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  • Writer's pictureAmar Dhaliwal

Malaga, Spain - January 2024

Malaga Airport is huge, and you can easily imagine, would be very frustrating to navigate when busy with the summer masses. As it was late January, the arrival halls were quiet, and we were getting into an Uber within 30 minutes of our plane landing.

Those tourists who arrive at the airport, and instantly get whisked away to the resorts of the often-maligned Costa Del Sol, are missing out on a delightful city visit.

Malaga, like much of Andalucia, carries its multi-layered history gracefully. The city buzzes with bars and restaurants, has a growing reputation for its museums and art galleries (as befitting the birthplace of Picasso), proudly shows off a recently renovated port district with a wonderful promenade, and makes for a perfect staging post for an extended tour of the wonders of Andalucia.

This is a city where you can visit for 3 days and feel like you have seen it all or spend a couple of weeks enjoying it at a leisurely pace. Will definitely be back for the latter.

In the sections below, I have only listed places personally visited.


Staying (prices are from January 2024)

AC Hotel Malaga Palacio (map) (Calle Cortina del Muelle, 1)

  • This is a welcoming hotel on the southern edge of the Centro Histórico, just next to the magnificent Cathedral. Staying here, you are a short walk to monuments, restaurants, and shops. You are also just a few steps from the waterfront and lovely walks around the port district.

  • The rooms are spacious and beds comfortable. The downstairs lobby is a welcoming and comfortable spot for a coffee and a place to do some work if needed.

  • The rooftop bar / restaurant is a very popular spot for residents and visitors alike. It’s the perfect place for a cocktail as you watch to sun set over the coast of Andalucia. As a resident you do get priority access.

  • We found the staff to be very friendly and helpful.

  • Stayed on a points Bonvoy redemption.

  • Highly recommended.


Eating (prices are from January 2024)

El Pimpi (map)

  • Of course, El Pimpi was the first place we visited in Malaga. In hindsight, I wish it had been our last.

  • Getting used to the style and pace of drinking and eating in Andalucia took me some time to figure out, and on the first night I did not have either the confidence or knowledge to sidle up to the bar and order a couple of glasses of wine and some tapas.

  • Instead, we were ushered upstairs to a large dining room that seemed to be full of other tourists and presented with a large menu that was a bit overwhelming for our first night.

  • We ordered some drinks, two starters and a shared entrée. We paid a reasonable €49.00. Perfectly nice but not great.

  • Passing through the busy downstairs bar reinforced that we had missed the entire point of visiting El Pimpi. Next time.

  • Recommended.

Mercado Central de Atarazanas (map)

  • One of the great pleasures of visiting any city in Spain is a visit to the central market (or markets) and Malaga is no exception.

  • The Mercado Central de Atarazanas is housed in a beautiful building that was originally a shipyard built during the Nasrid era. It was not until the 19th century that it was converted into the market that exists today – check out the doorways, cast iron work, and stained glass.

  • The market is organized into 3 halls – fruit and veg, seafood, and meat – and it is just wonderful to stroll through.

  • There are places to get a glass of wine or a beer an enjoy some tapas at one of the counters.

  • We chose to find a table on the pavement outside the market (which is served by one of the restaurants in the Market – N1) and ordered some fresh seafood. I do advise you to double check the prices of the specials of the day– we were especially surprised by the price of the Huelva Langoustines (€22.50 for four)

  • Overall, we paid €68.00 for a couple of glasses of wine each, prawns, the langoustine, and some octopus.

  • On a sunny day this is a fine place to be. If you love seafood, you will enjoy it very much. Do check the prices.

  • Recommended.



El Tapeo de Cervantes (map)

  • A friend had recommended that we eat at El Mesón de Cervantes. Unfortunately, it was closed in January. We instead asked the concierge at our hotel to make a reservation at sister restaurant, El Tapeo de Cervantes.

  • This atmosphere is casual and welcoming as is the menu.

  • We ordered a nice bottle of Louro and three half racions (portions) to share. This was more than enough food for the two of us. We paid €70.00 (of which the wine was €42.00).

  • Recommended. We will be sure to visit El Mesón de Cervantes when we are next in Malaga.


La Recova (map)

  • Searching for gluten free options in Malaga (especially for breakfast) will inevitably lead you to La Recova.

  • In a little alley, beside the Iglesia de San Juan, La Recova doubles as a quirky restaurant and a housewares emporium.

  • The lunch time menu is eclectic and features some nice North African flavours. We ordered the pork loin and the chicken with Moorish spices. Including a beer and a glass of wine drinks we paid a reasonable €24.00 – which included €2.00 for gluten free bread and €0.50 for regular bread.

  • Highly recommended – especially if you avoid gluten.


Tapas and Wine Tour – We Love Malaga

  • A food tour is our favourite way to get to know a city. We chose the team at We Love Malaga because is it a small, local, family run business with wonderful reviews.

  • We met Damian at the agreed location to discover that it was just the two of us joining him that that evening.

  • Damian was a fantastic guide, very knowledgeable and charming. As we strolled through the old town, he took us to four bars and restaurants during our 3 hours together.

  • Along the way we had the most fantastic conversation about food, wine, travel, Malaga, Andalucia, and life.

  • The food and drink during the tour was most than enough for us not to have anything else to eat that evening.

  • We paid €65.00 per person.

