The Alcazaba premium hostel Malaga
- There is the possibility to have a drink on the rooftop of this hotel. The view of the Alcazaba is splendid!
Taste the espetos de sardinas
- If you want to try some espetos de sardinas, or fish, then the beaches of the El Palo district will be the ideal place, facing the sea, to taste them.
Visit Malaga by walking around the city centre
- Malaga’s pedestrianised centre is the ideal place to take a stroll and admire the beauty of the buildings’ facades.
- There are also 3 districts known for street art. Below is a work by Doger in the city centre.
- In the following link, discover the street art in the Lagunillas district
Some useful links for those staying a few days in Malaga
- If you need a car rental, here is a very good car rental agency at Malaga airport
- Around Málaga, I invite you to discover the Axarquía region through its beaches and authentic villages. You will also find in this link many activities around Malaga (aquatic, hiking, outdoor,…) .
- The month of August is also the occasion to participate in many ferias and fiestas in Axarquia, just east of Malaga.
- Finally, in this link you will find all the accommodation in Malaga.
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Here are some ideas for activities to do during your stay in Malaga and its surroundings: