Hey beautiful traveling friends! You’re in for a treat today–we’re going to Spain! Before you keep reading though, I need you to do 2 things: Subscribe (super easy! There’s a subscribe button on the homepage) and follow @sideofkail for more travel content! Carry on 🙂
Time to add a new city to your European destinations: Málaga.
Málaga (listen to this video for correct pronunciation) is a port city on Spain’s Costa del Sol (Coast of the Sun), on the northern side of the Mediterranean.
It’s a stunning city with ocean views and towering hills that feel more like mountains when you climb them. *speaking from experience* The population is about 1.6 million, so it’s a decent sized city. Technically, it’s a municipality…but I don’t know the difference, so it’s a city to me.
Here’s what I do know:
- The ocean is crisp and blue
- The people are warm, kind, and genuinely helpful
- The city is loaded with history–including a castle on a hill
- The architecture is phenomenal
- Their coffee blows America’s out of the water
- There’s a gelato shop every 20 feet–and I’m okay with that
Fun fact: It’s only about 80 miles north of Africa. Pretty neat, huh?
If any of that sounds enticing to you, you need to book a ticket to Málaga, ASAP. Most people looking to visit Spain immediately think of Barcelona or Madrid, but I’m here to tell you–don’t forget the little guys.
And if you do decide to visit Málaga, keep reading to find out what to do, where to go, and what to eat.
Where To Stay
First things first, you need to decide which part of Málaga you’d like to stay in. We stayed in an Airbnb directly in City Center and I 10/10 suggest it! The place was spacious, clean, and in walking distance to everything–we didn’t take public transportation once. If you want the info on where we stayed, reach out and I’ll send you their contact.
Other neighborhoods to consider:
- Malagueta: Close to one of the most popular beaches and in walking distance to the castle, museums, and nightlife.
- Soho: Artsy neighborhood that’s a little quieter and slower paced.
- El Palo: Perfect for families–much quieter and away from City Center.
There are plenty of hotels, apartments, and Airbnbs to choose from in each of these neighborhoods–a quick Google search should help you find your perfect fit.
What To Do
Málaga, Spain is dripping in history, incredible art (Picasso was born here!), bustling beaches, and delicious food.
Trust me, you won’t go bored.
Some of my favorite activities/places were:
La Alcazaba is Spain’s most important landmark. It’s one of two moorish fortresses in the city and is situated on on a hilltop inland. This incredible piece of architecture was constructed between 756-780AD as a defense against pirates, but was eventually home to Moorish rulers, and is now an outdoor museum/perfect photo op.
Take a walk to the top of La Alcazaba and you can see across the entire city and beyond–it’s rumored you can actually see the seas of Africa. For a small fee you can gain access to a museum and a few other areas, as well as sit on a giant throne. #QueenForADay
Castillo de Gibralfaro, known as “The Castle,” sits atop a giant hill and overlooks La Alcazaba, the ocean, and Plaza de toros de La Malagueta (Málaga’s bull fighting ring).
The Castle is massive! And for a pretty cheap ticket (around $4-$5) you can explore it in its entirety. There’s an Interpretation Centre that gives you some background on the castle–but it’s all in Spanish and mine’s a little rusty…AKA very rusty. No worries though! Walking around and taking in the sights is enough to leave you in awe.
La Rosaleda Stadium, home to Málaga’s fútbol (soccer) team, is a must-see for soccer lovers and sport fans alike. If you’re able, and your trip corresponds with their season, stop in and catch a match. Tickets aren’t that expensive and the stadium is pretty neat. Not looking to watch a game but still want to check it out? There are stadium tours that will take you on the field, through the locker rooms, and tell you all about the history of the squad.
Along with his childhood home, there’s an entire museum dedicated to his work. I’ve been interested in art since I was a child, but even if I wasn’t I’d find the museum fascinating. Did you know, Picasso did WAY more than Cubism? He sculpted, painted plates/tableware, and loved to dance with his wife in the kitchen (adorable!!!!!) Come face to face with his original works and leave feeling awestruck by his talent.
Museo de Málaga (Museum of Malaga), lives in the beautiful Palacio de la Aduana–a large imposing building situated directly next to La Acazaba. The museum is a mix of fine arts and archaeology, highlighting the history of Spain through statues, original art work, artifacts, and so much more. There’s 18,000 square meters of history to explore and absorb, and trust me, you’ll want to see it all. This was definitely a highlight of my trip–I couldn’t get myself to actually leave the museum because it was so captivating.
Málaga boasts tons more museums than I had time to get to. For a full list, click here.
La Malagueta Beach is Málaga’s most popular beach–especially with visitors. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes lining the shorefront and even playgrounds for children (or adults). I suggest sitting on the rocks that jut into the ocean right around sunset and soaking in the views.
Wander. This city was made to be wandered. And honestly, that’s what traveling is all about–wandering until you find what you didn’t even know you were looking for. My favorite finds: the gorgeous architecture, a street of bright fragrant orange trees, and a sidewalk of palm trees.
Where to Eat
Warning: If you’re a picky eater, Spain might be tough for you. They’re big on seafood, dark meat, and foods you can’t pronounce.
With that being said, we managed to find some delicious places. Keep in mind a few differences between Spain and America:
- Service is slow. If you need something (water, your check, etc.) you need to flag someone down and ask for it. And when it comes time to pay, it’s going to take a while–be patient.
- If you ask for water, they’ll bring you a bottle and charge you for it. Almost no one drinks tap water. Apparently it tastes weird.
Café Central Málaga is hands down the best way to start your day. The staff are incredibly friendly (request Mariana), the prices are reasonable, and the food is superb. AND, they have endless coffee options! My favorites: Nuticcino and Bombon.
12″ Sound Restaurant was our first food stop when we got into town. It sits in a little alley adjacent to some cute boutique shops. It was a nice cool day so we chose to sit outside–next to the heater of course! Food was good (7/10) and service was better (8.5/10).
Terra Mia was a lifesaver. I’ll be real–not the biggest fan of Spanish food. I definitely gave it a try (you always should!) but it didn’t vibe with my taste buds. But you know what you can count on no matter where you are? Italian food.
Desiderio Gelato & Caffè has the best gelato flavors in town. Trust me, I tried them all. My favorite way to end a night in Málaga was aimlessly wandering around with a huge dripping cone in my hand. I suggest you do the same.
Whenever possible, I suggest walking everywhere! The city is super connected and you can get from City Center to the beach in less than 15 minutes. Plus, there’s tons to see on the way!
If walking isn’t your style, there’s also Uber and taxis. We took a taxi from our Airbnb to the airport and it was seamless.
Just a note–the city isn’t set up like a grid (what we’re used to in the US). It’s a bunch of interconnected and twisty turvy alleyways that randomly open up into squares. It’s easy to get lost. But it’s also kind of fun. My point is: pay attention! Even if you think you know where you’re at/going, you probably don’t.
If your Spanish is superb, you can go ahead and skip this section. But, if like me, your Spanish is beyond rusty, here are some helpful Spanish phrases!
Can I pet your dog? = Me permites a to car su perro?
Good morning! = Buenos días
I’m sorry! = ¡Lo siento!
How much does it cost? = ¿Cuánto cuesta?
Do you have? = ¿Tiene?
I don’t understand. = Yo no entiendo.
Beer = Cerveza.
Thank you = Gracias!
Now that you know where to stay, how to get around, what to do, and where to eat–you’re all set to have your own Málaga adventure! Make sure to add me on Instagram so I can follow back and live vicariously through your travels.
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