A Spanish treat Malaga Andalusia. In this travelogue, Avid traveler Calum Glenny takes us through the site, sounds, and tastes of Malaga. You may also enjoy his previous story of Frigillana.
Having spent several holidays (including hosting his daughter’s wedding in September 2022) in Frigiliana, Gourock’s ‘Avid Traveller’ revisited the Malaga area and ventured into the Andalusian capital Seville, seeking the warmth of late summer sunshine and an escape from the damp and cold Scottish autumn. Looking to escape the Scottish autumn with its wind, rain and dark nights, a trip to Malaga promised sunshine and warmth.
Flight to Malaga Old Town
With most people flying into Malaga and then travelling on to other parts of the coast, the beauty of the ‘Old Town’ is a surprise to most who step out of the norm and visit Spain’s 6th largest city by population.
Our latest visit found Malaga to be a clean, friendly, and very impressive place. It has everything you’d expect of a city, plus fabulous beaches, a stunning cathedral, and a bullring. Also, sitting above the city adjacent to the cathedral is the Alcazaba which is described as a palatial fortification built during the period of Muslim rule in the 11th century. It was rebuilt numerous times up to the 14th century and is one of the best preserved and partly reconstructed Alcazabas in the world. This area also houses remnants of a Roman Theatre dating back to the 1st century AD.
I guarantee you will enjoy a walk around the ‘Old Town’. Below are some other highlights of our recent visit.
We have been visiting this city for many years, there is no doubt the regeneration of the port area has added a lot to it.
The port often hosts several cruise ships at once, which is impressive to see but can create the downside of large groups of tourists being marched about the city on walking tours. The port has a whole host of new restaurants, most of these are modern chain types and can be very expensive simply given the location. These restaurants are very popular but give me a tapas bar in the city centre anytime.
There are beautiful walks and parks around the harbour which hosts mini markets with numerous stalls, walk along this area as it is well worth coming out of the city to visit at least once.
Various harbour and bay cruises are also available here and are a pleasant way to see the coastline from a different perspective. Recommended, but enjoyment can depend on the swell outside the harbour!
This goes on for miles and merges into other beaches along the coast, it starts very close to the city (other side of the Port and the historic centre). A popular choice to visit if you have a limited time to spend in Malaga and comprises a fantastic beach promenade to walk, run, cycle or even segway while taking in the views.
These are public beaches and you can easily rent sun beds etc. The beaches all have toilet facilities and several have children’s playgrounds.
The chiringuitos along the length of the beach provide very good food and drinks, sometimes slightly more expensive than in the city but recommended even just for the view and cool breeze. We visited during October when the beaches were almost completely empty and very clean.
Spectacular Rooftop Pool and Bar
If it’s great views, sunbathing, food, and drink along with a dip in a pool you’re after, then head to the rooftop bar at hotel Roommate Valeria, it’s amazing at all times of the day and a lot quieter (sshh) than others such as the adjacent AC Hotel Marriot. The 5th-floor facility is very comfortable, with several large double sunbeds and a mini pool to cool off. The views are spectacular across the port and towards the Alcazaba. A venue perfect for meeting friends.
That’s the ‘Old Town’ attractions, beach, and sunbathing sorted, now let’s look at some recommended bars and restaurants.
Restaurant – La Barra de Zapata.
Somehow this restaurant is somewhat of a secret in Malaga, but probably not for long. We twice visited Rafael (owner), Evelin, Rafael (chef) and Jonathon at La Barra de Zapata. They are an excellent team who work in harmony and nothing is a problem.
The menu is in Spanish and is compact. Still, Rafael takes the time to explain the various options to each table, seek out any allergies or specific ingredients that should be avoided, while providing his expertise on what dishes complement each other and, on occasion, how best to eat the dishes to get the utmost experience.
Over our two visits, we tried 8 different dishes, each one being a true gastronomic experience. The bao buns, beef carpaccio, and key lime pie were standouts for us. As was our introduction to Ronda wine. Even after our meal, Rafael managed to make my rum & coke taste extra special, although I won’t disclose his secret!
When we return to Malaga, we will most definitely pay another visit to Rafael and his wonderful team at La Barra de Zapata. I’m already looking forward to checking out his next menu of delights!
Bar La Tranca – a True Spanish Treat Malaga Andalusia
Listening to a local for recommendations on a great Spanish tapas bar experience, we visited La Tranca on Calle Carretería.
