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    Spirit of the city: Malaga

    What to see

    Picasso Museum Málaga 

    The world-renowned Spanish artist, Pablo Picasso, was born in Málaga on October 25, 1881, and the Picasso Museum (Museo Picasso Málaga) was established exclusively to exhibit his art. His style and technique revolutionized the modern art movement, and this museum dedicated to Picasso’s work can be found in one of the city’s major squares, El Palacio de Buenavista. Located in the historical heart of the city, the building itself shows elements of Renaissance and North African Islamic design, and is a fine example of 16th-century Andalusian architecture. Lose yourself in the bold colors of Picasso’s though-provoking pieces, and get a glimpse into the imagination of a genius.


    One of the two ancient Moorish castles in Málaga, it was built between 756 and 770 on the orders of Abd-al-Rahman I, the first Emir of Cordoba. Given its commanding views over the city, the sea and even out to Africa, the purpose of this fortification was to defend Málaga from any potential attacks from pirates. The Sultan of Granada, Badis Al-Ziri, had the castle rebuilt between 1057 and 1063, and by the arrival of the 14th century, the Nasrid ruler Yusuf I had double fortified the walls connecting the Alcazaba to the nearby Castillo de Gibralfaro. While the Alcázar of Seville and Alhambra of Granada may be younger and more famous than the neighboring Alcazaba, as you wander around the castle, you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped back in time. Exploring the Alcazaba, you’ll find it littered with little traces left by the cultures which have used it over the centuries. Don’t forget to take your camera and capture the outstanding views from this ancient fortification.

    Gibralfaro Castle

    The Emir of Cordoba, Abdurrahman I, commissioned Gibralfaro Castle (Castillo de Gibralfaro) in the 8th century, and was then rebuilt in the 14th century after Málaga became the main port of the Emirate of Granada. The castle was formerly used as a lighthouse and barracks, though nothing much of the original buildings are left, save for the fortification’s walls and its impressive open-air views over the city. You can reach Gibralfaro Castle by walking up Paseo de Don Juan Temboury from near the Alcazaba entrance, or climb the steps leading up from the Plaza del General Torrijos at the east end of the Alhameda Gardens. 

    Málaga Cathedral

    The original construction of Málaga Cathedral (Santa Iglesia Catedral Basílica de la Encarnación) was the collaborative effort of several different architects, though efforts to covert it from a mosque to a church began in the 16th century. The only clues suggesting that this was once a mosque which have survived to this day is the courtyard which once contained the fountains at which worshipers would wash their feet before praying. The orange trees which grow here have given this courtyard its name, Patio de los Naranjos (Garden of Oranges). The building of the cathedral took 200 years to complete, at an extraordinary cost – you’ll understand why as soon as you enter. The magnificent dome of the cathedral hangs 40 meters overhead in the main hall, under which you’ll find the benches of the choir section, carved from cedar wood. The halls contain fifteen separate chapels, whose alters are decorated with the decorative panels, typical of 18th-century artistic tastes. Interestingly, despite the amount of money spent on the building, one of the bell towers was never completed, which has left the cathedral with the nickname La Manquita (The Lady with One Arm). The museum found in the cathedral exhibits a 500-piece collection of religious paintings, sculptures, ritualistic items, and gold, silver and ivory ornaments.  

    Málaga Botanic Gardens

    Málaga Botanic Gardens (La Jardin Botanica la Conceition) was established in 1855 by the Marquis of Casa Loring and his wife. It was purchased by the municipality in 1990, and opened to the public in 1994. It’s home to an astounding variety of tropical plants and flowers, with species from Europe, America, Asia, Africa and the Pacific Islands. Along with these, there are attractive little buildings, bridges and sculptures dotted around the gardens, making a visit here all the more enjoyable. 

    Carmen Thyssen Museum

    The Carmen Thyssen Museum (Museo Carmen Thyssen) exhibits the private collection of Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, one of Spain’s wealthiest women, and has much to offer anyone interested in art or art history. The museum has pieces created on Andalusian soil, as well as 19th-century pieces from the rest of Spain on display. Among the many works exhibited here, you’ll be able to see the Spanish artist Francisco de Zurbaran’s Saint Marina. Pieces by the landscape artists Genaro Perez Villaamil and Manuel Barron are also to be found here, as are the representations of Andalusian life by Dominguez Becquers and Manuel Cabral Aguado Bejarano. Other major Spanish artists exhibited at the museum include Dario de Regoyos, Joaquin Sorolla, Hermen Anglada i Camarasa, Francisco Iturrino and Ignacio Zuloaga.  

    Center of Contemporary Art

    The Center of Contemporary Art (Centro de Arte Contemporáneo) was an initiative of Málaga City Council, established with the view to promote the appreciation of the visual arts from the 20th and 21st centuries. The museum is hosted in an old building standing at the mouth of the Guadalmedina River and it hosts many events throughout the year. It shouldn’t be missed by anyone with an interest in modern art.

    Picasso House Museum

    Pablo Picasso was born in this house in 1881, and since its doors were opened as the Picasso House Museum (Casa Natal de Picasso), it has been run by a private foundation. As well as a recreation of his studio, there’s also a special exhibition held here every three months. It’s been recognized as a site of cultural heritage since 1983 and is situated in Plaza de la Merced, Málaga’s historic center, so is easily accessible. The ground floor displays several of his personal possessions, while the second shows the personal possessions of some his family, including his father José Ruiz Blasco. 

    Automobile Museum

    The Automobile Museum (Museo Automovilistico) displays classic cars and travel memorabilia, and is split into several sections. The Belle-Époque section focuses on the 19th century up to the First World War, while the Golden 20s section focuses on cars from the post-war era. In the Art Deco section you’ll find a 1937 Mercedes 540k and a 1936 Bugatti among its eleven cars. Other sections include Popular Cars, Design Cars, English Tradition and Dolce Vita, all of which display some very special vehicles. Add to these the Tuning and Alternative Energies sections, and there are a total of ten incredible collections in this museum. 

    The Museum of Glass and Crystal

    With more than 3,000 pieces of glass work from various historical periods on display, the Museum of Glass and Crystal (Museo del Vidrio y Cristal de Málaga) explains the relationship between man and this indispensable material to is visitors. Revealing the secrets behind rare and forgotten glass making techniques, the museum provides free tour guides who speak Spanish, French, Italian or English. The museum also features temporary exhibitions and a workshop.

    What to eat


    Traditionally, the various ingredients of the soup are crushed together in a mortar-like bowl called a dornillo. In its earliest versions, the recipe didn’t use tomatoes. In fact, there are still those today who prefer it without them, and this version of the dish is called “ajo blanco.” It was the arrival of tomatoes from the New World which saw them added to the recipe. Made with stale bread, olive oil, garlic, almonds and vinegar along with the tomatoes, you’ll find that lots of other ingredients can be added too, including tropical fruit. In fact, one of the most traditional versions uses watermelon in its recipe.