Alcazaba Malaga: This is everything you need to know

Whether you’re a history enthusiast, an architecture lover, or a curious traveler, this guide promises to be your compass for an ancient and unique attraction. Let us unravel the layers of history, architecture, and cultural significance that define the Alcazaba in Malaga, Spain.

1. Alcazaba: Malaga’s main monumental Castle

A rustic, historical fountain inside the Alcazaba fortress in Malaga
Historical Fountain in Alcazaba, Malaga

The Alcazaba is an important fortress in Malaga, Spain, that stands proudly on the slopes of Gibralfaro mountain and along the waterfront of the Malaga port. The name of this structure comes from the Arabic word “Al-qasbah,” which refers to a citadel within the walls of a town. It was originally built by the Hammudid dynasty in the early 11th century during the time of the Muslim-ruled Al-Andalus region.

Over the course of nine centuries, numerous Alcazabas were constructed in the region of Al-Andalus to further fortify the cities. Some of these fortifications endure today, with notable examples including the Alcazabas of Badajoz, Almeria, Málaga, Antequera, Jaen, Guadix, Calatayud, Merida, and the Alcazaba within the Alhambra.

Each year, the Alcazaba draws crowds of tourists that average 500,000 in head count. A lot of these people come from around the globe with the goal of discovering Malaga and getting to know its multiple attraction sites. The timeless allure of Alacazaba’s iconic fortress gives visitors a unique way to see Malaga and immerse themselves in the echoes of ancient eras.

1.1. Brief History of Alcazaba

During the 13th century, the Nasrid dynasty conquered Malaga, transforming the Alcazaba into a palace fortress and utilizing it as the seat of government. Following the Christian reconquest, the Catholic Monarchs repurposed the Alcazaba in Malaga, but as the years passed, it gradually fell into disrepair. 

By the 18th century, both the government and military ceased using it, leading to the abandonment of the Alcazaba. Its state of decay persisted until restoration efforts commenced in 1933. Today, the Alcazaba in Malaga continues to captivate visitors with its stunning blend of Moorish architecture and lush greenery. It spans 15,000 square meters, though it was undoubtedly more extensive during the Islamic era. Unfortunately, parts of the walls and some towers have been lost over time.

1.2. Alcazaba Malaga’s Special Festival

This monumental fortress also hosts one of the many festivals of Malaga. This event is called “White Night”, and is celebrated on the 20th of May every year. The day boasts about the culture and art of Malaga’s Alcazaba. Museums and galleries offer free admission and extend their operating hours until early in the morning.

2. Malaga Alcazaba Architecture

Alcazaba's Outer Citadel with a pool and arches
Interior Architecture of Alcazaba, Malaga

The Alcazaba is a place to visit in Malaga that features an architectural marvel that represents the fusion of both Islamic and Roman brilliance and traditions. The Moorish architectural style evident in the Alcazaba is characterized by its exquisite geometric patterns, horseshoe arches, and ornate stucco work. All these elements together create a visual symphony of Islamic aesthetics. 

The main arches in the Malaga’s Alcazaba are split into two sections. One features a cylindrical shape adorned with modest decoration and supports a prism with rounded corners at its base. The primary objective of the Alcazaba’s artists was to decorate every available space, not considering its size. The walls were intricately decorated ceramics and plasterwork, while the ceilings featured carved wooden frames, as evidenced in a section called the “Mudejar armor room.”

Due to the restrictions of Muslim culture, which prohibited the depiction of human figures, the Nasrids employed alternative embellishments. Notably, they utilized classic calligraphy, specifically cursive and Kufic scripts, inscribing various phrases like “Only God is victorious.”

3. What to see in Alcazaba Malaga?

Garden area inside the Alcazaba in Malaga
Gardens of Alcazaba

As visitors explore the fortress, they embark on a chronological journey that allows them to marvel at the delicate balance of these architectural influences. The Alcazaba’s distinctive synthesis of Moorish and Roman styles not only reflects the historical transitions of the region but also stands as a timeless masterpiece, inviting admiration for the ingenuity of those who shaped its design centuries ago.

