Andalucia has a long, colourful history full of battles, conquests and re-conquests, and the port city of Malaga is no exception. Remnants of the city’s moorish past are everywhere, from place names to Mudejar-syle architecture to the serene 8th century alcazaba that, along with the Gibralfaro Castle, dominates the skyline.
Widely considered the best-preserved alcazaba (or fortified palace) in Spain, this is one of Malaga’s biggest tourist draws although still relatively unknown compared to similar (and several centuries younger) sites in the neighbouring cities of Andalucia.
From the site’s unassuming entrance just next to the Roman amphitheatre (which is well worth a look in its own right), the visitor follows the old path that winds up through the gardens and into the heart of the citadel. We visited in January and were greeted by a garden full of orange trees laden with full, ripe fruit. The way twists and turns improbably – an architectural trick designed to make it more difficult to attack the fortress – and passes beneath a number of towers including the Puerta de la Boveda and the Torre del Cristo (where the first mass was held in Malaga after the Christian reconquest by the Reyes Catolicos). Keep your eyes peeled for bits and pieces of Roman masonry that were ‘borrowed’ for use in the later Moorish structure.
As you wander up through the Puerta de los Cuartos de Granada towards the inner citadel, your path is followed by the tiny streams and gentle water falls which are integral to the gardens’ design. As the trail climbs higher, stop in the formal gardens at the Plaza de Armas to take a look out over the sea.
The inner citadel has a number of serene courtyards – the Patio de los Naranjos, Patio del Aljibe and Patio de la Alberca, which incorporates a decorative pool into its design. Archaeological artefacts (mostly Roman and Moorish ceramics) are housed in the small museum on site.
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday: Summer 0930h – 2000h; Winter 0830h – 1930h; Mondays: 0900h – 1800h
Closed: 1st January, 28th February, 25th December
Entrance fee: €2.20/€0.60 concessions. Joint ticket for alcazaba and Gibralfaro castle: €3.50. Free Sundays after 1400h
Address: Calle Alcazabilla 2, 29012 Malaga
Tel: +34 630 932 987