James Went To Málaga

I realised that I’ve been meaning to finish this post about Málaga for 6 months now…and I’m about to go to España once more.

Last October I moved to Spain. Alas, only for 4 ish weeks until my flat purchase completed, but it was an opportunity to live one of my dreams.

Most of the time I stayed down the coast in Benalmádena, but I did also spend a week in Málaga, and had multiple evenings there too. Why not?!

Doing Tourist Stuff

I always used to have Málaga down as being a bit basic – an association due it being on the Costa Del Sol. Yet Málaga is nothing like that – it often comes in those lists of places to visit, it has a historic side, an artistic side – and, as you might expect in Spain, is damn good for food too.

I’m not massively one for history, at least before the 20th Century which I do find fascinating. However, I do like a hill, so on the first weekend I took an adventure up the hill to the top of Castillo de Gibralfaro – the castle that looks over the city of Málaga, and offers wonderful views:

You can travel up by bus should you wish, but being semi-fit and semi-healthy, I was only ever going to sweat it out.

The Santa Iglesia Catedral Basílica de la Encarnación (Cathedral to you and me) was stunning to look at too…again I didn’t go inside as I’m not into churchy stuff, but walking around the outside was a pleasure in itself.

Santa Iglesia Catedral Basílica de la Encarnación

Getting Arty

Some bloke called Pablo Ruiz Picasso was born in Málaga…and for certain Málaga likes to make the most of the association.

Arguably my cultural highlight was going to the Museo Picasso Málaga – we didn’t have to queue too long with tickets, and as someone that appreciates modern art substantially more than non-modern history, this was worth every cent.

I think you can say that the Picasso works on display are not his greatest, which is no surprise, but they do tell the story of Picasso and his association to Málaga well. Though Massacre In Korea was astonishing, for me, albeit really rather dark.

Woman in an Armchair by Picasso
Massacre in Korea by Picasso

Generally I was more intrigued with the works that came after, by artists inspired by Picasso (or supposedly so):

We also went to Museo Casa Natal de Picasso, which is the house where Picasso was born, if I understood correctly. This was a much smaller gallery and we passed through pretty quickly, but a reasonable way to spend 15 minutes or so.

However Centre Pompidou Malaga disappointed – the same brand as the wonderful Pompidou Centre in Paris, which I thought brilliant last year, this was a really lacklustre gallery – it was in between exhibitions, and cheaper to get in therefore, so take my judgement with an empty bucket of salt, but what there was inside was severely lacking in merit or interest…at least for me.

Eating Out In Málaga

You could eat disappointing food in Málaga – it wasn’t like everywhere I went was an over joyous experience.

For example, I’d read about Casa Lola in multiple guides to eating in Málaga – I’d ordered the chicharrones, basically deep-fried pork belly which should be a dream to me – but it was deep fried a long time ago. Also it was near impossible to find a dish without meat on – we did, and the tomato/avocado/cheese dish was fresh and tasty…but nothing special. This was after a fair queue to get in, and a fairly confusing affair too.

I’d also had another disappointing meal, I cannot remember where, but some really fatty Iberico pork, and basic chips.

This was a solo dining effort – all the places I had researched either had queues or no tables, so I just wandered around until I found somewhere with a Google rating over 4.2 and a spare table. Fried alcochofas (artichokes…check my Spanish out) were more interesting, but again allude to the difficulty of finding healthy veggie dishes.

Our most inventive meal of the holiday was at Kraken Centro – I say “our” as for this one day I was joined both by my sister who needed some warm sunshine, and also two friends who were driving around Spain/Portugal.

Tapas can be a bit predictable – I do find that I get tired of seeing the same dishes in half of the restaurants, and yes, I know, I have a Sunday roast every single Sunday so who am I to judge.

But Kraken Centro did offer something different. Sat outside in the square, we had a variety of dishes – the lamb spring rolls with the Barbie-pink sauce was the highlight for me, perhaps the black cod too.

Yet it still wasn’t an amazing meal – I always had this nagging feeling that something was missing, there was no wow moments. Pleasing moments, and the food was all good – but nothing made me go “wow”.

More Food Please

Onto my favourite places now. I spend a lot of time looking into where to eat, trying desperately to find the perfect meal – I spend too much time looking really. Do you trust Google reviews? Do you trust random blogs on the internet (hi!)? Or those annoying lists of “places you must eat in x place” which all seem to repeat each other and none of them have probably ever been to most of them.

It was my last night in Málaga before flying back to England, boooo. And damn it was cold when I got back. Anyway, I settled on the idea of having a steak for my last night – it used to be a holiday tradition, but I think I just wanted something that wasn’t tapas by this point.

