Project Description

Malaga is the fifth largest city in Spain and one of the most important tourist destinations in the world. The city itself has a special charm that any visitor can notice during a walk there. Its culture, traditions and cuisine, to which you can add the enviable climate and overflowing hospitality from the inhabitants reinforce more than ever its image of “Paradise City”, named so by the famous Spanish poet Vicente Aleixandre, Nobel Prize in Poetry and literature.

MÁLAGA, ON THE COSTA DEL SOL

Today, I am accompanied by two friends I met during my language course, Nozomi from Japan and Bruno from Brazil (thanks to them for accompanying me!), and it is still early morning when we leave Granada by the first bus to arrive about an hour and a half later in Málaga. One full day  seems to be more than enough to go around the historic center and the main monuments of the city.

Upon arrival, we take a taxi which allows us to reach the city center, the bus station being somewhat distant from it. In order to locate ourselves easily, we ask the taxi driver to be dropped near the cathedral. Neither one nor two, we arrive at the Marine Square (“Plaza de la Marina”), along one of the major street of the city with the Cathedral in sight. As we are Sunday, a little tired and we have some time left before the opening of the Cathedral (thanks to the schedules available on the internet!), we enjoy a coffee with some churros in a cafeteria a few hundred meters away. Thus it is a little more awake and with something in our stomach that we begin our tour of Málaga!

We slowly go back towards the cathedral. Walking on foot in the center of Málaga is fairly simple, many streets and lanes allowing the access to the different areas of the center. In addition, the rising sun and a sky without any cloud announce a beautiful day! On the way, we try to get hold of a map of the city, in vain because the nearby tourist office is still closed, as the entry of the hotels in the area…

But it is ultimately not a problem, because many signs are here and allow to move fairly easily and reach the various tourist attractions of the city via beautiful streets sometimes decorated, as is the case above.

We arrive after a few minutes on the square in front of the entrance of the cathedral, the Bishop’s Square (“Plaza del Obispo”). It is one of the most important Baroque places since ancient times. Opposite of it is the main entrance of the cathedral with its impressive façade and wide marble stairs. On the left is the Palace of the Bishop (“Palacio del Obispo”), beautifully decorated.

We are already impressed and we have not even visited the inside of the cathedral, its full name being “Our Lady of the Incarnation”, although locals simply call it “the Cathedral”. This one is an important building in Málaga. Indeed, it is not only a religious symbol but also a reference, a landmark and a privileged witness of many events. The construction began on the remains of previous cultures in 1528 and continued throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. Today it is one of the best examples of Spanish religious art though its main façade and the south tower of the Cathedral are yet unfinished.

It is true that the lack of a second tower gives the building a unique appearance to say the least, hence the fact that the cathedral is therefore popularly known under the nickname “The One-Armed Lady” (“La Manquita”). According to the legend, the money that should had been used to achieve it in the 19th century was used to pay for the wars in America. However, it was later proven that this money was used to finance some urgent public works in the province. But enough of history, we are stepping through the only visibly open door to visit the inside the cathedral!

This is a Renaissance church, mainly rectangular with three naves. The sanctuary strongly reminds those of Granada and Cádiz, Andalusian cathedrals of the 16th century. However, the choir is closer to those of Toledo and Cordoba, the three most important choirs of Spain. Most notable is probably the sculptural work of the choir with 42 sizes made mostly by Pedro de Mena. Let’s not forget to mentiontwo magnificent organs with more than 4,000 tubes, rare copies of the 18th century which are still used today for frequent concerts.

After this visit, we leave the building through another door, the one of the Chains (“Puerta de las Cadenas”) and thus reach the patio of orange trees surrounded by the gardens of the cathedral. It is another magnificent view of the building that awaits us here.

Then we follow the signs towards the Alcazaba, a few minutes away from the cathedral.

On the way, we see a church located at the end of a side street and our curiosity leads us finally there. This is the Abbey of Santa Ana, known as the Cistercian Abbey. Built in 1878 by Jerónimo Cuervo and restored in 1990, the church has a beautiful chorus and a platform behind the presbytery. This is a sample of sacred art convent which the most obvious aspect is its simple, bright facade topped by a terra cotta statue of Santa Ana, original work of the 18th century.

