Week 1 of many! After a mad last few days of packing and socialising and goodbyes, I finally hopped on a plane on Monday 23rd April. First stop: Málaga, purely because it’s a cheap destination to fly to in southern Spain.
To be honest I didn’t have high expectations – the name summoned visions of sunburnt Brits raging through the streets at night and comatose on the beach come daylight. I’m glad I didn’t skip straight to Granada on that assumption because it was wholly incorrect. Instead I found a city steeped in history, starting at the Roman amphitheatre, rising up the hills to the Islamic Alcazaba (fortress) and Castillo Gibralfaro, and scattered all across Málaga in the form of squares with renaissance statues.
The beach can be a pleasant place to chill after sightseeing, but there’s also the port area with cafes, little shops and a smooth (aka skateable) path, which unfortunately I did not get the chance to skate. There is also an excellent museum, free for EU citizens (another thing we’ll probably lose with Brexit…) telling the story of the city through Roman, Visigoth, Islamic and Catholic times, and of course an enormous cathedral.
There is also the bull ring, which looks impressive and offers tours, but I opted not to give any money to a place that still profits from animal cruelty in the name of entertainment.
2 days in Málaga itinerary
Day 1: Start your 2 days in Málaga by working your way up the hill, starting at the Amphitheatre (free), then the Alcazaba (a few steps away, €3.60 for a combined ticket with Gibralfaro). If you’re not feeling up to a very steep walk in Spanish midday heat, get the #35 bus from Paseo del Parque to Castillo Gibralfaro. Make sure you walk back down the path to Alcazaba if you skipped it on the way up to get some excellent views across the city.
Day 2: Spend a bit of time on the beach then wander through the many parks & squares, stopping in at the cathedral on your way. Pick up some tapas for lunch then check out the Málaga Museum. In the evening, do some window shopping around the port then relax in a cafe or on one of the benches in the area as the sun sets.
On Wednesday evening it was on to the bus station for an easy, 1.5 hour €9 journey to Granada. Granada is well known for its history – the legendary Alhambra, seat of the Emirate of Granada from the 13th century, is often cited as the biggest tourist attraction in Spain despite being hours from the big city lights of Madrid and Barcelona. Nestled in the Sierra Nevada, the tallest mountain range in Spain (plenty of snow up there even in late April), the threat of thunderstorms dominating the forecasts never arrived. Although a bit pricey, I paid €40 for the GranadaCard so I was guaranteed entry to the Alhambra due to tickets selling out months in advance – it got me in without the 7am queue!
Granada turned out to be much more than just the Alhambra and an impressive cathedral – I spent four days wandering its little alleyways in Albayzin, roller skating its parks in the centre and stumbling upon some truly magnificent views in whitewashed Sacromonte. After a 50 minute walk right to the edge of Granada, I arrived at Sacromonte Abbey just in time for the start of siesta… which meant I couldn’t get inside for two hours. Fortunately the sunshine and landscapes made it a pleasant wait!
4 days in Granada itinerary
Day 1: Alhambra! Take a packed lunch, don’t miss your timed entry to the Nasrid Palaces… and triple check you’ve got your camera with memory card AND batteries before you leave, so you don’t end up in my situation when I tried to turn my camera on once there and discovered the batteries I’d been charging all night were still charging back at the hostel.
Day 2: If you have a GranadaCard, take the tourist train 1h20 route around the city to help you get your bearings. Fair warning: it’s a bit bumpy at times, and remember to take your own headphones to get the audio guide as they don’t supply any. In the afternoon, check out the cathedral and the Royal Chapel next door.
Day 3: Get lost in the narrow cobbled alleyways of Albayzin on the way up to Sacromonte, a district right on the edge of Granada. The abbey is worth a visit (although the 1 hour tour is only in Spanish), but the views and whitewashed houses are half the fun. Beware – the abbey is closed from 1-4pm in summer for siesta!
Day 4: Visit either the CajaMuseum or Science Museum, then check out any of the smaller churches or old houses scattered around Granada.
With my first week of being a tourist done, I hopped on a 3 hour bus to Seville to start my three weeks of Spanish lessons. More to come soon!