City break: Malaga is not only easy to reach, it offers the visitor some unexpected delights, finds PAUL KIDDIE
For millions of holidaymakers, Malaga has long been regarded as the gateway to the Costa del Sol. A short flight from the UK, sunseekers will hardly give Picasso’s birthplace a second thought as they head off to the various tourist resorts along the sunshine coast. No sooner do holidaymakers arrive in the south of Spain than they are boarding their coaches or programming their rental cars’ GPS systems for the likes of Torremolinos, Benalmadena, Marbella and Estepona. But just a 15-minute taxi ride from the airport, Malaga City is deserving of a visit in its own right.
With the family all vaccinated and Covid travel restrictions thankfully easing, we decided the opportunity to escape from a chilly Scotland to spend a few days in one of Europe’s oldest cities was too tempting to ignore.
With airlines and hotels offering great deals as they try to bounce back from the effects of the pandemic, a four-night stay was easy on the pocket.
Compared to previous years, more preparation was required with the completion of the Spanish health control and passenger locator forms but this was just a minor inconvenience in the whole scheme of things. Not so pleasing was the long queue at passport control which greeted us at the other end in Malaga. Snaking lines of people is not what you want to see when you’re desperate to get outside to enjoy fresh air and pleasant sunshine. We were through in around 45 minutes but I shudder to think what the summer months might be like if tourism is in full flow.
From the frustrations at the airport we headed to the calm of the city which is easily explored on foot, with a warren of narrow cobbled streets. The imposing Cathedral dominates the skyline, and the tour up to the roof offers stunning views across a city bigger than Edinburgh with a population of nearly 600,000.
If you’re feeling energetic, a steep climb up to the Castle of Gibralfaro is not to be missed. The hilltop site has been an area of fortifications since the Phoenicians founded Málaga around 770 BC. At nearly 500 feet above sea level, the views across the port to the shimmering Mediterranean are something to behold.
It was also encouraging to see some cruise ships docked, hopefully more evidence of life being breathed back into tourism.
Although the port area is currently undergoing a multi-million-pound upgrade, it is still a magnet for locals and tourists alike with an array of bars and restaurants lining the promenade. It promises to be something special once complete.
Running alongside the harbour is the Paseo del Parque, a delightful botanical garden dating back to 1897 while the beach at Malaga is one of the best on a coast renowned for sun-worshipping. Although it was too early in the season for all the beachfront cafes and ‘chiringuitos’ to be open, there was enough happening to provide a sense of the buzz which awaits the summer visitors.
With numerous museums, ancient monuments, and an endless selection of tapas bars and restaurants in animated squares, Malaga has something for everyone.
It had been on the ‘to do’ list for a few years and ranks right up there with other city breaks we have enjoyed such as Prague, Krakow and Amsterdam. We never saw a cloud during our time there, the mercury hovering around the 22C every day – perfect weather for a bit of exploring.
The only other hiccup on the trip was a near one-hour wait for our luggage on arrival back at Edinburgh Airport. The delay was all the more frustrating given the speed at which we had progressed through passport control – and at no stage were we asked to show proof of vaccination status.
It does seem that in the current climate, delays will be an inevitable part of post-pandemic holidays. But pack some patience with those travel essentials and you’ll have a fine time.