It is, without doubt, one of the best Vermut bars we have been to on any of our Malaga trips, and we will return. This fun-filled bar has a fascinating interior with really interesting fixtures and features. Typical Spanish decor is complemented by various record covers and other wall decorations, which all customers will find of interest.
This brilliant tapas bar was extremely busy when we visited, and you could immediately sense the amazing atmosphere, the loud Spanish chatter and traditional music. Thankfully the very observant bar staff guided us through the crowd, and we were served virtually straight away! Our tapas and drinks were superb and really well-priced. This was the best tapas bar in Malaga we visited and the most traditional, it’s a truly unique experience and well worth a visit if you’re in Malaga, it is fairly simple to find, just look for the crowd outside and listen for the conversation buzz and singing from inside.
Excellent Small Malaga Restaurant and Bar
Just diagonally opposite La Tranca is a small but great restaurant and bar called Gloria Hoyos, again on Calle Carreteria. Being new to us it was an excellent experience offering a superb range of food and is located in a locally popular area of Malaga just in the outskirts of the main tourist drag. We visited in the evening and the food was excellent. We hadn’t reserved a table but this should be considered if visiting in the busier summer season. I’d recommend the mushroom croquettes and slow cooked rib of beef, both delicious.
This is a very small bar with great tapas downstairs and a more formal restaurant upstairs. Situated in Calle Santa Maria just off the Plaza de La Constitution.
An ideal location to shelter from the elements whether it be sun or rain! We sat here a few times and the bar was very friendly with good beer and wine. Tapas options are numerous with some typical Spanish dishes such as caracoles (snails) which certainly makes the uninitiated think twice! People from all walks of life and from all over the world just seem to pop in for a drink and a tapas at all times of the day!
Mia Coffee Shop, Plaza Martires.
For a quick take away or to drink while you take in the lovely Church opposite visit Mia Coffee Shop. Basically a tiny shop front where you will be served at the window with great coffee and a sublime offering of homemade cakes. The fact a bride was entering the Church on her wedding day while we were there enhanced the experience for us and all the people who were drinking their coffee next to the cafe. The place is not far from the Plaza de La Constitution and a little out of the main thoroughfare but it is certainly worth the detour, very popular and a highly recommended way to start your day in sunny Malaga.
Fed and watered so now let’s look at our hotel accommodation.
Hotel – Vincci Seleccion Posada del Patio
Despite having previously stayed in various Malaga hotels we chose Posada del Patio as we had had a fabulous experience at its sister hotel in Madrid.
We booked a room with a balcony expecting to be able to sit in the sun. However, this was simply a Juliet balcony looking onto a block of apartments. Very quickly we realised that the hotel does not have the best views!
The plus points far outweigh this as the hotel is very well positioned at the beginning of the pedestrianised historic area and minutes from Mercado de Atarazanas- a huge fresh produce covered market, which also contains numerous bars and tapas restaurants.
The newer part of town is easily accessed via a walkway across the dried river bed, with a large El Corte Ingles and nearby a pristine new shopping centre the main attractions. There is a taxi rank outside the front door of the hotel, so catching a taxi is no problem.
The interior of the hotel is delightful and quiet. There is a public lounge, a glass enclosed outdoor area with tables for smokers. On entry the hotel foundations are visible through a glass floor and display beautifully preserved original Roman city walls.
The roof top pool decking area is fairly small with limited numbers of sun beds and deck chairs, however the pool is large relative to other similar facilities in Malaga. We used it every day as our weather was fantastic and it offered excellent bar service just a phone call away or from a passing waiter.
Our experience was that all staff were extremely well turned out, ready to help and provide advice while very courteous.
The hotel offers a free late check out until 1300 hours where possible and we took advantage of this as it was perfect for our flight time of 1550. I would recommend this lovely hotel and make clear that what it loses in terms of views, it gains in internal appearance and the extremely pleasant staff! Well done to the staff as you certainly do make the hotel a 5 Star!
Overview -Hope you enjoyed our highlights of Malaga a Spanish Treat in Andalusia. I hope it interests you to pay a visit to what is a beautiful and fun filled historic city. I’m now off on the train to Sevilla in what is a two hour journey.
Gourock’s ‘Avid Traveller’
Rogues in paradise is the upcoming book on the History of the People of Barbados. The island was named by the Portuguese navigator Pedro A. Campos because of the magnificent Bearded fig trees that were abundant on the island. It means “the bearded one” in Portuguese. The Spanish also occupied Barbados for some time before it was claimed by the British.