Vacation Gem: Málaga, Spain
Málaga is one of Spain's absolute gems! A historic coastal town in the south of Spain, Málaga shines with stunning beaches, incredible food, art and architecture galore. Take a quick three hour train ride from Madrid and spend time in this idyllic city.
Where to Stay in Málaga:
If you're going to be walking everywhere, staying in a central location is key. Anywhere within the historic center will put you in the heart of Málaga's attractions while being only a 15minute walk from the nearest beach.
Things to See:
Castillo de Gibralfaro aka the Gibralfaro Castle
This is not the typical castle you may be thinking of, but rather a fortress designed to house troops and protect the Alcazaba. This impressive structure was built in the 14th century on top of a hill overlooking the city, and the walls provide the perfect view into modern-day Málaga and the sea. With an information center in Spanish and English, rich history and plenty of artifacts, you can take advantage of Málaga's beautiful coastal weather as you explore.
The Alcazaba the Castillo de Gibralfaro was built to protect! You can purchase combined tickets to both these attractions and save a few euro. Since they are connected, it makes sense to spend a few extra dollars and see the whole thing rather than piece your journey together. This sprawling stone designs and intricate details clearly show that this urban fortress is a great example of the Hispanic-Arabic period. Built in the 11th century, this is one of the most beautifully detailed outdoor spaces I've seen; the quality of the preservation alone is a sight to behold.
I wish they let us take pictures once inside because it is beautiful, but being a space of total relaxation, I can understand why cameras/phones are a no-go. Going to a Hammam Bath is a MUST. There are a handful of them in Spain that I saw, but the linked website is for the one I went to in Málaga and it was divine. With multiple temperatures and rooms of baths, a sauna, hot stones, delicious tea, and a massage included: this is a highlight of my recent Spain trip. My one regret is not booking a longer massage as it was seriously one of the best massage experiences I've had.
Tip: wear an older, faded bathing suit as you will be relaxing in baths for an hour and a half, so if you wear a new suit it will probably see some chlorine color change.
When you search for Málaga, Picasso of course comes up! There are a few Picasso related museums and tours you can do, but the Museo de Picasso Málaga gives you a bit of everything! Don't be intimidated by the line for tickets going down the street, it moves fairly quickly as the ticket counter is just inside. They have guided audio tours that take you through the years of his life and work, painting a picture of his inspiration in each of the different periods of his art. A stand out for me was underneath the museum itself. There is a bonus architectural dig, exposing the ruins of previous civilizations connected to the audio guide as well; truly a city of history!
Everything around you in the historic center is worth seeing. You could wander for DAYS exploring new bakeries and seeing stunning buildings. Get lost in the food, eating fabulous paella, bocadillo de jamón Iberico (I became obsessed with this sandwich and ate one every day) and fresh churros on almost every street. On our way from the historic center to the beach, we passed by the most beautiful ancient churches, little restaurants and yes, of course lots of tourist traps. You certainly won't be bored spending a day exploring the historic center itself.