Malaga has a little bit of everything we are looking for in a Spanish city: easy access by train and plane, a historic city center, beautiful waterfront, fresh seafood, and Mediterranean weather with abundant sunshine. The Costa del Sol is known for its overbuilt touristy coastline, but Malaga city itself is still very Spanish.
Founded by the Phoenicians around 770 BC, Malaga is one of the oldest cities in the world. It was subsequently ruled by the Roman Empire followed by the Moors for almost 800 years, until it was finally conquered by Christians in 1487 during the Reconquista. The city retains remnants of all of these cultures in its architecture and cuisine.
We found so many great restaurants in Malaga that it would be impossible to cover them all. I want to share a few of our favorite spots, starting here by the waterfront. I’ll then continue on to restaurants in the city center in my next post.
Rooftop drinks at the AC Hotel Malaga Palacio
I’m listing this first because I wish that we had gone up to the rooftop of the AC Hotel Malaga Palacio on our first day here. It’s a great place to get an overview of the city. Several of the hotels in Malaga have rooftop bars that are open to the public. We liked the location of the AC Hotel, situated between the historic center and the port. The striking view hit us immediately when we stepped outside.
- The Cathedral of Malaga is just next to the terrace on the northern side. You are at eye level with the famously unfinished south tower and can get a good view of the Renaissance architecture.
- The western view looks over the city and out to the surrounding neighborhoods.
- The southern view looks over the Parque de Malaga, a marble-paved botanical garden that runs along the Port of Malaga, and out to the modern high rise buildings, restaurants and shops of the newly redeveloped Muelle Uno (Pier One).
- The eastern side of the terrace looks over the 14th century Castillo de Gibralfaro and Alcazaba. A hike to the top of this fortress also offers spectacular views of the city and the Plaza de Toros bullring (also called La Malagueta).
This is where I tried my first tinto de verano, a refreshing blend of red wine and lemon soda that is like a lighter version of sangria without the added alcohol. We expected to pay high prices for the prime location but were happy to find that drink prices were the same as everywhere else, only about 3 euros. We ordered cocktails and walked around the terrace taking in the entire city. From here we could see that the city center and the port area are like two different cities: one filled with the history of four cultures and one with modern architecture looking to the Mediterranean sea.
Lunch at Chiringuito Tropicana
One of our favorite spots for lunch was along the beach at a chiringuito, a traditional Andalusian beach restaurant. These restaurants are dotted all along the beach in Malaga. They specialize in seafood and typically grill fish next to the restaurant, following an old tradition of fishermen grilling over wood fires in old boats filled with sand.
We walked all along the beach to survey the options, ultimately settling on Chiringuito Tropicana because of its elegant white patio on the beach. We were there early at 1:30 pm and got a table for two right next to the sand. Sipping a cold glass of Albariño, a light white wine that pairs deliciously with seafood, while looking at the blue water of the Mediterranean, we can understand why the Spanish spend hours relaxing over lunch.
Long before arriving in Malaga, I had been reading about espetos – whole sardines grilled on a skewer – and it was my mission to have them. They were the first thing that we tried at the Chiringuito Tropicana. I wanted them desperately but was also a bit nervous about how to eat them. I asked the waiter for advice in my broken Spanish. He held his fingers up to his mouth and mimicked nibbling them like an ear of corn. We followed along, picking them up by head and tail and gave it a try. No strange looks from our neighbors, so I guess we did it right. Simply seasoned with just a drizzle of olive oil and spritz of lemon, those tiny fish packed intense flavor. It was totally worth the messy hands.
On this day we also fell in love with coquinas. We saw a plate of these tiny clams on a neighboring table and were intrigued enough to point them out to our waiter. “Por favor?” We need some of those! They were sautéed in loads of garlic and olive oil. We just picked them up with our fingers and slurped out the delicious little clam. Messy hands again!
We enjoyed Chiringuito Tropicana so much that we came back multiple times. I believe we made a good choice. All of the seafood dishes we had here were beautifully done, including an incredibly fresh swordfish carpaccio and garlicky scallop and prawn pil pil. For seafood lovers, this was heaven.
Up next…Tapas and beer in the city center of Malaga