Málaga and surroundings
The municipality of Málaga is situated between the Mountains of Málaga and the Guadalhorce Valley. The city centre is located at the centre of a bay, surrounded by mountains. The rivers Guadalmedina and Guadalhorce run through this area and out into the Mediterranean sea.
Málaga is the sixth largest province in Spain and, with a population of almost 600,000, the second largest in the region of Andalusia. It is also the most densely populated area of the zone along with the surrounding villages. The province of Málaga includes many towns and villages spread out along its 160 kilometres coastline, known as the `Costa del Sol´. The city of Málaga is the centre of a metropolitan area, which includes 12 municipalities with an estimated 850,000 inhabitants in total. Some sources, however, estimate that over a million people live in the city of Málaga and its metropolitan area.
Phoenician and Punic archeological sites from the VII century have been found in Málaga. It was a Roman municipality and during the Moorish era became the capital of a small independent kingdom. After a period of economic difficulties, in the XVIII century Málaga became a prosperous city due to its foundry works. At one time it was the second largest producer of iron at a national level, whilst the port was the departure point for enormous amounts of raisins and wine, both produced in the province. However, following a further recession at the end of the XIX century, (caused by loss of industrial competitiveness and the collapse of the wine industry), Málaga turned its sights on the tourism industry. Since the 1960s, it has been an international tourist destination and the centre of one of the most thriving regions in southern Spain.
A tour of Málaga
Málaga has been the home of many great civilisations, including Phoenician, Roman, Punic, Muslim and Christian, all of whom have left their mark on the buildings, architecture and layout of the city. The most historic and emblematic buildings are all within a short distance on foot from each other. Places commemorating historical moments in the history of Málaga and its past inhabitants, also within easy reach.
A tour of the most interesting sites in Málaga would perhaps begin at the gates of the Jardines de Pedro Luis Alonso. Next to the gardens there are three emblematic buildings: the City Hall, the head office of the Banco de España (Bank of Spain) and the Malaga University Vice-Chancellor’s office, (former main Post Office building). Málaga City Hall was inaugurated in April 1919, not only as a consistory, but also to serve as the seat of the Provincial High Court and the Court of the First Instance. This magnificent building is situated on one of the main roads of the city and is perfectly integrated into the surrounding area, adding in itself a decorative note. The elegant decoration adorning the outside of the Hall, together with the opulence of the rooms and salons inside, transmit value and prestige to the zone.
Adjacent to the the City Hall is the Banco de España. This Neoclassic building was designed by the architect José Yamoz between 1933-1936. It consists of three floors with an important hexastyle entrance adorned with Corinthian columns, and is in perfect keeping with the image of stability the head office of a bank symbolises.
Passing in front of the Customs building and walking up Alcazabilla street, the mix of cultures that has forged the character of Málaga is immediately evident. In an area ofless than 100 metres there are the remains of three great cultures: the Romans are represented by the Roman theatre; the Muslims by, for example, the Alcazaba; whilst the Christians have their representative in the building which houses the religious Brotherhood of Students and the Sepulchre. Finally, the contemporary era is represented by the Picasso Museum.
The Alcazaba of Málaga was a palace fortress for the Muslim governors of the day. It was built mostly in the XI century and is one of Málaga’s most emblematic buildings.
The Roman theatre was built at the foot of the Alcazaba and was discovered in 1951 when work was being undertaken to create a garden at the entrance to the Casa de la Cultura. The theatre was built in the era of Augustus and was used until the III century. Years later the Arabs used the materiales they found there, such as capitals and the shafts of Roman columns, to reconstruct the Alcazaba. Nowadays, visitors can see the gallery leading to the stage, which had previously been covered by a barrel vault. Also visible is part of the orchestra area, the three terraces for spectators, measuring 31 metres wide by 16 metres high, and the entrance to the terraces.
At the end of Alcazabilla street is the Plaza de Merced, where Málaga’s most universal citizen, Pablo Picasso was born. In the middle of the square is an obelisk dedicated to General Torrijos and at one side of the square is the birthplace of Picasso, now housing the Picasso Foundation. In the XV century the square was the site of the public market, transforming itself around the end of the XIX century into a place where the wealthier members of society would wile away their leisure time.
