During my road trip around Spain in a campervan I was fortunate enough to visit a friend in Málaga.
Málaga is a port city situated on the Costa del Sol in the Spanish province of Andelucia. Famous for being the birthplace of Pablo Picasso, it is rich in Moorish history and beautiful architecture, blessed with a golden fringe of sandy beaches. All in all, the perfect place for spending a weekend.
My time was precious in the city and my focus was about catching up with a friend. We set out with good intentions to explore a few of the highlights. However, when I came to think about it for the purposes of this blog, I realised that we ended up spending an inordinate amount of time sat in gorgeous little bars and restaurants putting the world to rights.
Which, on reflection, was exactly the best way possible to spend the weekend.
So, if you ever find yourself Málaga way – which you should – then here is a smattering of ideas, both sightseeing and gastronomical, to whet your appetite.
Our day began with a walk along Marques de Larios, the paved pedestrianised heart of the city. The large main square, Plaza Constitution, offers a generous variety of cafés and bars that allows you to sit and people watch at any time of the day or night.
I was excited to try Café Central where we ordered coffee. This is apparently the birthplace of a system of ordering coffee whereby you tell the barista exactly the ratio of coffee to milk you prefer. Genius!
Next stop is the infamous bodega El Pimpi, a beautiful grotto-like hideaway of a bar that unfurls through various rooms all decorated with wine barrels and hanging plants in brightly coloured pots. In-between gorgeous stained glass windows, the walls are chockablock with photographs of their famous customers spanning the decades including the daughter of Pablo Picasso, Paloma’s, scrawl on an oak cask.
When you have finished gawping around at the interior, you will realise quickly that this place buzzes day or night, so popular is the tiny establishment. We fortunately found a table and ordered a traditional Málagan tipple – Trajineros Seco – a fortified wine accompanied by a dish of olives.
Our wander continued through labyrinthine streets of tall, imposing buildings, all elaborately carved with shuttered windows.
Aperitif was quickly followed by a beautiful tapas lunch at Los Patio de Beatas, which was brimming was a huge variety of wine lining the walls in their bottles. Tasty morsels of gazpacho soup followed by salmon, croquetas and cheese was accompanied by a Ribera.
After lunch we visited Málaga’s Baroque cathedral. Built between 1528 and 1782, it has the nickname of ‘la manquita’ that loosely translates as ‘one armed woman’ due to it only having one tower. The cathedral’s courtyard garden was full of orange trees bursting with fruit.
Our walk took us past the magnificent Alcazaba, Málaga’s most important landmark, and one of two Moorish fortresses in the city. The Alcazaba is the best-preserved Moorish fortress palace in Spain and as the soft twilight fell the pale walls glowed with the setting sun.
Nothing could end the day better than an oversized gin and tonic and trying the traditional Málagan tapas dish of boquerones – small, fried anchovies marinated in vinegar and olive oil and garnished with garlic and fresh parsley. This dish is so ubiquitous that even the local football team, Málaga Club de Fútbol, are given the nickname of ‘the boquerones’.
In the sunshine we walked to the bustling Port of Málaga. The port is a destination for many international cruise liners as well as a base for commercial and fishing activities.
No matter what day of the week you visit you are bound to find a hive of activity. We walked alongside a cruise ship docked at the quayside and on to the large open area that was brimming with market stalls, cafes and restaurants.
Situated on the Costa del Sol, Málaga boasts kilometres of golden sandy beaches all easily accessible from the city. Just around the corner from the port is Playa de la Malagueta, known as the city beach, a wide sandy stretch lined with bars and restaurants and at weekends market stalls selling local produce and crafts.
The boardwalk here is a perfect place to promenade and we strolled along stopping to admire a few of the little chiringuitos – which translates to a bar or restaurant located directly on the beach itself.
Further down the seafront we reached a tiny neighbourhood called El Palo where we had lunch in a beautiful restaurant called Pez Tomillo. Here I sampled a dish called ceviche, which has its roots in Latin America, accompanied by risotto, salad, patatas bravas (cubes of potato served with a fiery mayo sauce) and the most gorgeous cheesy leeks I have ever tasted!
Feeling replete, there was only one thing left to do with the afternoon as it drew into evening. This was to head to a bar directly on the seafront called El Balneario – Banos del Carmen where we sat and watched the sun go down whilst listening to live music played on the terrace. Energised by the music, people were getting out of their seats to dance and twirl to the rhythm, throwing their heads back to sing along to their favourite tunes. This unselfconscious joy was infectious and it was fun to sit a watch people enjoying their Sunday afternoon.
As the sunset on my time in the city, I felt content and happy (and with a tummy full of tasty tapas who can blame me?!) What better way is there to sample a place than through great food enjoyed with old friends?
I found Málaga was best experienced slowly as I lingered over a coffee or a long lunch, giving me time to peel away the city’s many layers and enjoy all it has to offer.
Have you ever visited Málaga? Did you enjoy it?
Have you ever been somewhere and realised all you pretty much did the whole time was eat and drink, yet had the best time ever? Tell me what you think!