Malaga is the most underrated city in Spain. Most guidebooks mention it only in passing and passing through it quickly is the proffered advice. But I don't think those guidebook writers ever took the time to walk through this city or they would have been enchanted by its charms.
I mean, where else can you get free hugs? When you walk the city streets of marble, gaze at the architectural delights, ponder the public art, and smile at the flower-towers, you can't help but be delighted by Andalucia's largest coastal city.
And if the visual delights are not enough, Malaga, the birth city of Pablo Picasso and Antonio Banderas, has plenty of culture to share.
There's no shortage of ancient sites with a Roman Colosseum snuggling up to the Alcazaba (discussed below) while the Picasso and recently opened (spring 2011) Thyssen Museums, quench visitors' thirst for art.
The massive cathedral in the heart of the city, a national monument built in the 16th century, won't disappoint either. David, Jay, Rob and I were lucky enough to catch a free concert there, but, even without music, this architectural wonder sings. It is worth a detour to see the ornate side chapels, the soaring ceiling punctuated with lovely stained glass windows, and the unique ornamented choir stalls placed in the center of the church.
Quaint outdoor restaurants line the streets while the main street in town is a pedestrian-only gathering spot where friends actually talk to each other instead of their cell phones.
Malaga is also the starting point for an excellent light-rail system that will take you south along the coast as far as Fuengirola. The smooth-running coast train is an absolute pleasure to ride with spotlessly clean cars and destination announcements in both Spanish and English.
But you will leave Malaga reluctantly, shaking your head at the bad advice supplied by the guidebooks. Even if you don't get a free hug, the warm embrace of this lively and lovely town will captivate. This is a city for lingering and no matter how much time you allot, I promise you it will not be enough.
Click for information about Malaga's museums.
Click for information about Malaga's Cercanias light rail train.