I ran as fast as I could to arrive on time and find my seat, using the first few moments of rest to catch my breath.
In my personal experience, one of the worst aspects of backpacking around Spain and Portugal was the feeling of being rushed by my methods of transportation. Unfortunately, this was how I started my trip to Málaga and if i’m being honest, I was mostly to blame. I left Cat’s Hostel in Madrid about 35 minutes before my train to Málaga departed. Thankfully the main train station, Puerta de Atocha, was only a 15 minute walk (downhill) from the hostel. At that point in time, the weight of my backpack and the groggy morning I had left me with only 5 minutes to spare.
Almost immediately upon leaving the station the train service began. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my two hour high speed ride to Málaga included a free lunch! I sat back, enjoyed the free meal and in no time was welcomed by the bright, warm Málaga sun. For convenience and lack of knowledge of the area, I took a 7 euro taxi to the Oasis Backpackers Hostel Málaga. (It was 7 euros well spent!)
I got in and was welcomed by Juan who set me up for my stay and gave me some recommendations of things to do in the city. I set off to bask in the sun and explore the city centre. Stepping out into Málaga gave me a sense of what the south of Spain was like — the city was bright and the people were just as warm as the sun was.
I took a stroll down the main avenue, peeked into some stores and people watched by the port. It was beautiful to see people out and about enjoying the weather while the palm trees swayed in the wind. I saw many kids running around, laughing, chasing bubbles just to pop them! I walked along the Malagueta beach and watched everyone sport big smiles on their faces as they splashed around the water, chatted with friends, and played in the sand.
I checked out the rooftop lounge and was delighted by how fancy it was! It had beautiful white seats with sharp green lights that accented the bar, and mahogany wood that pulled the white and green colours all together.
I eventually grabbed some dinner and made my way back to the hostel. I wanted to do some work on my computer but I didn’t want to do it inside because the fresh air from the walk was far too appealing. The ambient music that played in the background was perfect to help keep me in work mode! Unfortunately on Mondays the only activity was the Free Walking Tour at noon that I had missed when I arrived, so I called it a night early to be well rested the next day.
I started my morning with a classic hostel breakfast, which was similar to the Cat’s Hostel where breakfast tickets for 3,50 EUR are to be purchased at Reception. After fueling up I was ready to go on the Free Walking Tour with Susana, a local guide from Sun Tours. We met at Plaza de la Constitución and in almost three hours we did a complete tour of the city!
The tour was jam packed with little anecdotes that seemed like only a local would know. Thank you Susana!
What I absolutely loved about Susana’s tour was that she was not trying to shout at us about the historical buildings, nor did she overemphasize the more generic parts of the city. Rather, she shared her love for Málaga with us. She exuded passion and it truly felt like she shared a personal story about the city with us, which was greatly appreciated. On the tour we visited Iglesia de la Concepción, Mercado Central de Atarazanas (where you can buy one kilo of strawberries for 1,20 EUR), Antigua Casa de Guardia, Hans Christian Andersen’s statue, the Cathedral of Málaga (Susana recommended to visit the gardens to smell the blooming flowers from the orange trees), Antonio Banderas’ apartment building and we finished our tour at the birthplace of Pablo Picasso.
We wrapped up the tour with a few pictures by the statue of Picasso before I quickly scampered back to the hostel to avoid the heat. Being in the scorching sun for almost three hours left me exhausted! Before I left, I made plans to meet up with one of the girls from the Free Walking Tour to visit some of the recommended restaurants and landmarks Susana had mentioned.
After getting some rest, we started off the evening at a tavern she recommended called Antigua Casa de Guardia to savour the elixir of Málaga. As we walked in we could smell the spilt wine and the aged wood. We could clearly see this was not a “touristy” spot because we noticed plenty of locals enjoying a glass of wine and the newspaper, a good book or chatting with the staff before continuing with the rest of their evening. I must clarify that when I say wine I am not talking about your typical glass of Chardonnay, but more like a shot of sweet fortified wine.
We ended up trying Susana’s recommendation of Moscatel and Pajarete. They were both very sweet and very strong.
For some perspective, the wines were so strong that they cleared up my congested sinuses! This place was a must visit while in Málaga because it was wonderful to experience a taste of the city’s culture which remained from its origins. From the barreled wine, to writing what you owe in chalk directly in front of where you stood, to the staff dressed in white buttoned down shirts and black trousers, it was a timeless spot that I recommend for anyone to experience.
After savouring the elixir of Málaga, we made our way to take in the city from the Mirador de Gibralfaro. We took Bus 35 from in front of the beautiful botanical gardens to save us from all of the walking uphill. It was the best 1,40 EUR spent in Málaga! When we got to the lookout we had a fantastic view of all of Málaga, including the famous bull ring that I tried to find while on a walk the day before, but somehow did not manage to see the massive building in the city center! We ventured behind Gibralfaro to catch a glimpse of the sunset.
