Málaga, the largest city on the Costa del Sol, attracts visitors who typically pass through on their way to the charming resort towns along the coast. While the beautiful beaches are the main draw in this coastal region, it’s easy to overlook a true gem located right in the heart of Málaga—the Alcazaba, an ancient fortress. Dominated by lush greenery, this fortress may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the sunny city in Southern Spain, but it’s definitely worth taking a short detour to explore its beautiful grounds.
Curious about why the Alcazaba should top your must-visit list, how to find it, its opening hours, and ticket prices? Well, you’re in the right place.
Now, before we start exploring, let me share a little secret: I’m the kind of traveler who loves a bit of history before diving into a landmark—it makes the experience richer. And, like you, I like a sneak peek of what’s inside. That’s why I’ve put together some pictures of the Alcazaba’s main parts to give you a taste of what’s in store.
- The Alcazaba in Málaga is worth visiting. It is in fact thought of as one of the prettiest fortresses you can see in Spain.
- You should spend one hour and a half at the Alcazaba in Malaga. You can easily spend a couple of hours in this fortified palace and appreciate the panoramic views of Málaga.
- Admission to the Alcazaba is free on every Sunday afternoon. Otherwise, you can get a ticket for both the Alcazaba and the Gibralfaro Castle together for 5.50€.
Why visit the Alcazaba in Malaga?
The Alcazaba is the most important Moorish monument in Malaga.
Its impressive architecture and beautiful details make it impossible not to be drawn to its grounds. It can easily be explored quickly after a sunny afternoon at the beach, or can be the site of leisurely explorations.
Even if your time in Malaga is short, I highly recommend that you make visiting the Alcazaba a top priority.
The Alcazaba vs the Alhambra
Funnily, some like to refer to the Alcazaba as a « Mini-Alhambra » due to its similar architectural characteristics. However, while both are undeniably among the best sites to visit in Andalusia, the Malaga fort doesn’t quite match the grandeur of the palatial complex in Granada.
Nevertheless, being smaller than the Alhambra, the Alcazaba offers a more intimate and less crowded experience. Some parts of the Alcazaba are also, surprisingly, better preserved compared to its larger counterpart in Granada.
It may not boast the same level of flashiness or breathtaking beauty, but it is still definitely worth a visit.
History of the Alcazaba
What is the Alcazaba? The word alcazaba, from the Arabic al-qaṣabah means a citadel or a fortress. (If you’ve been to Morocco before, they are basically the same thing as a kasbah!)
That’s why you’ll might have seen the word all over the south of Spain. The most famous is of course the one that is part of the larger Alhambra complex in Granada, but there is also one in Almería and even one in Marbella!
The Alcazaba in Malaga stands proudly atop Monte Gibralfaro, overlooking the city with an air of ancient grandeur. As you wander through its majestic gardens, it’s almost impossible not to wonder about its past. This remarkable fortress is not merely a building; it is a testament to the rich history of Andalusia.
Perched high above the site of an ancient Roman amphitheater, the « Alcazar de Malaga » dates back to the 8th century. Built by the Moorish rulers, it had two functions. One was to protect the city, and the other was to be an opulent sanctuary for its leaders to enjoy the good things in life. A fortress build upon another fortress.
Although the fortress fell into disuse during the Renaissance, it is what makes some of its charm. I found that weathered stone walls and partially overgrown vegetation added an enchanting touch to the building.
Visiting the Alcazaba of Malaga
Located between the port and the Playa de la Malagueta, the fortress is near some of the city’s most popular attractions.
You can easily walk from Malaga’s historic center to reach the Alcazaba and Monte Gibralfaro.
You can enter the Alcazaba through the main entrance located near the Parque de Malaga (at the intersection of Calle Alcazabilla and Plaza de la Aduana).
If it’s your first time, plan on spending about one hour and a half to visit this Malaga monument without being in a rush.
Teatro Romano de Málaga
The first thing you’ll come across is the Teatro Romano de Málaga, the ancient Roman Theater.
Discovered and restored in recent years, this theater-in-the-round is a glimpse into the Malaga’s past as a Roman settlement.
