Studying Spanish in Malaga – The Basic Guide to the City

What can I expect from Malaga as a city?

Exuberant, lively and contemporary, yet filled with history! That’s Malaga for you. The city positively pulses with modern Spanish city life in a setting of antique buildings and Moorish architecture.

Did you know that people from Malaga are referred to as “boquerones” (anchovies), both by other Spaniards and by the locals themselves? El boqueron is a fish typical to the area and you’ll find it served in various ways in Malaga’s restaurants and tapas bars, from boquerones al vinagre to fritura Malagueña. If you want to experience real Spain, Malaga is a great choice for Spanish language students.

 

A quick history lesson, plus some important buildings in Malaga

Have you heard of Malaga wine? If so, this is because the sweet desert wine became very fashionable in Britain during the age of Queen Victoria. It was one of the city’s popular exports during the 19th Century when Malaga was experiencing a new lease of life thanks to foreign visitors via the port of Granada. Whilst Malaga was originally founded as a commercial seaside town by the Phoenicians over 3000 years ago, the city truly bloomed in the Islamic era, from about 700 AD, until the Christians defeated the Moors in 1487.

To remind us of the Moorish period, the fortress of Alcazaba and the castle of Gibralfaro still stand tall guarding the city. Tours start at the Calle Alcazabilla, from where you walk through the numerous impressive Moorish gates of the fortress. Then it is a very long, hot climb up the hill to the Castillo de Gibralfaro, but it is totally worth it! From the castle walls you’ll see all of Malaga and the coast spread beneath you.

To testify to the banishment of the Moors and the beginning of the Christian reign in Spain, the Malaga Cathedral now stands on the spot where the city’s main mosque had been throughout the Muslim era. The cathedral’s building work was started in 1528, but continued all the way to the 18th Century.

Even today, the cathedral is still unfinished! The main façade and the south tower are incomplete. True to the Malagueño spirit, this has not bothered admirers of the cathedral: the missing parts have lead to the cathedral being affectionately called “La Manquita”, meaning “one armed”. Inside you’ll find over 40 sculptures and two stunning 18th Century organs that still work perfectly well, as well as the Cathedral Museum.

Returning to Malaga’s history much later, during the Spanish civil war from 1936 to 1939 Malaga first belonged to the Republicans. It fell to Franco’s nationalists in February 1937 after the Italians bombed the city. In the 1960’s and 70’s Malaga began its slow, painful recovery. Today’s Malaga has greatly changed its image from the poor Mediterranean city with high rise blocks and dilapidated facades. Although these features still exist, the town hall and the Andalusian local government have invested in various areas of the city and the improved infrastructure, pedestrianised areas and the city’s numerous businesses, restaurants, cafés and museums now attest to it being a joyful cultural hub.

 

Walking around Malaga

Set on the blue Mediterranean, Malaga has something for nearly every taste, from historic streets and plazas filled with important monuments, to leafy boulevards and the beachside Paseo Marítimo. The central areas include the Malaga Centro Alameda train station, named after the wide, tree lined central boulevard it is located on, the Alameda Principal.

Heading down the Alameda towards Malaga Port, on your left you’ll find the charming old, pedestrianised historic centre around the Plaza de la Constitución and Calle Marqués de Larios (known simply as Calle Larios). It is filled with tiny shops, teterías (Moorish tea houses), ice cream parlours and tapas bars all the way up to Plaza de la Merced where Picasso’s birth home is and all around the Picasso Museum and Malaga Cathedral area.

The old centre is also teaming with fabulous boutiques and high street stores that will please the most demanding of shopaholics. If you wonder back up the Alameda to Avenida Andalucia, you’ll also find an El Corte Inglés – this is Spain’s largest department store chain. Centro Comercial Larios, Malaga’s biggest in-city shopping centre, is located near the Malaga RENFE main train station, about a 20 minute walk from the historic centre. At the train station there is a smaller shopping centre called Vialia, complete with a Yelmo Cines multi-screen cinema.

