Georges Rouzeau - 2013-03-08
While less popular than Seville or Granada, Malaga also has a number of attractive propositions that make a visit well worthwhile. Here are nine good reasons to stay during the summer or at Easter in Andalusia’s second largest city amidst its Mediterranean beaches and bodegas.
Semana Santa (Easter Holy Week - 24th March to 31st March 2013)
Keep your eyes peeled, you might just see Antonio Banderas amongst the fraternity of Malaga. The Spanish actor is indeed actively involved every year in the Semana Santa ceremonies of his hometown. Processions of penitents, pasos (huge portable shrines) carried by throngs of costaleros or carriers make colourful events filled with passion and fervour and attract hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
Malaga, an eclectic charm
A Hub between Africa and Spain lulled by Arabian melodies and gypsy flamenco, this former fishing village has an eclectic character with a collection of several architectural gems in its city centre (read our article
). This town is a journey through time. The 19th century Malaga is represented by the neoclassical Plaza de la Merced
, the long Haussmann styled Calle Marqués de Larios
, numerous Liberty buildings enhanced with bow windows and the Old Customs Building which will soon be hosting the collections from the Museum of Fine Arts and the Archaeological Museum. There’s a Renaissance Malaga found in its cathedral and noble palaces (which now house museums.) There is the Arab town with its winding streets, the pasaje Chinitas
and the Alcazaba
fortress, one of Spain’s most important Moorish military buildings which you wander through in a state of enchantment amidst bougainvillea, jasmine and sweet smelling honeysuckle. Lastly, ancient architecture is also present here in Malaga with the Roman theatre nestling against the buttresses of the Alcazaba.
The Cathedral of the Incarnation
The eclecticism of this magnificent cathedral is remarkable but not that surprising since its construction on the ruins of a mosque was completed over a span of two centuries. The lower parts are gothic, the ceilings and facades baroque and there’s an attractive garden with Arabian orange trees. Of the two towers adorning the facade, the one on the right side is unfinished - hence the cathedral’s nickname "Manquita" which roughly translates as “The One-Armed Lady.” The monumental scale of the interior is captivating and it consists of three naves, side chapels and the ambulatory. The choir stalls and Baroque organs are also features that are not to be missed.
Pablo Picasso, a child of Malaga
Pablo Picasso entered this world on 25th October 1881, at quarter past eleven in the evening at the Plaza de la Merced in Malaga. He was the son of Maria Picasso López and José Ruiz y Blasco, a painter and teacher at the San Telmo School of Arts and Crafts. Yet Pablo was to keep both his mother’s name and her piercing watchful black eyes. He was baptized on 10th November at the parish church of Santiago el Mayor. Picasso, who never abandoned his Spanish nationality also never forgot his childhood in Malaga of which he retained vivid memories. At number 15 in the large square of Plaza de la Merced, Picasso’s birthplace has a few prints and ceramics on exhibition on the first floor. Afterwards you can go on to visit the Picasso museum, located in an elegant Renaissance palace that exhibits a selection of works from the private collections of Christine and Bernard Ruiz Picasso, the artist’s daughter and grandson. The painter wanted his works to be exhibited in his hometown, a project which was long prevented by the Franco regime. Also of note is the excellent El Chinitas restaurant which was frequented by Picasso's father and used to be the seat of the bohemian artistic Malaga.
The Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum
Opened three years ago, this 16th century palace houses 230 works from the Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza collection (the parent establishment is in Madrid), which brings together Spanish and Andalusian paintings from the 19th century to the early 20th century. Forty paintings by various painters of Malaga are exhibited in this museum that is likely to be enjoyed mainly by art connoisseurs since this period of Spanish art is particularly provincial and ‘regressive.’
The Automobile Museum
In an old 1920s tobacco factory with an Art Deco style, a Portuguese businessman has put on an exhibition of his vintage car collection (Delage, Delahaye, Hotchkiss, Panhard & Levassor, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Rolls-Royce, and Jaguar.)The collection is absolutely incredible both in terms of how well preserved the cars are (which you can also rent!) and because the choice of models is capable of arousing the enthusiasm of even the most blasé visitor. The museum also features a collection of vintage dresses (Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent) and hats by major designers.
Atarazanas Malaga’s Central Market
This superb food market, which is held on the site of the former Arab shipyards, was inaugurated in 1898 by Alfonso XII. The architecture has a pure Gustav Eiffel style and the entrance consists of an authentic Arabic horseshoe arch. The stalls are a delight to the eyes with fish, seafood, vegetables and local fruits (papaya, persimmon, tangerine, mandarin, orange), mountains of dried fruits (including the famous almonds, a specialty of the town) all at enticing prices.
This term from the flamenco lexicon is roughly the equivalent of our ‘going on a bender.’ The high concentration of bars and pubs that open when the others close and vice-versa means you can party all night in this quarter. You can start off with a quiet drink at the Bodega-Bar El Pimpi (see Address Book) before checking out the Plaza de Uncibay and the streets of the historic centre.
Vamos a la playa!
In recent years, Malaga has been making an effort to promote its seafront. The beach closest to the town centre, within its walking distance to the east of the port is the urbane and highly popular Malagueta, The town has in fact more than a dozen beaches including La Misericordia, San Andrés, Campo de Golf / San Julián, El Palo and Pedregalejo. So get your bathing suits on, or not... as the case may be for one of them: a nudist beach!
With AIR EUROPA airlines
Malaga is also just 2 hours 30 minutes from Madrid by the remarkably high-speed train (AVE) inaugurated in 2007.
Where to stay
Petit Palace Plaza Malaga
c/ Nicasio Calle, 3 29015 Malaga,
Tel: +34 952 22 21 32
Tucked away in a lane perpendicular to the Calle Marqués de Larios, this design hotel is cast into the bright red walls of an eccentric old palace. Breakfast is taken under a covered patio strewn with white marble columns. The dominant orange and dark wood floors set a modernist tone in each of the rooms. Room number 509 has two floors with terraces, the latter which is a lantern rising almost to the height of the cathedral.
Where to Eat
Just steps from our hotel, hidden in an alley (opposite the El Chinitas restaurant), is a tiny pocket-sized bar offering excellent freshly prepared tapas, including fish and seafood (squid, prawns, anchovies) as well as hams, chorizos etc. served on the corner of the bar’s metal counter with a football match blasting out of a radio. This bar is a 70 year old institution!
Calle Moreno Monroy, 5
Bodega bar El Pimpi
Here is a rare example of an iconic establishment, a must visit, which has retained its authenticity despite the countless stars and crowned heads passing through its walls. And what walls they are! It has a maze of courtyards (from its days as a former convent) with the oldest dating back 150 years. Here you can sample dishes of ham, cheese and fresh meat in the shade of a mountain of Malagan wine barrels. It is also one of the places where people come for a drink before a fiesta. For the claustrophobic, make your way through the establishment to reach the huge terrace overlooking the Roman theatre. This bar has a warm and electric atmosphere and a very attentive service.
Granada, Calle Granada 62