The Malaga province’s capital, Malaga, is an oasis of old-fashioned Spanishness, Malaga’s history is rich, while its population challenges Seville’s as 24-hour party people. Known for bravery, the malagueños (residents of Malaga) held out until 1487 against the invading Christian armies and showed equal strength when Franco’s fascists arrived during the Spanish Civil War. More recently, Malaga has fought off the less attractive effects of mass tourism. Malaga gave the world with another priceless gift – Pablo Picasso, the 20th century’s most ground-breaking artist, who was born in a small house in Plaza de Merced in 1881.
Probably founded by Phoenicians, Malaga has long been a trade hub. The city flourished in the Islamic era, especially as the chief port of the Emirate of Granada, later it reemerged as a centre of business in the 19th century when a forward-thinking middle class founded textile factories, sugar and steel mills and shipyards. Malaga dessert wine (‘mountain sack’) was popular in Victorian England. During the civil war Malaga was initially a Republican stronghold. Hundreds of Nationalist sympathisers were killed before the city fell in February 1937 after being bombed by Italian planes. Vicious reprisals followed. Malaga has enjoyed increasing economic spin-off from the mass tourism of the nearby Costa del Sol since the 1950s. In recent years, the city has become an important destination in itself.
Semana Santa - Each night from Palm Sunday to Good Friday, six or seven cofradías (brotherhoods) bear their holy images for several hours through the city, watched by large crowds.
Feria de Málaga - Malaga’s nine-day feria (fair), launched by a huge fireworks display on the opening Friday in mid-August, is the most exciting of Andalucía’s summer ferias. Resembling an exuberant Rio-style street party with plenty of flamenco and fino (sherry) you should head for the city centre to be part of the action. At night, festivities switch to large fairgrounds and nightly rock and flamenco shows at Cortijo de Torres, 3 kilometres southwest of the city centre; special buses run from all over the city.
The main bus station is right across the street from the train station, a kilometre west of the city centre on Paseo de los Tilos. The station serves buses from across Spain and is a major transfer point.
A substation, the Muelle Heredia bus station, is located along Avenida de Manuel Agustin Heredia, adjacent to the port and handles many regional buses that serve Malaga province, such as those going to nearby beach towns, many of which are operated by the Malaga Metropolitan Transport Consortium.
Maria Zambrano, the city's new train station, is about 1 kilometre west of the city centre and served by RENFE's high-speed AVE service, which takes passengers to Madrid in 2.5 or 3 hours (some with continuing service to Barcelona), Cordoba in 1 hour or Seville in 2 hours, with multiple trains running each line daily. Slower (and cheaper) trains are also available.
RENFE also operates two commuter rail lines out of Malaga, one west along the coast to the airport and Torremolinos and Fuengirola and one inland. Both lines make two stops in Central Malaga: one at the Maria Zambrano station and one at the end of the line at Centro-Alameda, located closer to the city centre.
The A-7 E-15 motorway runs along the coast to from Gibraltar to Almeria and through Murcia and on.
The A-45 motorway runs from Cordoba to Malaga.
Malaga has the fourth biggest international airport (AGP) in Spain, which many budget airlines fly to. There are even summer flights to New York.
Public transport from the airport you can get a train, a bus or a taxi into town, or hire a car. Bus number A costs 3 EUR and runs every 30 minutes stopping at Alameda Principal and Paseo del Parque, where most of the local buses that serve the city stop. The stop names are shown on an electronic display inside the bus so you can tell when to get off. The train opposite arrivals terminal 3, trains to Malaga Centro costs 1.70 EUR on way into Malaga Centro (final stop), leaves from Platform 2 it runs every 20 minutes approximately 12 minutes into Malaga Centro.
Renting a car at Malaga's airport is relatively cheap, but it is advisable to book in advance.
Taxis from the airport charge a minimum fare of 20 EUR.
The centre of Malaga is compact and easily navigated on foot but public transport in Malaga is plentiful and very cheap.
The EMT (Empresa Malagueña de Transportes) is the city's network of public buses. A single journey, purchased in the bus, costs 1.30 EUR regardless of how far there are also bus cards available such as a 10 journey (8.30 EUR) or a month unlimited pass (39.95 EUR)
There are two train lines, the C1 which runs from the centre to the west of the city along the Costa del Sol to Fuengirola, and the C2 which runs inland to Alora. The maximum price of a return ticket is 3.35 EUR. Go to http://www.renfe.es/cercanias/malaga/ for more information.