  • Highly Recommended. If you are in Malaga do look up the team at We Love Malaga.


Casa Lola (map)

  • We walked past Casa Lola many times during our time in Malaga and afternoon or night it was jammed – with a line of people waiting to get in.

  • We finally committed to lining up ourselves for lunch and were pleasantly surprised how quickly we were seated.

  • The place was buzzing and because of that the staff very rushed.

  • The menu is extensive and varied. We ordered tapas of chicken skewers, quesadilla, lamb kebabs, and the obligatory patatas bravas, which we washed down with a couple of glasses of wine each. We paid €31.00 which is very reasonable.

  • The food is ok, not great, but then again it is not pretending to be anything other than a fun place to eat.

  • Recommended.

Lo Güeno de Strachan (map)

  • Our last night in Malaga saw us stay close to the hotel.

  • We have walked along Calle Strachan earlier in the day and found the scene lively with several bars and restaurants – we decided to try Lo Güeno de Strachan.

  • We were early enough (8.00pm) that the restaurant was empty, especially inside where the chill in the evening guided us.

  • We ordered a nice bottle of Mar de Frades Albariño, a Caesar salad to share as a starter, and then a plate of arroz con secreto each (the minimum order is often for 2 persons).

  • You’ll often see paella called arroz (or simply ‘rice’) on menus in much of Andalucia. As far as I can figure out that’s because, for many, paella means a specific dish from Valencia. At the risk of causing a diplomatic incident, I think that you can use “paella” and “arroz” interchangeably.

  • The service at Lo Güeno de Strachan was charming but the food very average. The salad was overdressed and the arroz very dry. We paid a €87.00 for dinner (of which the wine was €32.00).

  • Not worth going out of your way to visit this restaurant.


Drinking (prices are from January 2024)

Anyway Wine Bar (map)

  • This wine bar, in the port district, was recommended by some local friends and it is cracking!

  • We sat at the bar and asked the bartender to suggest some local wines and sherries which ended up coming from Sanlucar de Barrameda (one of our next stops on this trip).

  • The wine bar has an extensive menu (including a nice selection of local cheeses and ham). We ordered a plate of delicious Jamón de bellota Ibérico (70g between the two of us was plenty).

  • We paid €40.00 for four drinks and the Jamón.

  • Highly Recommended.


Antigua Casa de Guardia (map)

  • Antigua Casa de Guardia was the first stop on our tapas and wine tour and epitomises the Spanish bodega culture.

  • Serving vermut and sherry from barrels since 1840, they carry on the tradition of writing down your tab in chalk on the bar and also filing bottles by the litre for locals to take away!

  • The choice of what to drink can be overwhelming but I suggest you start with a Pajarete (medium sweet and a prefect example of a Malagan sweet wine) and take it from there.

  • There is a small selection of tapas available. Expect to pay €2.00 to €2.50 per drink.

  • Highly Recommended.


Puerta Oscura (map)

  • Mild mannered café by day, intimate and stylish cocktail bar by night. Puerta Oscura is a gem.

  • The décor is beautiful – think fancy salon style. The service is on point and most importantly they prepare a fantastic gin martini!!

  • Expect to pay €10.00 to €12.00 for a cocktail and €4.00 to $6.00 for a glass of wine.

  • Please note cash only.

  • Highly Recommended.


Doing (prices are from January 2024)

Mercado Central de Atarazanas (map)

  • The central market is a must visit. See previous.

  • Highly recommended.

Museum Picasso (map)

  • Picasso is the best-known son of Malaga, and this museum dedicated to him might have single handedly changed the direction of this city. You must visit.

  • Entry is €13.00 per person. Book online to save you from having to line up.

  • Highly Recommended.

Malaga Cathedral (map)

  • The cathedral of the Encarnación is one Malaga’s most important monuments with Renaissance and Baroque influences.

  • Entry is €10.00 per person which includes an audio guide.

  • Highly Recommended.


Alcazaba of Malaga (map)

  • Built on the slopes of Gibralfaro mountain, the Alcazaba of Malaga is a must visit. As you approach the main entrance take a moment to admire the Roman Theatre. 

  • Follow the path up the hill and you will reach the inner space which houses the beautiful palace. Take time to explore and admire the views.

  • Entry is €3.50 per person. There is a free audio guide using your own phone, but we found it a bit hit and miss on the day we visited.

  • Make sure you are wearing good walking shoes.

  • Highly Recommended.


Castle of Gibralfaro (map)

  • Further up the mountain is the Castle of Gibralfaro.

  • There have been fortifications here since the Phoenicians and the castle we can visit today dates to the 14th Century.

  • We chose to walk up to the top; the path starts by the entrance to the Alcazaba. The walk takes about 25 minutes and parts have quite the incline. Make sure you have a good pair of walking shoes and are ready for a bit of a workout. Your efforts will be rewarded with wonderful views of the bull ring, harbour and beyond. You can also take a taxi up to the top and the tour buses stop there as well.

  • The Castle is an enjoyable visit – as much for the views as the Castle itself. Entry is €3.50 per person.

  • Recommended.


Walk or run the Port district (map)

  • Malaga’s port district is a delight.

  • Renovated and upgraded over the last decade it features a contemporary promenade lined with palm trees, fountains, sculptures & restaurants. This is where you will also find the Pompidou Centre (which I did not venture inside)

  • Highly Recommended.


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