Special walkways have been created to let you appreciate the archeological site. They allow visitors to get up close and personal with the ruins without damaging them. The best part? Exploring the Teatro Romano is completely free!
It’s a fantastic spot to take a break and bask in the sunshine. If Roman ruins aren’t quite your mood for the day, you can easily bypass the theater and continue your journey to the fortress by taking the gate on the left.
The thing I love the most about the building is the vegetation. Without it, the fortress wouldn’t have the same atmosphere!
Exploring the Andalusian Gardens
That’s why one of the best part of the Alcazaba is its enchanting Andalusian gardens.
People around you fan themselves with the pamphlets provided at the entrance, seeking respite from the heat. In the summer, the Alcazaba is sometimes filled with travelers donning shorts and tank tops and walking lazily around. Amidst it all, the main sound that fills the air is the rhythmic song of cicadas, their melodic chirping blending harmoniously with the scorching sun.
It might well be the quintessentially Andalusian experience.
The blend of Roman, Spanish, and Moorish architecture adds to the beauty of this serene oasis enclosed by strong square walls. You may also be surprised to discover that you could easily spend a few hours enjoying the gardens. They feature a variety of exotic plants and trees. A refreshing escape from the busy city outside!
What makes it all the more bewitching is the vegetation that grows through some of the walls’ cracks. Wandering through the citadel’s grounds, you may encounter even playful squirrels and pigeons that have made their homes within the ancient ramparts.
It’s hard to find a better combination of nature and architecture.
Want to explore more of Málaga?
The Patios of the Alcazaba
While exploring the Alcazaba, you’ll discover delightful patios and a variety of interesting objects scattered throughout. The trees surrounding the inner courtyards breathe life into the inclosed space.
The fortress itself is adorned with antique columns and exquisite arches, adding to the place’s charm. (Some of the arches in the fortress are reminiscent of the Mezquita of Cordoba.)
Although it appears that the place has undergone renovation, it offers a perfect opportunity to experience the essence of southern Spain (or Morocco) without leaving the Costa del Sol.
Enjoying the views of Malaga
While strolling along the Alcazaba’s walls and parapets, you’ll be treated to stunning panoramic views of the city and the Mediterranean Sea.
You can see the high-rise hotels and the port of Malaga in the distance, but the water is so blue! In places like these, I always try to overlook the hotels and imagine what the view was like before their construction.
These breathtaking sights make the fortress a must-visit for every traveler in Malaga.
On your own, with a guide or with an audioguide?
On your own: You can visit the Alcazaba on your own without any difficulties. (That’s what most people do!)
Guided tour: Yet, there’s a big difference between visiting a historical site such as this one with or without a guide. I don’t know about you, but for me, having a guide is the best way to learn about the history of Malaga and the Alcazaba. Even if you have some knowledge of Spanish history, it’s so much better to learn about it while walking through a historic place and having someone describe what you’re looking at. Plus, the price is quite reasonable.
Audioguide: If you’re not that into guided visits, using an audioguide can be a good compromise and a great way to experience this must-see in Malaga. There are QR codes placed in different parts of the building, which you can scan to access the audioguide easily. This gives you the opportunity to learn not only about the castle’s history but also about the city of Malaga itself. The information given covers different aspects of the Alcazaba, and gives you a good understanding of what you’re seeing.
Tickets and Opening hours
Tickets for the Alcazaba in Malaga are sold right at the entrance.
- Alcazaba Ticket: It’s just 3.50€ to enter the fortress. To fully enjoy the Alcazaba, set aside about 90 to 120 minutes for your visit. Don’t rush; take your time to explore and enjoy the beauty all around.
- Alcazaba and Gibralfaro Castle Combined Ticket : 5.50€. Plan for an extra 90 minutes to see the Castle.
Pro Tip: if you’re in Malaga over the weekend, you can visit the fortress for free Sundays after 2 pm.
From November 1st to March 31st :
- 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM (Last entry at 5:15 PM).
From April 1st to October 31st :
- 9:00 AM to 8:00 PM (Last entry at 7:15 PM).