3.1. Entrance Gateway

Step into the Alcazaba in Malaga through its iconic entrance, where centuries of history unfold. The builders of Alcazaba built thre separate concrete walls to ensure the fortress could not be easily besieged by invaders. As you navigate along these walls, you will pass through several gates before reaching palaces which are situated in the middle of the complex. The three gates that you will pass through along the way are known as the Puerta de la Bóveda Vaída, Puerta de las Columnas, and Puerta de los Cuartos de Granada. 

The main entrance will take you to two different fortresses, namely, the Plaza de Armas and Puerta de Arcos. Plaza de Armas was the area where the artillery was stored after the city was conquered. It also the access to the Castle of Gibalfaro. Within the Plaza de Armas lies a splendid Spanish-Arabic garden crafted by architect Fernando Guerrero-Strachan Rosado in the early 20th century, adhering to 16th-century plans. The garden’s design incorporates geometric patterns, complete with irrigation channels and a central fountain.

The other fortress is called Puerta de Arcos is a dungeon believed to be where the captured Christians were imprisoned. Here, you can find architectural works of the 19th century such as the marble-sculpted boar, the Roman bath, and the petite terraces. Once you pass this place, you will then arrive at the upper area where the Alcazaba palaces are.

3.2. Malaga Alcazaba Palaces (Upper area)

This is the area where you can view the different sections of the palaces like the Nasraid palace remains of the Taifal. You will also be able to feel the vibes of the 11th-century neighborhood through the baths, aljibe (Arabian cistern), and restoration workshops that are part of the area.

From this area, you can view the Cuartos de Granada where the kings and governor resided. There are also samples of Muslim pottery here. A lot of the parts of Malaga’s Alcazaba Castle were ruined as time went by. One of the famous ruins you can view is the 11th-century Arab housing district. Another is the Torre del Homenaje, which is a remnant from the 14th century.

3.3. The Lower Courtyard: A Prelude to Majesty

As you proceed, the lower courtyard of Alcazaba reveals itself—a space adorned with lush gardens and architectural marvels. Explore the serenity of this space, where the interplay of light and shadow enhances the allure of Moorish design.

3.4. The Courtyard of the Columns: A Calm Retreat

Discover the Courtyard of the Columns, an oasis within the Alcazaba, Malaga fortress. This peaceful area, adorned with columns inspired by Roman design, offers a serene escape and an opportunity for contemplation amid the grandeur of history. As you navigate the Alcazaba, each section offers a distinctive viewpoint on its history, architecture, and cultural importance that culminates in an expedition that transcends time and captivates the senses.

4. Alcazaba Malaga View

Panaromic view of the city of Malaga from the top of the Alcazaba fortress, showing the Malaga Park and the Malaga Port.
Panaromic view from Alcazaba, Malaga

The Alcazaba in Malaga not only showcases a wealth of historical stories but also presents an exceptional visual marvel. One of the standout features contributing to this breathtaking panorama is the renowned “Paseo de las Torres,” which you can find strategically within the fortress. This section offers visitors a breathtaking panoramic view of Malaga and the Mediterranean Sea. The vast horizon stretches out before you, unveiling a striking blend of urban sophistication set against the backdrop of the azure Mediterranean waters.

As you wander along the Paseo de las Torres, each stride reveals a scenic panorama that blends historical charm with contemporary allure. The expansive view from this standpoint not only highlights the architectural excellence of the Alcazaba but also stands as evidence of its enduring strategic significance across the ages.

5. How to get to Alcazaba Malaga

The Ancient Amphitheater in Alcazaba, Malaga
Alcazaba Amphitheater

Getting to Malaga’s Alcazaba is relatively easy and there are several transportation options depending on your starting point. If you’re already in the Malaga town center, the most convenient options is walking to the Alcazaba.The fortress is located on Gibralfaro Hill, overlooking the city. Start off at Plaza de la Aduana and from there, you can begin climbing up to the entrance to the structure.

Another option is taking the bus. Malaga City has an efficient public transportation system which includes buses. It is considered to be the cheapest at €1 and time it takes to travel is approximately 11 minutes from Malaga bus station. You can check the local bus routes to find one that stops near the Alcazaba. The bus stop you might consider is usually “Alcazaba” or “Castillo Gibralfaro.”

A  quick and convenient way to go to Malaga’s Alcazaba is via a taxi ride, especially if you’re traveling with luggage or in a group. Taxi ride from Malaga city center can cost around €4 to €6 and the travel time usually takes only three minutes. Taxis are readily available in Malaga, and you can simply instruct the driver to take you to the Alcazaba.

