So I disappeared during half-term – and not just from social media – we went to Spain, where we are lucky enough to have a family holiday home to take advantage of. My in law’s rural finca is an hour from Malaga, somewhere we’ve been a few times now, but never with our two children in tow – until a couple of weeks’ ago! As countryside kids now, I was really keen for them to soak up a city vibe, especially a European one – plus now they are old enough to stay up later, so all in all I thought it was the right time…
We drove into Malaga and parked on the outskirts of the city in a multi storey (we planned to go to El Corte Ingles shopping centre car park, where we’d parked before, but we just plumped for one near it in the end as it’s just the same – but try typing El Corte Ingles into your Sat Nav to get you in the vague vicinity), then we got a taxi to the hotel for a few Euros instead of walking with bags and hot, hungry kids.
We booked an impromptu hotel room the night before, which cost €140 for a 1 night stay with no breakfast included. I chose the 4 star Hotel Petit Palace Plaza, which came highly recommended for a central location plus was supposedly great for families. We were really happy with it; and the location couldn’t have been bettered. It is just off the main marble floored Calle de Marques de Larios shopping street (fab shopping on there if you’re in the mood), just off the pretty Plaza de la Constitucion (a square that’s great for people watching), close to all the sights and attractions, but equally it was very quiet at night.
The rooms had fold down bunk beds – brilliant – and spinny orange chairs which slowly drove me insane as the kids wouldn’t stop spinning on them – not brilliant after a while, for me anyway.
We arrived about midday (happily the room was ready early so we could drop off the bags) and the kids wanted something to eat. As were were planning on eating some fresh seafood that afternoon at the famous Malaga food markets we decided to grab some coffee and cake to sustain at a cafe. Nearby options for this are the ever popular Cafe Central (we couldn’t get a table at this time but we got one later!) or the one we got a table at, El Ultimo Mono, a modern, trendy place that managed to fit into its historic surroundings.
We ummed and ahhed over our muffins about taking the kids into Malaga Cathedral, which is one of the main draws of the area – we’ve been in, and it is stunning, but the kids aren’t that fussed about such things and just wanted to run about so we decided to circle the outside instead, taking in the atmosphere of the labyrinthine streets which are so pretty and lined with gift shops, tapas bars and cafes, en route to the markets.
The cathedral is central to this area, and all life occurs around it. It’s enormous, and so beautiful – hard to capture in pictures.
The main draw for us as foodies when we visit a city is always the markets – and the Mercado de Malaga will not disappoint if you are the same. It’s basically an indoor market selling a huge range of local and specialist meat, beautifully presented and zingingly fresh fish and seafood, and inviting, colorful fruit and vegetables. It also has stalls – inside and outside – where you can get a cana (small beer) or a copa de vino (small glass of wine), order dishes from the stalls, and watch the world go by. I love taking in the atmosphere at the market, with businessmen meeting friends for a bite, old ladies shopping, and tourists mixed in, all enjoying themselves and in such a lovely atmosphere of conviviality. The kids, made very welcome, loved it as much as we did – especially when we found a particularly weird looking fish or plate of delicacies. We ate some incredible prawns (El Yerno was the name of the stall we chose) simply served with salt – and a dish of scallops with prawns in sizzling butter – served with bread to dunk. Just amazing!
After the market we wandered back towards the hotel,stopping off at a very popular looking sidestreet place, a traditional Maresqueria (fried fish place) called Casa Vicente serving traditional food and beer – and fried fish. There were a lot of locals and not many tourist; normally a good sign! We already had our fill of fried fish (delicious) previously at the beach restaurants near the finca, so we ordered a delicious plate of Padron peppers and some very memorable clams that we all devoured with bread to dunk… this is the type of food you come to Spain for.
After this second lunch instalment, we hailed a horse and carriage ride for €30 which gave us a 40 mins tour of the whole city. The kids loved it! The ride enables you to see the whole place in highlight form, so then you know which areas you want to hone in on and prioritise. It took us to the newly refurbished marina area, Muelle Uno, which is really pretty and has plenty of restaurants – one of which is Michelin starred I believe, as well as the Pompidou Cultural Centre which has come over from Paris. Nearby to that is the city beach which you could easily while away an few hours at, lined with chiringuitos (casual beach restaurants that cook on the BBQ). As we’d just spent two days at the beach we preferred to concentrate mainly on the city.
