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Alcazaba Malaga: A Visit to the Moorish Palace

by Silke Elzner

The Alcazaba is one of the must-sees in Malaga, in particular if you are planning a day trip from the Costa del Sol. It is a great alternative for cruise guests who prefer to stay in Malaga rather than travelling farther into Andalusia to see the Moorish palaces of Granada and Cordoba. We visited the Alcazaba the other day and now we would like to share with you our experiences and some tips for your own visit.

The entry to the Alcazaba of Malaga can be found right next to the Roman Theatre.

The entry to the Alcazaba of Malaga can be found right next to the Roman Theatre.

You may be forgiven to underestimate the beauty and elegance of the Alcazaba in Malaga. Yes, it does look quite imposing when seen from below, the stone walls towering over the Roman Theatre in the centre of the city. The glimpses you get of shuttered windows, keyhole arches. But overall it cannot possibly be as grand as the Alhambra or as pretty as the Real Alcazar in Cordoba. Or can it?

Let me say that I was pleasantly surprised by our visit to the Moorish palace. From the orange tree lined approach to the cool water gardens, from the views all the way to Antonio Banderas’ rooftop terrace and the small details within the palace, the Alcazaba has a lot more going for it than at first sight.

The typical horseshoe arch is just one of many at the Alcazaba. Note the ancient columns added to both sides.

The lofty horseshoe arch is just one of many at the Alcazaba. Note the ancient columns added to both sides.

The Best Preserved Alcazaba in Spain

We take the steps that are leading up to the Alcazaba, following a zigzag pattern of fully enclosed walkways, through reconstucted gates framed with ancient Roman columns. Tall conifers line the way, while dwarf palms and flowering runners make up a hanging garden along the rocky side of the road. From the ramparts we enjoy the first views of the city, see cats exploring the undergrowth underneath the walls, can make out the landmarks of the city.

We follow the path further, explore the lower gardens underneath the internal walls. Orange trees everywhere, their bright fruit looking pretty in front of the brick and crushed stone walls. It’s a garden in the sky, high above the city, with squirrels playing in the shady trees.

Through another gate we go, up and up, discover the first symmetrical hedgerow garden, the first fountain. Arab gardens are all about water, and the further we go the more this becomes evident.

A sunken hedgerow garden, carefully arranged to create refreshing spaces of water and shade.

A sunken hedgerow garden, carefully arranged to create refreshing spaces of water and shade.

From the Water Gardens to the Palaces

We follow the channels in the centre of the path, where water flows from the top of the mountain to the lower parts of the gardens. The trickling sound of water is now everywhere, dripping softly from faucets into tubs near the walls, bubbling from fountains into circular basins in the floors, rushing downhill in neat channels that make sharp turns down flights of stairs and past verdant hedges.

The further we go into the Alcazaba, the more details we notice. Beautifully painted window frames with Arab-style floral ornaments. Wooden ceilings in fading colours, adorned with geometric patterns in red and gold. Leafs carved into doorways, windows, arches.

We stand in the open and airy rooms of the palaces, look out the windows. Below us, the spread of the city, the mountains, the sea. There is no gold-leaf here. No ancient tiles along the walls. Most of what we see is a reconstruction. Yet, the atmosphere is the same. The views are the same. The Alcazaba in Malaga is a true Moorish experience, an idea of what might have been many centuries ago. A sweet introduction into what other palaces in Andalusia may hold in store.

Leaf ornaments and many other Arab-style details can still be seen at the Alcazaba.

Leaf ornaments and many other Arab-style details can still be seen at the Alcazaba.

What you Need to Know Before Visting the Alcazaba in Malaga

The Alcazaba in Malaga is centrally located on the hill near the cruise port. Just follow the stairs leading up the hill right next to the Roman Theatre. If you don’t want to or if you cannot climb the mountain through the gates like we did, use the lift that is located in the street Calle Guillen Sotelo.

Behind the Alcazaba you can make out Malaga’s second Moorish fortress, the Castillo de Gibralfaro. You can visit both monuments on the same day, even buy a slightly discounted combo ticket for both attractions. But the two castles are no longer connected, which means that you will have to surround the mountain to get to the entrance of the Gibralfaro. A visit to both castles is a good idea, since they are distinctively different and offer quite diverse views from the ramparts.

Entry fees are moderate but you can get in for free on Sunday afternoons from 2pm. Visit the official website here. More photos as you scroll down! ↓

Want to join a tour of Malaga? Get your tickets for the hop-on-hop-off bus, explore tapas and wine by bike, or take part in a comprehensive 3-hour guided walking tour. (Affiliate-Links)

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Orange trees line the way to the Alcazaba

Fragrant orange trees line the way to the Alcazaba

In former times, the rulers of Malaga could overlook the city from the palace windows.

In former times, the rulers of Malaga could overlook the city from the palace windows.

Hedges and fountains constitute the very formal palace gardens.

Hedges and fountains constitute the very formal palace gardens.

We follow the channel that supplies the gardens with water.

We follow the channel that supplies the gardens with water.

Water is channeled, collected and distributed in the gardens.

Water is channeled, collected and distributed in the gardens.

There are many Moorish style features in the palaces.

There are many Moorish style features in the palaces.

The typical keyhole shape can be found all over Andalusia.

The typical keyhole shape can be found all over Andalusia.

The ceilings show Arab-style ornaments.

The ceilings show Arab-style ornaments.

Water fountains are important features in Moorish castles to cool the air on hot days.

Water fountains are important features in Moorish castles to cool the air on hot days.

A wooden ceiling in the palace.

A wooden ceiling in the palace.

Pretty column, lovingly restored.

Pretty column, lovingly restored.

The Alcazaba is a pleasant surprise, showing a lot of understated elegance.

The Alcazaba is a pleasant surprise, showing a lot of understated elegance.

A wonderful ceiling in one of the palace rooms.

A wonderful ceiling in one of the palace rooms.

A reflecting pool in the palace, typical feature of a Moorish palace in Spain.

A reflecting pool in the palace, typical feature of a Moorish palace in Spain.

Fantastic views of Malaga with the cathedral in the left part of the picture.

Fantastic views of Malaga with the Cathedral in the left part of the picture.

Antonio Banderas' rooftop...

Antonio Banderas’ rooftop…