Of course, when visiting Malaga, you want to see the main highlights and go to the most important museums. However, if you go slightly off the beaten track, another world is waiting for you. Here you will find the authentic Malaga, where the Malagueños go.
1. See the city from high up the Gibralfaro
Monte Gibralfaro is a 130 m high foothill of the Montes de Malaga. The hill forms the background for the historic city centre. On top of the hill stands the 14th-century Gibralfaro castle, with its earliest fortifications dating back to 770 BC. Beautiful vistas are to be had from the castle overlooking Malaga city and the Mediterranean.
Getting there on foot might be quite strenuous for some, but making the journey is worth it. Take my word for it. From the viewing platforms on your way up the hill, you have the best views over the city. From here you will be able to enjoy a bird’s eye view of the cathedral, the harbour, the bullring and of course the sea.
Camino Gibralfaro, 11, 29016 Malaga
Best time to visit
Any time is a good time, but during the summer months, you will probably want to avoid the midday heat between midday and 4 pm, especially when hiking up the hill.
- Both the city bus No. 35 and the Hop on Hop Off bus run up her from the city centre.
- Around the corner of the castle is the Parador Hotel, ideal for a drink with a view.
2. Feed the doves with Pablo Picasso
The painter Pablo Picasso was born (1881) in Malaga, and his home was located at Plaza de la Merced (now Casa Natal), in the city centre. His former home now houses a small museum dedicated to his life and work. He would look at the doves on the square from his bedroom window. Later these doves would become a recurring theme in his career. He even liked the birds that much that he named his daughter Paloma. Paloma means dove in Spanish.
On the Plaza (square) de la Merced, you will see a statue of Picasso and more than a hundred years after his birth. You can still enjoy his beloved doves.
Plaza de la Merced, 29012 Malaga
Best time to visit
Any time is good. However, if you can visit Malaga during the last two weeks in May, this is the best time to see the blossoming trees on the square. Pink mimosa trees surrounded by purple jacaranda make for a truly breathtakingly beautiful sight.
If you can’t get enough of Picasso – to date Malaga’s biggest claim to fame – around the corner you, will find the Picasso Museum on Calle San Agustín 8.
If you are interested in history, look for the neoclassical obelisk in the centre of the square. This statue commemorates the “49 victims, who were sacrificed in this city for their love of patriotic liberty on the 11th December 1831”. One of those victims was the British Robert Boyd, whose grave can be found in the English Cemetery.
Terraces and restaurants surround the square. Restaurant Lechuga is a small but great place to have some tapas with a glass of wine.
3. Discover street art in Lagunillas
Lagunillas is a relatively poor neighbourhood in Malaga, behind Plaza de la Merced and a mere stone’s throw away from where the famous artist Pablo Picasso was born.
It is traditionally an area where many of the Gitanos live. The Gitanos (Roma) are, in Malaga, as in many other parts of the world, a marginalised group of people. However, with the help of some local street artists, they are turning the place around with colourful murals that speak for themselves. You will see portraits of several local performers, interpretations of Picasso’s work, pretty girls, animals and more.
Start at Calle Huerto del Conde behind the Mercado de la Merced. From there, stroll through the streets. The neighbourhood ends where Calle Lagunillas ends.
Best time to visit
To see the murals go during daylight hours.
Pay attention to the names of the graffiti artists. One of the most important, Doger, is now a household name in Malaga and is up and coming in the world.
4. Experience the Semana Santa
Holy Week in Malaga
The most important celebration in Spain, especially in Andalusia, is the Holy Week (Semana Santa) before Easter when thousands of people flock to the city centre to see the processions. During Holy Week, forty-two uniformed brotherhoods carry large tronos through the streets of Malaga.
Tronos in the procession
A trono or throne is a float carrying a statue of the Passion of Christ, or the Virgin Mary adorned with flowers and candles. Most of the processions are accompanied by a marching band playing solemn music. Several brotherhoods dress in penitential robes, which have an uncanny resemblance to the Ku Klux Klan but have a completely different meaning.
Don’t let yourself be fooled by those that claim that Semana Santa in Seville is better than the one in Malaga. Not true! To experience actual suffering, you must look at the numbers. The tronos in Malaga are larger, more impressive, and heavier than Seville. Malagueño tronos can weigh up to five tonnes, which are carried on the shoulders of a hundred to three hundred men. The weight carried is between 20 – 40 kg per person. Processions last between six to fourteen hours. Some bearers go blindfolded or on bare feet to do penance for past sins or to ask their favourite holy image for a special favour.
Women in traditional dress
But it is not just the men who suffer. The women following the procession wear black with a Mantilla, a laced headdress and high heels. Imagine having to walk 14 hours on those.
Strangely enough, the atmosphere is festive, rather than sombre, except for Friday when the participants are dressed in black and complete their procession in absolute silence.
Centre of Malaga
Best time to visit
The week leading up to Easter Sunday
- Don’t bring small children, backpacks, large bags or anything that will hinder you in a crowd.
- The most entertaining ones to watch are one of the Gitanos on Tuesday and the foreign legion on Thursday.
5. Step back in time at La Antigua Casa de Guardia
La Antigua Casa de Guardia dates back to 1840 when vinologist Dr José de Guardia started this bodega in the Atarazanas district. Due to some refurbishment work, the bar was ‘temporarily’ moved in 1899 to its current location on Alameda Principal.
It is the best place in town to have an authentic 19th-century experience. Order one of the local sweet wines – Vermut, Moscatel Guinda or Pedro Ximén – for a little social lubrication in a glass, and accompany it with some peanuts or a small plate of prawns. The staff chalk your tab on the bar.
Alameda Principal, 18, 29005 Malaga
Best time to visit
Most days, from 10 am to 10 pm, except Sundays when the bar closes at 3 pm.
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