Malaga, Spain

In recent years the city of Malaga has become increasingly popular as an embarkation port as well as a port of call for Mediterranean cruises. Located on the Costa del Sol region in Southern Spain, it is worth spending some pre-cruise time here in order to explore the beautiful Andalusia region.

The city of Malaga was established in the 8th century by Phoenician traders, and over the centuries has felt the influence of the Greeks, Romans and Arabs.  In fact, the two major landmarks of the city are both Arabic structures. Castillo de Gibralfaro sits on a ridge that overlooks the city. It was built in the 14th century. At the bottom of this ridge is the Alcazaba, the younger Muslim palace-fortress. The Alcazaba is the best preserved Moorish palace-fortress in Spain. It fell into decay until restoration work began in 1933, and continues slowly today.

The Cathedral of the Encarnacion, constructed in the 16th century, is situated in the historic center of the town. The interior of the cathedral has Renaissance and Baroque influences. The hand-carved wooden choir stalls are a sight to behold for their intricacy and craftsmanship. The Cathedral has its own beautiful gardens and a magnificent courtyard.

Art lovers probably know that Malaga's most famous son is the artist Pablo Picasso. The city has two museums dedicated to him. One is the house in which Picasso was born, and the other is the Picasso Museum of Malaga. Located in the Buenavista Palace, a 17th century Renaissance building, the latter museum has more than two hundred works donated by members of the Picasso family.

Shoppers will want to head for Calle Lariosis, the main shopping street in the center of Malaga. It is one of the most attractive streets in Spain, much due to the uniformity of the design. The rooftops are all about the same, the corners of the buildings are rounded, the buildings are painted in pastel colors, and the windows all have wrought iron railings. Sheets of fabric are tied from the rooftops on one side of the street to the other, creating a unique ambiance while blocking out the harsh sun. Street performers are usually out and about entertaining the crowd. Most importantly, Calle Lariosis is a mecca for shopping!

Tip: The Alhambra Palace in Granada is about an hour and a half from Malaga. It is considered the finest example of Spanish Islamic architecture and is one of the most popular attractions in Spain. Both the palace and the gardens are exquisite! This is always offered by the cruise lines as a shore excursion from Malaga.