You can also drive to the Alcazaba using a private vehicle or a rented car. Renting a car can cost around €44 a day for a medium-sized car. Parking facilities in the city can be limited; however, please take note.

6. What to Know Before Visiting Alcazaba Malaga

View from Alcazaba including part of Alcazaba and the city of Malaga
View from Alcazaba

6.1. Opening Hours and Admission Fees of Alcazaba Malaga

The opening hours of Malaga’s Alcazaba during the winter months (November to March) are from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. They allow last admissions until 5:15 p.m. During the summer months (April -October) they extend their operating hours until 8:00 pm. Malaga’s Alcazaba opening times also observe holidays like Christmas and New Year. We recommend checking the official website or contacting the ticket office to get the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding working hours.

The general admission fee to Alcazaba costs around €3.50. Take note that Gibralfaro Castle also has a different entrance fee of €3.50. However, you can buy a combined tour for the two destinations for €5.50. They may apply discounts for students, seniors over 65 years old, retired individuals, and those with disabilities, with at least a 33% discount for the unemployed. You may purchase your tickets directly in the area. Guided tour entrance prices also vary depending on age and number of persons per group.

Some attractions offer free admission on certain days or times. The Alcazaba, Malaga entrance fee is free on Sundays after 2:00 p.m. You can finish touring the Alcazaba complex in around one hour and 30 minutes. We advise tourists to start early so you can explore the area at a comfortable pace.

6.2. What to Wear

As for footwear, we recommend wearing shoes that are durable and comfortable because there is a lot of walking involved in exploring the Alcazaba in Malaga. For clothes, dress comfortably according to the local weather. While Malaga is warm all year-round, it is also a coastal city that gets a lot of wind. As Alcazaba is high, it might be windy during your visit.

6.3. Parking at Alcazaba Malaga

If you’re driving, there are parking facilities near the Alcazaba in Malaga. You may park in the public parking next to the Plaza de la Merced, which is just within walking distance of both the Cathedral of Malaga and the Alcazaba. However, parking space in the city Malaga can be limited, so it’s advisable to arrive early or consider using public transportation instead.

6.4. Amenities

The Alcazaba is equipped with amenities catering to diverse needs. However, it is advisable to use the toilet before embarking on a long walk around the area. An in-house cafe can be found inside, but it has limited seats. Make sure to bring your own snack and drinks to so you can be ready anytime on your walk.

6.5. Other Tips

The visiting area of the Alcazaba in Malaga does not allow pets. The fortress is generally child-friendly, with its open spaces providing an engaging environment for exploration. Although there are ramps available inside the area, there are more stairs to climb as well. It is not advisable for those who are in wheelchairs to tour the area for safety purposes.

Enhance your Alcazaba experience by exploring the city with a guided walking tour or join a Malaga Free Walking Tour. Remember to plan ahead, check the official Alcazaba website for the latest information, and make the most of your visit to this historical gem in Malaga.

7. Nearby Attractions to Alcazaba Malaga

Picture of a sunset,
View from Alcazaba During Sunset

Beyond the historic allure of Alcazaba in Malaga lies a treasure trove of nearby attractions. Whether you’re drawn to culture, beachside relaxation, or panoramic vistas, the attractions surrounding the Alcazaba cater to a diverse range of interests, ensuring a fulfilling experience in Malaga. Here are some of the rich attractions surrounding Alcazaba, giving you more reasons to visit Malaga.

7.1. Gibralfaro Castle

Resting atop the same hill as Alcazaba in Malaga, Gibralfaro Castle stands majestically, providing sweeping panoramic views of Malaga. This Malaga castle is an Arab defense area that is connected by a walled corridor known as La Coracha. This particular location is adjacent to the Roman Theater of Malaga and faces the Customs building.

This Malaga castle, Alcazaba shares a history with Moorish origins. The castle, which showcases medieval military architecture, was built in the 10th century to house troops and defend Alcazaba. As you ascend the winding pathway linking the two structures, you can enjoy breathtaking views of the city, port, and the Mediterranean Sea.

