Located in the heart of the Costa del Sol, Malaga is Andalucia’s second largest city after Seville is a city that many visitors just pass by, using it only for its airport. It is however is a very Spanish port city, located on the Mediterranean dominated by wide tree lined boulevards, beautiful gardens, fashionable shops and great bars all overlooked by two fortresses, the Alcazaba and the Castillo de Gibralfaro.
The city was originally founded (the known as Malaka) around 770 B.C. by the Phoenicians, modern Lebanon and Syria, and eventually became part of the Roman Empire. During this time its Roman theatre was built, which today is being excavated. The arrival of the Moors saw its importance increase as it became the main port for the Kingdom of Granada.
The defeat of the Moors to Christian forces on the 18th August 1487 saw the city fall with almost the entire population sold into the slave trade or given as “gifts “ to other Christian rulers. This started a slow and steady decline as the link with the Arab world was severed.
Almost The 19th century saw the towns prosperity return, this time based upon the local sweet “Malaga Wine” which was one of Europe’s most popular drinks at the time until the phylloxera outbreak in 1876 ravaged the areas vineyards.
The city suffered in the Spanish Civil War as it was the base of the Spanish Republican Navy. The city was bombed by the Italians who were supporting the Franco lead Nationalists with the city eventually being taken in 1937 after more than 7000 had lost their lives. These events where recorded by the British writer Arthur Koestler, he was captured during the battle, and formed the material for his book “Spanish Testament” in which the first chapters describe the battle.
With its approach road lined with the ruins of a Roman theatre and a fortified gateways, the Alcazaba is impressive before you even get there. The final gateway, Christ’s Door (Puerta de Christo), was where the first mass was celebrated upon the re-conquest in 1497. Inside there is the Moorish Garden which leads to the ramparts for spectacular views of the harbor.
The former palace is today an archeological museum displaying artifacts dating from the Prehistoric era until the Middle ages with specific galleries dedicated to Roman Art and Arabic Art.
Castillo de Gibralfaro
Situated above the Alcazaba, the Castillo de Gibralfaro is older having being built in the 8th century by Abd ar-Rahman I the then Emir of Cordoba. Although little remains of the interior the, even though it was rebuilt in the 14th and 15th centuries, the views over the city and harbor are breathtaking.
Locally known as “La Manquita” (The one-armed) because one of its towers, the South one, remains unfinished (stopped in 1765 due to lack of funds) the Catedral de Malaga is built on the former sight of the main mosque. Begun in the 1528 to the design of Diego de Siloé, the building as it stands today took more than 300 years to build and as a consequence includes many styles from its Baroque façade to its Gothic and Renaissance interior.
Worth a look are the 17th century wooden choir stalls expertly carved by Pedro de Mena, a local Andalusian sculptor.
Picasso’s Birthplace (Casa Natal de Picasso)
Built in the 15th century the first floor of this house is devoted to the museum with works by Picasso as well as other modern artists.