One of the reasons we travel as much as we do is because we like to have new experiences. Sometimes, we enjoy getting out on our own and exploring as opposed to traveling in a group with a guide. My better half usually prepares for these excursions by doing some preliminary research before leaving home. I, on the other hand, am lazier but more spontaneous. Our differences make traveling together more exciting for both of us.
The day we went to Malaga, we started out with a list of sights collected from travel guides and Internet information sites. Driving a rental car in a strange country can sometimes be an experience in itself. We soon discovered that Spain provided excellent roads and highways and once we got used to the road signs, we began to really enjoy how courteous the other drivers were. The scenery along our route was beautiful with wild flowers in bloom and changing views of the Mediterranean Sea on our right. As we arrived in Malaga, we followed signs that guided us to the marina area in the heart of town. We drove around the area for a short time to get a feel for lay of the land before depositing the car in one of the underground parking garages. We walked a few blocks to the Plaza de la Marina, where we began our walking tour.
Our first stop was at the Cathedral, which was built, along with the nearby Church of El Sagrario, over the site of the Great Mosque. Building began in 1528 and ended in 1782. Some of the work was never completed. The incomplete south front tower is the reason for the Cathedral’s nickname of "La Manquita", "the one-armed". The inside of the Cathedral is incredibly beautiful and should be seen if at all possible. The Cathedral front opens onto Plaza del Obispo, a beautiful square containing the Episcopal Palace. In the plaza we stopped briefly for a snack before going on to the Picasso Museum on Calle San Agustin, one of the most charming streets in Malaga. It is a very popular tourist area because it also has the Convent of San Agustin and the Palace of the Counts of Buenavista.
Until 1997, the Palace housed the Museum of Fine Arts, but now is the seat of the Picasso Museum, holding examples of the work of the most famous artist ever born in Malaga. We had seen a collection of Picasso’s works at the Hakone Open-Air Museum the last time we visited Japan, so we had an interest in seeing this museum, too. However, the best reason for visiting it, in my humble opinion, is to see the exhibit below the museum. Excavations beneath the building unearthed significant ruins from Malaga’s Phoenician, Roman, Moorish and Renaissance periods. I was able to touch a vase embedded in a stone wall that dated back to six centuries B.C. That is incredible to me. Unfortunately, no one is allowed to take pictures inside the museum, including the excavated ruins.
From the Picasso Museum, we took a short walk to the Church of Santiago, built in the 15th century, and then to the Plaza de la Merced where we saw a funerary obelisk marking the remains of General Torrijos and fifty of his followers who were executed by firing squad on the San Andres Beach in 1831.
On our way to Gibralfaro Castle and the Alcazaba we stopped at the remains of a Roman theatre. The theatre is proof of Malaga’s importance in Roman times and dates back to the 2nd century A.D. As we sat on the stone seats, my mind drifted back to my high school days in Mr. Dresp’s Latin classes when I wondered if I was wasting time studying a dead language and learning about old Roman conquests. The more we travel, the more I wish I had paid better attention in school. The Alcazaba was built over the ruins of a Roman fortress in the first half of the 11th century, and was completed in 1063, during the period of the Moorish kingdoms of Granada. The entire Alcazaba site has undergone large-scale restoration and should not be missed. One of the palaces houses the collections of the Archaeological Museum, with interesting examples of Moorish ceramics, as well as prehistoric, Phoenician, Greek, Roman and Visigoth remains.
Gibralfaro Castle completed the defensive system of the Alcazaba and stands on a high hill commanding magnificent views of the city and the bay. It is no longer in use but it has been restored several times over the years. We were able to take some wonderful pictures of Malaga and the bay from Gibralfaro Castle and the Alcazaba.After climbing to the top of the Alcazaba, it was nice to discover an elevator that delivers you to the bottom and leads to an exit only a block away from Malaga's beautiful Town Hall built in neo-baroque style in the early 20th century.
There are plenty more sites worth seeing in Malaga if you have the time. With only a week on the Costa del Sol, and so much more to see and do, we had to limit our time in Malaga to one day. We look forward to returning some day in the future to see more.