Málaga has a reputation as the place you fly into and then escape to get to the resorts along the Costa del Sol. I’m glad we stayed here for several days!

View of the shoreline from the castle on the hill View of the shoreline from the castle on the hill

Similar to Granada, Málaga has an imposing hill-ridge with a castle on top that blends into a palace as it meets the center of the city. On our first night there, we avoided the hill climb and took the tunnel through to visit the marina and Mediterranean Sea coastline. We made a stop at the bullfighting ring to see if we could take a glimpse inside to see the interior ring, and were surprised to find an exceptional (and free) photography exhibit in the outer ring. The focus was on contact sheets and the challenge a photographer has in choosing “the shot” from what is often a collection of many great choices. There were Beatles, Spanish Civil War victims, Malcolm X, Chairman Mao, and so much more.

If you peek closely at the photo above you can see the Pompidou colored cube down by the marina. After the ring we stopped at the local Centre Pompidou, an offshoot of the art museum in Paris. For us an hour was plenty and a great way to finish the day before a tapas dinner in old town.

Our first full day was our chance to visit the old castle and get the view of the entire city. We went top to bottom – castle at the top of the hill first, then descending to the palace. The palace was much better than expected: not the Alhambra, but not far from it. Fountains, mosaics, Moorish arches, and of course citrus trees.

Picking kumquats in the botanical garden Picking kumquats in the botanical garden

Speaking of citrus, Julie and walked about 3 miles out north of town to visit the Jardín Botánico La Concepción. This vast botanical garden is up in hills at the base of a dam, with great stuff to see in the park and amazing views back to the city. We loved the cactus garden and the citrus grove, where a volunteer encouraged us to take whatever we want. I took a mess of kumquats and a lemon for our sparkling water.

Our magical wine bar find Our magical wine bar find

We’ve learned that it pays to just wander around in old cities, and in Málaga we had the payoff of finding the Antigua Casa de Guardia, an old wine barrel with friendly guys who sell their sweet wines by the small glass and chalk up your tab on the bar in front of you.

Lunch at the central market Lunch at the central market

The main city market in Málaga is a bit unusual in that it closes in the afternoon for the day at around 2pm. We tried to stop by on an earlier evening, but were shut out and vowed to come back later. On our last day in the city we came by for lunch and were delighted with the layout and offerings. This was the tidiest of the authentic markets we’ve been in; our theory is the early closing gives more time to clean up. We also appreciated the wet fish and seafood market being mostly segregated from the rest of the stalls. Standing at the bar at one of the seafood stalls, we had fried mild peppers and shrimp for our lunch. A consistent feeling we had in Málaga, even having dinners in the touristy area, was that the staff were all friendly to us.