A perfect blend of antiquity and modernity, Malaga is one of the most beautiful and exciting cities in Andalusia. Capital of the Costa del Sol, it really has a lot to offer the tourists who visit Spanish towns and beaches in hordes every year, hoping for a truly unique and unforgettable holiday. For them, Malaga is a dream come true: museums, Arabic fortresses, colourful streets and trendy areas. All of this, interspersed with beautiful gardens, natural canyons and hiking and walking areas that will take your breath away.
We have selected for you 13 things to see in and around Malaga:
- The cathedral
- The Roman Theatre
- Gibralfaro Castle
- The Picasso House Museum
- Flamenco shows
- Malaga Fair
- The Carmen Thyssen Museum
- Malaga area: the King's Path walkway
- Malaga area: Gibraltar
- Malaga area: Granada
- Alhambra (Granada)
- Malaga area: Cordoba
Any city tour worthy of the name must begin with the Cathedral, a colossal jewel of Renaissance art which took more than two centuries to build. Its stands on the site of an ancient mosque, of which only the Orange-tree Courtyard, pervaded by the scent of citrus fruits, is still visible today. Venturing inside, you can admire an impressive, 40-metre high, domed ceiling before climbing to the top of the bell tower - there are 200-steps, but the stunning views of the city and the coast make it worth the effort.
Malaga's Roman Theatre
Amongst the many sights of Andalusia and, in particular, those in Malaga, don't miss the Roman theatre. This charming site is also one of the city's oldest monuments, as well as being one of the very few Roman ruins left in the region. The theatre has been designated a Site of Cultural Interest and every year it attracts tourists and students alike to uncover the history of these special remains. The amphitheatre’s structure is still almost intact: cavea, orchestra and proscenium all still standing in an open area formed by three beautiful stairways. Thanks to the archaeological restoration work, the site can once more be used for its original purpose, and today it can accommodate up to 200 spectators during theatrical performances. In 2010, the Roman Theatre Interpretation Centre was built, to provide information about this valuable relic of Roman times. The building, made of steel and shaped like a prism, was designed by Antonio Tejedor. It offers an excellent introduction to the site you are about to visit. Interactive exhibits further enrich this fantastic experience.
The Alcazar is one of those marvels that serve as a reminder of Malaga's glorious Arab past. However, this splendid residence is actually a mix of cultures: Arab, Roman and Renaissance. To enter, you walk past the Roman Theatre, then pass through a lush garden of palm trees, orange trees and jasmine. The fortress palace of Alcazar was built in the Moorish period, in the 11th century, at the behest of the King of Granada, Badis ben Habùs. The interior is a riot of splendour and beauty, with decorations, jewelled doors, fountains and a marvellous archaeological museum, home to a truly amazing collection of Islamic ceramics and historic pottery.
Malaga's Gibralfaro Castle is probably one of the city's most famous monuments. It rises to a height of 130 metres, right in the heart of the historic old town, next to the Alcazaba fortress. From the top, you can enjoy a stunning view of Malaga, the port, the coast and, of course, the Bullring. With a little luck and clear skies, you will just be able to make out the coast of Morocco in the distance.
Visitors to the city flock here, and with good reason: at Gibralfaro Castle you feel as though you had gone back in time to the days when Malaga was riven by combat and siege. Built by Abderramàn III on the ruins of a Phoenician enclosure, upon the arrival of the Romans the castle was further enlarged. It was used as a barracks for troops and to protect the Alcazar, to which it is connected by La Coracha - an external wall.
Among the areas open to visitors, in addition to the beautiful grounds, don't miss the White Tower, the stables, the parade ground and the troop's quarters in the lower part of the castle. In the upper areas, you can see the Main Tower, 17 metres high, the bathrooms and the very famous Airòn well, more than 40 metres deep. Here, there is a Visitor Centre providing information about what military life in the castle was like, through the years. Among the various exhibits, you will see military uniforms of the various regiments garrisoned at the Castle, as well as the uniform of the 16th century Alabardero Corps.
