I lived and worked in Malaga for twenty years and I’ve watched it undergo an amazing and exciting transformation. Back in the early 80s when tourists landed at the airport they usually turned right towards the Torremolinos coast, ignoring this exhilarating, bustling Moorish city with it’s rich architecture steeped in history and legends.
It’s simply delightful - an ideal and easily accessible location for a weekend break or, on a longer visit, to explore neighbouring towns and villages.
Tucked away in the old town of Malaga, off the main shopping street of Calle Larios you can start the day in Café Aranda with hot chocolate or milky coffee and crispy churros.
In my latest crime novel BOOK OF HOURS, my protagonist Mikky dos Santos has breakfast in Café Central before visiting her friend Carmen, Provenance Curator at the Picasso Museum. As the birthplace of this well-known artist, the city proudly offers a variety of art galleries and museums such as the Carmen Thyssen Museum and Centre Pompidou. Some museums are free on Sundays so it’s worth checking.
However, the Automobile Museum is an absolute gem and symbolic of the transformation of the area. Housed in the magnificent old tobacco factory (Fabrica de Tabacos or Tabacalera) and constructed in 1927, it holds a private collection of over eighty vintage and modern cars. There is more fashionable travel memorabilia on display that will even impress the non-car enthusiasts and it’s well worth a visit which can take up to three hours.
In my crime thriller, I talk about Russian influences on the coast and in the same building is the Russian Art Museum (Museo Ruso). This houses over one hundred pieces of artwork dating from the 15th – 20th century. There are also two temporary exhibits each year that feature well-known Russian artists.
For lunch, if you are self-catering, visit Mercado Atarazanas that has undergone amazing refurbishment and sells fresh meat, cheese, fruit and vegetables or you can always spoil yourself in a variety of tapas bars and restaurants, such as Patio de Beatas (great wine), Reserva 12, or Vino Mío. Alternatively, follow in Mikky and Carmen’s footsteps to Pimpi, a busy bodega, popular with locals and tourists for tasty bocadillos and tapas. If you are looking for a more substantial lunch, try Los Mellizos (fish), Gorki for tapas or a meal.
Playa de la Caleta, the most popular town beach is over one kilometre in length. It is popular with the Malagueños and a great place to enjoy an afternoon of peace and tranquillity with a good book. But if you want to explore further then there’s a little known Glass Museum (Museo del Vidrio y Cristal de Malaga) in an 18th century Casa Palacio with glass dating as far back as the Phoenician era.
The perfect start to your evening must begin with your first drink on the rooftop terrace of the Hotel Malaga Palacio. Afterwards wander along the marina and Muelle Uno, the location of the scene where Mikky meets Jorge for first time after four years. There’s a selection of bars for an aperitif and a variety of restaurants but particularly good are El Palmeral or Jose Carlos García (Michelin star).
Visiting this city will bring my BOOK OF HOURS and the characters alive. You will look up at the Alcazaba Fortress, Gibralfaro Castle and Malaga Cathedral and spot the Parador nestled on the hillside just as Mikky did when she flew the drone over this incredible city.
There are romantic tours by horse and carriage or exciting avenues to explore by bicycle or segway.
In Pedregalejo, the old fishing village of Malaga where Jorge lives, many fishermen’s houses are now restaurants. Try Maricuchi or El Cabra at sunset with beautiful views overlooking the Mediterranean and sample delicious, mouth-watering dishes like paella, espetos or pulpo a la gallega with a crispy crunchy house salad.
Only a fifty-minute drive north of Malaga is the recently named UNESCO site of Antequera. This world heritage site is famed for Dolmens, El Torcal and Peña de los Enamorados. The location of a tragic love story between a Christian gentleman and an Arabic Princess who decided to throw themselves into the void below rather then be separated. The ‘lover’s leap’ mountain of this tragic story can be viewed from the motorway and shows the horizontal profile of a man’s face. He appears to be staring up at heaven. It has always entranced me.
Finally, Tarifa is one of my favourite places in the world and only two hours from Malaga. It is the setting for the opening and closing scenes of BOOK OF HOURS. Its location alone is one of the most stunning both scenically and geographically. It is the most southerly point in Europe and overlooks the Rif Mountains of Morocco, where the Atlantic meets the Mediterranean not only by sea but also in culture and art. It leads you into another world but that’s another story…for another time.
BOOK OF HOURS is available on Amazon & Kindle.