The castle is divided into two areas: the main courtyard and the weapons courtyard. The main courtyard or the higher fortress is composed of different sights. A mosque is believed to have stood in this area before it was converted into Saint Louis church during the Christian requisition. The area around it was also used as gunpowder storage. At present, the place is now an Interpretation Centre where the weapons and uniforms of the garrison are displayed. You can also find the Airon well which is believed to have been dug during the Phonecian times. It is 40 meters deep and was originally dug into a rock. You may also visit the mayor tower which stands 17 meters in height.

On the other hand, the Weapons courtyard, which is the lower part of the castle, was the place that housed the stables, barrack troops, and two bread ovens. Today, the white tower, formerly known as the only entrance to the castle through the Coracha, is the largest preserved tower in Al-Andalus.

7.2.  Malaga Old Town

Immerse yourself in the captivating ambiance of Malaga’s Old Town, just a short distance from the Alcazaba. This section of town features cobblestone streets, historic buildings, and lively plazas that each beckons you to explore. Visit the Cathedral of Malaga—a stunning Renaissance masterpiece—and wander through the charming alleys adorned with shops, cafes, and vibrant street art. The Old Town serves as a cultural kaleidoscope, hosting museums like the Picasso Museum, which showcases the works of the renowned artist born in Malaga.

Red brick road
Ancient Road taking to the Granada Chambers

7.3. Cathedral of Malaga

This iconic cathedral, often referred to as the Cathedral in Malaga, is a symbol of the city’s rich history and cultural significance. Its awe-inspiring facades and intricate details draw admirers from around the globe and a place to see in Malaga. As you explore the vibrant streets and charming alleys of Malaga, the Cathedral emerges as a focal point that invites you to marvel at its grandeur and step inside to witness the artistry that spans centuries.

7.4. Malagueta Beach

For a relaxing break, visit Malagueta Beach, which is conveniently located a short distance from the Alcazaba. This urban beach boasts golden sands and the soothing sounds of the Mediterranean. Enjoy a leisurely stroll along the palm-lined promenade, savor seafood at beachfront restaurants, or simply soak up the sun with the fortress in the distance. Malagueta Beach offers a serene escape, providing a perfect balance to the historical exploration of the nearby Alcazaba and Gibralfaro Castle.

7.5. Roman Theatre

Situated at the base of the Alcazaba fortress in the western part of Malaga, the Roman theater was discovered in 1951, having been concealed underground for centuries. It was built during the Empire of Augustus and was used up until the third century. During the Arab invasion, it was utilized for construction purposes. Parts of the theatre, such as capitals and column shafts, were repurposed in the construction of their Alcazaba fortress, providing support for horseshoe arches over doorways. 

The theatre measures 31 meters in radius, stands at 16 meters in height, and features a 15-meter orchestra. The Roman theatre Malaga is a combination of Roman and Arab architecture. When you purchase a ticket for an Alcazaba tour, it already includes the entrance fee.

7.6. Bullring in Malaga

Constructed in 1874, although its formal inauguration occurred two years later, the bullring in Malaga witnessed its first bullfight in 1876. Recognized as a historical-artistic complex and a cultural asset, it has become a subject of debate as an increasing number of individuals advocate for the cessation of bullfighting due to concerns about animal cruelty. Despite evolving opinions, bullfighting remains a historical legacy that endured as a popular pastime for the affluent.

Today, with a seating capacity of around 9,000, the bullring hosts occasional bullfights, notably during events like Holy Week, and the Malaga Fair in August, and September. It also houses a bullfighting museum inaugurated in 1999.

There are also restaurants near Alcazaba where you can enjoy local cuisine. Famous for their wines, Casa de Guardia and El Pimpi are a must place to visit. Casa Aranda is renowned for serving hot chocolate and churros tejeringos, making it perfect for those with a sweet tooth.

Another  activity to experience Arab baths in Malaga. A hammam bath is a type of steam bath or a place of public bathing associated with the Islamic world. Located at Plaza dos Marites, indulge in this relaxing way of bathing. You may also visit Park Malaga to tour the area and experience the culture of the place and its people.

If you’re curious about Malaga’s creative hub, check out our guide to Soho Malaga. You can also join Malaga’s Original Pub Crawl to enjoy the nightlife in Malaga.

Do you need more information on the city? Head over to Malaga’s official Tourism website or read about Malaga’s Metro Lines to plan out your vacation route.