Espetada and tinto de verano! If I had to sum up my stay in Malaga, these are the words I’d chose, especially during summer.
Malaga is a relatively small city on the south coast of Spain, in the autonomous community of Andalusia. It’s famous for Pablo Picasso and Antonio Banderas, the holy week processions and its ancient history dating it back to the 770 B.C. and naturally – remember, we’re talking about Spain – food and drinks!
Now let me explain what espetada and tinto de verano are. The first is a skewer with sardines. Usually sold on the beach, cooked on a barbecue pit in the shape of an old fishing boat, you can’t come to Malaga and avoid it. Yes, you can still buy a fridge magnet with that shape, but tastes worse.
If espetada is something to eat, tinto de verano (summer red wine) it’s something to drink. It’s a wine-based drink, very similar to the most famous sangria, composed of red wine and soda, preferably a lemon tasted one. It’s refreshing, and if you find the right place to drink it, you’ll get addicted (and drunk, after a while). These two are something not to miss when coming to this city, I can assure you! At this point, I bet you were expecting picture: sorry, no pictures! I usually prefer to eat than to use food as a model.
Malaga is mainly a touristic city, thanks to the sea and its perfect location in Andalusia, making it a reasonable headquarter to visit the region. During summer it’s filled with tourists because of the sandy beaches and the night life, but since it’s a university city, the city is quite lively also because of the students, still keeping its relaxed mood.
The best part of the city is no doubt the historic center. It’s mainly a pedestrian area so you’re free to walk and get lost in the little alleys, discovering beautiful shops and churches: yes, there are churches everywhere, but I’ll get back to it later.
Being an old city, of course Roman put something there, and not only them. The hot spot to see what I’m talking about is calle Alcazabilla: from the little square, you can recognize ruins of a Roman theater, built in the 1st century BC and rediscovered only in 1951. Above it on the hill, there are other two fascinating places: the castle of Gibralfaro and the Alcazaba.
Built by the Moors in the 11th century as a fortress and royal residence, the entrance for both is less than 4 Euros, and it’s absolutely worth it. They’re very well-preserved, a perfect example of Moorish architecture, with private gardens, fountains, and patios. Just a tip, don’t go when the sun is hitting too much, or you’ll see!
Aside from the entrance, there is a road running along the hill to the top of it. It’s a 30 minutes walk to the belvedere terrace and in some points it’s very steep, with a few spots to rest and cover yourself from the sun. It’s quite common to see people selling you bottles of water on the way to the top but if you’re not a lazy ass you can do it easily.
From there you can have a perfect view of the coast and the city: the harbor area, full with restaurants and shops; the park, a very relaxed spot where you can chill down a bit, reading a book on a bench and listening to parakeets singing while flying around the trees; the Malagueta Plaza de Toros (bullring) and, standing out against the roofs, the enormous Baroque/Renaissance cathedral. And so we go back to the churches thing I was writing before.
Spain is a Catholic country, and Malaga is a bright example of it: religious places everywhere! Big churches, small churches, icons, cloisters, and fraternities are some of the examples, but the best one to realize the importance of religion in Malaga is during the Semana Santa, the holy week before Easter.
Starting from the Palm Sunday until the Easter Sunday, several processions go through the city center, gathering thousands of people to see the large thrones displaying scenes from the Passion of Christ, brought by the members of the various fraternities. At a slow pace, with bands playing religious (and depressing) themes and with the nazarenos, other members of the fraternity wearing a vest with a long, pointy hood, covering them all, they walk through the city following a strict schedule, during day and night.
It’s a fascinating show to see, nazarenos are intriguing and a bit scary and, honestly, the white ones look very close to members of KKK, but if you happen to be there, unless you’re a God-fearing person, you’re going to hate it.
When I was there my house was “unfortunately” in the city center so trying to go anywhere was a nightmare. Roads closed, people waiting for hours with their chairs on the side of the roads to be on the frontline and see the procession at its best, elder people doing a cordon and acting like assholes preventing you to cross the street because they fear you’ll take their spot but suddenly becoming very friendly when they realize you live there, and your windows have a perfect view from above, asking you to come inside…
And what about Picasso, instead? Yes, obviously there is a Picasso museum, containing more than 200 works by the famous artist and being one of the most visited place of the city, and in the near Plaza de la Merced, Picasso’s birthplace, a bronze statue of him sits on a bench, the perfect companion for a picture (that I didn’t take…). Anyway, almost nothing else in the city reminds you about this eminent citizen and that’s a pity.
Unfortunately, during colder months, the city goes on hibernation: fewer people, fewer events, much less nightlife, nothing to do on the beach, I have to say it’s not a city worth visiting in that period, unless you’re really looking for a quiet place to stay for some days. But I have to tell you this: pay EXTREME CAUTION on rainy days! I’ve never put my feet on a more slippery surface than the tiles they used to pave the city center. It’s like walking on ice with oil covered shoes, it’s something unbelievable and dangerous, you have no grip at all. What the hell did they think about when doing it?
Except for the city center, it’s dirty as every other Spanish city, not even Madrid escape from this, but you can get over it. It’s cheap, there are several places where to have tapas or drink a caña, and the international airport is just 15 minutes away by metro, if you want to go somewhere else. In the end, it’s not the perfect city, but it’s a city I miss!
And you, have ever been to Malaga? Tell me in the comments!
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