They are always white cars and can be flagged down anywhere as long as they have their green "libre" (available) light on. The meter rarely reaches 5 EUR on short trips around the city.
Museo Picasso Malaga Calle San Agustín 8, permanent/temporary collection 6/4.50 EUR, combined ticket 8 EUR, open 10am to 8pm Tuesday to Thursday and Sunday and 10am to 9pm Friday and Saturday. The Museo Picasso has a collection of 204 works, 155 donated and 49 loaned to the museum by Christine Ruiz-Picasso (wife of Paul, Picasso’s eldest son) and Bernard Ruiz-Picasso (his grandson), and includes some wonderful paintings of the family. Don’t miss the Phoenician, Roman, Islamic and Renaissance archaeological remains in the museum’s basement, discovered during construction works.
Cathedral - Calle Molina Lario; cathedral and museum 3.50 EUR; open 10am to 6pm Monday to Saturday, closed holidays. Malaga’s cathedral was started in the 16th century and building continued for some 200 years. Inside, it is easy to see why the project took so long. The domed ceiling is 40 metres high, while the colonnaded nave houses an enormous cedar-wood choir. Aisles give access to 15 chapels with 18th-century religious art. The project cost so much that by 1782 it was decided that work would stop. One of the two bell towers was left incomplete, hence the cathedral’s nickname, La Manquita (the one-armed lady). The cathedral entrance is on Calle Císter. The cathedral’s museum displays a collection of religious items covering 500 years.
Alcazaba - Calle Alcazabilla, admission 2.10 EUR, including Castillo de Gibralfaro 3.40 EUR, open 9.30am to 8pm Tuesday to Sunday from April to October. Extensively restored, this palace fortress dates from the 11th century Moorish period. Don’t miss the small archaeological museum located within the former servants ‘quarters of the Nazari palace with its exhibits of Moorish ceramics and pottery.
Castillo de Gibralfaro - admission is 2.10 EUR, open 9am to 9pm April to September and 9am to 6pm from October to March. One remnant of Malaga’s Islamic past is the ramparts of the Castillo de Gibralfaro, located high on the hill overlooking the city. Built by Abd ar Rahman I, the 8th century Cordoban emir, and later rebuilt in the 14th century when Malaga was the main port for the emirate of Granada, the castle originally acted as a lighthouse and military barracks. The walkway around the ramparts affords the best views over Malaga. There is also a military museum, which includes a small-scale model of the entire castle complex and the lower residence, the Alcazaba. The best way to reach the castle on foot is via the scenic Paseo Don Juan de Temboury, to the south of the Alcazaba. Alternatively, you can drive up the Camino de Gibralfaro or take bus 35 from Avenida de Cervantes.
Museo Carmen Thyssen - Calle Compañia 10, admission for adults is 6 EUR, children free, open from 10am to 8pm Tuesday to Sunday. One of the city’s latest museums opened in 2011 in a renovated 16th century palace in the heart of the city’s his toric centre, the former old Moorish quarter of Malaga. The extensive collection concentrates on 19th-century Spanish and Andalucian art and includes paintings by some of the country’s most exceptional painters, including Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida, Ignacio Zuloaga and Francisco de Zurbarán. Temporary exhibitions similarly focus on 19th century art.
Malaga’s restaurants feature reasonable prices and are of a good standard due to the largely local customers. A speciality here is fish fried quickly in olive oil. Fritura malaguena consists of fried fish, anchovies and squid. Most of the best eating places are sandwiched in the narrow streets between Calle Marques de Larios and the cathedral.
At the weekend, the network of narrow old streets north of Plaza de la Constitucion comes to life alive. Look for bars around Plaza de la Merced, Plaza Mitjana and Plaza de Uncibay.
Central Calle Marques de Larios and nearby streets have the usual range of high-end boutiques and shoe shops in handsomely restored old buildings.
Malaga’s substantial flamenco dance heritage is centred in the northwest of Plaza de la Merced. Malaga has varied nightlife catering for everyone from those who want a quiet drink to late night venues for clubbers. Malaga’s nightclubs, pubs and bars are among the best in Spain. Bars and clubs in Malaga do not really start until midnight and usually stay open until about 6am.
The best locations to stay in town are the beach, or near the pedestrian zone in the centre. The cheapest accommodation can be found in the red light district between the centre and the port.
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