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Leisure Guides. Malaga Guide.

 

Often overshadowed by its more glamorous neighbour Marbella, Málaga has much more to offer than its package-deal reputation would suggest. The city that gave the world Pablo Picasso also has museums galore, stunning beaches and some of the best Moorish castles in Spain. Friendly locals and colourful carnivals complete the very tempting picture.

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Hotels


One of the joys of Málaga is being able to combine flopping out on the beach with a city break, and its hotels have followed suit. Most offer a taste of both, and although the majority are clustered along the waterfront, there’s plenty to choose from in the city centre. Hotel Atarazanas Málaga (Calle Atarazanas 19) is one and offers comfortable, modern rooms for not a lot in return. 
 
Just as comfortable, if considerably more expensive, is the Hotel Petit Palace Plaza Málaga (Calle Nicasio Calle 3), which boasts vast bedrooms, an ultra convenient location and chic modern décor. But charming though both are, if it’s luxury you’re after, the seafront is a better bet. Among the nicest options is AC Hotel Málaga Palacio (Calle Cortina del Muelle 1), a deluxe modern block with unbeatable sea views and a handy rooftop swimming pool. 
 
To book a hotel click here
 
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Getting around

Málaga benefits from a compact city centre, which means two legs are perfectly adequate for the majority of journeys. Nevertheless, for those who don’t want to walk, there’s an excellent bus service operated by Autobuses Urbanos EMT, which has more than 30 routes, including ones that take you to the beach and to the main railway station. 
 
Málaga is also in the middle of constructing a six-line metro network – two of the lines are already partially open and connect La Malagueta Beach with the station and the city centre. Other options include taxis and car hire, not that you’ll really need either, and rental bikes. Although Málaga doesn’t have a huge number of cycle routes, provision is increasing and there are several rental outfits to choose from.
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Top 10 sights


Top 5 sights for first-timers
 
Alcazaba
Like much of southern Spain, Málaga was once a Moorish city and the Alcazaba is a beautiful example of their castle-building skills. Built by the Hammudid dynasty in the 11th century, the castle is set high on a hill in the middle of the city and offers spectacular views of the surrounding sprawl.
 
Calle Alcazabilla
 
Picasso Museum
One of the most iconic artists of the 20th century, Pablo Picasso was born in Málaga and the city isn’t about to let you forget it. Boasting 160 works by the Cubist master, the gallery is set in a stunning 16th-century palace and includes some illuminating exhibits.
 
Palacio de Buenavista, Calle San Agustín 8
www.museopicassomalaga.org
 
Plaza de Toros
Despite the best efforts of PETA and co, Málaga’s enthusiasm for bullfighting remains undiminished and a visit to the Plaza de Toros goes some way to explaining why. Attached to Spain’s busiest bullring, the small museum gives a glimpse into the world of the matador via a carefully curated selection of artefacts.
 
Paseo de Reding 
 
Catedral
It took almost 200 years to convert Málaga’s 16th-century mosque into a Christian church but a glimpse at its stunning 40-metre-high domed ceiling is enough to reveal that the time and effort was well worth it. Of the original mosque, only the pretty orange tree-filled Patio de los Naranjos survives.
 
Calle Molina Lario 9
 
Plaza de la Merced 
A bustling city square in the heart of the centre, Plaza de la Merced is where Málaga comes alive. Packed with quaint bars and interesting boutiques, it’s also home to the Fundación Picasso Museo Casa Natal, the tiny house where the city’s favourite son was born.
 
Plaza de la Merced 
 
Top 5 sights for old hands
 
Teatro Romano 
If you’ve seen the Alcazaba before but don’t want to miss the view from the ramparts, make Málaga’s crumbling Roman theatre your excuse. You can see them from the plaza in front, or drop into the attached building which leads into the ruins themselves and houses a small collection of artefacts found in the remains.
 
Alcazabilla 8
 
Castillo de Gibralfaro 
Málaga’s second Moorish castle is just as lovely as the first, although you will need hiking boots to reach this one as it’s set atop a craggy hill. Built by Abd ar-Rahman I, the eighth-century Cordoban emir, it was rebuilt in the 14th century but fell into disuse after the Emirate of Granada came to a bloody end.
 
Camino de Gibralfaro 11
 
Jardín Botánico La Concepción 
It’s a little out of the way but the Jardín Botánico La Concepción is well worth a visit if you have a couple of hours to spare. Created in the mid-19th century by an Anglo-Spanish aristocratic couple, the garden is famous for its purple wisteria although it was originally intended to resemble a tropical forest.
 
Camino del Jardín Botánico 3
www.laconcepcion.malaga.eu
 
Centro de Arte Contemporáneo 
Thanks to Picasso, Málaga has a passion for all things modern art and the Centro de Arte Contemporáneo is one of the beneficiaries. Housed in a converted warehouse, the museum has a small permanent collection and an interesting roster of temporary shows.
 
Calle Alemania
www.cacmalaga.org
 
Mercado Central de Atarazanas 
Málaga has no shortage of markets but the Mercado Central de Atarazanas is particularly special. Housed in a renovated 19th-century building that incorporates the Moorish city gates and boasts beautiful stained glass windows, you’ll find everything from olives to misshapen tomatoes on sale.
 