The name of Granada sculptor Pedro de Mena y Medrano is intimately linked to the Abbey of Santa Ana; living right next to the convent, he chose this place – where several of his daughters took the veil – for his eternal rest. We go back on the main street after a quick tour of the inside of the building, which has just barely opened its doors.

We finally arrive to the Alcazaba. Just in front of it is a small information booth that has likely just opened too, perfect! We take this opportunity to get a map of the city and its main points of interest. Although having already a clear idea of what we wish to see and do, it is always helpful to have a map of the area just in case. The sun is slowly getting high in the sky and it starts to get hot. However, the temperature remains pleasant, thanks to the sea air and a wind that intensifies with time. We then follow a path taking us to the entrance of the Alcazaba, but instead of going directly inside, we continue to a small viewpoint to admire the nearby Roman Theatre.

This is one of the living symbols of the “Hispania Romana” in Málaga. Built in the time of Augustus, the theater was used until the 3rd century. Its materials, columns and stones, were also used by the Arabs to build the Alcazaba.

It was discovered in 1951 during the construction of a garden at the entrance of the House of Culture that was built in 1940 and rebuilt later in the sixties. The first signs of the presence of the theater were discovered during this work and the house was finally demolished in order to properly assess the remains of the site as part of cultural programs in 1992.

We go back towards the entrance and get right in the Alcazaba. When purchasing our entrance ticket on an electronic machine, we notice that it is possible to buy a pass that combines the Alcazaba and Gibralfaro fortress, our next visit. We finally decide for the bundle ticket, unaware that this one, in addition to being cheaper, will be very useful when we’ll reach the top of Mount Gibralfaro. But that is for later, let’s start the visit of the Alcazaba!

It is a fortified palace whose Arabic name means “citadel”. This is one of the historical monuments of the city and a very visited place where history and beauty go hand in hand. Dating back to the Muslim era, it lies at the foot of Mount Gibralfaro where the eponymous Arab fortress is located with which it was connected by a corridor protected by walls called “The Coracha”. The Alcazaba was built between 1057 and 1063 at the request of Badis, Berber King of the Taifa of Granada and from materials from old buildings and the Annex of the Roman Theater, like some columns.

We begin our visit. The Alcazaba was built in height, so we have several paths and stairs to climb. In doing so, we go through very pretty rectangular courtyards and trails surrounded by gardens and ponds, and decorated here and there with orange trees which fruits look so delicious that we must resist not to steal any! The area is amazing, combining perfectly the defensive elements to the magnificence of an Arab palace. The more we walk over to the heights, the more we are amazed by the beauty of the place. In the purest tradition of grenadine architecture, light and shadow succeed in wonderful games which only the Arab builders had the knowledge to create.

Its military component makes it one of the most important constructions of Muslim Spain. Battlements, towers flanked with holes and ramparts ensured its defense, but its best feature was (and still is) undoubtedly its location, overlooking the city on one side and the bay on the other: therefore we can admire some nice views of the Cathedral, as well as the City Hall and its garden from the balconies.

It was surrounded by a neighborhood which has totally disappeared today. This area had its own water drainage system and latrines in most of the houses, reflecting the high level of civilization that existed at the time. Examples of these rebuilt buildings and exhibitions of various objects are open to the public and can be admired up close, which we surely not miss to do! My favorite part is definitely the patio with orange trees and small basins of one of these houses.

After having visited this beautiful monument, we go back down to the main entrance and leave the area. With the help of our map (like what it is finally useful), we’re looking for the beginning of a paved stone path leading to the fortress at the top of the hill. We could also go there by using one of these little tourist trains or a public bus, but this is not some physical exercise that will scare us… Although the climb looks somewhat difficult! As we are going up along the walls of the Alcazaba, we’re maintaining a good walking pace… Maybe even too good, because I think I walk a bit too fast for my fellow companions! But we have time, so we stop a few times and enjoy the magnificent views of Málaga.

