To many European tourists, Malaga is simply the airport gateway to the sunshine, glorious sandy beaches, and cheap cocktails of Spain’s Costa Del Sol. While it doesn’t have the touristic fame of other historic Andalusian cities like Granada or Sevilla, Malaga deserves more attention with its blend of history, culture, and modernity.
Many cruise guests arriving into the port of Malaga book excursions to Granada, approximately 85 miles to the northeast. That’s understandable because Granada is home to the Alhambra, a stunning complex of palaces and fortresses that’s one of the most iconic examples of Islamic architecture in Spain.
But Malaga itself holds much to interest the day-tripper, including striking Moorish architecture of its own.
Introducing Malaga, Spain
Nestled along the sun-drenched Costa del Sol in southern Spain, Malaga is a vibrant coastal city that appeals as a cruise destination due to its proximity to the entrance of the Mediterranean Sea and the historic attractions of Andalusia.
From its Phoenician origins to the Islamic and Christian influences, each era has left a mark on Malaga’s cultural and architectural landscape. Yet this is every bit a modern city, with all the services and attractions you’d expect for a city of more than half-a-million people.
Arriving In Malaga By Cruise Ship
City officials have invested heavily in Malaga Cruise Port in recent years. A modern cruise terminal welcomes visitors, who can choose between using a port shuttle bus or taking a 25-minute walk to the city center.
There’s also an open-top city sightseeing bus, which starts from the cruise terminal and runs on a loop, although you can expect queues for this in the morning even if you’ve booked a ticket in advance.
Those choosing to walk will pass the city beach Playa Malagueta that stretches out eastward. Sun-seekers need not go any further!
Between the cruise ship port and the historic center, an outdoor shopping precinct and a handful of bars line the promenade known as Muelle Uno. Keep walking until you reach the Centre Pompidou Malaga, an offshoot of the famous Parisian art museum. It’s the first of the city’s cultural attractions and it’s here the cruise port bus drops guests.
Between the promenade and the historic center is the wonderful Malaga Park.
Despite being sandwiched between two busy roads, the park’s thick tree cover and its winding pathways revealing beautiful fountains and statues maintains a relaxed atmosphere. It’s the perfect place to cool off in the shade on a hot day.
Highlights Of Historic Malaga
As visitors delve deeper into Malaga’s historic center, they are greeted by the city’s crowning jewel. The Alcazaba, an 11th-century Moorish fortress, stands proudly on a hill overlooking the city. A walk through this historic site reveals lush gardens, bubbling fountains, and stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea.
Known as ‘Little Alhambra’ in reference to its big brother in Granada, visiting the Alcazaba and the adjacent Castle of Gibralfaro is a must if you’re keen on discovering the cultural heritage of the Western Mediterranean but don’t have time for a trip to Granada. Guided tours are a bargain from just $12.
In front of the Alcazaba is the Roman Theatre. This remarkable relic from Malaga’s Roman past perfectly demonstrates the varying influences that have led to the Malaga of today.
The nearby Malaga Cathedral blends Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture, showcasing an ornate façade and grand interior. Even if you don’t have the time to enter, make sure to tour the full exterior to appreciate the four different fronts.
Known locally as La Manquita, or ‘the one-armed lady’, this iconic building is famous for its incomplete south tower, a quirk that adds to rather than detracts from its unique charm.
Exploring Art In Malaga
Take a break from history by strolling down Calle Larios, an attractive outdoor shopping arcade with tapas bars and coffee shops lining the side streets. Nearby, the Picasso Museum celebrates the city’s most famous son. The museum is a destination for art enthusiasts from across the world, so pre-booking entrance tickets is a must.
However, Malaga’s art world doesn’t end there. The Contemporary Art Centre (CAC) and the Carmen Thyssen Museum present impressive collections of modern and 19th-century art.
Dining In Malaga
With so much inclusive food onboard, dining ashore is rarely a priority for cruise ship passengers. However, it would be a shame to miss out on some Spanish and Andalusian specialties just because there’s a buffet waiting back on the ship.
The city’s tapas bars and seafood restaurants offer a further taste of authentic Andalusian cuisine, with gazpacho, fried fish, and local cured hams often on the menus. Grilled sardines known as espetos, available from numerous beach bars, are the city’s most famous culinary experience.
For those seeking a more upscale dining experience, the rejuvenated port area Muelle Uno offers stylish eateries with sea views, with the added benefit of its proximity to the cruise ship terminal.