If you just want to chill out, stroll along the beachfront, sunbathe or experience a colourful, happening beach scene in the summer and hang out in chiringuitos (restaurants on the beach), head to Malaga’s traditional fishing districts, El Palo or Pedregalejo. The latter is also where much of the city’s student accommodation is located.

 

The arts

If art gets you going, then the Pablo Picasso Museum on Calle San Agustín and, naturally, the Malaga-born Picasso’s home on Plaza de la Merced, are absolute must-sees! There is also a very well run museum of contemporary art, the CAC, on Calle Alemania.

It draws in some big-name exhibitions and you’ll find the likes of Andy Warhol on permanent display. For theatre enthusiasts, the Cervantes Theatre on Calle Ramos Marín offers an incredibly wide variety of plays, small operas, concerts and both traditional and contemporary dance for discerning audiences.

 

Tapas, seafood and much more

Malaga is also famous for its restaurants, tapas bars, cafés and Spanish versions of fast food joints – all of which you’ll find in ample numbers in every corner of the city. We’d recommend you start by visiting the El Pimpi bodega on Calle Granada. This wine tavern is almost an institution in Malaga and is excellent for wine tasting in a traditional Andalusian setting. Follow it by a visit to La Moraga on Plaza de la Malagueta 4 to sample Michelin star tapas.

Don’t forget to try the ingeniously presented porra in anchovy tins or the mouth wateringly tasty oxtail burgers. Should you want something different, Zenart offers designer sushi in a minimalist setting, overlooking the Alcazaba fortress. Marisqueria el Kaoba on Av. Salvador Allende 31 in the the old fishing village district of El Palo, is probably one of the most popular seafood restaurants in the city, which is why it’s a good idea to book ahead. For a great seafood meal and to practice your Spanish language skills, why not give them a call on (+34) 952 29 72 21? Una mesa para cuatro personas, por favor.

 

Getting Around

Walking

The Malaga city centre is small enough to walk around.

 

Málaga Main Bus Station

Paseo de los Tilos

Tel. (+34) 952 35 00 61

There is a 1.20 € flat bus fare for the Malaga urban area busses. Number 35 from the Alameda Principal will take you to the Gibralfaro castle. There is also a useful hop-on-hop-off Malaga Tour bus (www.malaga-tour.com), which stops at all the main points of interest, running every 30 minutes at 17 € for a day ticket.

 

Málaga-RENFE Main Train Station

Explanada de la Estación

Tel. (+34) 952 36 02 02

RENFE

The train is great for getting from Malaga Airport to the center of Malaga. Prices for local trains start from 1.70 € for a single one way ticket within one zone, but you can see the RENFE price and timetables for local Malaga trains to work out your ticket price and see the exact running times.

 

Ferry

Trasmediterránea

Calle del Puerto, Malaga Port

Tel. (+34) 952 06 12 18

Transmediterranea ferries operate a fast boat (4 hours) and a slower boat (7½ hours) every day, from Malaga to Melilla, all year round (55 – 139 €).

 

Flights

Málaga’s recently expanded airport, Tel. (+34) 952 04 88 38, offers a huge range of scheduled and charter flights to Malaga. See our in depth flight guides for UK-Spain and Europe-Spain for more information.

 

Taxis

These are plentiful. Malaga city taxis operate on a meter, but taxis for destinations outside the city have set prices for trips from one provincial town to the next. See the Andalucia.com taxi prices page, which is regularly updated with current price information.

 

Useful Contacts

Emergency services: Dial 112

Tourist Office: (+34) 952 122020, www.malagaturismo.com, Plaza de la Marina.

Other useful websites: www.visitcostadelsol.com; www.andalucia.com; www.andalucia.org

Foreign Consulates in the Malaga area: www.surinenglish.com/services/consulates

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