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There’s More To Malaga Than Meets The Eye

Posted on March 6th, by Peter Parkorr in Roaming Resources, Spain. No Comments

It’s definitely still winter in most of Europe so is it just me or is anyone else thinking about a sunny escape?

If you haven’t been to Malaga before, or not for a while, there’s something here for everyone. With lots of popular towns in easy reach of each other and the airport, it really is a great area to pick a comfy base and see what attractions take your fancy. Read on or skip straight to your favourite travel topic!

While the UK and our neighbours have taken a freezing beating by ‘the Beast from the East’, it seems longer than a month since I felt that gorgeous Spanish sunshine warming my bones. You’d be mad not to trade the snow for breezy evenings exploring the winding streets and pretty squares of Malaga instead, he says, checking flight prices. It was a lovely 15°C or so during my stay and in the next couple of weeks it will start hitting 20°C+. That’s sunbathing weather by British standards!

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Viva Espána and all that glorious sunshine

Spain is still as intriguing to me as it has been to many Brits for a long time – ignoring the odd tourism disaster that a few notorious holiday spots have become. (Don’t make the mistake of confusing Malaga for Magaluf, they are worlds apart!) It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking the country is only good for a lazy beach holiday – Spain buffs will be fuming at the thought – but there’s definitely much more to discover.

things to do malaga

Stained glass façade of the Mercado Centrale de Atarazanas, Malaga

I was invited on this trip by the lovely folks at Jet2 and the tourism board of Costa Del Sol who both made sure we were shown the highlights of the region. All opinions and recommendations remain my own! I flew with Jet2 (far from my first flight with them!) from London Stansted to Malaga direct, which was all too easy. :)

Discovering Malaga

The city of Malaga has a great mixture of history and more recent development. Part of both Andalucia and the Costa Del Sol, it’s not just high-rise hotels and beaches. Tourism is important here, but this is a city that also feels very lived in. It’s keeping up with the times, so next to grand churches and hilltop Moorish palaces you’ll find trendy restaurants, good coffee, design hotels, street art and quirky shops. The port has been modernised making it popular for walkers, diners and bar flies. And you’ll struggle to find a street or square in the city without a talented busker.

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Only one tower of Malaga Cathedral was finished so the church is nicknamed “the one armed lady”

things to do malaga illuminations

Illuminations along Calle Larios

Food for foodies

The itinerary was organised by the local tourism board so naturally, the places we ate at were well chosen! From our first harbour-side meal of traditional Paella, to wholesome classics like stewed Oxtail or funky fusions of Spanish and Korean flavours, Malaga is definitely a foodie destination. A few days in the region is not enough to try the variety of food on offer, unless you’re a world-class over-eater and don’t plan on doing anything else. Whether you want simple rustic dishes that let the local ingredients sing or want the chef to wow you with fine dining, you’ll find it here.

It’s probably best not to view these photos on an empty stomach…

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Salmon tartare with avocado and parmesan crisps. Everyone’s favourite from El Palmeral restaurant at the port.

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Ronda style Oxtail stew, a specialty at Restaurante Pedro Romero along with their bacalao

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Fresh barbecued squid on an indulgent Spain Food Sherpas tour of Mercato Atarazanas in Malaga

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Antiquated but delicious Migas salad at La Garganta in El Chorro, with breadcrumbs, padron peppers, chorizo and lots of olive oil

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A fishcake-burger at Arara Bistro in Reserva La Higueron Doubletree by Hilton

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Tasting the different types of Jamon on our food tour. Pure bred Iberico pig, jamon where one parent (the mother) is Iberian or standard jamon – which will you prefer?

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And more olives than you can shake a stick at. These are the local selection of many sold at Mercado Atarazanas that won my vote. Who doesn’t love olives!

Active holidays in Malaga

I first came to Malaga several years ago to check out the rock climbing in El Chorro, just an hour’s drive north of the city. Apart from hundreds of crags and sport climbing routes to choose from, a highlight in the area is also the Caminito del Rey. Originally built in 1905 for workers at the hydroelectric dam, the King’s Little Walkway had fallen into disrepair and it’s crumbling 100-year old concrete pathways suspended hundreds of feet above this spectacular gorge were not for the faint-hearted. You needed a climbing harness clipped religiously onto the safety wire to avoid falling through gaps, to negotiate sections where the path had completely fallen away or just to stop yourself going off the open sides. Now, after a thorough renovation in 2015, the 7km walk along the Caminito del Rey is a family friendly way to marvel at the scale and beauty of this natural channel cut through the rock. A fear of heights might stop you walking it but safety of the route is no longer an issue. You can also find plenty of hiking, biking, kayaking, potholing, canyoning, via ferratas and seaside sports around Malaga.

caminito del rey malaga

One of many stunning viewpoints of the gorge, where you can also see the original pathway used by workers to access and transport raw materials too and from the dam

Visiting Ronda, The City Of Dreams

Ronda is a small city atop a mountain to the west of Malaga with idyllic streets, an iconic bridge and a proud history of bullfighting. Ernest Hemingway, Orson Welles, Jorge Luis Borges and James Joyce have all praised it’s beauty and romantic setting. The 100km journey from Malaga to see it for yourself can be done comfortably in a day, but you might want to stay longer and soak up some of the atmosphere. The Puente Neuvo (New Bridge) was finished in 1793 and it was first settled by early Celts in the 6th century, to give you some idea of how far back this town’s history goes. The same architect who built the bridge designed the Plaza de toros de Ronda, the oldest bullfighting ring in Spain. It’s worth visiting the site and the small museum here to get a taste of Spain’s unique tradition, even if you don’t agree with it still being sport today.

Fittingly, this is where we tried the local specialty of Oxtail along with Spanish bacalao (cod) – served quite differently to the Portugese style.

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The Royal seating area of Plaza de Toros, always out of the sun during the bullfights

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A beautiful garden looking across the panorama of Ronda

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Prying open doors that have stood the test of time…

Getting Arty in Picasso’s hometown

That’s right! Malaga is the birthplace of Pablo Picasso and where he lived with his family until the age of 10. The town’s population are proud of this heritage and it shows in the number of artists and musicians living here. To explore work of the man himself you have to visit the Picasso Museum and anyone who thinks he ‘just drew scribbles’ will be surprised at his less famous paintings, sculptures and more. For something contemporary, the Centre Pompidou Malaga down by the port (sister of it’s Parisian namesake) is fun and eccentric with plenty to ponder if you want to get behind the meaning of the pieces on display. And even more contemporary, the city has loads of street art in the area known as SoHo, including work from big names like Shepard Fairey, ROA, and recent additions all over Malaga added by Invader.

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Inside the Centre Pompidou Malaga, which started life as an unfinished supermarket

malaga street art soho roa

An impressive mural by street artist ROA from Belgium

Where To Sleep In Malaga

The city of Malaga has a wealth of great hotels and apartments to choose from, or another option is to venture further along the coast to the popular towns of Torremolinos, Benalmadena and Fuengirola (halfway to Marbella).

In the centre of Malaga we stayed in the lovely Hotel Vinci Selección Posada del Patio which has a great location, modern design and a fantastic excavation of a Roman settlement one storey below street level. For the rest of our trip we were based out of the Ibiza-inspired Sol House Costa Del Sol with a cool vibe to the decor and all their rooms having the perfect setup to chill after heavy days and/or nights!

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A very relaxing room at the Hotel Vinci Selección

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Room with a view on the 5th floor of Sol House

You’ve made it to the end of my post about Malaga – give yourself a pat on the back! So was there more to Malaga than you expected? Would you like to visit this Spanish gem?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments!