Malaga Cruise Port

Port of Malaga: An Overview

Malaga offers an intriguing blend of culture, history and beaches -- with a contemporary vibe. The city is one of Andalusia's greatest treasures. Located on a stunning sweep of bay, with palm trees lining the seafront, this is the dynamic, friendly capital of Costa del Sol, Spain's "sunshine coast."

Malaga is a wonderful place to wander and explore, particularly in the winding lanes of the old town, with their traditional taverns, plazas and pretty squares. It also encompasses fine architecture and has enough ancient buildings to keep history hounds happy for hours. Unlike Costa del Sol's party zones, including Puerto Banus, Torremolinos and Benalmadena, all great for clubbers, Malaga, although cosmopolitan, retains a distinctly traditional feel.

Malaga's wines are worth more than a sip, too, and visitors can try them at Antigua Casa de Guardia, one of the city's few remaining wine cellars. Also, you can explore the region's wine history at the Wine Museum in the historic city center. For a sense of traditional Spanish life, visit the districts of Pedregalejo and El Palo, fishing communities with some of Spain's best seafood.

The city is an ideal base for trips outside town, allowing visitors easy access to explore southern Spain's delights. The surrounding area is a glorious patchwork of whitewashed villages, almond groves and mountain ranges -- including the Sierra Nevada where a particular highlight is the massive Nerja Caves with their 20,000-year-old wall paintings.

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Hanging Around

The terminal at Quay 1 is home to numerous restaurants, bars and about 70 shops, boutiques and market stalls. This is where to find the Michelin-starred restaurant Jose Carlos Garcia. The quay also has a marina for luxury yachts. Quay 2 has a beautiful waterfront promenade called "The Palm Garden of Surprises" lined with trees and tropical plants, great for families with children. There are gardens, playgrounds, water features, mini-golf and other activities. You'll also find shops a cultural museum and a cycle rental stand.

Boat trips around the harbor are available, and some operators use glass bottomed boats. You might be lucky enough to spot a pod of dolphins!

Don't Miss

Picasso Museum: A visit to Malaga wouldn't be complete without a peek inside. With more than 200 paintings, drawings, ceramics, engravings and sculptures, the museum's collections chart artist Pablo Picasso's progress from the late 19th century until his death in 1973. Situated in the Palacio de Buenavista, an elegant 16th-century building in the heart of the old town, the museum is a few minutes away from the house where Picasso was born on Plaza de la Merced (also open to the public). At least one temporary exhibition is usually running, and there is also a good bookshop and a pleasant courtyard cafe. (Palacio de Buenavista, San Agustin 8; 952 60 27 31; open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays in July and August)

Montes de Malaga Natural Park: A couple of kilometers outside town, this densely wooded region has pine covered mountains, waterfalls and meandering streams with five signposted walks. The park contains 400 plant species, 90 birds, 27 mammals and 19 reptiles, which means there is a fair chance of seeing a wealth of wildlife, such as chameleons, geckos, golden eagles and black and white storks.

Gibralfaro Castle: Built in the 14th century, this castle has solid ramparts rising majestically from dense woods of pine and eucalyptus. Enjoy a scenic walk, then relax at the outdoor cafe. To enjoy more of the city's history, visitors can stretch their legs on a 20-minute climb farther up the hill from the castle to the crest of the escarpment and take in the unrivalled views. (Camino Gibralfaro 11; 952 22 72 30; open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Sunday April to October and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Sunday November to March)

Wine Museum: Malaga has a wine culture dating back thousands of years, so a stop at this Baroque 180th century town house is a must visit for oenophiles .Enjoy tastings, too. (Plaza de los Vineros 1; 952 22 84 93; open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday) Roman Amphitheatre: Dating back to 1 B.C. at the foot of the Alcazaba hill, this ruin was discovered by chance in 1951. Parts of it have survived, including the tiered seating, stage and some corridors. (Calle Alcazabilla 8; 951 50 11 15; open noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday, 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday June to September and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday October to May),

Shopping: The historic center of town is a shopping paradise, with hundreds of all kinds of shops. Head to the pedestrian street Calle Marques de Larios, which is near the port. It offers plenty of shopping options, and if you love shoes this is where to come. The Vialia Shopping Centre close to Maria Zambrano train station is where you'll find High Street names and designer outlets, while the vast El Corte Ingles department store on Avenida de Andalucia sells everything you can imagine. Many shops are open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., though many close from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. for a siesta break.

