When I sat down to a plate of mixed seafood (calamares fritos, sardines and various unidentified tentacled things) in Plaza del Obispo, the beautiful cathedral I had been photographing was still illuminated by the last rays of the setting sun. By the time I was sipping my café doble, it was equally attractive as the floodlights illuminated it against a deep blue evening sky, so I made a note to come back with my tripod the next evening, having just been for a short evening stroll past the port to the beach and back on my arrival in Málaga.
I have flown to Málaga airport on numerous occasions, but this was my first visit to the city itself, and I have to say I immediately liked the place. I was certainly more impressed than my taxi driver, who was mortified to be getting a fare just to Málaga, rather than halfway along the coast toward Gibraltar! He checked several time that I meant Málaga (I’m sure there are other Hoteles Sur on the Costa del Sol to choose from) but I insisted, and presently arrived at the correct Hotel Sur near the port and centre of town. After my walk I think I could understand his surprise, as I had heard very few foreign voices along the way – just two groups of German speakers perambulating by the lighthouse – everyone else appeared to be local, which was nice as I felt like I was really in Spain for a change – rather than a really hot version of Blackpool. So, having whetted my appetite, I was looking forward to spending a full day exploring the city.
I awoke fairly early to discover that (despite a weather forecast before leaving the UK for five days of sunshine and temperatures in the mid thirties) it was in fact cloudy. It was as well I hadn’t pushed the boat out and got up for sunrise, not having discovered a suitable subject to photograph at such an hour the previous evening. So, I set out along Larios, the main shopping street toward Plaza de la Constitución in search of breakfast. Larios is busy at this time of day with locals sitting sipping café con leche and reading El Pais as the shops begin to open. The street has huge sunshades draped between the buildings along its whole length to give it an almost indoor feel, but light and airy. I’m sure they’re more functional under the blazing sun, but in these conditions they were rendered completely ornamental, and a nice job they did too. After breakfast the sun began to break through, so I headed off to the cathedral for a closer look, but declined the charge to go in and carried on to the city hall and nearby gardens, just below the Alcazaba, with its avenues of lime trees.
From here it was a slog up the hill to the Castllio del Gibralfaro, an impressive fortress dating back to the 15th century overlooking Málaga, with fine views on a clear day. I say ‘on a clear day’ because, as I reached the top a sea mist rolled in and obscured just about everything. It occurred to me that I could have had the same experience by catching a train to Scarborough and climbing Castle Hill, without all of the fuss of airport check-in. There was even a canon greeting me when I entered the fortress, reminding me of those trips to the Yorkshire Coast as a child. Nevertheless, a stroll around the ramparts was still fun, the little museum was interesting (Spanish only, but there’s an English leaflet to be had at the entrance) and there was a nice little restaurant for a café con leche before the somewhat easier stroll back down the hill (spotting the no. 35 bus which could have saved me the climb earlier).
Back down at sea level it was still murky, but warm and the sun was occasionally breaking through to cast shadows, so I headed to the Playa de la Malagueta, the nearest beach to the city and find another café for lunch. I found a pleasant spot which boasted an old rowing boat, apparently filled with sand, on which was placed a wood fire, which was subsequently used to cook the sardines I ordered. (This all seemed a novelty to me at the time, but it turned out to be very common along the coast here with such rowing boats every few hundred metres along the shore). The sardines proved to be splendid, barbecued to perfection and served with a wedge of lemon. After lunch the sun had burnt off the remaining mist leaving a beautiful clear blue sky, so it was getting mighty hot. Too hot for pounding pavements, that was for sure, and the sun was high anyway and Málaga looked a little washed out photographically speaking, so a quick dip in the sea was in order. I’m not sure how wise this is close to the port, but all the locals seemed to be doing it, so I guess it’s OK. And it was only a quick dip anyway, as the sea turned out to be frighteningly cold, so cooling off didn’t take very long!
By early evening the sun was down to a lower angle and the light on the buildings in the historic old town was delightful, so I spent more time around the cathedral and wandered through lots of narrow alleyways which turned up a multitude of very picturesque churches crammed between very tall buildings making them well nigh impossible to photograph, and the Picasso Museum, which was surrounded by tourists photographing each other (well it had to happen sooner or later). I finally arrived at the Alcazaba (which I had passed by on the way up to the Castillo earlier) to find that it had just closed, so I just had a look around the Teatro Romano instead, which looked lovely in late evening light below the Alcazaba walls. By this time I was exhausted, so the only remaining task is to find a nice spot to sit out for a bite to eat. After wandering aimlessly for about half an hour, I ended up back at the place where I had had breakfast in the lively Plaza de la Constitución. Fortunately this was close enough to the cathedral for me to return complete with tripod to get some floodlit shots after dinner, capping off my visit very nicely.
The next morning I was planning to move on to Granada, the main subject of my trip, but I had been pleasantly surprised by Málaga and its wealth of history and photographic opportunities.
Málaga is the second largest city in Andalucía and sits amongst the resorts of the Costa del Sol in the south of Spain.
Getting There and Around
Pablo Ruiz Picasso Málaga International Airport is one of the busiest airports in Spain and is the main international airport for Andalucía. The airport is 9km southwest of the city, so a taxi is a reasonable option into town (just make sure you have the address of your destination to hand and that your driver doesn’t whisk you off to Marbella!). A City Bus also departs from outside the arrivals hall. The city centre is easily walkable, and the main bus station is 1km west of the centre with frequent services along the coast and inland.
What to Shoot and Gear to Pack
City life, the beautiful cathedral and old town, the imposing Alcazaba fortress and Castillo de Gibralfaro. Pack your camera gear into an airline friendly rucksack, if you can – a body and two or three zooms for decent coverage should suffice. A tripod is essential for night shots.