Guide to the Alcazaba Fortress

It dominates the hillside on the eastern side of the city and rates as one of the most interesting things to see in Malaga. Inside, you get a glimpse of a working fortress as well as sumptuous living quarters decorated in true Moorish style. Welcome to probably the best historic monument in Malaga – the Alcazaba Fortress.

A bit of history

In Al-Andalus fashion, the Alcazaba has one of the best defensive positions in the city on top of the only hill in the centre. Although Malaga never equalled the dizzy heights of Granada and Seville in importance for the Moors, it still ranked among the most prominent places in Al-Andalus, particularly as a port. Malaga’s strategic position on the Mediterranean needed a fortress to defend itself and the Alcazaba was born.

Entrance to the Alcazaba Fortress
Entrance to the Alcazaba Fortress

Building work started on the fortified citadel in the 8th century although the inner palace was built between 1057 and 1063. Major restoration took place during the 1930s, although most of it was tastefully done, more or less in keeping with the original. 

Visiting the Alcazaba

Your visit starts with a bargain admission price (how many cities charge just over €3 to visit one of their best monuments?) at the entrance on Calle Alcazabilla. You then pass through several defensive archways before you reach the lower part of the fortress. Pause here to climb up to the walls where you get good views of Malaga old quarter.

View of Alcazaba Fortress walls from inside
View of Alcazaba Fortress walls from inside

While on the walls, admire the extraordinary roof on the Palacio de la Aduana. You can’t miss the vast stretch of silver and blue flashing in the sunlight. The 6,000 aluminium tiles that make up the roof have a picture of the building engraved on them – you need to look carefully to make it out. This building houses the Museum of Malaga that opened in December 2017.

Next you walk through a succession of gateways, patios and gardens. These are at their best in spring when the scent of orange blossom accompanies you everywhere, but the vibrant bougainvillea are good almost all year round.

One of the courtyards
One of the courtyards

The palace itself is at the top of the climb and although the rooms and courtyards aren’t on a par with those in the Alhambra in Granada or Los Reales Alcázares in Seville, they do have their own charm. And the stuccowork on the walls and ceilings is lovely. But best of all, is the sense of peace and quiet – the Alcazaba Fortress enjoys the same lack of crowds as the other monuments in Malaga and you can really get a feel for the place and almost on your own.

Information panels in Spanish and English guide your round the visit and there’s an interesting collection of original Moorish pottery and ceramics on display in some of the rooms in the palace. These pieces were found during excavations on the site.

Views of Malaga from the Alcazaba
Views of Malaga Port from the Alcazaba

The views of course are great – our favourite is the vista of the west of Malaga framed by one of the characteristic horseshoe arches, but you can see the city stretching below you from more or less anywhere in the Alcazaba.

The Alcazaba Fortress at night
The Alcazaba Fortress at night

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Top tips

  • Allow between 1 and 2 hours for your visit.
  • Wear comfortable footwear and watch your step as the ground is uneven on the way up and down to the palace.
  • Visit first or last thing for the best light for views. Sunset is particularly good during the winter months.
  • If you’re on a budget take your own refreshments. Pricey food and drink is available at a café onsite, although we think the chance to sit and look at the lovely views below makes up for the bill.
  • Night time visits are occasionally possible. Check at the tourist office for details.

Admission

€3.50 or €5.50 if you buy a combo Alcazaba-Gibralfaro ticket. Free admission on Sunday after 2pm.

Opening times

1 April-31 October daily 9am-20pm; 1 November-31 March daily 9am-6pm. Last entrance 30 mins before closing time.

Length of visit

Allow a whole morning or afternoon to visit both of these monuments in Malaga. The Alcazaba Fortress takes around an hour and a half to visit as does the Gibralfaro, longer if you have refreshments.

Accessibility

These are among the few places to visit in Malaga that are not accessible. Both monuments have lots of steps so wear sturdy shoes and hold on to handrails when you’re climbing up and down.

Cafés

Both monuments have refreshment venues serving hot and cold drinks plus light snacks. The Gibralfaro café has particularly lovely views and friendly staff.

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