After all of our teary goodbyes we bid our family goodbye at Malaga international and hopped on the Renfe train to Malaga Alameda Centro Station (1.60€). This quick and nifty train leaves from Terminal 3 and drops you not in the heart of the old quarter but about 20 minutes away.
It was a beautiful sunny day so we opted to walk it, though with Thalia and gear it was a bit of a hike with many hills and a few wrong turns as Siri got her bearings in the windey streets.
Arriving at Malaga Alameda Central Station is at first glimpse not Malaga's best side. Malaga's River Guadalmedina is mostly dried up and is now a swamp
bed of sorts with graffiti tags lining the walls.
However a short walk on and the city evolves into a beautiful seaside city where old meets new in the most fantastic and fun way.
Malaga has had a reputation in Spain as being a grungy port town but thanks to a 100 million Euro investment in building restoration and tourism infrastructure over the last 10 years and incredibly sweet and friendly locals Malaga became one of our favourite cities in Spain.
With its 3 km ocean boardwalk full of cool cafes, beaches and playgrounds for the kids, a chic harbour, and bustling old quarter complete with Alcazaba (Moor Fort) and Roman Theatre, Malaga is a treat for all.
And if that isn't enough, the Pompidou Center, Picasso Museum (he was born and lived here until age 10) and Fashion and Car Museum will definitely impress.
And being here at Christmas we had the added bonus of witnessing the citiy's new investment from Illumanacion Ximenez, a Spanish lighting company from Córdoba who is responsible for providing Christmas lights from New York
to Tokyo. The Municipality hired this lighting company to design lighting for the holiday season and it did not disappoint! The streets are lit up with literal tunnels of lights and an array of different shapes and artistic designs.
Malaga is magic because it blends what you expect and don't expect in perfect harmony.
We stayed 6 nights so had ample opportunity to really take in its soul and left feeling like we may have stumbled upon Spain's most underrated city.
Additionally, we had an extra good time as we met up with my aunt, uncle and cousin from The Netherlands for a reunion which meant they could meet Thalia for the first time!
She took to them instantly! They stayed in Malaga with us for the first 3 days of our stay and good
times were had!
Here is what we did and recommend:
1) The Alcazaba
This walled fortress created by the Hammudid Moor dynasty in the 11th centuries is an unrivalled fort both for how well intact it is and how impenetrable it was. It has two outer walls, one higher up on a hill where the palace and many gardens are and one is lower at the base. It's numerous towers and its altitude are main reasons it was such an impressive stronghold. It was difficult to sneak up on this dynasty!
Though it wasn't as impressive as some others in Spain in terms of its aesthetics. The fact that the original fortress exists is incredible and walking through its winding citadel passages from serene garden to garden and admiring its numerous towers is an amazing experience and lends to why it took Isabel and Ferdinand longer to conquer this Moor stronghold than any other in Spain. It finally fell in 1487. It's easy to access as its in the old quarter on the way to the seafront. You can't miss it as the Roman Theatre rests directly in front of it.
It's 8€ but free on Sunday. Walk up the hill for great views of the city and sea.
2) The Automobile and Fashion Museum
This museum gets rave reviews on TA and honestly even with this I was still quite unsure about it as it felt like a strange combination for an exhibition and seemed to not fit with our theme of site seeing in Spain. But this is precisely why it was so great!
This private collection is run by an artist who very historically and artistically walks you through the eras of fashion and how the invention of the car became like an extra fashion accessory.
Let me be clear, even if you don't have any strong interest in either fashion or cars, this museum manipulates the sense of vision so well with its impressive cars and fashion collection that it was a highlight.
Take the 16 bus from Alemeda (right by the McDonalds). It's €10 entry per person. No free entry days.
3) The Picassso Museum
This museum opened in 2003 in a renovated palace and the 89,000 sq ft houses a large number of paintings and sketches donated by Picasso's daughter in law and grandson. And though this cubist legend moved away at the age of 10 the residents here feel ownership of this great talent and have an impressive collection (though not his most famous works). It is a nice sized collection that won't give you art burn out after finishing. Plan about 2 hours to wander and enjoy.
It's 9€ per person. Museum is free after 4:00 pm but expect long lines at this time even in low season.
4) The Pompidou Center
This sister Center to the one in Paris
is hard to miss when walking the harbour front.
El Cubo (the cube) shaped structure that houses works from the orgiinal Center in Paris as well as a superb temporary exhibit is a treat to visit (fun a little bizarre and thought provoking, a good mix with contemporary art).
It also has a children's area where kids of all ages including as young as Thalia (11 months) can explore art through designs, colours and shape play areas.
It's 15€ to enter and is located on the harbour front.
You can't miss the muti-coloured cube rising to the clouds off the water.
5) The Puerto Malaga and Beach
Another one of Malaga's investments was its harbour where an art nouveau boardwalk was built with a bike path to boot.
There is a family friendly outdoor amphitheater with a bar, local art displays and DJ's spinning day and night on the weekends. The "canas" (beers) are affordable (1.50€) and you can dance on the waterfront while watching the city stroll along the boardwalk.
We enjoyed this areas immensely as it allowed us to enjoy beer and tapas while allowing Thalia to enjoy playing with other kids.
Further down the boardwalk and bike path are many more bars, cafes and fancier restaurants that offer everything from traditional Spanish eats to Indian food.
There is a fun and clean "art playground" for kids beside the Pompidou Center where we enjoyed a beer while gazing at the sea and watching hand holding roller bladers zip by.
It is delightful place to spend half a day or more with baby. If you head under the pedestrian walkway you will hit new
Malaga where the boardwalk continues parallel to Paseo de la Farola. This stretch is lined with Malaga's great city beaches that also have numerous play areas that cater to children 3 and up.
You can also enjoy the waterfront residences and cafes that dot the walkway.
In total we spent a whole day wandering the harbour and boardwalk while fitting in beer and tapa breaks for us and baby! Highly recommend!
6) The Old Quarter
The old quarter in Malaga is comparable to many of the old quarters in Spain's south. Though some of the buildings are not as restored as those of Sevilla or Barcelona what it lacks in polish it more than makes up for in authenticity and the pleasant lack of tacky tourist shops.
Starting at the Roman Theatre and walking North you can get lost but never really lost in this spectacular labyrinth of romantic and twisting streets. Around every corner lies a warm cup of cafe con leche or a hot chocolate and churros and beer and tapas won't abandon you anywhere. Additionally the old quarter is lined with local artist shops selling everything from paintings to organic T-shirts.
And if bigger names are your thing, Calle Marques de Larios is a pedestrian splender of shopping and people watching. This street is not to be missed at Christmas as the most magnificent of light displays hovers above your every step!
Tip: check out Mercado Merced in the old quarter. This indoor food and drink market is baby friendly and offers all kinds of Spanish delights for a reasonable price.
Malaga's locals are incredibley friendly and welcoming and its under the radar identity make this small city a charmer particularly in the winter months when temps of 20 C are common.
With its drive to attract travellers creating a plethora of attractions and a fun laid back coastal vibe. Malaga was high on our list for baby friendly cities to take a load off and unwind.