The Picasso House Museum
Anyone who has been to Malaga or has even a basic knowledge of art knows that this city is the birthplace of one of the most famous artists of the 20th century, Pablo Picasso. As per his wishes, the Picasso Museum is located right here in his beloved Malaga, and it was his daughter-in-law, Christine, who established it, even though there were already two other museums in existence: one in Paris and one in Barcelona. A visit to this museum is like taking a journey inside another journey, exploring Picasso's art not only from the artistic point of view but also for its human side, discovering fundamental aspects of the story of this city, the painter and Spain as a whole. The museum also houses temporary exhibitions to enable young local artists to show their work.
The museum collection includes 204 works, 155 of which were donated. The remaining 49 have been lent to the museum from the private collections of Christine Ruiz-Picasso (his daughter-in-law), and Bernard-Ruiz Picasso (his nephew). The exhibition offers a chronological overview of the artist's life, subdividing the works into styles, techniques and experimental materials used by the painter and sculptor throughout his career, right through to his most mature phase. Among the most important works on display here are "Restaurant", oil on glass from 1914, the canvas "The Three Graces", from the artist's golden age, "The Siesta", 1932, and the iconic "Bull's head", a bronze sculpture created using the saddle and handlebars of a bicycle.
The Picasso Museum is located within the Buenavista Palace, a magnificent example of Andalusian Renaissance architecture. Another must is a visit to the museum basement, where construction works uncovered the presence of Phoenician, Roman
Flamenco shows in Malaga
Connoisseurs of flamenco all agree: in the capital of the Costa del Sol this traditional dance is today more vibrant and well-established than ever. Just think of the countless shows organized in the context of events such as the Flamenco Biennial, or the hugely popular August Fair. But anyone visiting Malaga at other times of the year needs to know the right places to go for an experience that is both exciting and, above all, respectful of tradition. Take, for example, peñas, like that of Juan Breva: these are associations which have a statute and rules. The one mentioned above, in particular, is the oldest in Spain and is also known as the "Museum of Flamenco". Upstairs, in fact, you will find various memorabilia evoking the history of the region and the city. The ground floor, on the other hand, is used for displays, which can range from singing and guitar concerts to pictures.
Another interesting place to visit for anyone wishing to know more about flamenco is the Kelipé “Centre for Flamenco Art”, run by a couple, both artists, or else the highly esteemed flamenco school, which also boasts a dancefloor for public use. Their show, "Flamenco del Ley" is staged three nights a week.
It happens in August and is the most important and exciting event anywhere on the Costa del Sol. So, let's take a look at the Malaga Fair, also known as the Big Summer Festival. For the whole week, cities and beaches join in the festivities, partying from dawn to dusk, without a break. Thousands of Spaniards flood into the streets and celebrate, with traditional dancing, live music, cartojal (the white wine typical of the fair) and concerts. It's impossible to adequately describe the atmosphere of the Fair: you have to experience it yourself to really know what it means.
The Carmen Thyssen Museum
In Malaga, the Villalòn Palace, a 16th-century building, houses the works of the extraordinary Carmen Thyssen collection. With more than 200 works on display, the exhibition begins with a series of paintings by old masters, including the "Santa Marina" by Zubaràn, followed by a section dedicated to romantic landscapes and consumerism, with works by Genaro Pérez Villaamil, Manuel Barrón and Domínguez Bécquer. Then come the works of Marià Fortuny, with her "preziosista" style and natural landscapes, and finally, Spanish fin de siècle works by Joaquín Sorolla, Anglada Camarasa, Ignacio Zuloaga and Julio Romero de Torres. From time to time, the museum also organizes temporary exhibitions.
