ALCAZABA Malaga

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Malaga’s Alcazaba is a palace-fortress built by the Muslim Moors in the 11th century. It was constructed on the side of the Gibralfaro Mountain, giving it commanding views over Malaga and the bay below. The heavily fortified complex consisted of 3 concentric walls and 110 towers! If that wasn’t enough, the Gibralfaro Castle was built above the Alcazaba in the 14th century, adding even more fortitude to the mountainside. While the Alcazaba may not be as extravagant as some other Moorish sites in Andalusia, it is still definitely worth a visit. Also, be sure to check out the Roman amphitheater located at the foot of the Alcazaba.

OPENING TIMES

From April to October: 9am to 8pm
From November to March: 9am to 6pm
Closed: January 1; December 24, 25 and 31

PRICE

General admission: 3.5€
Children (< 16), students & seniors: 1.5€
* Joint ticket Alcazaba & Gibralfaro castle: 5.5€
* Free for everyone Sundays after 2 pm

ADDRESS

Calle Alcazabilla 2, 29012 Málaga

VIEW MAP
Alcazaba seen from Malaga's port, Spain
Alcazaba seen from Malaga's port

The word “alcazaba” originates from the Arabic name “al-Qasba” which can be translated as “fortified citadel.” Initially, Malaga’s Alcazaba was constructed for purely defensive purposes. But later several palaces were added and the seat of Malaga’s government moved in as well.

Today, only half of the original Alcazaba is still intact. There isn’t much to see in the palaces (especially when compared to the Alhambra or Seville’s Royal Alcazar). But walking through the massive walls and gates is a pleasure. Especially, with all of the surrounding gardens that are so beautifully landscaped. And from the highest point of the Alcazaba there are great panoramic views of the city. Visiting the Alcazaba is one of the top things to do in Malaga.

Arches in a palace at the Alcazaba – Malaga, Spain
Arches in the Alcazaba

Elevator to the Top of the Alcazaba

The Alcazaba is situated on a hillside. The main ticket office is located at the bottom of the hill, right next to the Roman amphitheater. If you enter there, you will have to walk uphill.

Another option is to take the Alcazaba’s elevator all the way to the top. Then continue your tour down to the amphitheater. This is a great option if you have limited mobility or just don’t want to walk too much. Keep in mind though, that there are still a lot of steps on the way down.

To take the elevator, you must go to a separate entrance which is found on Calle Guillén Sotelo 1, behind the town hall. You can buy your ticket there too.

Fountain in a hidden corner of the Alcazaba – Malaga, Spain
Fountain in a hidden corner of the Alcazaba

History of the Alcazaba

The Alcazaba occupies a strategic defensive location which was first used by the Phoenicians around 600 BC. Later, Romans settled in the area and remnants of their city have been uncovered. The amphitheater, found at the Alcazaba’s base, is one of those ruins. It was originally built in the 1st century but was later covered up. It wasn’t until 1951 when it was finally rediscovered!

The first mentions of the Alcazaba date to the 8th century during the reign of Abd-al-Rahman I. However, most of the Alcazaba was built between 1057 and 1063 under the order of Badis, the Berber taifa king of Granada. As was typical of the time, many parts from Roman constructions were recycled and reused. This is most easily seen in the columns that were taken from the Roman theater.

Roman amphitheater at the foot of the Alcazaba, Malaga – Spain
Roman amphitheater at the foot of the Alcazaba

In the 13th century, Malaga was conquered by the Nasrid dynasty which reformed the Alcazaba into a palace-fortress. It was then used as the seat of government.

Later after the Christian reconquest, the Alcazaba was used by the Catholic Monarchs. But over time it slowly began to decay. After the 18th century, the government and military stopped using it and the Alcazaba was ultimately abandoned. It continued to fall apart until restoration works began in 1933.

What to See in the Alcazaba

WALLS & GATES

The builders of the Alcazaba didn’t want to take any chances that it could ever be breached. So they built 3 separate concentric walls. As you walk along these impenetrable walls, you will pass through several gates before making your way to the palaces in the middle of the complex.

These three gates are known as the Puerta de la Bóveda Vaída, Puerta de las Columnas and Puerta de los Cuartos de Granada. The Puerta de las Columnas got its name because recycled columns from the Romans were used in its construction.

DEFENSIVE TOWERS

At one time, 110 towers lined the walls of the Alcazaba. Today, there are only a handful still standing such as the Torre del Cristo, Torre del Tiro and the Torre del Homenaje. The later is the highest point of the Alcazaba and is from the reign of King Badis.

PLAZA DE ARMAS (WEAPONS SQUARE)

The Plaza de Armas contains a beautiful Spanish-Arabic garden. It was created by architect Fernando Guerrero-Strachan Rosado at the beginning of the 20th century and follows plans from the 16th century. The geometric design features channels for irrigation and a fountain in the center.

PALACIO TAIFA (TAIFA PALACE)

The Palacio Taifa is one of only 2 small palaces left in the Alcazaba. It is the oldest and dates back to the 11th century.

The central patio is known as the Patio de los Surtidores (Patio of the Suppliers). Several rooms of the palace can be toured such as the Pabellón de Arcos Lobulados, Torre de Maldonado and Sala de la Armadura Mudéjar.

PALACIO NAZARÍ (NASRID PALACE)

The Nasrid Palace is right next to the Taifa palace and is accessed from the Patio de los Surtidores. It was built by the Nasrid dynasty in the 13th century.

The palace is situated around 2 patios, the Patio de los Naranjos and Patio de la Alberca or Patio del Arrayán.

There are also a few rooms known as the Cuartos de Granada. This is where the governors and kings lived.

La Coracha Neighborhood

Once the Gibralfaro Castle was built in the 14th century, a defensive wall was added to connect it with the Alcazaba. This wall is known as the coracha. The coracha was used as a safe path to protect the communication between the Alcazaba and the Gibralfaro.

In the 18th century, the Alcazaba started to lose its military functions and was abandoned. Soon after, poor people began moving in next to the coracha. They built their houses against the wall and even used portions that had fallen in the construction. This neighborhood was aptly named, La Coracha.

These white houses perched on Mount Gibralfaro formed a neighborhood with its own distinct Andalusian architecture. Many have compared it to the Sacromonte neighborhood in Granada.

Neighborhood of La Coracha on the Gibralfaro hillside around 1880 – Malaga, Spain
Neighborhood of La Coracha around 1880

At some point, conditions became unsanitary and the area started to become overcrowded. The government first made plans to demolish the neighborhood in 1821, but it never went ahead. It was later renovated in the 1930’s and became known as one of the most traditional neighborhoods of Malaga.

In the 1970’s and 80’s La Coracha was abandoned (slowly bought up by the government). Finally in the 1990’s it was demolished altogether.

Various citizens' associations have denounced the demolition of La Coracha, calling it one of the greatest urban planning crimes carried out in Malaga. Sadly, nothing remains of the cultural and architectural heritage of La Coracha.

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