Malaga’s Make-over6.04.17 | Nicola Brereton
Many visitors to Spain have travelled through Malaga en route to the beach resorts of the Costa del Sol, myself included, and I have to be honest and say I was not overly impressed with my first impression. Fast forward 10 years and I had the opportunity to return, but rather than transit through I would be spending three days in Malaga city itself for a short break to find out more about it’s impressive transformation.
I must admit, I was intrigued by this city I knew well as a gateway but very little beyond. With a flight time of just over two and a half hours and a wide choice of flights from all regional airports, Malaga is easily accessible from the UK. My first surprise was the light and airy airport with great attention paid to the smoothness of arrivals and the latest technology to get you through passport control at speed and with ease.
A short 20 minute transfer from the airport and we had our first taste of this beautiful city. I was struck with firstly how clean and also how pretty the city is. Thanks to a multi-million pound regeneration project, Malaga now gleams like a new pin, with horse-drawn carriages strewn along the road, visitors are met by beautiful old buildings mixed with the new stylish harbour front. As we passed the big Ferris wheel and the striking Alcazaba Fortress I had to admit my first impressions of this city were beyond good – I was smitten!
Our home for two nights was the newly opened Gran Hotel Miramar. Located across the street from Malagueta Beach, this grand, elegant hotel dating from 1926 has recently opened after an 8 year and multi-million Euro refurbishment to restore this once thriving hotel back to its former glory. They have done an amazing job, ensuring its original beauty and grandeur is retained whilst sympathetically incorporating all the latest state-of-the-art technology and luxury amenities. Having swept in to the well-kept grounds the entrance in to the hotel will leave you captivated as you take in the grand marble staircase to one side and the stunning internal courtyard adorned with the most beautiful chandeliers leading out on to the marble terrace with fabulous views out to sea. Rooms are large and airy with more than a hint of luxury, from what I had experienced so far I was going to enjoy my time in Malaga.
We set off on a leisurely 15-minute stroll along the sea front and harbour in to the centre of Malaga. I was immediately enchanted by the beauty of this old town, with its pedestrianised lanes filled with shops, cafes and tapas bars all centered around the cathedral. Before too long we arrived ready to dine at the amazing Los Patios de Beatas restaurant. I am no wine connoisseur but even I have to bow to their knowledge and passion, with wall to wall Spanish wines on offer these guys were experts and their passion for wine shone through as they talked us through each glass we were to sample, expertly paired with each course. I can honestly say I tasted some of the best wine ever and not only did I come away with so much knowledge but also a new found love of Spanish wine, especially their own sweet Malaga wine – of which I am now the proud owner of my very own bottle kept for special occasions.
Our first evening was spent within the old town enjoying amazing tapas surrounded by lots of families dining together and taking in the festivities of the local carnival. As we sat watching street entertainers and families in fancy dress immersing themselves in the festivities we all commented on how lovely it was to see so many families enjoying the carnival together – from grandparents down to toddlers and how safe we felt amongst them all.
Our first full day we awoke to beautiful sunshine, having just weathered the best that storm Doris had it was so nice to feel some sun. Because of its position Malaga enjoys good weather all year round with temperatures only dropping to a very pleasant 14°C in the winter months so it is a perfect destination at any time of the year – they even have their own Christmas markets with traditional huts in the sunshine. Our morning began with a tour around the fascinating Alcazaba Fortress, dating back to the early 11th century. Our guide fascinated us with tales of battles and families living amongst the protected walls of this Muslim citadel leading up to the Gibraltaro Castle which has the most amazing panoramic views from the highest point of Malaga. A great tip we were given was to start at the top of the Castle and work our way down through the Fortress past the walls and the endless citrus trees that just smelt amazing – and we learnt a great tip that if the leaves on the orange trees have two points it’s nature’s way of saying the oranges will be sour. We continued our tour of Malaga past the Roman theatre towards the Cathedral, affectionately known as La Manquita – the one-armed lady as the planned 2nd tower was never completed. This impressive Cathedral stands proud in the heart of the city, as some of our party decided to climb the 200 steps up to the top I chose to while away a very happy hour in the Cathedral square with a cooling glass of Sangria partaking in my guilty secret of people watching until their return. From here we set off in search of Pablo Picasso from the Picasso museum, which is home to over 280 pieces donated by his family to his childhood home of Casa Natal de Picasso, that not only contained his work but also that of his father, along with plenty of family heirlooms and a photo opportunity with a bronze statue of the great man in the square across from his home.
After lunch we took the 10 minute drive to the Automobile Museum. I have to be honest and say I wasn’t looking forward to this too much as cars are not really my thing – how wrong could I be?! This museum houses the private collection of a Portuguese car fanatic and is worth around 25 million Euros. Before we even stepped foot inside, a photo opportunity with an Aston Martin was in order, from there it just kept getting better and better. From designer dresses from all era’s to the fascinating cars dating back to the roaring 1920’s right through to Elizabeth Taylor’s diamante encrusted car she rode in with Michael Jackson, alongside his famous red leather jacket. Whilst we watched models walk the runway inside the museum we were all in agreement – both men and women – this was the highlight of our weekend.
This evening we dined in a fabulous seafood restaurant at the newly renovated harbour before heading off to experience true authentic Flamenco dancing, whilst once again enjoying the street festivities of the weekend carnival in the bustling streets before walking back to our hotel having enjoyed one of the best evenings on record.
Before we knew it our final day in this amazing city was upon us, as once again we enjoyed the morning sun as we headed off on the short walk to the harbour for a tour of the Centre Pompidou. On loan from Pompidou Paris for five years until March 2020 and with works of art from Picasso and Marc Chagall, this modern art collection is truly fascinating. With the help of our guide we were escorted through all the different collections as we avidly debated their meaning. From here we headed back to the old town to experience the Carmen Thyssen Museum full of 19th century Spanish art, two completely different perfectives both utterly fascinating and both well worth a visit for every art lover in the world.
Having spent the morning immersed in culture it was only right to spend a lazy afternoon in a fantastic seafront restaurant amongst many locals enjoying their family time – again it struck me just how family-orientated Malaga is. Having sampled some limoncello there was only one thing left to do – face my fear of heights and head for the city big wheel. Rising to 70 metres high giving fantastic views over the port area, and over the tops of the buildings in the Plaza de la Marina area to the Cathedral and Gibralfaro, it was definitely worth overcoming my fear factor. From here we headed back stopping en route to admire the many stalls set up along the harbour whilst indulging in some scrumptious Spanish ice cream – when in Rome!
As we headed back to the airport for our flight home that evening, I reflected on my opinion of Malaga before my arrival and how much it had changed. No longer would I ever consider Malaga as just a gateway but it would now be forever etched in my mind as one of the loveliest cities I have ever visited. From its stunning architecture to its friendly locals right through to the fantastic value for money and its genuine warmth for her visitors, Malaga will forever be a firm favourite for me.
To book your short break to Malaga contact Nicola on 01543 258631 or email email@example.com.