We sat and watched for fifteen minutes as the sun ducked its way into the mountains leaving us with beautiful streaks of orange, purple and blues in the sky. In true Spanish fashion, we grabbed a quick ‘cerveza’ and a tapa before we parted ways.
It was the perfect way to wrap up the day! We said our goodbyes and I made my way back to the Hostel because the Pub Crawl was about to take place. Unfortunately there was only four of us that wanted to participate, which was not enough to have a full tour but our guide showed us a few places and gave us some drinks. The guide gave us hope that the following day would be much busier considering it was a Wednesday and more people were likely to sign up for the Pub Crawl.
My last day in Málaga was spent enjoying the sun (after taking care of some administrative tasks)! Before I could soak up the sun, I had to figure out how I would get to Granada because the rail line was broken between the two cities. I bought a ticket for an hour and a half bus journey to Granada because it was quickest way to get there!
I sorted my travel arrangements and promptly made my way to the beach where I enjoyed a little picnic by the sea. Playa De Huelin, was recommended to me by locals when I asked for directions to the beach because it was only 10 minutes away by foot from the train station.
The entrance of the beach showcased beautiful palm trees and a little playground where kids were running around laughing. The water was calm and the beach was not busy. The closer you got to shore the more beach towels there were, accompanied by people taking a pause out of the day to enjoy the sun and the sound of water brushing against the shoreline. Personally, my favourite thing about the beach was the smell of my sunscreen mixed together with the salty ocean breeze. I was happy to learn that I had stumbled onto a beach that was used mainly by locals so I had a lot of space to relax and lay out my towel, provided to me for only 2 EUR at the hostel.
I relaxed and took in the moment, the sounds, and my delicious lunch and before I knew it, I was asleep. When I woke up, quite disoriented from the sun, I slowly packed my things and got ready to go back to the hostel to get prepared for the Tapas Tour. I made my way back to the hostel by grabbing a Bus 1 for 1,40 EUR into the city centre. Once back at the hostel I packed my bag, seeing as I was leaving the next morning, showered and got ready for dinner.
The Tapas Tour didn’t pan out as we hoped because there weren’t enough people but we were given awesome recommendations by the guide to a tasty local tapa place and had a great, intimate night with a few of my new hostel friends from Australia and the United States!
The tour guide brought us to Taberna Las Cofrade Merchanas and let me tell you, what an experience!
From the Free Walking Tour the day before I learned all about how religious Málaga was, especially during ‘Semana Santa’ (Holy Week/Easter) and the tavern confirmed just that. It was decorated with religious pictures and relics and the food was traditionally made and absolutely sensational. We had tapas (surprise) of croquetas, eggplants with honey, eggs and chorizo. The perfectly fluffy, creamy and garlicky aioli that was the side dish to the croquetas stole the show (in my personal opinion). I highly recommend to have tapas here!
After dinner, the makeshift tapas group went to La Terraza Oasis for drinks, which was the rooftop lounge and bar on top of the hostel. I was ready to go to bed after, but the guide was right about Wednesday nights, there was a big group of hostel goers that wanted to go on the Pub Crawl so I joined in!
We started the Pub Crawl at a more quiet bar near the birthplace of Picasso, fittingly named Bar Picasso. We all got to converse a bit before we continued on to an Erasmus bar and lastly we went to Gallery Nightclub! It was a night full of fun and dancing despite having to call it a night early to be able to make my 8 A.M. bus!
All in all, Málaga in May was the perfect time to visit because it gave me the best of both worlds! I got to experience plenty of outdoor activities like relax at the beach and travel to various lookout points without feeling cramped by too many tourists! I would recommend to stay at Oasis Backpackers Hostel Málaga because it was right in the center of the historic quarter and it had a beautiful rooftop lounge for when I felt like being fancy on a backpackers budget! Thank you to all the staff at the hostel who made my stay so comfortable and fun! Until next time!
Recommendations for Málaga
Stay at Oasis Backpackers Hostel Málaga
Do the Free Walking Tour, Tapas Tour, and Pub Crawl offered by the hostel
Visit Malagueta Beach or Playa de Huelin
Browse the local market at the Mercado Central de Atarazanas
Visit the Castillo de Gibralfaro and the Mirador de Gibralfaro
Explore the birthplace of Pablo Picasso
Walk around the gardens of the Cathedral of Málaga
Food + Drinks:
Enjoy traditional tapas at the Taberna Las Cofrade Merchanas
Taste the elixir of Málaga at Antigua Casa de Guardia
Unwind on the rooftop bar of Oasis Backpackers Hostel Granada at the La Terraza Oasis