The kids were getting pretty tired, so after a quick stop off at a park in the gardens, where we ate a lolly and watched the fabulous green parakeets, we headed back to the hotel for a siesta. Recovered after a two hour snooze, Bea and I headed out first (both fully lipsticked up!) and let the lazy boys get ready at their leisure. We enjoyed some girl time and had a drink and a plate of Jamon Iberica at the aforementioned Cafe Central, watching the world go by. Highly recommended.
We decided to venture towards the last hotel we stayed in as they had an incredible rooftop bar – Hotel Molina Lario – however the bar area was undergoing some refurbishment, so it was closed. This ended up being a weird blessing in disguise, as we remembered that across the road the AC Marriot Hotel also had a rooftop bar. But this one is twice as high! This is my top tip for visiting Malaga. You HAVE to come here and have a drink, overlooking the city at dusk. It is just very special. The kids loved being up so high, and it’s an amazing place to watch the sunset. The pictures do not do this place justice. I loved it so much I plan to come here to celebrate my 40th, in two years’ time!
For evening eating we decided to just wander and stop off for tapas and drinks as we go. The Spanish love children – you’ll find a lot of hair ruffling and exclamations of “muy buenitos” (very good), often from men as being tender towards kids is a sign of masculinity here (I read that once). It’s very sweet, and indicative of that very European attitude that kids are as welcome as anyone else, and late into the night, too. The place we went to below I’m sorry I do forget the name – but it was on Calle Fresca, which has KGB (very modern tapas) next door, and Wendy Gamba further down (traditional, we even tricked Arthur into eating tripe stew with chickpeas here!). This street is a great one to pick off a few places and get nibbling – but to be honest you can’t go wrong in Malaga just wandering around. We finished the night at a new place near the hotel, eating free tapas of tuna salad crostini and then some (paid for) oysters whilst the kids played on our phones. We got chatting to the owner and found ourselves apologising for Brexit!
The next day, after a breakfast of Costa Coffee baguettes and croissants with coffee in our hotel rooms (they don’t mind if you nip out and grab something), we headed up to Malaga’s main attraction, Real Alcazaba. It’s a Moorish palace fortress, which dates back to the 6th Century. The entrance is a close walk to the hotel (it’s all close to be honest as Malaga is a small city) and the whole thing takes about an hour to walk around. It’s definitely worth doing – and there are some stunning views from the vertiginous walkways – do take care, especially with little ones. It only costs a few Euros to get in.
After that, was the Castillo de Gibralfaro, which is next door, but requires a different entrance. It’s basically ruins of an old castle, but it’s all about the view really. This is an even more steep walk, but so, so worth it. The view from the top is, again, incredible. Definitely worth the sweat – not sure if I’d attempt it in August though. It’s free to visit this.
After this epic trek – which takes about 20-30 mins, which isn’t long, but it’s steep and very hot – we were all knackered. We decided to try Spanish McDonald’s (much the same but slower, which isn’t surprising!) and call it a day in Malaga, heading for the beach nearer to ‘home’ to veg out for the afternoon. That said, I think a different itinerary that would be nice is to visit the beach in Malaga, as it does look very nice.
I would urge anyone to visit Malaga – and especially parents with kids in tow. It’s a most underrated, overlooked city that is on a par which many other more popular European ones I’ve visited. It has everything: beach, historical landmarks, great food, markets, parks, galleries, museums. There is still so much yet to see for us and this is our 4th visit, including two art galleries, the marina, the bull ring, and much more besides.Do visit with kids – don’t be put off at the thought of taking them out at night; the Spanish welcome youngsters and don’t bat an eyelid at 11pm when you order a drink with your young kids by your side. Many people were out with babies as we were going back to the hotel. My top tip is to visit the AC Marriot rooftop bar – ohhh, and also the markets. OK, that’s two but I loved them both equally!
Have you been to Malaga? Would my blog post maybe inspire a visit? Let me know!