It is not surprising that Granada’s Alhambra and Seville’s Alcázar attract thousands of visitors every year. These beautifully restored Moorish palace-fortresses in Spain’s Andalusían region are simply enchanting. Yet, because of their overwhelming popularity, it is almost impossible to capture that perfect image of a caliphal arched window or a tranquil Moorish courtyard without a tourist walking aimlessly into shot. One either has to arrive at these heritage sites ten minutes before closing and avoid the merciless security personnel herding everyone out, or pay someone very handsomely indeed (apparently) to be allowed a visit outside opening hours to be sure no one spoils that desired Instagram photo. Or… there is a third way.
Not nearly as as grand but still rather impressive, is Málaga’s Alcazaba. Even though it has enough restored horseshoe arches and lush foliage to excite any visitor wishing to experience life as a Moor, the Alcazaba seems to be Andalucía’s best kept secret; even at the height of summer, one can wander around its grounds with relatively very little company. As a result, I took some rather pleasing photos and footage of Málaga’s Moorish palace without a pesky tourist in sight…. or in shot.
From the Alcazaba, one can carry on up the hill it sits upon, not just to enjoy the stunning views across the capital of the Costa del Sol…
…but to also visit the ramparts of Castillo de Gibralfaro. Originally an emir in the eighth century, it was rebuilt and remodelled in the fourteenth century and used as a lighthouse for the port and a military barracks. Little is left of either building, but the site is still worth visiting if only to enjoy even more spectacular views over the city.
The Catedral de Málaga was also originally built by the Moors and used as the city’s central mosque. When Christian rulers took over Málaga, the mosque was remodelled into a Christian place of worship. Reconstruction work began in the sixteenth century, but the architectural redesign was clearly too ambitious and expensive. After two hundred years of work, the funds finally ran out and the project was abandoned leaving the cathedral with only one completed bell tower. Even today, the foundations and columns of the second planned tower can be seen. Nevertheless, the incomplete cathedral is still incredibly beautiful both inside and out.
It is worth visiting the cathedral at different times of the day to capture its appearance in the changing light.
The Alcazaba, to the east of the Old Town, is open daily from 9am until sunset. The main entrance is by the Roman Amphitheatre and is clearly signposted across the Old Town. There is no need to book tickets in advance (in fact, I can not find a legitimate website to purchase them online unless purchasing a private tour), but bring plenty of change as tickets can only be purchased at the gate from ticket machines, and rarely is the ticket office manned to buy from a human being. It costs only a few Euros to enter the Alcazaba, and an extra Euro or two for a combined ticket to the Castillo (more details can be found on the Andalucia.com website here). There is an opportunity to buy a separate ticket to the Castillo at its entrance – again via ticket machines only – if bypassing the Alcazaba or having changed one’s mind after visiting the palace-fortress and wanting to see more. There are toilet facilities within the Alcazaba and Castillo, but I did not come across any catering services during my visit to both in 2016, so bring plenty of drinks and snacks.
The walk up the Mount of Gibralfaro from the Alcazaba to the Castillo is visually pleasant but can be physically exhausting, especially in the sweltering summer heat. Bus route 35 goes direct to the entrance of the Castillo from the city centre, approximately every forty minutes until the early evening. Click here for the line’s timetable and scheduled stops.
It is hard not to locate the city’s cathedral in the Old Town. There is a fee for entering the cathedral and further costs for tours and visits to the rooftop. More details can be found here.
The new El Caminito del Rey, Málaga … is this still the most dangerous pathway in the world?
Ceuta … the Spanish enclave that shares a border with mainland Africa and a mountain peak that has an amazing human face