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.
Catedral de Málaga, 9 Calle Molina Lario, Malaga, Spain +34 952 22 03 45
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.
Málaga Alcazaba, 2 Calle Alcazabilla, Málaga, Spain +34 630 932 987
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
If you walk down from the Alcazaba and Gibralfaro castle you will arrive right next to another of Málaga’s architectural wonders: the Roman amphitheatre is the oldest monument in the city and one of the few remaining Roman structures in Andalusia. It was built during the 1st century AD and was continually used until the 3rd century AD, after which it fell into misuse until the Moors settled in Málaga in the early 8th century. Instead of using it as a place of entertainment, they raided it for material with which to build the Alcazaba fortress. Not until 1951 was it rediscovered, during construction works for an arts centre, and it opened to the public only in 2011 after a complicated and lengthy restoration. There’s a visitors’ centre, but this great Roman landmark can be contemplated for free from Calle Alcazabilla or from the terrace of El Pimpi, Málaga’s most famous restaurant.
Teatro Romano, Calle Alcazabilla, s/n, Málaga, Spain +34 951 50 11 15
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.
Paseo del Muelle Uno, Málaga, Spain
After visiting all of the above landmarks on foot, refreshment time will be approaching. And happily, the final stop on your walking tour of Málaga’s architectural gems concludes in the city’s grandest covered market. The beautiful, Moorish arched entrance to the Atarazanas Market, located off the Alameda Principal about a ten-minute walk from the port, is the only part to survive from the original seven-arched shipyard built by Mohammed V in the late 14th century. You may well be wondering why he built a shipyard in the middle of the city, but in the 14th century the Mediterranean came further inland than it does today. After admiring the stunning facade and the beautiful stained-glass window at the market’s opposite side, depicting ships in the port, enjoy some tapas (fried fish here is a delicious and fresh as it gets) and a cold beer – the perfect way to conclude your walking tour of Málaga’s architectural masterpieces.
Mercado Atarazanas, 10 Calle Atarazanas, Málaga, Spain +34 951 92 60 10