La Alcazaba: One of the city's major landmarks, the fortress dates to the 700s, although much of the structure belongs to the mid-11th century. The entrance is through the gateway known as the Puerta del Cristo (Christ's Door), where the first mass was celebrated following the Christian victory over the town. The pathway traverses attractive landscaped gardens punctuated with fountains, through the gateways of Puerta de las Columnas, Arcos del Cristo and Arcos de Granada. Several terraces offer magnificent views of the town and harbor. A small palace within the inner perimeter is home to an Archaeological Museum. There is a steep path from Plaza de Aduana that leads to Gibralfaro Castle, which crowns the Gibralfaro Hill. (Plaza de la Aduana, Alcazabilla 2; 952 22 72 30; open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday and 9 a.m. to 8:15 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday during summer months and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday and 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday in winter months)

Mercado de Atarazanas: Within the city's bustling marke, stalls sell fresh fish, spices, deli items, fruit and vegetables. The building incorporates the original Puerta de Atarazanas, the 14th-century Moorish gate that once connected the city with the port. Walking into the market through this arch, you will be wowed by the magnificent stained glass window.

The Cathedral: Dating from the 16th century, the cathedral has one incomplete tower because of lack of money when being built, resulting in an odd lopsided effect. Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architectural elements reflect the long period of construction. Inside are carved choir stalls and 18th-century organs. The choir stalls were completed by Pedro de Mena, one of Spain's most celebrated wood-carvers of the time. (Calle Molina Lario 9; 952 21 59 17; open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday)

Getting Around

On Foot: Walking is one of the best ways to explore Malaga. Go to one of the tourist information centers to pick up leaflets offering suggested routes. (Calle Granada 70; 952 21 33 29 or Plaza de la Marina 11; 951 92 60 20; open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekends and holidays April 1 to October 31, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekends and holidays November 1 to March 31)

By Bike: If you are feeling energetic, you can rent a bicycle. Check at tourist information centers. Prices vary, and some bike rental companies offer guided tours.

Try a Trixi. Passengers sit in a small covered carriage, which is towed along behind a bicycle. Your driver acts as a personal tour guide, so all you have to do is sit back and enjoy the scenery.

By Bus:Bus services connect you to areas in and around the city center. The main bus station is located on Paseo de los Tilos just to the west of the center of town, next to the railway station. There is also a bus station near the port entrance on Avenida Heredia. Single bus tickets cost around 1.30 euros. A day trip card can be purchased from the kiosk in the center of the Alameda and at most estancos (tobacconists). Most bus stops give clear route information.

A "hop-on, hop-off" red, double-decker sightseeing bus takes visitors round the city. Your ticket is valid for 24 hours. The 12 stops start at the main bus station. The second stop is by the main Post Office (opposite El Corte Ingles department store). Tours start at 9 a.m. and leave every half-hour until 8 p.m. They offer multilingual commentary through headphones. Adult tickets are 15 euros and give free entrance to the Botanical Gardens on the north side of the city. (Gardens closed Mondays)

Beaches

Malaga has at least 16 beaches to choose for relaxing or water activities. All are easily accessible, and many have beach bars and restaurants serving local specialties.

Best for Active Types: El Palo beach is lined with restaurants and bars and is popular with locals and tourists, particularly for diving and fishing.

Best for Families: Las Acacias Pedregalejo is a Blue Flag beach, so designated for its water quality. It features disabled access, sun lounger and parasol rentals, a first aid point, life guard and children's play area.

Best for Relaxing: La Malagueta beach's broad sands are within easy reach of the city center, so there are plenty of bars restaurants nearby. Wi-Fi zones are located next to the beach bar and hammock areas.

Best for the Uninhibited: San Julian Guadalmar beach, an official Malaga nudist beach, though also frequented by suited bathers, is backed by a golf course. Facilities include showers, beach bar and public telephone.

Lunching

Specialties in Malaga include fresh fish -- fritura Malaguena -- and ice cold gazpacho, a blend of tomato, peppers, cucumber, garlic, olive oil and bread that is refreshing on a hot day. The Malaguenos love their food, and you'll find an enormous choice of bars and restaurants at which to enjoy dinner or lunch al fresco. Most are child friendly. Tipping is appreciated, though there is no expected amount.

