Last updated: 07:00 PM ET, Mon October 05 2015

Malaga at 14 Miles an Hour

Features & Advice | John Roberts | October 05, 2015

Malaga at 14 Miles an Hour

PHOTO: The Cathedral of Malaga. (Photos by John Roberts)

Wheeling through old town Malaga on my cruiser bike, I immediately felt the charm and history of this Spanish resort city.

The birthplace of Pablo Picasso, Malaga and its city center are packed with much to enjoy on a visit. Malaga Bike Tours served as our guides. I always enjoy exploring a new destination in a way that gives me some exercise, too, and this was a perfect way to navigate Malaga.

You just have to be careful to watch out for pedestrians who also share the stone streets and alleyways in the highly walkable city. It was so cool to take in the wide range of architectural features alongside residents and tourists alike carrying out their daily activities.

As I pedaled along, I discovered several top attractions in Malaga.

1. Pablo Picasso's Birthplace: The Casa Natal Museum sits in the bustling Plaza de la Merced, which also features shops and restaurants. The birthplace of the famous artist has been a Spanish heritage site since 1983. The home now displays artifacts and mementos of Picasso's life as well as works from Picasso and his father, also an artist.

2. Gibralfaro Castle: This 14th century fortress looms high above the city and offers spectacular views of Malaga and the Mediterranean Sea. Malaga ranks as one of the oldest cities in the world, having risen in 770 B.C. under the watch of Phoenicians, and Gibralfaro Castle served as an imposing defense for the attractive port region. Now, you can stroll its ramparts and wander the courtyards to imagine life for troops and residents centuries ago.

3. Alcazaba: This well-preserved citadel dates from the 11th century Muslim period in Malaga. The palatial fort is located at the base of the hill below Gibralfaro Castle and is built on Roman ruins. Two of Alcazaba's three original walls still stand, as well as dozens of towers and three palaces at the location.

4. Roman Theater: The Teatro Romano sits in the shadow of Alcazaba, which was constructed using many of the columns and other materials from the ancient theater. The Roman theater in Malaga is a well-preserved ruins site that was uncovered in 1951. Built during the reign of Emperor Augustus in the first century, the theater was used until the third century before being buried.

5. Cathedral of Malaga: The Renaissance church known as La Manquita (one-armed woman) is an unfinished structure, with its south tower standing incomplete since construction (which began in 1528) stopped in 1782. The completed north tower rises 276 feet. The interior of the church also features baroque influences and is filled with interesting carvings and artwork.

6. Bullfighting Ring: The Plaza des Toros was constructed in 1874 and is in use today. The bullfights are a controversial topic, but they represent an interesting piece of Spanish cultural heritage that you can learn about with a visit to the arena.

7. The Beach and Boardwalk: Right there, adjacent to the city center, you'll be drawn to the blue waters and sandy beach. This is a fantastic spot to relax in the sun. Right alongside is a wide and inviting boardwalk full of runners, walkers, bikers and restaurants. I also loved the workout stations set up that allow you to get your exercise in the great outdoors before you take a refreshing dip in the waters or cool off with a beer at a nearby taverna.

Of course, you'll find dozens of other things worth exploring, especially zipping around by bike. Malaga is home to many more museums, distinct buildings (like its City Hall), as well as gardens, parks and a wonderfully vibrant pedestrian mall.

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