The city of Malaga can be found in Spain’s Costa del Sol region and is famous for its stunning sandy beaches, interesting attractions and vibrant nightlife scene. While many people flock to Malaga in the summer months to soak up the sun on the beach, others are attracted by the area’s rich history and architectural treasures. Read on to discover a little of the history of Malaga and what makes it so popular with tourists from all around the world.
A Brief History of Malaga
Malaga was founded nearly three thousand years ago and one of the oldest structures here is an impressive fortress that overlooks the city’s historical district. This fortress was built on a hill by the Phoenicians in the 12th century BC shortly after they arrived in Malaga. The area soon flourished into a thriving harbour town and people from all over Europe would arrive in Malaga to sell and trade their wares.
The Romans colonised Malaga in the 3rd century BC and remained in the area for more than six hundred years. During their occupancy the Romans build a large number of magnificent structures such as theatres, temples and bath houses and the remains of many of these structures are still standing to this day. The Moors invaded Spain in the 8th century and took control of Malaga, which by this time had grown into a sizeable city. The city continued to grow due to the excellent trading possibilities and the city was soon one of the most prosperous merchant centres in the whole of Europe.
In the late 15th century the city was captured by the Spanish Christians, who wasted no time in building an impressive collection of churches, chapels and other religious buildings. Apart from a brief period between 1810 and 1812 when the French seized the city, Malaga has remained under Spanish control and has a strong Spanish feel. Malaga started to become popular as a tourist destination in the 1960s, although it was not until the 1980s that the city and the rest of the Costa del Sol exploded as a summer destinations for German and English holidaymakers. These days Malaga is home to more than 500,000 people, although these numbers climb dramatically during the summer months.
What to See
Malaga is the home of Pablo Picasso as well as a large number of stunning buildings. People who want to get a feel for the history of Malaga should visit La Alcazaba, which was completed in the 10th century and is a stunning Roman and Moorish palace that was once home to Ferdinand and Isabella. The palace is situated in beautiful gardens and offers stunning views of Malaga. Just above La Alcazaba are the ruins of the Castillo de Gibralfaro, which was built by Abd ar-Rahman I. the Picasso Foundation can be found in the historic quarter and contains an impressive collection of Pablo Picasso’s artwork.
Malaga’s religious history is best represented by the magnificent Malaga Cathedral, which was built in the 16th century. This national monument was constructed on the site of a large mosque and features an interesting blend of Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance styles. Visitors will want to make sure that they time their trip so that they can hear the choir raise their voices to the domed ceiling. Other attractions that should not be missed include the ancient Roman Theatre and the Museo Picasso Malaga, which contains more than two hundred celebrated works including a portrait of Picasso’s son.
What to Do
People who are travelling with children will want to include a trip to Tivoli World in their itinerary. This large theme park features a whole host of hair raising rides as well as daily shows. Many of the rides here are aimed at very young children, while people of all ages are sure to be enchanted by the Andalusian flamenco and ballet.
Taking a guided tour of the city is a great way to cover a large number of popular attractions in limited time. The city boasts numerous English speaking guides who are able to explain the city’s rich history in addition to showing visitors some of the hidden gems that they would not necessarily discover on their own. Hiking and walking are also popular pastimes in Malaga and the hills on the edge of the city boast a large number of excellent walking trails. People who also like to get fit while they travel can choose to hire a bicycle and follow the paths that run alongside the beaches to enjoy stunning ocean views.
People who are in search of alternative entertainment should visit the Malaga Bullfighting Ring, which is situated on a high hill and was established in 1874. Regular shows are still held here and the bullfighting ring has a capacity of 15,000 people. Although bullfighting might not be to everyone’s taste, it is still an important link to the history and culture of the city and people who prefer to learn about this ancient sport rather than watching the action unfold will find several museums that offer an insight into this traditional sport.
The majority of people who travel to Malaga spend at least part of their time on the beach. The city boasts several beautiful stretches of sand to choose from, although during the height of the tourist season visitors may need to arrive rather early to secure their spot. El Candado Beach features a strong family atmosphere and is one of the most popular places to soak up the sun. There are plenty of amenities to make use of here and the beach is located conveniently close to the city centre. People who want to try their hand at fishing and other types of water sports are sure to love spending time at El Palo Beach, while Las Acacias Beach is lined with a good number of restaurants and shops. All of the beaches at Malaga feature moderate surf as well as fine sand that is slightly grey in colour. The water that laps the shores of the main beaches is particularly clear and makes the perfect place to try water sports such as snorkelling and windsurfing. Equipment can be hired from establishments that line the sand and lessons are also available.