I ended up going to Pampa Grill – it’s a bit un-Spanish but they did compliment me on my attempted Spanish, so I left happy. Plus it was good piece of rib-eye – they didn’t ask me how I wanted it cooked, however it was on the verge of rare so I was happy. However, the jacket potato was even more dreamy – I loved the combination of the cream and parmesan, along with the crispy edges. And the fresh bread was so fluffy.

Somewhere else I rated was El Tapeo de Cervantes. A more traditional tapas spot, there was a locals side and a tourist side – alas I got the tourist side, but I guess that is understandable.

My ordering wasn’t exactly complimentary, the oxtail stew was deep and hearty, the tuna belly was just absolutely divine, coming with cauliflower puree. What I really liked also was that you could order a “1/2 ration” – which was half a dish effectively – yes, I do have as many problems ordering food as choosing a restaurant.

Also when in Málaga, I fell in love with a super cute tiny restaurant called La Casa Del Perro, blessedly undiscovered by tourists (with my apologies to the locals), which translates to The House Of The Dog – and it basically was a house, converted into a tiny restaurant.

I loved it so much that I went back the night after.

The second night I didn’t have quite the success – cold leeks were a bit jarring, even if the chilli topping added some texture and heat. The tuna was really good, however. Yet it was the first night that I enjoyed the most – locally-produced chorizo was crumbly and dreamy, but also the potato salad, which kind of looks a mess, yet was arguably the best dish I had in my 4 weeks on the Costa Del Sol – creamy mashed potato packed with prawns, ham, olives – it was just totally superb.

Also they were really friendly and welcoming, despite our language mis-match, I actually felt at home here. The dishes are inventive, the food is really good quality – not sure I can express much more how much I loved La Casa Del Perro.

My final recommendation is Uvedoble Taberna, another place which I went to twice – which is a rare feat for me in my desperation to find the best restaurant ever, and unwillingness to accept that maybe I already have done.

Bonus points for selling a Three Mono’s APA, plus being able to book online. The croquetas were the best I had in Málaga, the octopus with chorizo parmentier dish was divine – and throughout the menu there was a real sense of identity and experimentation.

Drinking In Málaga

Most of these places are going to be craft beer places, because that’s what I enjoy drinking.

But let’s start with a rooftop bar – with bang average lager, but gorgeous sangria. And even more gorgeous views.

Sangria at La Terraza De Valeria, Malaga

It’s not the best photo in the world, but I don’t know how you couldn’t be happy sat on the roof at La Terraza De Valeria. Great sangria, great views – and unlike a lot of hotel rooftop bars in the world (especially in London, urgh) it isn’t snobby, over-priced or unwelcoming – all the opposite.

The place I went to most often was Birras Deluxe, perhaps because it was open every evening that I was in town. Warm inside, but they had a great selection of beers, both on draught and in cans.

El Rincón Del Cervecero served probably my favourite NEIPA of the time I was there – alas I only went once because they closed for a few days one weekend I was there.

Central Beers had a more open and modern space in the centre of Málaga and had a wide range beers on tap…I didn’t venture to the cans section so I don’t remember much there. And there was always a seat when I went.

La Botica de la Cerveza always seemed to be playing rock/metal when I went in, which isn’t to my taste, but I had earphones when I was alone anyway. I did find one of my favourite beers from 2022 here, Soup IPA, and everything else I tried was absolutely on point.

Finally, La Madriguera, which was a bit more dingy, kind of a punk rock aesthetic but again with some excellent cans. A much smaller selection than the other places, but my drinking didn’t suffer due to this.

All 5 places here I highly recommend if you like an IPA or similar.

Escaping Málaga

I’m not sure why you’d want to escape the beautiful city of Málaga, but hey.

Though I would say that Málaga beach isn’t especially amazing…perhaps you’d argue some of the beaches on the Costa Del Sol are prettier. I’m not massively into being on beaches so I didn’t care.

One thing you could do is head down the coast to Torremolinos/Benalmadena (trust me!) and climb the mountains…or get the cable car. The views are stunning, and you can see Africa on a clear day.

Mountain Near Benalmadena

You could also take a day trip to Cordoba or Granada – I feel like Granada deserves more than a day trip, but Cordoba was doable in a day – just 50m on the train from Málaga, and boy are those Spanish trains fast and comfortable! It’s like being on the Eurostar. I’m sure we’ll build a high speed line in the UK that goes somewhere useful and is high speed before the 21st century is out.

You could also go to Sevilla, but that will require changing at Cordoba, and is therefore 2 hours on the train…I also think Sevilla deserves more than a day trip.

I’d very happily go back to Málaga. What a fine city.

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