The Alcazaba of Malaga: All You Need to Know for Your Visit

It’s almost impossible to visit Malaga and not explore the historic gems it has to offer.

If you’re wondering whether it’s worth the time and your patience to bear the crowds in Alcazaba, this article will give you all the answers you need.

When to Visit the Alcazaba

Alcazaba of Malaga is by no means as crowded as other historic sights in Spain, like the Alhambra in Granada, but if you’re unlucky with timing it can get pretty busy.

My visit with the photos below was on Sunday, which happens to be the only day when you get free entrance (after 2pm). It was also the day when 3 big cruise liners were sitting in the port, meaning an extra few thousand visitors were out and about in the city, and visiting the monuments.

As you would imagine, summer is the busiest time for Malaga, and if you want to visit Alcazaba you should aim to be there early in the morning when it opens.

Unfortunately, tickets cannot be purchased online, so you will have to wait up in line if you arrive later.

Off-season months (November – April) are usually quieter. October can be still pretty busy as travellers who like the milder temperatures book day trips or cruises to visit the city.

Approaching the Alcazaba from Parque de Malaga
The outer walls of Alcazaba as seen from the pathway of Jardines de Puerta Oscura

Location of Alcazaba

The Alcazaba sits right under the Gibralfaro castle, which is hard to miss from anywhere in Malaga.

If you’re arriving with a train or bus, it’s a short taxi journey (about 5 euros) to the location. If you’re travelling in a car, at the bottom of the post I marked some parking options for you.

Pathway to the castle from Jardines de Puerta Oscura
Local models in the gardens

Access to Alcazaba in Malaga

The entrance to Alcazaba is hidden behind the Roman Amphitheater, on the right side.

You will see some stone stairs leading up to the tower.

You enter through the staircase that leads to the ticket office, and from there continue through the main gate to start exploring.

Tickets to Alcazaba

On my visit, on Sunday, the entry was free – as it’s every Sunday from 2pm.

As a result, it was predictably crowded even though it’s not the middle of the summer.

The general ticket price is 3.50 euro if you’re visiting only Alcazaba if you’re continuing your visit to the Gibralfaro Castle, the combined ticket costs 5.50 euros.

The tickets cannot be purchased online, you can buy them directly at the entrance.

You can also buy your tickets at Gibralfaro castle and then continue your visit down at the Alcazaba.

Alcazaba castle as seen from Jardines de Puerta Oscura
The staircase leading up to the entrance

History of Alcazaba

According to the best available records, Alcazaba was built between 1057 and 1063 at the order of King of the Berber Taifa of Granada.

Since 1279 Malaga was a part of the Nasrid Kingdom and after the renovations that followed, Alcazaba acquired its typical Nasrid appearance, with architectural similarities to Alhambra in Granada (although not on such an epic scale).

It consists of outer defences walls and an inner palace in a typical style – with spacious courtyards decorated with blooming gardens, fountains and arched doorways.

Due to its strategic location, it was the most important defence monument in the city, and one of the finest of its kind among the Muslim works.

The Alcazaba has undergone a number of restoration works, the most recent ones in the 20th century.

It is beautifully preserved and it gives you a small taste of the Nasrid rule.

Main entrance gate to Alcazaba
The uphill climb lined with orange trees

The Alcazaba Cafe

As you climb your way through the two arched entrances, you end up on a crossroad where you can continue right or left.

If you continue to the right side, the path will lead you to the bar/cafe. There isn’t much beyond that, just one observation tower with stairs, and the rest of the access is blocked. The main part of Alcazaba is stretching to the left side.

Similar to the Gibralfaro Castle, Alcazaba also has a small cafe (a lot smaller than Gibralfaro) under a shaded pergola. There are also two small toilets right next to it.

They serve some basic refreshments and snacks, but the seating is rather limited. A lot of people take their drink and go to sit on the edge of the tower that’s right next to the cafe.

Unlike the Gibralfaro cafe, I believe this one doesn’t offer any food options (in Gibralfaro castle you can get warm sandwiches, pizza etc).