A large number of vibrant festivals are held in Malaga throughout the year and timing your trip to coincide with one of the city’s major festival’s is a great way to get a feel for the history of the city as well as the passion of the people who live there. Most of the largest festivals are held in the summer months and many people flock to Malaga in the month of June to join in the fun of the Eve of San Juan. This festival is so large that it is held in several parts of the city including some of the main beaches and includes fireworks shows and orchestral performances that commemorate the summer solstice. The epic Malaga Fair, which is known locally as Feria de Malaga, is held over the coarse of ten days in the month of August and features a wide range of cultural performances including flamenco dancing, bullfighting performances, singing and dramatic performances. The Fiestas de Carnaval is one of the largest events of the year and this festival is held over several days in the month of February and the celebrations include the Carnaval Queen contest as well as colourful parades throughout the city streets, costume wearing, dancing and singing contests.
Dining in Style
Celebrated eateries can be found all over the city of Malaga and this is the perfect place to sample traditional Spanish cuisine. Many of the most popular restaurants offer a Mediterranean twist to Spanish dishes and because competition is high here, there is always something new to try. The restaurants that line the main beaches tend to specialise in freshly caught seafood dishes that are prepared and cooked in a number of different styles. Some of the local delicacies that are just waiting to be enjoyed by visitors to Malaga include shellfish cooked with a rich white wine sauce, grilled sardines and squid. No meal would be complete without enjoying a glass or too of local sweet white wine, which is available in most restaurants as well as local bars and clubs. Of course, visitors will also have plenty of opportunities to sample paella, which comes in a number of different variations and is ideally enjoyed with a jug or two of sangria. Adventurous diners who want to get a real feel for Spanish dining should visit one of the el Tintero chiringuito establishments. These restaurants do not feature menus and diners simply select what they want from the trays that are paraded around the restaurants by waiters.
Malaga’s Nightlife Scene
The people of Malaga love to party and there are plenty of bars, tavernas and Latin clubs to choose from. The nightlife scene heats up rather late in Malaga, so it is a good idea to enjoy a leisurely dinner and perhaps a stroll through the city before heading to one of the city’s tapas bars. Most of the nightlife venues can be found situated around Merced Squared, which is located in the very heart of the city. Calle Larios is another popular local hangout spot that features a wide range of bars and clubs for visitors to choose from. Most of the clubs close in the early hours of the morning, giving visitors plenty of time to let their hair down and shake their stuff on the dance floor.
Music lovers will also enjoy spending time in Malaga after dark. There are lots of theatres and live music venues to choose from where shows can be enjoyed every night of the week. One of the main establishments in the city is the Teatro Cervantes, which can be found on Ramos Martin and first opened its doors to the public in the 19th century. This impressive theatre was fully restored back in 1987 and hosts a large number of Spanish plays as well as flamenco dance performances and music concerts. The Malaga Symphony Orchestra performs at the theatre during the winter months and the Teatro Cervantes is a popular haunt among both local people and expats. Many of the bars in Malaga also host live bands in the evening, with music genres ranging from classic Spanish guitar music to modern rock and pop.
People who have plenty of time to spare will be able to embark on daytrips to discover some of the stunning attractions situated close to Malaga. The city makes a good base to use while exploring the rest of the Costa del Sol and people who choose to hire a car here will be able to drive along the coastal roads and motorways at their own pace. The area is scattered with traditional villages and towns complete with local restaurants where visitors can sample an authentic taste of Andalucia. The nearby touristy resorts of Marbella, Nerja and Torremolinos are also just a short drive away, meaning that visitors who have their own transportation will never be run out of exciting entertainment options. People who prefer to explore in comfort and style can also arrange daytrips through local operators. These daytrips cover many of the area’s most popular and impressive attractions and are great ways to see the sights while unwinding a little.
The city boasts an excellent transportation system, which makes getting around easy. Most of the main attractions can be found in the historic quarter, which can easily be explored on foot. The rest of the city is covered by an extensive bus network, and this is one of the cheapest ways to explore the city, while there are also two railway lines that cover the coast and other prominent areas of the city. Taxis are also readily available in Malaga and taking a taxi is by far the quickest and easiest way to get around.