It is finally at the top of the path that we can admire one of the best panoramic view of the waterfront! These include the arena “Malagueta”, the City Hall and its gardens, the park of Málaga and the new promenade of the harbor which we will visit later in the day.

But let’s get back to the fortress of Gibralfaro! As we are at the top of the hill, we then head to the main entrance… To find us in front of a long line of tourists who have just arrived! I count three, maybe four buses in the nearby car park, which gives you an idea of the size of the waiting line. Fortunately, remember: we bought some time ago a combined entrance ticket “Alcazaba+Fortress” which allows us to enter directly without having to go through the cash register. This is probably the best idea of the day! So we pass shamelessly in front of everyone, show our tickets to people managing the access and here we are inside the fortress! We do not lose time and begin our tour of the fortress before the flood of tourists will make the access to the walls and ramparts impossible!

Built in the 14th century to house military troops and protect the Alcazaba, the fortress is now one of the most popular monument of Málaga. Protected by two rows of walls and eight towers, it was long considered the most impregnable place of the Iberian Peninsula. The name Gibralfaro comes from the lighthouse that was located at the top (Jabal-Faruk, “Mount of the Lighthouse”) and was also chosen as part of the coat of arms of the city.

Apart from the interpretation center where you can discover the history of the fortress and its inhabitants, there is not really much to see. Also, we just get on the ramparts and follow the inner wall and walkway that go around the entire perimeter of the fortress. Thus, it is more magnificent views of the city that we can admire. After a full tour of the ramparts, we leave the fortress and go down towards the city center. As we still have time before lunch, we decided to go for a walk in the gardens opposite the City Hall, as well as the beach and the promenade of the nearby harbour. We will then return to the center through the park of Málaga.

During our descent of Mount Gibralfaro, we go through the gardens of “Puerta Oscura”, which owe their name from a door of Arab origin which was once there. These gardens were designed to complete the surroundings of the Alcazaba, in perfect harmony with its decoration. Thus was born from a steep slope a succession of terraces, promenades and small arbors with abundant vegetation. We take some stairs to finally get down the hill, in Pedro Luis Alonso gardens that extend to the east of the City Hall. This is an ingenious transition from the park of Málaga (across the road) and the gardens of Puerta Oscura we’ve just visited.

Now, towards the beach! Which one? Well as you can imagine, sand is almost everywhere in Málaga. In total, the city has 14 km of beaches perfectly served with many high quality services, but without swimsuit (and we are in winter right now!), we do not wish bathe in the cold sea. We will limit ourselves to walk on the sand of one of the most urban and popular beach: the “Malagueta”.

Despite the sun and 15°C temperature, it is relatively cool on the beach, probably because of the wind blowing pretty strong right now. So, we do not imagine seeing someone dare to swim! Indeed, no one in the water and only a handful of tourists and family walking on the sand, like us. After a few minutes, we slowly go towards the marina.

Along the way we pass the Farola, one of only two Spanish lighthouses to have a feminine name and a recurring elements of the iconography of the city. Following the extension of the port and the transformation of the dock, it is no longer possible to visit it nor its surroundings.

We finally arrive on the promenade and it looks like it is market day! All along the wharf between fancy restaurants and luxury boats moored in the harbor is an impressive amount of stalls selling everything from food to clothes, books, toys, etc. We pass near the stands and the smell of food is making us super hungry! Okay, change of plan: instead of passing by the park of Málaga to return to the city center, we walk along the new promenade and will head directly towards our landmark, the cathedral, which we can already see from the port.

Once back in front of the cathedral, we use our map as we go towards the “Plaza de la Merced”, also known as the Market Square or Riego Square. This is one of the most beautiful square of the city, with a large obelisk in its center (a monument paying tribute to General Torrijos). It is also known for being the square where Picasso took his first steps, the birthplace of the artist being located on one side of the square. Here too lived politicians such as General Riego, sculptors as Fernando Ortiz, writers such as Juan José Relosillas, architects like Gerónimo Cuervo or painters such as Bernardo Ferrandiz.