The King's Pathway (65 km from Malaga)
The King's Pathway lies between the municipalities of Ardales, El Chorro and Alora, and is much admired by visitors for the breath-taking beauty of its scenery. Originally built as a bridge for the maintenance workers at the nearby hydroelectric power station, this walkway, no more than a metre wide, has become a popular tourist destination for thrill-seeking hikers. The name "King's Pathway" derives from the fact that King Alfonso XIII took part in the inauguration of the Conde de Guadalhorce dam. After a series of accidents, safety work was finally carried out on the bridge in 2015 and it is now possible to walk there safely, enjoying the natural beauty of the surroundings without any danger of falling. The pathway is around 7.7 km long, including 3 km on a wooden walkway along the side of the gorge. The remainder of the route proceeds along mountain tracks where you can admire the local flora and fauna and may occasionally see some mountain goats. Due to its unusual geology, fossils can sometimes be found here.
Gibraltar (140 km from Malaga)
A visit to Gibraltar will take your breath away: this unusual Spanish city is a combination of English and North African elements, with a touch of Italy thrown in - Genova, to be specific. When it comes to stories about colonization and cultural exchange, Gibraltar has plenty tales to tell for anyone who is interested. Located in the southern tip of Spain, in Andalusia, it is a few kilometres from Tarifa and is the meeting point between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Visitors shouldn't miss a tour of the city itself, and this Spanish city with an English feel, complete with incongruous Moorish castle, cannot fail to enchant. Although very few traces of that era now remain, it was a period of domination that lingers in the memory of this land. Also worth a visit is the Gibraltar Museum, which houses artefacts from all eras, including the remains of a Neanderthal woman from over 100 thousand years ago. Pay a visit also to the Trafalgar Cemetery and the Alameda Botanical Gardens. Only 20 minutes from the cable car, don't miss a visit to the natural cave of St. Michael, used today for theatrical performances. Another must-see is the Rock of Gibraltar, which not only offers splendid views over the city and the sea, but will also bring you face-to-face with one of the most unusual attractions of the area: the apes.
Granada (150 km from Malaga)
This is one of Andalusia's most fascinating cities, and there are really a lot of things to see in Granada. The Andalusian capital lies at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains and boasts an architectural heritage that is, quite simply, priceless. From its Moorish roots until the Renaissance, not to mention the modern parts and, of course, Alhambra, there is plenty for you to look at in Granada. Take, for example, the Royal Chapel, the city's most important Christian monument. Built-in Gothic style between 1505 and 1517, inside you, can admire the alter and the extraordinary crypts of Isabella, Ferdinando and Giovanna La Pazza, as well as that of Philip I of Spain.
Also not to be missed are the Cartuja and San Jeronimo monasteries to the north of the city of Granada. In baroque style, they boast beautiful golden domes, frescoes and a stunning, polychrome marble altar. Visitors to Granada mustn't miss the Garcia Lorca Park, a little green oasis by the home of one of the most important poets of the twentieth century: Federico Garcia Lorca.
On the hill opposite the Alhambra lies one of the most important districts of Granada: Albayzìn or Albaicìn, which, with its narrow and picturesque streets, has earned a place in the hearts of tourists and, above all, mention as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Alhambra (Granada)
Visitors mainly come to Andalusia for one thing: the Alhambra. This extraordinary fortress, which appears to come straight from the pages of "A Thousand and One Nights" has a tale to tell of many different eras and cultures, reflected for posterity in the architectural styles used in its construction. The main attractions are, without any doubt, the Generalife and Nazaries palaces To optimize visitor experience in this magical location. However, visits are only allowed at certain times. There are actually three palaces: Mexuar Hall, the Comares and Leeuwenhof, and they are the most important examples of the Arabesque style anywhere in Europe.
