Málaga is a well-known city in Spain, probably because of the international airport, popular port, and proximity to the Costa del Sol. Beautiful beaches and cheap flights make this a very popular tourist destination, and I’m not one to deny loving this city!
Málaga is also a huge port area. Cruise ships dock here daily, letting vacationers off to enjoy the restaurants on the water, which usually will offer a free glass of wine (or bottle, if business is slow enough) to earn your business. While the port restaurants are very touristy, they definitely have the Spanish charm.
Málaga’s port is well-known for its expensive yachts. It has been known to be a playground of the rich and famous. If you hang around long enough, you can usually spot a celebrity!
Along with plenty of restaurants to choose from, there are plenty of stores close to the port. Venture into the historic center of town, a pedestrian-only area with cobblestone streets and more shops, cafes, and bars than you could ever ask for. The shopping district has typical Spanish stores, from clothing to jewelry to shoes (oh so many shoes!) There are ice cream and chocolate stands every few stores, and sometimes vendors will set up a portable stand to sell nuts, castañas (Spanish chestnuts, popular during the winter holidays), or other goods. Cafes and restaurants have outdoor seating since Málaga is in a year-round temperate climate.
Behind the castle and through a tunnel is the deep heart of Málaga’s city center. Cars are allowed on these streets but they are still cobblestone and very narrow. It’s much better to walk and see all the tapas bars, shops, and squares.
There is a famous tapas bar in this part of town called El Pimpi. When you walk inside, first you walk through a patio with plants, then into the bar area where the walls are lined with famous celebrities who have dined here (famous Americans, British, Spanish, etc.) Bullfighters, queens, actors, singers, and dancers have all visited El Pimpi! They do have delicious tapas and drinks but you will be paying city prices (see my other post about city living vs. village living). It’s not expensive though – tapas are about 3-4 euros each. It’s a great place to try if visiting Málaga!
Medieval Moorish Castle
Across from the port and a few minute’s walk from the city center is the old medieval Moorish castle, the Alcazaba, which you can climb for free. Prepare well with sneakers (not flip-flops), water bottles (it’s a long walk up), and above all, don’t be hungover! Learn from my mistakes.
About a quarter of the way up there’s a restaurant where you can sit outside and enjoy wonderful views. About halfway up you see hotels and other houses. Three quarters of the way up is a stand that sells water, Gatorade, snacks, and souvenirs. If you’re feeling particularly lazy, you can drive up to this point (or take a taxi or tour bus), but the walk is half the fun, plus there are great scenic stops along the way to get good pictures of the city.
At the very top, there is a fee to go in. On Sundays after 2:00 p.m. it’s free, so plan accordingly! It is worth whatever fee they charge though, the views are quite amazing. Also inside the top of the castle, there is a restaurant and restrooms after a long hike up. At the top of the castle, you can go onto the lookout posts that soldiers used to occupy in the old days, go into the towers, and get some really amazing pictures. The castle is a must-do for any tourist or local in Málaga! In fact, the students at my school are taking a field trip soon to visit the castle, which just goes to show you it’s something that everyone should do even if you’re not a tourist!
Where to Stay
Málaga has many hotels, hostels, and apartments for rent. If you do your homework, you can find a great deal on a nice hotel. The city center is the best place to look – closest to the pedestrian only area is ideal. The city center where cars are allowed is also a nice but crowded area. The river divides Málaga in half and while the south side of the river isn’t a long walk into town (about 15 minutes or so), it’s most convenient and safest to stay as close to the port as possible. The beaches are a little further north and there are plenty of hotels up that way too, but all the action is in the port/city center area.
Málaga’s city center is easy to spot when you’re in the city, but if you’ve never been there and you’re trying to book a hotel, try to stay west of the river, east of the castles, and south of the Plaza de la Merced. The closer you are to the port, the more touristy it will be, with more shops, restaurants, and bars. Málaga is a big city so there will always be something around, but the closer to the pedestrian-only area you are, the better. Bodega El Pimpi, the famous restaurant, is smack dab in the middle of that area, so that’s another good landmark to look for a hotel near.
I’ve always used hotels.com for my stays in Málaga and always had good results. There are tons of decently-priced Airbnbs in the city center, which is another option to check out for a local experience. For $35 off your first booking, use my link: $35 off your first Airbnb rental
Have you been to Málaga? What was your favorite restaurant or bar? Did you climb the castle? Tell me your Spanish story in the comments below!
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