When it comes to exploring the Western Mediterranean, cruises to Malaga are a popular fixture on many an itinerary. The winning blend of sun, sea and the kind of cultural heritage that you’ll only find in one of the world’s oldest cities makes for a truly memorable destination. It’s only fitting that in the birthplace of Picasso, you’ll encounter art at every turn, but if relaxing on the beach or sampling some tasty tapas is your thing, you’ll feel right at home here too.
The history of Malaga goes right back to the time of the Phoenicians, who founded it way back in 770BC. Like so many European cities throughout history, it was part of the Roman Empire, but spent 800 years with a different name – Malaqah – after the Empire fell and it came under Islamic rule. In 1487, during the period of the Reconquista, it became a Christian city once more and in 1704, played host to the Battle of Malaga, the biggest naval clash of the War of the Spanish Succession. During the 19th century it developed rapidly and became one of Spain’s most industrialised cities, and the 20th century saw its harbour become the base for the Spanish Republican Navy at the start of the Spanish Civil War. Following the war, it began to develop into the Costa del Sol tourist hub that it is known as today, though still wears its history with pride.
Though you’ll no doubt have the legendary Spanish sun on your mind when you visit the city, cruises to Malaga should always be about exploring the city’s heritage and artistic pedigree, too. As far as tourist attractions go, it doesn’t really get more historic than Alcazaba, a military stronghold which dates back to 1057 – a time when the city was under Islamic rule. Built on a hill which overlooks the city’s port, it comprises two walled enclosures – the Outer Citadel and the Inner Citadel. On a journey from the outer to the inner you’ll pass through some beautiful gardens, while the inner citadel is home to the palace and a number of exhibitions. Staying with fortifications, the Gibralfaro Castle is another favourite, which dates back to 1333 and was built by Yusuf I of the Nazari Dynasty. It must’ve proved effective, as it was used as a military base until 1925. Interestingly, a passageway connects the castle with Alcazaba, and though there’s little more than the shell of the castle remaining, you can enjoy a great view of the city from there.
A key cultural site which marks the city’s Christian period is the beautiful Malaga Cathedral, which dates back to 1528. Because it took so long to build, it comprises three different architectural styles – Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque – making it a fascinating place to visit. If art’s your thing, there’s a wide choice of galleries and museums to choose from in Malaga, regardless of your tastes. The Museo Picasso is the place to go if you want to see some of the work of the city’s most famous artistic son, while the Automobile Museum showcases a large number of beautiful vintage cars, and is one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions.
Malaga’s main beach is Playa de La Malagueta, which is conveniently located close to the city’s port. In peak summer season it gets busy, but if you’re visiting at a different time of the year, you’ll find it easier to grab a sunbed and the water’s pretty calm, too. There’s a decent choice of restaurants close by as well. Though cruises to Malaga may not give you as much time in the city as you would have if you were holidaying there, if you’re a hardcore sun-seeker, you’ll want to find time to head a little out of Malaga, to Playas de Las Acacias. A great place for a seaside stroll, it’s generally a little quitter and the nearby neighbourhood is charming and worthy of exploration. If you’re in search of a little greenery, then be sure to head to the city’s Botanical Gardens, which are one of Europe’s largest, boasting over 100 different species. There are plants from all over the world on show and the paths are unpaved, making you feel like you’re exploring a lush rainforest located right on the Spanish Coast.
Food and shopping
For many, cruises to Malaga will be about sampling plenty of tapas and indeed, you’ll be spoiled for choice in the city. The aforementioned Playas de Las Acacias is a great neighbourhood in which to eat but there’s plenty of choice in the city itself. If you’re really serious about your Spanish food, then it’s possible to book a guided Tapas tour of the city, which takes you to some of the premier spots. If you haven’t got as much time to spend in Malaga, then the port area itself is a great place to eat as well as shop and there are all many of tourist-friendly outlets to peruse and you’ll be sure to bump into some fellow cruise ship passengers searching for souvenirs to take back home. It’s also a great place to sit back with a Spanish beer and watch the world go by, as there’s always something going on. For the ultimate Spanish flea market experience, be sure to head over to Mercadillo Banos del Carmen, where a host of custom-made crafts are yours to peruse, while for an altogether more modern shop, the Muelle Uno mall is located right in the port itself.
By Simon Brotherton