However, visits to the Alhambra, Granada's great Arabesque complex, usually begin from the Alcazaba, the oldest part of the fortress. Although very ancient, it bears witness to the fact that this place was at the peak of its importance during the Arab period; even today, its walls appear indestructible. From the Alcazaba, you enter the Torre de La Vela, or candle tower: once used as a guard point by soldiers, it was a place from which to observe the borders and is topped by a bell that was used to signal the presence of intruders. Once the Alcazaba no longer had any military role, the Garden of the Ramparts was established, a beautiful garden that runs alongside the entrance and also provides access to the Charles V Palace and the Nazaries Palace complex.
The Calle Real was the fulcrum of city life amongst the buildings of the Alhambra complex, and today it is still the main road for getting from place to place within this splendid structure. Take the opportunity to see the Church of Santa Maria de la Alhambra, right by the entrance and only a short walk from the Charles V Palace. Near the church, you can also find the Museum of Angel Barrious, a famous musician. Go inside for the collection, then stay on for the Arab baths, once connected to the mosque and certainly one of the most beautiful and iconic areas in the complex.
This route down the Calle Real will lead you to some of the most beautiful parts of the city, such as the Justice Gate and Charles V's Pillar. The other gateways to the Alhambra are not as beautiful as the Justice Gate, but they have their own charm and should not be overlooked. Take a trip to the Tower of the Seven Floors, the Arms Tower and Gate of the Poor Quarter, for a truly complete city experience. Near the main Medina road lies the archaeological site of the Abencerrajes Palace, a splendid excavation that reflects the area’s diverse history and where excavation is still in progress.
The Alhambra is synonymous with water: the same water that gurgles in the fountains, waterways and water features that are scattered throughout the city. But how did this precious (and scarce) resource get to the city? Through the Acequia Real, a canal equipped with a sophisticated hydraulic system that for centuries transported water from the Darro river to supply the fountains in the Alhambra complex.
Cordoba (160 km from Malaga)
Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and evocative cities of Andalusia, Cordoba, ancient capital of the Arab empire and today home to some of the most beautiful mosques in Europe. Despite being quite small, Cordoba is very special: the fact that it contains more UNESCO World Heritage Sites than any other city in the world is the proof.
The first thing to do once you arrive is to go to the Cordoba Mosque (Mezquita de Cordoba), an ancient mosque with a cathedral inside - which claimed it as a sacred place following the reconquest of the territory. The mosque, which stands in the city centre and is a perfect example of Islamic architecture, was used in 711 simultaneously as a church and mosque.
Another important milestone is the Roman Bridge of Cordoba which crosses the Guadalquivir and, at 240 metres long, is one of the city's main attractions. It was built by Augustus, a Spanish-born Roman emperor and is the symbol of the city. At the two ends stand the bridge towers, imposing arches that dominate the structure, and the Calahorra Tower which today houses the Museum of Three Cultures.
Another point of interest in the city is the Juderia, or Jewish quarter of Cordoba, where white houses with little gardens offer the curious tourist a glimpse of life at the crossroads of many cultures, where flowers sprawl over the walls in a display that reaches the height of its beauty at Callejon de las Flores. We suggest you also visit the synagogue, the only one in Andalusia, which is built in Mudejar style.
Next stop is Medina Azahara, a town 8 kilometres from Cordoba built by the Arab ruler, Aderraman III, which for its construction used 4,300 columns, of which only a heap of rubble remains today. The city was built as a dedication to his wife, az-Zahara, but after only 70 years it was abandoned and destroyed - in spite of which, it is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Viana Palace is an essential part of any tour of Cordoba: with its 12 patios, it began its existence as a house and was then extended to become a real palace. The architecture makes use of flowers, natural elements, geometry and water features combined with splendid interiors which house several paintings by Goya, antique furniture and a library containing over 7 thousand books.
Visit Malaga with Costa Cruises
An enchanting mix of cultures and styles, Malaga will take your breath away. Take advantage of Costa Cruises excursions to experience the timeless charm of this enchanting city and admire some of its many treasures, such as the Cathedral, the Alcazaba and the Gibralfaro castle.