Romance is alive in Malaga

The Lighthouse, MalagaHaving worked in travel all my life, my husband knows better than to try and book a trip without my input. But this year he decided to give it a go and surprised me with a few days in Malaga for our wedding anniversary which sometimes annoyingly, clashes with Valentine’s Day.

He did well! Firstly it really was a surprise and secondly, what a great choice for a quick break in the middle of February.

We left a snowy and cold UK at some unearthly hour and 2 ½ hours later landed in to clear blue skies and warm sunshine. Travelling with just hand luggage meant we were out of the airport and on the bus to the city within minutes of landing.  The busses are every half an hour and cost just €3 per person.

Our base was the 4 star Molina Lario hotel which is in a great location, just by the impressive cathedral and with views of the recently upgraded port.

Harbour view and cathedral, MalagaBy midday we were strolling along the newly renovated harbor, admiring the yachts and trying to chose somewhere for lunch. The city has spent millions of Euros developing the harbor and port area and it shows! Wide paved promenades, shady gardens, innovative children play areas and a selection of shops, restaurants and bars all combine to offer an enjoyable place to while away a few hours. With state of the art facilities the port now attracts cruise ships on a regular basis and from our hotel room we watched these floating hotels arrive at dawn and leave again at dusk. The influx of cruise passengers is obviously a big bonus to the city’s economy.

A stroll around the harbour takes you past the lighthouse and to a long stretch of sandy beach, Playa de la Malagueta. In February it is very quiet, no rows of sun beds and umbrellas, crowds of tourists or noisy beach bars. But a couple of ‘chiringuitos’’ renowned for freshly barbequed sardines, do remain open all year and are a great place for lunch.

When the sun goes down the Spanish come out to walk around, have a chat and a drink and to let the children play. We browsed the shops in the old town before calling in to El Pimpi, a well-known bodega serving good wines and a selection of tapas.

A highlight of our trip was the magnificent Alcabaza, a Moorish castle dating back to the 11th century that rivals the famous Alhambra palace in Grenada. Built into a hillside with incredible views of the city around every corner.

Playa de la Malagueta, MalagaFor €7.50 you can buy a combined entrance to the Alcabaza and adjacent Gibralfaro, the remains of a fortified arsenal and look out post.  My tip – visit early in the day, in winter it opens at 08.30 am, before the cruise passengers arrive. The combined visit involves a lot of uphill walking, pleasant during the winter months but probably not to be recommended when the weather is hot.  Bus no. 11 will take you and/or bring you back.

As keen gardeners we enjoyed strolling through the Paseo de Parque. These gardens were established in 1897 and run parallel with the harbor promenade. They offer an oasis of calm in a busy city with shady seating areas, fountains and plenty of chattering birds.

We also spent a morning at the Jardin Botanico-Historico La Conception. This was a challenging excursion without a car as the bus no. 2 from the city, stops at least a kilometer from the gardens. You then have to walk along a road, often with no pavement, over a motorway, through an underpass and up a steep hill just to get to the entrance. The entire gardens are set out on a hillside so more climbing awaits. Thankfully there is a very nice cafeteria at the gardens. with homemade cakes and strong coffee to sustain you!

Jardin Botanico-Historico La ConceptionIn February there wasn’t much colour in the gardens and we were 2 months early for the famed wisteria walkway, but the layout of the gardens is interesting and again, marvelous views of the city. Entrance €5 per person.  My tip – apparently on a Saturday an hourly bus runs from the city direct to the entrance so save your visit to the weekend.

On our last day we picked up bikes from www.bike2malaga.com and bravely set off in an easterly direction to El Palo, a beach area famed for its many seafood restaurants.  The cycling is easy on smooth wide promenades and we were able to avoid joining in with the chaotic Spanish traffic. Great value at €5 for 4 hours. Bike 2 Malaga also offer guided tours around the city and the Tapas tour certainly appealed but sadly no time.

Malaga has a wealth of museums but regrettably we didn’t visit any of them due to 3 days of cloudless skies. Had the weather been differently we would have enjoyed the Picasso Museum and the Museum of Wine but will save these for another time.

Restaurant recommendations:

  • Restaurant La Plaza, Plaza de la Merced 18
    Innovative fusion of Spanish and middle Eastern cuisine.
  • Vino Mio, Plaza Jeronimo Cuervo 2
    Excellent food with the bonus of live Flamenco each night at 8 pm.

Silver Travel Advisor recommends Kirker Holidays for city breaks and short breaks.

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Sally Dowling

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