Founded by the Phoenicians, the historic city of Malaga has for so long been overlooked as simply an airport gateway, or written-off entirely - tainted by its proximity to over-developed, package-holiday neighbours like Torremolinos. And yet, this vibrant port city is undoubtedly now one of Spain´s top cultural destinations for the Arts and should be added to anyone´s bucket-list of must-see attractions in Andalucia – even if it´s for a night before or after venturing inland to explore the Moorish wonders (Granada, Cordoba & Seville), countryside and white villages of the region´s stunning interior.
Adding to this already impressive list, the first ever “Pop-up Pompidou” is set to open in Malaga this spring. The new Pompidou Centre Malaga will be the first international branch of the French museum and will be located in The Cube, a striking €5m glass building in the city’s new Muelle Uno harbour development, with permanent and temporary exhibitions including works by Picasso, Ernst, Bacon, Magritte, Attia and Frida Kahlo.
Malaga´s Muelle Uno harbour development, with the new Pompidou Centre Malaga (The Cube) in the distance.
Pablo Picasso, Paris 1936, Museo Picasso Malaga, Donacion de Bernard Ruiz-Picasso (MPM2.138).
The city will also host the first overseas branch of St Petersburg's State Russian Museum (not to be confused with the Hermitage), displayed in La Tabacalera, a converted 1920´s tobacco factory which also houses the Malaga Automobile Museum. The collection of over 100 works, including Kandinsky and Chagall, will range from Byzantine-inspired icons to social realism of the Soviet era.
Plus, there is even now an emerging Street Art scene
in Malaga, with giant murals being created (by big names in the urban art scene) on buildings in the once run-down, now up-and-coming Soho district. Read more here
Urban Street Art Murals in Soho Malaga, Andrew Forbes (Andalcuian Diary).
Completing the cultural circuit in Malaga, the long-awaited Malaga Museum is also set to open this Autumn, housed in the Palacio de la Aduana (Customs House) on the slopes of Gibralfaro hill. This will mark the culmination of a 20-year project to combine the two vast collections - Fine Arts and Archaeology - in one striking new home, bang in the centre of the city and a stone´s throw from the other key cultural attractions in Malaga.
Everyone´s talking about Malaga...!
Thanks to these exciting new openings, Malaga is at long last starting to get the attention it richly deserves and is being touted as one of the Top Travel Destinations for 2015:
Malaga´s Roman Theatre and Alcazaba at night.
Looking beyond the Arts, here are some of our other favourite Things to See & Do in Malaga...
* Moorish Alcazaba & Roman Theatre
Perched on a ridge above the city, this majestic Moorish fortress (Castillo de Gibralfaro) and palace (Alcazaba) are reminiscent of the Alhambra in Granada. Although less well preserved than the Alhambra, the Alcazaba is still impressive and has some nice patios and gardens to go with the wonderful views over the city and port. Sitting directly below the Alcazaba, next to the vast Cathedral, is the Teatro Romano which makes for a surprisingly impressive view (see above) when you emerge out of the warren of old town streets!
* Beach, Fried Fish & Sundowners
For the city´s best beaches and a laid-back Mediterranean vibe, head out to Malaga Este along the palm-lined Paseo Maritimo. This route makes a really nice walk or cycle ride too (bike rentals in the centre and Muelle Uno), for an afternoon on the beach and scrummy, fried-fish lunch at a chiringuito in Pedregalejo or El Palo. Stop off on the way back at El Balneario Baños del Carmen - not for swim but a sundowner! This old, ruined public baths (established 1918) has more of a feel of Havana´s peeling Malecón than forward-looking Malaga. Since the 1970s, the once-glamorous baths for Malaga´s well-to-do has fallen into disrepair, becoming semi-abandoned ever since. Today, there is an informal terrace bar/restaurant set among the broken columns and crumbling walls, boasting spectacular views across the bay to Malaga´s port. Expect slow (or no) service, but if you´re in no rush and looking for a lazy sundowner, then that shouldn´t bother you! And a bit like Havana, go soon before it changes for ever – plans are in the pipeline for a major restaurant renovation project.
Sundowners at El Balneario in Malaga
* Tasty Tapas & Local Malaga Wines
Malaga´s foodie scene has also improved dramatically over the past few years, with countless great places to eat out, from tiny street tapas bars to swanky, highly-rated restaurants. It´s a real pleasure wandering the streets of the Old Town, dropping in on a few places to try the tapas. From Bar La Plaza on Plaza de la Merced and Uvedoble on Calle Cister to the wonderful Tapeo de Cervantes on Calle Carcer (near the Cervantes Theatre) you´re spoilt for choice! And for a glass or two of the local wine, try the atmospheric Bodega Antigua Casa de Guardia on the Alameda - one of Malaga´s oldest bars and home to a wonderful selection of local “sherry” wines poured from the rows of oak barrels behind the bar. The (often grumpy) men in white coats pouring them only add to the experience!
Bar Plaza on Plaza Merced, Malaga
* La Concepción Botanic Gardens
Rated as one of Europe´s finest botanic gardens, La Concepción
is a tropical oasis combining formal gardens with lush green forest. Created in the mid-19th century by an aristocratic Anglo-Spanish couple, the gardens fell into decline but have recently been restored to their former glory by the Malaga City Council. There are several walking trails through the forest and a nice café to enjoy a drink or bite to eat. Located close to the A-45 motorway (Junction 140, signed La Concepcion and Embalse Agujero) a few miles out of Malaga, this makes a good stopping-off point if you have a few hours to kill before an evening flight out of Malaga.
La Concepcion Botanic Gardens, Malaga
So, if you haven´t been for a few years, or just didn´t fancy it before, then why not include some time in Malaga the next time you head to Andalucia. And for a Spanish City Break with a difference
, combine Malaga with a few nights inland at a rural retreat
like Casa Olea
for a winning combination of city, beach, culture, great food, the worlds-best olive oils, R&R and walks in the countryside.
* Where to stay in Malaga
: we´d suggest La Casa Azul B&B
. We stayed there in November and enjoyed the place. It´s an intimate 5-room B&B run by charming owners, located on Avenida Pries, a stylish residential neighborhood with colourful Belle Epoque mansions, wrought-iron balconies, cafes and interesting shops; a block from La Malagueta beach and yet just 10-15 minutes walks to the historic centre.
* Casa Olea
is a 6-bed boutique B&B situated in the beautiful Sierra Subbética mountains close to the historic cliff-top town of Priego de Córdoba
, just 90 minutes´drive inland from Malaga and ideally placed for day trips to Córdoba (Mezquita) and Granada (Alhambra).
Casa Olea B&B, near Priego de Cordoba, Andalucia.