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Malaga City

24 Hours in Malaga


For most of us either living here on the coast or visiting, Málaga is usually associated with arrival and departure times at Malaga's refurbished international airport or a quick shopping trip to one of the big commercial centres on the outskirts of the city. Why not dig a little deeper with Gomarbella and discover that Málaga has a lot more to offer than most of us think.


To start your day in Málaga, why not breakfast on churros and chocolate, the spiral shaped, deep fried bread served with thick, piping hot chocolate.  A young boy born on the Plaza de la Merced found churros so fascinating, they were the first things he committed to paper.  He was no other than Pablo Ruiz Picasso and his birthplace and family home at no. 15 houses some interested photographs of his life, notebooks and several ceramic and lithograph works.


A short walk from the Plaza de la Merced will find you in the Plaza de la Constitucion, a leafy plaza with a fountain in its centre.  Overlooking the plaza is the Hotel Larios, one of the oldest hotels in Málaga and a great base if you wish to be in the centre of town.  Calle Marqués de Larios, running from Plaza de la Constitucion down to the Alameda Principal is the main shopping street in Malaga with high street fashions such as Mango, Bershka, Bennetton and Zara.  On the same street is Pincapo stocking the fabulous fashions of Spanish designer Amaya Arzuaga amongst other designer dons such as Dolce & Gabana.  On Calle Salinas, just of C/ Marqués de Larios you will find several low key designer delights including Caramelo, a showcase for a Galician designer.


After giving your credit card a bit of an airing around Calle Marqués de Larios, wander from the Plaza de la Constitucion through the Pasaje de Chinitas, a charming series of high white walled alleyways once home to Café de Chinitas, a favourite haunt for artists, singers and bullfighters in the 20’s and 30’s who would flock here to hear the renowned flamenco.  A plaque on the wall above the old café (sadly the café is no longer, it is now a fabric shop) bears a poem written by the famous poet Lorca ;


In the café de Chinitas
Said Paquiro to his brother:
“I’m more valiant than you,
more brave and more gitano”.


Meandering through the tiny streets of the old town of Malaga is a pleasant way to while away a couple of hours, the architecture is charming and there are plenty of shops and cafes to linger in.  As you near the cathedral, this imposing edifice pops up between buildings at nearly every turn. Built on the site of the city’s main mosque after Christian forces seized the city from the Moors in 1487, the cathedral is still unfinished due to its lack of the western tower.  A feisty bishop many years ago donated the money earmarked for this symmetrical finishing touch to the American War of Independence against the British resulting in the cathedral being nicknamed ‘La Manquita’ (the “one armed lady”).  Inside the cathedral, the old lady lacks nothing, the huge carved pillars and ceiling are exquisite as are the stained glass windows and huge oil paintings depicting various bible bashing moments adorn the walls.  Opposite the cathedral, the Plaza del Obispo is home to the Palacio Episcopal, a beautiful building in its own right but also an art gallery.  If you are in need of a well earned rest then a few cafes around the plaza  offer snacks and drinks.


If more shopping is on the agenda before lunch, near the Cathedral, Masip Design is a great place for silver jewellery and watches and funky house wares.  A little further down Calle Santa Maria is another great little shop selling traditional Spanish guitars and drums and every kind of feria accompaniment you could wish for.  If the feria gets you going (as well it should) - Malaga’s August feria is undoubtedly the highlight of the social calendar and is one of the biggest events in Andalucia - head for Calle Cisneros where La Castanuela, Viva la Feria and La Airosa all stock traditional feria frocks, suits and accessories.


The Alameda Principal is Malaga’s main thoroughfare and although it is always busy with traffic, the trees that line the boulevard and the old buildings make it a pleasure to wander down.  The centre of the Alameda is the home to numerous flower stalls and not far from the Puerta del Mar behind an inconspicuous entrance is Malaga’s oldest bar.  The Antiguo Casa de Guardia, has stood on the Alameda since 1840 when horse and carriages took the place of today’s cars and buses.  Crumbling walls with peeling paint are adorned with old photographs of the bar’s history and behind the long wooden bar, are three rows of barrels containing the sherries and dulces that have made the bar famous.  This is a great place to sample Málaga’s famous sweet wines whilst savouring the atmosphere of this little corner of history; it even smells historic with over a century of sherry fumes giving the bar the aroma of an old bodega.


Also off the Alameda is a small street called Calle Comisario.  Several lively marisquerias serving up deliciously fresh frituras and other seafood delights are located here and come well recommended for lunch.  Another nice stopping point for a lunchtime respite is the Plaza Feliz Saenz where café tables are shaded under the palm trees and overshadowed by the Church of San Juan.


