- Monday 12 March 2018
"Malaga is a familiar name to many Irish tourists, mostly due to its airport which has been used as the gateway to the Costa del Sol since the 1960's.
The city is surrounded by resort towns like Torremolinos with its abundance of beach hotels, Benalmadena with its cosmopolitan port area and Marbella- known as the playground for the rich and famous, to name but a few. However, due to this location, Malaga often gets overlooked as a holiday destination in itself.
Malaga is a gem of a city- birthplace to Pablo Picasso and Antonio Banderas. I was delighted visit as part of a trip run by the Spanish Tourist Authority. On arrival, our first stop was to visit the state-run Hotel Parador de Gibralforo. This hotel is nestled in woodlands high above the city, with spectacular views over the metropolitan area, beach and cruise port. Visitors can also get a great view of monuments such as the Alcazaba fortification and the city's bullring, La Malagueta.
After a mouth watering, traditional lunch of tapas and Iberian pork we were brought to meet our tour guide. We toured the ancient fortress of La Alcazaba and the Roman Theatre, which was built at its base in the first century BC.
The area's pedestrianised shopping streets like Calle Larios are located just around the corner, with all the big name shops like Zara and Bershka. We stayed at the Tryp Guadalmar beach hotel, about 10 minutes outside the city centre and very convenient to the airport. This location is great for those who want the beach holiday combined with a city break.
Dinner that night was in the Kaleido Restaurant located in Malaga's waterfront Pal Grove promenade. This restaurant/ bar is a funky place to be and is joint owned by Antonio Banderas' brother and lawyer. The food here was delicious.
The next morning we visited the Automobile Museum of Malaga and although hesitant to believe it was going to be my cup of tea, I was pleasantly surprised. This private collection of over 90 cars includes a variety of vintage automobiles from the late 19th century onwards. with Aston Martins, Cadillacs and many more for the car enthusiast. The great thing about this museum is that you can get demonstrations of the machines in action. Guides will sometimes start some of the cars and one of our group was lucky to get a short ride in a James Bond car!
Our next visit was to the Malaga Botanical Gardens. This is known as the "Jewel of Malaga" and is located 15 minutes from the city by coach. The Malaga hop on/ hop off bus tour stops here. These two-hundred year old gardens are the largest tropical and botanical gardens in Europe, boasting plants from five continents. It has mixture of tropical, sub tropical and local plants, trees etc. and is steeped in history so is well worth a visit.
We took a walking tour through the local Atarazanas Market, which is full of local produce, including fish, meat, fruit and vegetables. This is the ideal place to buy your olives or traditional almonds. Lunch was at Bodegas el Pimpi- a treasure of Malaga city. The meal was delicious tapas accompanied by beautiful wine. They also gave us a demonstration how to serve the local Malaga sweet wine. There are both indoor and outdoor seats, but this restaurant is extremely popular with the locals so prepare to wait for a table!
Next up was the visit that I was most excited about, the tour of Picasso's birthplace followed by a visit to the Picasso Museum located in the 17th century Buenavista Palace. It didn't disappoint. On display are a total of 233 Picasso works donated by the Picasso family, which made this a true delight. Our guide was so passionate about Picasso and she made the visit even more interesting.
Dinner that night was at Patio de las Beatas, which is a speciality restaurant housed in a beautiful, historic building. Visitors to Patio de las Beatas can taste more than 50 wines by the glass. Diners can sample dishes from Andalusia and other Spanish regions, creatively constructed to complement the wine with the food.
My impression of Malaga has truly changed after spending just a few days there. I am now eager to send more people there for their 3 or 4 day city break, or to combine this wonderful city with a beach holiday.
Malaga has so much to offer and is more than just as a gateway to the Costa del Sol." -Jackie
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