The cafe terrace
A great place to enjoy a break with a view during your exploration
Views from the cafe
Views from one of the towers next to the cafe

The Views

Alcazaba offers spectacular views towards the harbour area, but you can also get a really good glimpse of Gibralfaro Castle.

From the other side, you can enjoy views towards Malaga city, with the Roman Amphitheatre stretching just underneath you.

Harbour area with Muelle Uno and Malaga lighthouse
View towards Jardines de Pedro Luis Alonso

Central Courtyard

A small uphill climb will take you to the main open courtyard with a landscaped garden and a fountain in the middle.

It is shaded by a large pergola with blooming flowers, and as expected a very popular photography spot (and nearly impossible to get a photo without people in it).

The courtyard then spills into another elevated area that leads you through another gate into the upper part of Alcazaba, with some of the most beautiful architectural features – the signature arched window frames and columns. (I didn’t photograph them for the blog as there were like 100 people in the frame)

Central courtyard with fountain
A network of tiny canals is distributing the water throughout the palace.
Another courtyard with a well in the middle and the only toilets on the complex.
More views!
The climb leading up to Gibralfaro castle
My little explorer – even though there wasn’t a lot to see, it was a lot of fun for a kid to climb the walls and explore where the paths will lead.
Views towards the city and the Roman Amphitheater under Alcazaba
Beautiful shadow play on the terracotta walls.
As you can see from here, the place was far from peaceful.
Beautiful well preserved walls.
Exiting the Alcazaba

Roman Amphitheater

The Roman Amphitheater in Malaga is a fairly recent accidental discovery – it was uncovered in the 50s following construction work on the cultural centre building.

It is thought to have been built at the time of Augustus in the 1AD and part of the original building was used as a source of raw materials for building the Alcazaba. The theatre has 13 raised rows of seats and has a radius of 31 meters.

Today, it’s not only an archaeological site but it is actively used as a venue for various events.

The small museum that’s part of it gives you a good glimpse of what life here used to be like.

Roman Theater with Alcazaba entrance behind it

Frequent Questions about Alcazaba

How much Time Do I Need to Explore Alcazaba?

The complex looks large, but it doesn’t take you more than an hour to see it all. There is no museum inside, just a few information tables once you reach the top, so it’s just a matter of walking around and enjoying the views and surroundings.

Is the Alcazaba in Malaga open?

Yes, Alcazaba is open all year round, but the opening times are different in the summer and winter months. Summer hours are from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and winter hours from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. It’s closed on bank holidays.

Is it Better to Visit Alcazaba or Gibralfaro Castle?

Each offers something unique, and if you have time I would recommend visiting both. Alcazaba offers a unique insight into the Nasrid kingdom and beautiful examples of the architectural design of that time, while Gibralfaro has much better views.

What is Alcazaba used for?

Alcazaba was used as a fortress to protect the city and also served as a palace for the royals.

When was the Alcazaba in Malaga built?

According to historians, the Alcazaba was built between 1057 and 1063, at the order of King of the Berber Taifa of Granada.

What does Alcazaba mean in English?

The word comes from the Arabic word al-qaṣabah, a walled fortification in a city.

Where to Park to Visit the Alcazaba?

The closest parking options when visiting Alcazaba in Malaga are these ones:

  • Parking Motos Malaga (open 24hrs/day) – at C. Guillen Sotelo
  • Aparcamiento Alcazaba – at Pl. Jesús el Rico, 1, 29012 Málaga
  • Parking Muelle Uno (short walk away) – Paseo de los Curas
  • Parking Granados en el centro de Málaga (further in center of the city) – C. Granados, 3, 29008 Málaga

How much are the Tickets to Alcazaba?

The tickets to Alcazaba cost 3.50 euros per person (reduced rates available). If you want a combined ticket to also see the Gibralfaro Castle, the ticket costs 5.50 euros.

Explore more in Malaga

Dining at Muelle Uno: Cambara Restaurant, Malaga

Castillo de Gibralfaro, Malaga

La Conception Botanical Gardens in Malaga

10+ Amazing Day Trips from Malaga

Picasso Museum, Malaga

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