The sound of the church bells and the beauty of the square, bustling with the comings and goings of some very colourful people, all combined to influence the artist and these impressions finds their way into his works. People of all types milled around the monolith in the centre of the leafy square, including goatherds selling goats, sweet and flower sellers, guitarists, servants and soldiers. The monolith was erected in 1842 in homage to General Torrijos, whose motto of justice and liberty was ever present in the life of the young Picasso.
The Picasso Museum (Museo de Picasso) is at the bottom of a twisting Moorish street called calle Granada. This museum is one of six in Spain dedicated to the works of Picasso and one of the two museums to be found in his hometown: the other being the Picasso Foundation and Birthplace.The idea for this museum originated in 1953 from the contact maintained between Pablo Picasso and Juan Temboury, Provincial Delegate for Fine Arts in Malaga, although the plans never reached fruition. Christine Ruiz-Picasso, widow of the artist’s eldest son Paul Ruiz-Picasso, then renewed contact with Malaga during the exhibition of Picasso’s work in 1992 entitled ‘ Picasso clasico’ (Classic Picasso) and in 1994 with another exhibition entitled, ‘ Picasso, primera mirada’ (Picasso, first glance). The Picasso Museum houses 285 of his innovative works and includes examples of the wide variety of styles, materials and techniques of which he was master. These works range from his first technical pieces to his vision of classicism, taking in also his cubist period, ceramic works, his interpretation of the great masters and his last paintings done in the 70s.
On leaving the museum, the only unfinished tower of the cathedral comes into view, with the Bishop’s Palace next to it. The cathedral was built over three centuries on the site of the Grand Mosque, which had previously stood there during the 800-year Muslim reign. The cathedral’s facade and south tower are still unfinished; something which has given the building a character all of its own and which has earned it the nickname ‘The Stump’. Inside the cathedral the choir area contains 42 sculptures by Pedro de Mena, and the two magnificent organs have over 4,000 tubes, being a rare example of a XVIII century organ still in good use. It also houses a museum.
The origin of the Plaza del Obispo (Bishop’s Square) possibly dates as far back as the Muslim era, although it gained its present aspect with the finishing of the main facade of the cathedral and the Episcopal Palace in the XVIII century. The square was reformed in the last decade of the XX century and some of its buildings also renovated, such as the old buildings of Diego Clavero and Jeronimo Cueva. These renovations unearthed the remains of a late Roman and Byzantine wall. As a point of interest, the Plaza del Obispo, the Episcopal Palace and the cathedral appeared in the 2004 film ‘ El Puente de San Jorge’, (Saint George’s Bridge), as a XVIII century Peruvian colonial city.
Moving on from the Plaza del Obispo to the Plaza de la Constitución, (Constitution Square), you reach the sentimental and historic heart of Malaga. It was given this name after first being called the Main Square, or Four Streets Square, by the Nazaris. Since Christian times this has been the main focal point of the city and, from the end of the XV century up to the present day, has borne witness to all the most important political and historical events that have taken place in contemporary Spain. Until 1869 it was the site of the City Hall, whilst also containing at one time the Casa de Corregidor, ( Judge’s House), a prison, courthouse and a Jesuit school.
From the most important square to the most important street, Marques de Larios street, so called in honour of Manuel Domingo Larios y Larios, second marquis of Larios, a textile baron in Malaga during the XIX century. The street was renamed Calle 14 April with the proclaiming of the Second Republic in 1931 and the statue, erected in honour of the Marquis, was taken down and thrown to the sea. In its place a statue portraying a worker, who had once been at the feet of the Marquis, was put in its place. After the end of the Civil War, which brought victory to Franco, the street was given back its original name and the statue rescued from the sea and re-erected. It remains there to this day and is one of the most emblematic and well-known landmarks of the city.
Our tour ends in the Plaza de la Marina, (Marine Square). The port offers a historic entrance to the city. The Mediterranean Sea has always been a connecting point for different cultures and this link has made Malaga an open, cosmopolitan city where visitors are always made to feel welcome.
The best way to recharge batteries is to go to one of the oldest establishments in Málaga. The Bodega-Bar El Pimpi on Granada Street has been serving excellent wines both from Málaga and elsewhere, along with delicious tapas, for many years. The style of the bar is that of an early XX century wine cellar and it is here in El Pimpi, flanked by the Roman Theatre, the Alcazaba and the historic buildings of the centre, that the visitor will get an unforgettable taste of the city.
For further information, please visit Malaga tourism.