Cafe Central: Opening onto a historic square, you can choose to sit inside or outside. This is an all-day dining spot, where you can kick start your day with chocolate and churros (spiral-shaped doughnuts), moving on to tapas and traditional dishes later in the day. (Plaza de la Constitucion 11; 952 22 49 72; open 8 a.m. to midnight Monday to Sunday)

El Chinitas: A traditional restaurant decorated with ceramic tiles. The menu includes local specialties such as sopa vina (fish soup flavored with sherry) and solomillo al vino de Malaga (fillet steak in wine sauce). (Calle Moreno Monroy 4-6; 952 21 09 72; open 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. to midnight daily)

Maricuchi: This restaurant on Pedregalejo beach serves great seafood, including prawns, clams and sardines barbecued on sticks, a local speciality. Also worth a try is the net-fresh fish soup. (Paseo Maritimo El Pedregal 14; 952 29 04 12; open 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. to midnight Monday to Sunday)

Manducare: At the end of the Paseode Parque near the port, this restaurant serves traditional Andalusian dishes with a modern twist -- such as tartare of sea bream with cider vinegar or duck with sweet potato and honey. Manducare also offers a wide range of desserts. (Avenida Manuel Agustin de Heredia 2; 952 21 20 58; open noon to 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Saturday)

Where You're Docked

The port has 10 quays in use for cruise ships, ferries, cargo ships and recreational boats. Around 700,000 passengers pass through the port each year on 220 cruise ships.

Quays 1 and 2 are used for passenger cruise ships, and a modern cruise terminal building was opened at Quay 2 in 2012. Both quays are close to the historic center of Malaga, about a 10-minute walk. Some lines run a shuttle bus service into the town center. Taxis also are plentiful at the port.

Watch Out For

As in any city, it pays to be aware of your surroundings and don't flash your cash around. Leave valuables on the ship.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

The national currency in Spain is the euro. Currency exchange can be made in most banks, post offices and train stations. For the best exchange rate, use ATMs found at the port and around town. For currency-conversion rates, visit www.xe.com or www.oanda.com.

Language

Spanish is spoken in Malaga, but most people understand and speak at least a little English. Residents appreciate it if you make the effort to speak a few basic words in their language. If you speak some Spanish, be aware that the local accent can be strong and difficult to understand.

Best Souvenir

With all the independent shops in Malaga, you'll easily find a special present to take home. Edible treats include turron, a classic confection made with almonds and honey. Sweet Malaga wine, first made in 600 B.C. by Greeks, makes another nice gift. You also can seek out hand-made soaps made from olive oil or high-quality locally made glassware.

For More Information

On the Web: Malaga Tourism and Costa del Sol Tourist Board

Cruise Critic Message Boards: Spain Ports

IndependentTraveler.com: Europe Travel Guide

--By Gilly Pickup, Cruise Critic contributor
  • We saw this cruise advertised in the local press and the price was very good. It was a transatlantic cruise from Malaga to the Caribbean. We thought that it was reasonably priced because it was a transatlantic and we weren't due back until late on ... Read more
  • There were 8 of us on this cruise, most of us being first time cruisers and I can tell you, it wasn't a great experience. As I had never been on a cruise before I had nothing to compare against but I do know that this ship was in no fit state to ... Read more
  • Never Again
    gwentony1
    18 days all inclusive from Malaga to the Caribbean sounded like a good idea at the time. When we arrived on the ship we had to go along a soaked carpet leading to our cabin, the cabin itself was not to bad until one of us decided we needed to ... Read more
  • First Time on Celebration
    samuel threasher
    Embarkation was an extremely long drawn out operation, as when we arrived at the port, there was a huge queue while we waited to be signed in. On the Dream, we simply walked on board and were signed in within minutes. The size of the ship meant ... Read more
  • Oldie but goodie!!
    dswiss
    We knew this was an older ship, but the price was right and the ports of call were interesting. Also, we've been on the mega ships and are a bit tired of the floating malls. We were looking forward to enjoy the real cruise feeling of the smaller ... Read more
  • Great cruise holiday overall, First cruise on the Thomson Dream and was pleasantly impressed.First time in inside cabin and would recommend an outside one from previous experiences but if your budget doesn't allow for this the inside cabins are of a ... Read more
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