Malaga city at first doesn’t look like a great city to visit and in fact it took us quite a while to decide to go there and have a look. It’s a big city that has quite an industrial look and has a population of over half a million. It stretches for about 12 kilometres, has a major port and it is surrounded by mountains, but it also has an Old Town that’s a real treasure. In this historical district practically all the notable monuments and tourist attractions are concentrated.
A Brief History
Malaga, or Malaka as it was originally called, was founded by the Phoenicians who arrived along the Andalusian coast around 800 B.C. It was mostly a trading post based around the port. Over the centuries it was occupied by the Greeks, the Carthaginians and then overcome by the Romans in the third century BC. Under the rule of the Romans the city thrived and its exports grew consisting mostly of fish sauce, olives and wine. Also a number of important buildings had been built at this time including the theatre, which has been preserved and can be seen at the base of the slopes of La Alcazaba. Over the following centuries the city passed into the hands of many different invaders including the Silingos, Vandals, Visigoths, the Emirate and Caliphate of Cordoba, the Hammudi Berbers, the Ziries of Granada, the Almoravids, the Almohads and the Nazarites.
Through all this time and even with these constant changes the city continued it commercial activity mainly due to the protection afforded by its strong walls and the lookout provided from the Gibralfaro castle. In 1487 the city finally surrendered to the Christians and this lead to slavery and exile for many of its citizens. With its conversion to Christianity Malaga began to change, it grew outside the limits of its protective walls and many churches and convents were built. But it still suffered from a number of disturbances: the Moors in the in the sixteenth century who were finally repelled in 1614. The flooding of the River Guadalmedina river and subsequent epidemics that spread through the city in the 17th century as well as incursions from pirates, Berbers and the attacks of the French and British fleets.
During the next century Malaga had a period of greater stability and its economy began to grow mainly due to agricultural exports. In the nineteenth century the city suffered from the Napoleonic invasion but towards the middle of this century the city experienced an industrialisation based on textile and steel industries that served the city well. However, a new economic crisis was approaching, the flourishing industry began to falter and the phylloxera pest destroyed wine production, which had traditionally been one of the pillars of the province’s wealth. In more modern history the economy of Málaga took off again, when during the 1960’s mass tourism to the Costa del Sol became a much sought after destination.
Places to see.
The great thing about Malaga city is that most of the sights worth seeing are in a small area called the Old Town or historical district. There are plenty of car parks and it is also possible to take the coastal train from Fuengirola which takes you close to this district. Along the port is a beautiful park or perhaps better described as a botanical garden and close by are a number of beaches where you can enjoy a meal at the beach restaurants (chiringuitos). Shopping is close by on the wide street of Calle Larios and the street around here. The Museo Picasso is well worth a visit and not just to see the works of the great Picasso but for the beautiful building that hosts this museum. Like any good Andalusian city or town there is a fabulous Bullring
From a more historical perspective there are numerous great sites. The most ancient of which is the Teatro Romano 100bc. This is at the base of the yet another marvellous sight and my personal favourite, the Alcazaba which dates from the early 11th century. In the middle of this century King Badis of the Taifa kingdom of Granada turned it into one of the most important fortresses of the time. It is well worth a visit and it reminds me of Alhambra but on a smaller scale. Connected to the Alcazaba by a corridor and sitting on the crest of the mountain sits the Castillo de Gibrafaro with great views over the city. This fortress was built in the 8th century by the Emirate of Adberraman.
Back into the city is the Malaga Cathedral known locally as “La Manquita” the “one armed one” as the south tower was never completed. A beautiful building constructed on the same site as the mosque of previous generations. There are also many other churches in the area.
There are plenty of bars and cafes where you can get Tapas and the famous local sweet wine. There are also plenty of restaurants where you can savour the local cuisine. One of the things that we learned through travelling to Malaga is not to go in too early, the shops close for siesta and open again around 5pm. We also found that places to drink and eat were only opening up when we were heading back to our car about 8pm, so try to arrange to get there for the evening when things are livelier and you can enjoy the bards, tapas and restaurants.