Málaga’s star architectural attractions are all close together in the historical city centre, so you can visit all of them on foot in a single day. Here’s the best route to follow if you want to see these great monuments, starting with the city’s enormous cathedral and winding up in a former Moorish shipyard-turned-covered market.
Start your walking tour of Málaga’s architecture in the heart of the old town, on the beautiful Plaza Obispo. Looming over you is Málaga’s great cathedral, known locally as ‘La Manquita’, or ‘The One-Armed Woman’, because of its uncompleted second tower. Built between 1528 and 1782 near to the site of an early Almohad mosque, this huge Renaissance and Baroque-style cathedral was originally to feature two towers, but the second was never built, because of a lack of funds. The exquisite choir stalls feature 42 intricate wooden carvings designed by Pedro de Mena (1628–1688), a Granadino sculptor who was a pupil of the notoriously foul-tempered Alonzo Cano (1601–1667), the architect responsible for the façade of Granada’s cathedral.
Just a few minutes away on foot from Málaga’s greatest Catholic monument is the best-preserved Moorish citadel in Spain, a reminder of the city’s distinguished Arabic past. The Muslim rulers of Andalusia built the formidable fortress Alcazaba in the middle of the 8th century, plundering the Roman amphitheatre below it for materials. The fort was extensively rebuilt by the Sultan of Granada in the 11th century and was connected up to the nearby Gibralfaro Castle by a Nasrid king in the 14th century. The Alcazaba blends effortlessly into the hillside above Málaga, its towers and turrets popping our from amongst the lush greenery and cypress trees. Its intriguing interior is a maze of intimate courtyards, open-air corridors and battlements commanding incredible views out to sea.
The hilltop defence complex that once made Málaga so impregnable features not one but two great Moorish structures. Built in the 10th century by the Caliph of Cordoba, the Gibralfaro castle was enlarged in the 14th century by the Sultan of Granada, when Málaga was the capital of the kingdom of Granada. It took three months for the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella to take the castle from the Moors in the famous Siege of Málaga in 1487 – and even then, they only won because their besieged foes ran out of food and water. As you walk along the battlements, surveying the landscape and ocean stretching out for miles in every direction, you will appreciate the Catholic monarchs’ difficulties. Like the Alcazaba, the Gibralfaro is exceptionally well preserved, and has been expertly restored where necessary, making it one of Andalusia’s finest Moorish monuments.
Castillo de Gibralfaro, Camino Gibralfaro, s/n, Málaga, Spain +34 952 22 72 30
From the turrets of the Gibralfaro castle you can survey another of Málaga’s key architectural attractions: Spain’s oldest continually operated port. It has been in use since the Phoenicians occupied Málaga in the 10th century BC, and was crucial to the prosperity of the Moorish Kingdom of Granada, of which Málaga was the capital, during the 13th and 14th centuries. In recent years, an ambitious renovation has transformed it into one of the most exciting and attractive parts of the city. The balmy ‘Palm Garden of Surprises’ now runs alongside the main promenade, on which welcome shade is provided by a sleek white canopy. At the far end of the promenade is the Paseo del Muelle Uno, a classy shopping area and restaurant-packed thoroughfare that leads to the beach; from its sun-soaked terraces you can watch the world’s largest yachts and cruise liners drop anchor in southern Spain’s greatest port.
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