The Mediterranean Sea has captured the hearts of locals and tourists alike for generations. It often comes as a surprise, but your enjoyment of gorgeous turquoise water and mesmerizing, hilly coastlines is not contingent upon a Greek island. The eastern coast of Spain possesses numerous affordable cities that border the beautiful body of water. If you are seeking a place where you can dance in the street "Mamma Mia"-style, where you can enjoy incomparable cuisine, and where the salty sea is only blocks away from most tourist attractions, there are several places in Spain that should be on your radar. I have chosen to provide some specifics on one particular city, Málaga, in order to highlight an accessible day/weekend trip from Seville and Granada. Furthermore, its proximity to other fantastic Andalusian cities provides the opportunity for an extended southern Spain jaunt.
In terms of travel logistics, Málaga is most frequently sought out in the study abroad world by those already in the south of Spain. However, you need not be a Sevillan or Granadan student to visit this gorgeous city; jetsetters studying elsewhere in Spain or Europe can land at the Málaga airport, which is only a quick taxi ride away. If you are plan on arriving from Andalusia, you will find the bus and train stations (both with round-trip tickets for less than $30) conveniently located blocks from the city center.
Málaga has an incredibly dynamic history. In 1000 CE, the Phoenicians established the city. Today, you can still observe ruins from these Mediterranean conquerors today. At the Picasso Museum, which I discuss below, you can take an elevator below the building, where archaeologists have found rubbly outlines of buildings from the Phoenician era. Málaga was then conquered by the Romans, like much of Spain. The Moorish control of the city, however, was the most significant in terms of what you will see when you were there. Particularly, the Hammudid dynasty constructed the Alcazaba, which is the palace-like fortification that presides over the city. It is easily accessed as a hike from the downtown region. The mildly rigorous climb provides gorgeous views of the city and the sea. At the top, there is a small entry fee to visit a museum and see remnants of what was once an incredibly decadent Moorish palace.
During the Reconquista (the conquest of Spain under Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand), Málaga, like the rest of the Iberian Peninsula, became Christian. Completed in 1782, the Catedral de la Encarnación de Málaga is comprised of gorgeous architecture and is located in the heart of the city. It is certainly worth popping into, respectfully, and admiring the gorgeous Renaissance artistry.
If you are a history buff (which, if you couldn’t tell, I certainly am), I would recommend reading about the Spanish Bikini Revolution. It is a fascinating historical moment in which tourism, and women wearing bikinis, in Málaga helped topple the Franco dictatorship in Spain.
The previously mentioned Picasso Museum is a must-see. The revolutionary artist was born in Málaga in October of 1881. The museum contains much of his early work, but presents a sampling of work from all of his artistic periods. The sculptures, sketches and paintings are a fantastic foray into the life and times of Picasso. I would budget about an hour for this museum. Its location (very close to the cathedral) makes it an easily accessible stop. And, like I mentioned before, be sure to take the elevator down to the Phoenician ruins.
If you are a view-seeker like me, you may be interested in either the Ferris wheel (an easy walk from the city center) or the AC Hotel by Marriott. Both have gorgeous views of the sea, coastline and city. The latter, however, has a rooftop bar that is a fantastic stop, specifically around sunset. To access it, simply enter the hotel’s lobby and purchase a 7 euro ticket. The ticket serves as both a drink voucher and allows you to take the elevator to the gorgeous vantage point, where you can sit, sip and enjoy the sunshine.
In terms of enjoying the water, Málaga offers picturesque beaches and a phenomenal boardwalk. The former provides access to food and drink, as well as awesome activities such as kayaking and boating. The latter is along a beautiful marina with every type of boat from a fishing schooner to full yachts. Additionally, it possesses wonderful local stands chalk full of handmade clothing and jewelry, as well as larger stores and restaurants.
Like the majority of Andalucía, Málaga possesses numerous delicious tapas bars and restaurants. My personal recommendation is to enjoy some seafood during your visit. I ate paella and it was absolutely incredible; the shrimp and mussels were so fresh. And, as always, enjoy the amazing local gelato shops, especially after a long day in the sun.
Málaga is truly a remarkable city, providing tourists with opportunities to simultaneously actively explore and tranquilly relax. Whether or not you end up singing ABBA, your proximity to the sea will allow you to absorb the allure of the magical Mediterranean region of the world. Málaga is a must-see city if you are studying abroad in Seville or Granada, and should certainly be on your radar if you are in Europe and seeking some sunshine.
Lily Anderson is a CEA Alumni Ambassador who studied abroad in Seville, Spain, during the Spring 2019 semester. She is currently a student at the University of Alabama.
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