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Budget Traveller's Guide to Malaga, Spain

Málaga is a port city in the southern Costa del Sol region of Spain and is often overlooked by travellers heading to the flashier cities of Andalusia. It is one of the oldest cities in Europe and has been a vital part of the region's success over its history. As a city undergoing regeneration, it's a fabulous city for budget travellers to explore.

Málaga is a perfect blend of old and modern, with trendy bars and markets neighbouring Gothic Cathedrals, stunning Arabic architecture, an 11th-century castle, Roman ruins and modern beach promenades. There is plenty for all to enjoy: art, culture, history, beauty, and an amazing food scene.

The city was originally named Malaka by the Phoenicians who created a prosperous commercial area. When the Muslims invaded in the 8th century they put their imprint on the city as it became part of Granada's Nasrid Kingdom and an even more important centre of commerce and culture.

During the 19th Century, iron, steel, and wine production became the most important industries but suffered economic challenges in the first half of the 20th Century until locals began to rapidly develop the tourism industry. Today, tourism is a vital part of the local economy.

Hostal Vidamia

As a budget traveller, staying in the historic centre of a city is often a good choice. Old cities tend to be walkable and are usually well-served by public transportation. I'm quite fond of private rooms in hostels. Mady and I did our usual dive into checking amenities, location, and reviews and chose Hostal Vidamia as our base for our time in the city.

The hostel offered several options for private rooms with ensuite bathrooms. The rooms were comfortable and pleasantly decorated. Vidamia has a common TV lounge and dining area. Breakfast was included.

The location in the historic center worked well for us. It was less than 10 minutes walk from our digs to the must-see items on our list: the Catedral, Picasso Museum, and the Alcazaba.

Old City

Malaga is a city of charming sidewalk cafes, grand historic plazas and fascinating architecture. The creative community has been drawn to this area for centuries. Reminders of Picasso are common here in his birthplace. Huge murals, mosaic floors, and street art are common sights.

Catédral de Málaga

The Cathedral of Málaga is located right in the centre of the historic area and can be seen from all directions. Construction began in 1528 on top of the former Mosque of Málaga and took more than 200 years. Because of the time it took to build, it is built in two distinctly different styles. It remains unfinished today. Locally known as La Manquita (one-armed lady), it is the second largest cathedral in Southern Spain.

The Cathedral is open to visitors weekdays and Saturdays at 10:00, closing at 18:30 on weekdays and 18:00 on Saturdays. To accommodate religious services, the cathedral delays visitors until 14:00. An adult ticket that includes a visit to the roof costs €12. It costs nothing to attend services on Sunday mornings.

Picasso Museum

We have discovered as we travel we are learning more and more about art and artists. Málaga was the birthplace of Pablo Picasso and is the perfect location to learn about Picasso's life and work. Prior to this trip, I have to admit I really didn't know how to view Picasso's works but after a trip to the Museo Picasso Málaga, I really gained an appreciation and understanding.

The Museo Picasso Malaga showcases over 250 works of art donated by the Picasso family. It is housed in a former 16th century palace, on the same street where young Pablo attended school. The audio guide is excellent and full of interesting information.

The Museum is open daily from 10:00 to 19:00 and admission is a bargain at only €8.00. If visiting in high season, you may want to book your tickets in advance.

Málaga Museum The Museo de Málaga is another outstanding Spanish museum and a true bargain -- it is free for EU citizens and only €1.50 for non-citizens. This museum is the result of the amalgamation of two former museums and continues to divide its exhibition into two separate sections: The Museum of Fine Arts and the provincial Archaeological Museum.

The museum is closed on Mondays but is open from 09:00 - 21:00 Tuesday to Saturday, and from 09:00 to 15:00 on Sundays. Winter hours (mid-September to mid-June) are slightly shorter.

Pompidou Centre

The first Pompidou Centre outside of France is in Malaga. After being established in 2015, it was originally intended to be in place for only 5 years but has been extended until 2025. The colourful cube structure is a stunning building that has ever-changing and unusual exhibitions. There are many interactive, avant-garde multi-media and multi-disciplinary exhibits and it is a fascinating visit for everyone.

Alcazaba The Málaga Alcazaba is a stunning 11th Century Moorish fortress located in the heart of the city intended to be both a residence for local leaders and a defensive structure. Built in the 11th century by the Hammudid dynasty using materials from the nearby Roman Theatre, the Alcazaba is a testament to the rich history and cultural heritage of the region.

The fortress was later expanded and renovated by the Nasrid dynasty, who added many of the beautiful architectural features that can still be seen today. Unlike the Alhambra Alcazaba in Granada, which is often the first fortress that comes to mind when thinking of Andalusian castles and palaces, the Alcazaba in Malaga is lesser known but no less impressive.

The Málaga Alcazaba is strategically built on the Gibralfaro mountain on top of Phoenician ruins. Experts believe that it was orginally at least twice as large as it is today.

The Alcazaba opens daily at 09:00, with last entry at 19:30. Entry tickets can be purchased for visiting the Alcazaba (€3.50) or combined tickets (€5.50) that include entry to Gibralfaro Castle are also available. Gardens

Don't miss the lush gardens of the Alcazaba. We enjoyed strolling through the gardens which felt fresh and cool in the heat of the summer sun. There are many benches scattered strategically, allowing an opportunity to sit and relax while admiring the flowers and fountains.

Castillo de Gilbralfaro

Next to the Alcazaba is another must-see historical site, the 14th century Gibralfaro Castle, offering breathtaking views of the city and the Mediterranean Sea. It is a bit of tough hike but the views from the ramparts make it all worthwhile.

The Castle is most well-known for protecting the citizens during a 3-month siege that took place here when the Christian Spanish forces attacked the city, determined to flush the Moors. After the fall of Málaga, the Emirate of Granada surrendered, ending the period of Moorish occupation of Spain.