Visiting malaga & Granada – Where to visit, Eat & Sleep

Last year we spent a week in Malaga and took a 48 hour road trip to Granada. I don’t know why it’s took me so long to write a blog post about our trip, as it was fantastic in every way and I can’t recommend the city of Malaga enough for a holiday. It has everything that, I personally, could certainly want from a city. A few friends who are visiting this year have asked for my recommendations and so this pushed me to write this post for them and anybody else that might be thinking of visiting this Andalusian city.

Malaga has a beautiful old city centre full of wonderful architecture, lots of museums and galleries, great and affordable food and a beach for that all important RnR.

This blog post will mainly focus on Malaga, as we only stayed overnight in Granada. But we did have a walk around the city, albeit in 42 degree heat, we visited the Alhambra Palace and we ate in a fantastic authentic established tapas bar, so I’ll share all that here with you too. Granada is easily accessed by public transport from Malaga and takes approx 2 hours. We took the bus which skirts the Sierra Nevada area of spain and so is a lovely scenic journey. You can also get the train and of course hire a car. The bus’s and trains are a couple of times a day and booking your tickets ahead of your trip is advisible and I’ll add a link below to how we booked ours.

Alsa bus’s run from malaga to Granada.

Stay.

So first things first where to stay in Malaga? I can’t recommend our hotel enough. H10 Croma Malaga was built in 2022, so everything was brand new & very stylish. Our bed in our room was the hugest bed I’ve ever slept in and so comfortable. The walk in shower and bathroom were beautifully designed and the balcony overlooking the city was a lovely place to sit after a day sight seeing, before going out for dinner. There was the added extra of a pool on the roof, which was small but adequate and just a lovely area to sit for an hour or two, have some lunch, or a drink, and relax. The only down side was that we were there in July, so the busy season, and there were only 10 sun longers for sunbathing, which we were never lucky enough to grab in time. In the evening there was often a DJ set and it was so nice to come back in after dinner in the city and relax on the roof with a drink and listen to some music. The breakfast was also fantastic. Around £20 per person but as much as you wanted to eat, all very well cooked and lots of choice.

The Tiled shaded balcony in a our room, with views over the city.

Walk.

The historic city centre is stunning. Plaza de la Constitution is surrounded by large colonial type old buildings, with weathered wooden shutters opening onto a large square,flanked by palm trees. Off this square run many charming pedestrian roads full of tapas bars and shops. You can spend hours wandering these streets.

You’ll find Malaga Cathedral or Catedral de la Encarnación de Málaga as it’s correctly known,in this historic area. I can’t show you in my photographs how huge and ostentatiously decorated it is. You will have to see it for yourself but it is magnificent.

Playa La Malagueta beach is a short walk from the historic centre and although it’s not the prettiest beach I’ve been to, it is worth a visit. Hire a sun lounger and umbrella for around 10 euros a day and watch the locals, drink some sangria and have lunch or dinner in one of the many Chiringuito’s lining the beach. I’ll recommend a couple under the eating section which specialise in seafood and sardines cooked on a lartge charcoal BBQ.

Image via Agoda.com

On the walk from the centre of the city to the beach, you’ll approach the port of Malaga. This is a pleasant place to walk as it’s been covered with a concrete canopy which is both necessary to shade you from the sun but also lovely to look at. Along the promenade there are many places to stop and eat and as you get nearer to the beach, there is a stage erected where there’ll often be bands playing live music and a permanant market selling crafts and clothes. There are also a selection of more modern type restaurants such as a branch of The Hard Rock cafe.

If you want to see some ancient history there are some roman ruins in Malaga. The Teatro Romano de Malaga are small but worth a look and the area around it has been paved and pedestrianised and you’ll find lots of upmarket restaurants and bars around here, including El Pimpi a famous restaurant now owned by actor Antonio Banderas who was born in Malaga.

Visit.

As Malaga is the birth place of Picasso, there are quite a few art galleries in the city.

As you might expect, there is a gallery dedicated entirely to the work Malaga’s most famous son.https://www.museopicassomalaga.org/en

You can also visit the birthplace of Picasso and his home which is on 3 floors and houses some of his early works and that of his fathers and ceramics, with a research library on the third floor.

As it would have been Picasso’s 100 year birthday in 2023 and there were lots of smaller exhibitions of his work in the city. We visited one at the bullring near to Malagueta beach.The photography exhibition consisted of Picasso and his friends, various wives and lovers at the bullring which opened in 1876 and which he frequented regularly. Many of his works feature bulls. Surprisingly, the bull ring is still open and active & If you are interested in the culture of bull fighting and matadors, there is a permanent exhibtion dedicated to this at La Malagueta Bullring, which was dedicated a historic artistic site in 1976. It’s definitely not something I’m interested in or condone although the photography exhibition was excellent.

The Carmen Thyssenn Museum features a permanent collection of historic art housed in a beautiful renaissance 16th Century building. There are a series of regular changing exhibitions of more modern art. Recent exhibitons at the time of writing include Man Ray photography and emerging modern art in Spain before the civil war in 1936.

If modern art is your thing, there is a small Pompidou centre down by the port of Malaga. This summer’s exhibition is Breton and surrealism.

After all that sight seeing, culture and food, you might just need to relax? Book yourself into The Hammam Al Ándalus. These hammam baths are built on the site of an ancient 16th Century Roman baths and for 1.5 hours you can emerse yourself into the waters and have a deep or relaxing massage. Booking ahead during the busy summer season is advisable.

Shop.