Calle Atarazanas 
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Top 5 activities

Chilling on the beach
With sunny days and soaring temperatures from April to October, La Malagueta, Málaga’s beach, is hugely popular during weekends. It’s fine for relaxing and a spot of paddling, but if you want something prettier head out of the city and up the coast towards Marbella where there’s plenty of choice.
 
Learning Spanish
The University of Málaga offers excellent Spanish tuition and short courses during the summer. Linguaschools Málaga, in the city centre, is another option and close to bars and cafés where the friendly locals will be only too happy to help you practise. 
 
Hammams
Like Granada and Marbella, Málaga’s Moorish past has left its mark in more ways than one. In this case, it’s a taste for hammams – Turkish baths – that has stood the test of time, complete with scented steam rooms and a well-trained roster of masseurs.
 
Bus tour
Perfect for families or for those who’d rather take the weight off their feet, Málaga’s bright-red, open-top bus takes in all of the main sights and offers a hop-on, hop-off service for those who’d rather not make the hike up to the top of the Castillo de Gibralfaro.
 
Rock climbing
Even if the thought of scaling a sheer cliff face leaves you cold, the El Chorro gorge is well worth a visit for its craggy beauty alone. The King’s Walkway, a path high above the valley floor, is the hub of rock-climbing activity but you can also go to Via Ferrata and El Torcal.
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Top 5 events


Málaga Carnival
Like much of the rest of Spain, the end of February – or the beginning of March depending on Easter – sees revellers descend on Málaga for carnival. Málaga’s version includes the usual parades and street entertainers, plus performances by traditional murgas or street bands.
 
Date: February/March
Venue: City centre
 
La Noche de San Juan
Originally a pagan tradition, La Noche de San Juan is the Summer Solstice given a religious makeover. But it’s not all sermons: festivities also include a bonfire, where Júas (papier mâché figures) are burned, and the chance to dance around (and walk through) the flames. There’s also a beauty pageant. 
 
Date: 23 June
Venue: Calle San Juan
 
Procession of the Virgin of Victory
As the existence of the Alcazaba makes plain, Málaga, like the rest of southern Spain, has a Moorish past – a past abruptly ended by Ferdinand and Isabella in 1487. The annual colourful commemorative procession starts at the Nuestra Señora de la Victoria church and ends at the Ayuntamiento. 
 
Date: 8 September
Venue: Nuestra Señora de la Victoria church
 
Picasso Month
Along with two museums dedicated to Málaga’s most famous son, October has been designated ‘Picasso Month’ by the city council and celebrated with events ranging from concerts to conferences and exhibitions. 
 
Date: October
Venue: Various
 
Verdiales 
Filling in the awkward gap between Christmas and New Year is Verdiales, a vibrant dance festival dedicated to all things flamenco. For added entertainment, it takes place on the Spanish version of April Fool’s Day, so a cynical approach to local tales is required.
 
Date: 28 December
Venue: Various
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Shopping


Whether you’re in the market for a Loewe frock, a cheap pair of espadrilles or just a simple bowl of olives, Málaga delivers – and handsomely. Much of the action takes place in one of its many malls, the most popular of which is the Vialia Shopping Centre (Explanada de la Estación). Here you’ll find all the big high-street names, as well as a couple of quirky beauty boutiques specialising in interesting local unguents. 
 
More interesting is Calle Marqués de Larios, which is where you’ll find ritzy designer names, cool local brands such as Camper and upmarket spots for a pit stop. If the prices make your eyes water, try nearby Calle San Juan where you’ll find espadrilles galore – the majority at bargain prices. Also worth a visit is the Mercado Central de Atarazanas (Calle Atarazanas), a buzzing food market that’s worth a look for the atmosphere alone.
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Restaurants

Like other Spanish coastal cities, Málaga’s inky sea and sandy beaches have made it a magnet for tourists. But there’s more to the beaches than providing a diversion for visitors, not least the crop of fabulous little restaurants that have sprung up beside them. Among the most popular is El Tintero (Playa del Dedo), which specialises in fresh fish and has an unusual method of dispensing it – waiters sing the name of the dish and if patrons like the sound of it, they nod and it’s theirs. 
 
Most of the other beach bars have a similarly laissez-faire approach to menus, so for a more à la carte experience, try Manducare (Avenida Manuel Agustín de Heredia 2) which offers a contemporary twist on traditional Andalusian fare. For a quick lunch while shopping, Gorki’s (Calle Strachan 6) repertoire of well-executed tapas is bound to hit the spot.
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Nightlife


Málagans take a surprisingly Anglo-Saxon approach to letting their hair down, eschewing bars in favour of botellodromos – controlled areas where supermarket-bought booze can be drunk without risk of a visit from the Guardia Civil. Nevertheless, for those who prefer a more traditional approach to imbibing, there’s plenty of choice. 
 
Belying its risqué name, El Pimpi (Calle Granada 62) is located in what looks like a traditional Andalusian home and does an excellent line in red wine and convivial company. A more glamorous choice is La Tortuga Rock Bar (Carretera Vélez Malaga, Alhama), which boasts an exhaustive cocktail menu and a crowd of cool 20 and 30 somethings. Later on, there’s Liceo (Calle Beatas 21) for those with fond memories of Ibiza foam parties and Sala Moliere (Calle Horacio Quiroga 25) for those who don’t

 

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