And finally, this is where the restaurant La Plaza is located. It is certainly not very Spanish but I order a hamburger with fries because it’s one of the cheapest dish on the menu. It was actually very good, so no regrets!

After lunch, we take a look at the house number 15, Plaza de la Merced, birthplace of Pablo Picasso in 1881. Declared a historic-artistic monument of national interest in 1983, the House-Museum began by occupying the first floor before to eventually spread to the entire building. Although the museum is open on Sundays, admission price seems a bit high, so we choose to admire it from the street.

We just had lunch, but as we haven’t ordered any dessert at the restaurant, we head to an ice cream shop located a little further. And we do not regret our decision as homemade ice cream from “Heladeria Freskitto” are simply excellent and frankly cheap, yummy! A must-do if you’re around, both summer and winter!

While enjoying our ice cream, we wander around streets and alleys, but there is nothing to do because everything is closed, like almost everywhere on Sundays. However, this does not prevent us from admiring the facade of some churches like the one of the Holy Martyrs, Saint John and San Felipe Neri, and the tower of the cathedral at a corner of a street.

We also pass by the Picasso museum and learn that, beside of being open on Sundays, is free of charge after 4pm! It’s perfect, so we have some free time before visiting it. We continue our walk through the historic center and get once again in front of the Roman Theatre, lighted by a much better light than during our visit in the morning!

After about an hour of walking, we make a break in a tearoom or “teteria” named simply… “La Teteria”. The place is packed and we are wondering how to get a space for us in there. However, after only 3 minutes of waiting, the staff show us a table that became available about a minute ago. This is the perfect opportunity for a little rest and to taste the fruity and/or spicy specialties of the place, may it be tea, coffee, juice or pastries of all kinds.

When done with our rest, it’s just out of the teahouse that we notice an open church across the street. As we still have some time before visiting the museum, it goes without saying that we spend a few minutes in the building.

Dating from the 16th century, the church of the Convent of Saint Agustin is divided into two distinct parts: the church on one hand, the school and the monks’ cells surrounding the courtyard of the cloister of the other. The church has three naves, is very bright and beautifully decorated, as shown on the pictures above. We still walk a little bit around the church, then go slowly back and then sit down on the terrace of the “Bodeguita El Gallo”, a nice little bar almost opposite the entrance to the Picasso Museum. We take the opportunity to eat some tapas while waiting for 4pm, when we will finally join the queue of visitors to the museum.

As is it the case in many of them, it is forbidden to take pictures or videos. Therefore we leave our bags at the entrance and go to discover the collection of 233 works that are available here. The building is “born” from the desire that a thematic space should be created in the hometown of the artist and the gift of a few works by Christine and Bernard Ruiz-Picasso, respectively daughter and grand-son of the artist, allowed this project to become reality. Browsing through the 11 rooms of the museum, we can follow the evolution of Picasso’s painting which breaks with established standards, but we are somehow disappointed as none of the most famous paintings of the artist are shown here. We go out of the museum a little bit frustrated, but it is all right as we didn’t have to pay 8 euros to get into the musem!

As our bus leaving to Granada is scheduled in less than two hours, we still have the opportunity to return visiting the park of Málaga which we’ve just seen before noon.

The park stretches from General Torrijos Square up to the Marine Square and has three walks 800 meters long and 10 meters wide. If we include the nearby rose garden surrounded by orange and cypress trees and the “Puerta Oscura” gardens, the area is over 30,000 square meters. Such green surface (which provide shade in summer) is clearly welcoming and relaxing, and along the park are also some nice kiosks (like the bandstand one), fountains (for instance the one of Renaissance style called Swan Fountain or Fountain Genoa in the garden of the Waterfall) and numerous statues placed here and there around the alleys, many of which are dedicated to illustrious personalities of Malaga. This is a beautiful place that we’ve chosen to see last and no doubt it will leave one of the best image of the city in our memory!

We finally take a taxi to the bus station where after a few minutes of waiting, we start our way back to Grenada. It was a beautiful day here in Málaga and I can not recommend enough the visit of this city if you’re traveling in Andalusia, as should be all major cities of southern Spain!