After lunch a nice way to take the weight off your feet for a while is to take a horse and carriage ride; for 50Euros, you will be driven in style around some major sites including the waterfront in Malagueta and the Paseo del Parque home to the architecturally impressive buildings of the Ayuntamiento, La Aduana and the old Post Office.  Opposite the Paseo del Parque, the gardens provide a haven for a tranquil stroll during siesta time.  Swans glide majestically over small ponds and Malaga’s residents take it easy on beautiful tiled benches.  Set amongst exotic plants and flowers, there are numerous fountains and sculptures, one by Pimental is an exquisite bronze, El Jazminero, a depiction of one of Malaga’s jasmine sellers, still seen today selling their trays of blooms throughout the city.  At the end of the Paseo del Parque is the Fuente Genovesa, a work of Italian renaissance once captured by pirates and later, once retrieved, awarded to the city by Royal order.  Sadly to get a better look at the fountain, you have to take your life in your hands and make a mad dash across the three lanes of traffic which now circle the fountain’s new home: a roundabout.


All along the Paseo del Parque, you cannot escape the stunning view of the Alcazaba and the Castillo de Gibalfaro.  At the entrance to the Alcazaba stands a Roman Theatre which was quite literally stumbled upon during construction of the Casa de Cultura.  This was finally demolished in 1995 and the Roman Theatre is presently being given a facelift.  A wander into the Alcazaba is a perfect reminder of the city’s Moorish period and the walk up the winding cobbled path passing under Moorish archways dripping in flowers is charming.


To the right of the Alcazaba, a road heads up to the Castillo de Gibalfaro and is far the most picturesque way to approach the castle.  Tiring it may be but once at the viewpoint you are rewarded with breathtaking views over the city and the port.  From here a birds eye view of Malaga’s bull ring, a thriving staging area for some of the province’s most celebrated toreros, is proffered and is a great place to sneak a view of a bullfight or as I was lucky enough to spy, two matadors training with a set of bulls horns and a silky cape.  Further up and you gain entrance to the castle itself, built in the fourteenth century and last used in 1936 during Spain’s civil war.  You can wander around the walls and turrets and are rewarded again with spectacular views of the city and the distant hills.  The visitor’s centre is interesting with information and artefacts chronicling the castle’s history.


Almost next to the Castle is the Parador de Malaga “Gibralfaro”, in my opinion far and away the best hotel to base your stay in the city.  With all rooms affording the aforementioned stunning views, a swimming pool situated on its roof, a pleasant terrace to enjoy an early evening cocktail or al fresco dining, it is hard to beat. 


If vertigo inducing dining at the Parador doesn’t take your fancy there are plenty of culinary delights to suit the most discerning of diners.  Malaga is famous for its fried fish and is served pretty much everywhere and envied across the country.  Antonio Martín, established over a century ago is one of Malaga’s most famed seafood eateries.  Situated on the Paseo Maritimo near the bullring it is also a great place for spotting celebrating matadors.  For other great seafood haunts check out Los Culitos on Plaza Victoria, Marisquería Dolce Vita on Calle Trinidad, Casa Vicente and Bar El Puerto on the aforementioned Calle Comisario and Gorki’s on Calle Strachan for its famed tapas.  7 de Julio, named after the famous San Fermin feria in Pamplona situated between the Fuente Genovesa and the Paseo Maritimo serves traditional Basque cuisine.


For a change from fish, try Malena, a traditional Argentinian parilla, Tomassino for fresh pasta (both in the Limonar area).  Vicabukin on Calle Merlo for African fayre, Al-Yamal on Calle Blasco de Garay for Arab cuisine, Mesón Danes on Calle Barroso serving a fusion of Spanish and Scandinavian dishes or for great Vegetarian food check out Cañadú on Plaza de Merced.


If you still have energy to hit the town well after dark then Malaga certainly doesn’t lack in inspiration.  O’Neill’s, an Irish bar on Calle Luis de Velazquez has live music earlier in the evenings and serves as you would imagine ice cold Guinness and other import beers.  There are also many other bars in this area, among them Café del Mojito, serving up Cuban salsa and rum cocktails till late.  Another good area to head for is Pintor Sorollo where the young Malagueño set drink and get very merry on the street outside the many bars.  Plaza de Merced is also a great area to head for where there is a concentration of bars.  Another Irish bar here, Morrisseys, just off the main square, showcases live bands most nights of the week, Café del Libro just up the street from Morrisseys specialises in herbal teas and import coffees and a couple of swings serve as seats on its terrace.  Café Latino as you would imagine is Latin in flavour and right in the middle of the Square is the brightly signposted La Bomba cocktail kiosk.  For the late late scene check out Anden on Plaza de Uncibay, a full on rave club with a young wild crowd or for a slightly more sedate scene the nearby Liceo, features theatrical décor and a winding staircase connecting its two dance floors.


If you make it through a full 24 hours in Malaga in tact and in bed before check out time, you will have done well and can give yourself a deserved pat on the back.  You will of course also join the ranks of the chosen few who really appreciate the city and love its vibrant mix of old architecture and historical sites, its frituras and finos, its tapas bars and night owl haunts.  One thing for sure, it may be your first 24 hours you spend in Malaga, it certainly won’t be your last.

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