The shops around the historic centre are a mix of traditional and modern. You’ll find shops dedicated to just hats, amazing food shops where you can choose the finest Iberico hams, or some very cool clothes & shoe shops. One of my favourite brands sold in independant shops in the UK is Paloma Nice Things but as it’s a Spanish label, there is a store in Malaga and it’s much cheaper to buy there than in the UK. We also visited Mosaico vintage shop and found a few bargains. there are several other vintage clothes shops if that’s your thing. Peninsula and Flamingo Vintage Kilo are two more and there are department stores and shopping centres further from the centre. As an antique dealer, I also try and find the local antique shops. Malaga has a couple but the best one,Antigüedades Los Remedios, was closed on my visit, even though it was supposed to be open, so I think opening hours are a bit hit and miss with the dealers here?

Eat.

I can honestly say we never ate a bad meal in Malaga. I don’t think you can go wrong with the Tapas particularly as competition is so fierce, they are all excellent and so reasonably priced. But some of the best meals we ate are below. Booking is highly recommended as these are very popular with locals and visitors to the city.

El Pimpi is currently owned by actor Antonio Banderas although is a very old establishment. Serving traditional tapas with some very unusual dishes which I’ve never tried before, the restaurant is large and bustling. There is a large terrace for alfresco dining at the front and diners who haven’t pre booked can queue at the front of the restaurant and wait for a table. We had to do this as we hadn’t pre booked and we got a table quite quickly inside as there were only 2 of us.

El mason de crevantes is very unassuming from the outside but this very popular local restaurant is much bigger inside than expected and the food is amazing. defintely the best we had in the week we were there, which is a huge statement as everything we ate was good. More expensive than most other restaurants, around £100 for two, but worth it.

Casa Lola has 3 establishments very close to each other in Malaga. Always busy, very hard to get into unless pre booked but great and very reasonably priced food.

If you can’t book any of these restaurants, just walk around the historic centre and choose any of the busy tapas restaurants and you will be very happy with what you get served.

Mercado Central de Atarazanas is the food market on the outskirts of the old town, very close to the hotel we were staying in. If you aim to get there around 11.00am you’ll be just in time for lunch to start being cooked by the various stall holders. Grab a seat outside and order freshly cooked seafood with a beer or sangria or the huevos rancheros which I ordered one day and was delicious. You can literally eat here for around 10-15 euros each with drinks!

chiringuitos are beach side restaurants and there are lots of them in Malaga. One of the best on Malagueta beach is El Tintero where the waiters walk around with large trays of ready cooked food and you just put up your hand if you fancy the look of the dish. The dishes you’ve had are then written on the paper table cloth and that’s your bill to pay at the end of your meal! Simple and delicious.

For other popular chiringuitos in Malaga I’ve added a link below.

Granada

Granada is a beautiful city, only 2 hours on public transport from Malaga. We got the bus from Malaga central bus depot and booked it in advance through Alsa.

We booked a hotel very close to The Alhambra palace as we were only staying for one night, with the sole purpose of our trip to visit the palace. We stayed at Hotel casa Morisca. Hotels in Granada are very cheap compared to other cities and this was around £80 for the night for two of us. It was an old thick stone walled building, keeping it naturally cool, very traditional with an inner courtyard and surrounded by shops, restaurants and bars in the old quarter. The bus stop up to The Alhambra was a short walk in the morning and they run regularly up and down the hill to the palace.

When we arrived in Granada it was July and Spain was in the grip of a heat wave. So the 42 degree temperatures really stopped us exploring the city as much as we’d have liked to. We dropped our bags at the hotel, went into the city centre to get some lunch and then took the bus up to The Alhambra Palace.

The Palace is stunning and everything I imagined it would be, but due to the intense heat we didn’t really explore the gardens as much as I would have liked to. A word of warning if you’re visiting, security is intense! You have to take your passport and we must have been asked 7 times by security if they could look at it. You are allocated a time slot for your visit when you book and pre booking is essential, and if you’re late for your slot, you are refused entry. I know this as the group in front of us in the queue to go through the final security check were refused entry and left in tears. Be warned!

You can pre book your tickets for entry here

The view of Granada from The Alhambra Palace.

Saying all of that, it is the most stunning building with views over Granada and beyond and the cratsmanship in the detailed carving of the stone, which is the full script of the Quran, has to be seen to be believed.

After our visit to The Alhambra we changed for dinner and then went to one of the oldest tapas bars in Granada,Bodegas Castaneda, recommended by a friend. Out of season,when she was there, you’re given free tapas for every drink you have, if you stand at the bar. Obviously as we were there in July we couldn’t do that as it was packed to the gills, but we managed to get a table and ordered the mixed platter of tapas and with 3 drinks each, still only paid 45 euros! Highly recommended, full of atmosphere and fantastic food.

Our plan was to spend the rest of the second day in Granada exploring the city but as it was so hot we changed our plans and got the early 10.00am bus back to Malaga where it was slightly cooler due to it being by the coast. The roof top pool was never more welcome when we returned back to our hotel.

Image via H10 Croma Malaga

If you’re staying in Granada I would recommend taking in a Flamenco show in the evening. In the old part of the city you’ll find lots of booking offices for the shows. Granada is the home of Flamenco and is a serious art there. There is even a museum dedicated to it and the lifestyle of the gypsies that created it. https://sacromontegranada.com

I’d also recommend a visit to an amazing perfume shop we visited which was on the road leading to our hotel in the historic part of the city. This historic renaissance 16th Century palace is now home to a perfume distillery, patio de los Perfumes, where you can buy off the shelf blended scents or have your own created. You can also buy incense and oils to burn and really good facial oils. It’s a beautiful environment to shop and the scents are stunning. We are still burning the heady incense sticks and myrrh we bought there.

Image via patio de los Perfumes

So in a nutshell Malaga is a city I’ll definitely be revisiting. there is much to offer, it’s a short flight from the UK, prices are still very reasonable compared to many other European cities and there is a beach for an added mix of relaxation in with sight seeing.

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