Malaga: The Ibiza Rehab

~By:  Julie

After spending a little over a week enjoying everything that Barcelona and Ibiza had to offer, catching every sunrise and sunset and just about depleting our savings accounts, we made it to Malaga. The first thing we notice is the prices of food and drinks and we couldn’t possibly be happier. $3 for a sandwich and a beer is probably the best news next to the possibility of naptime.


beach day with my babes.

At this point of the trip our group has grown to 10 people, we have a big “family”. Accommodating a group that big with no dinner reservations can be hard but right at the end of July it’s just slow enough and we happened across a place called “Restaurante Marengo” down the street from the apartments we rented. Everything was absolutely delicious! It’s right next to Batik, so we took advantage and made reservations for the next day for our 2 friends birthday celebration. I highly recommend Batik when you are in Malaga, even if you can’t get in for dinner. Absolutely must go at sunset even if it’s just for drinks. You have an amazing view of the Gibralfaro Castle lit up behind you.


We rented a van the next day, which ended up being the best option for a group our size and gave us more flexibility to stop in Marbella to enjoy lunch on the beach on our way to Gibraltar. Definitely pack your passports because Gibraltar is a United Kingdom territory and you can definitely feel some tension with the locals along that subject. We parked and hired a bus driver to be our guide up the mountain and he gave us some good historical facts along with some personal stories about the vibe and tension between the Spaniards and Gibraltarians. As a side note, do not bring food up the mountain and definitely hold on to your belongings. The monkeys are beyond comfortable just crawling into your van and sitting in between you and your friends if they find a crumb inside. Made for some great pictures and a few screams when they flew in out of nowhere.

Once you get to the top you get to go inside the mountain and we learned so much information. Even if you aren’t a history fan, there is something inside for everyone. It’s pretty fascinating!

As our friends slowly started flying out two by two it finally ended with three of us. Our original plan was to continue on to Morocco but a scary case of bronchitis kind of put a damper on things. But sometimes the unexpected turns bring the best surprises. I’m so happy that we were forced to slow down and really take in Malaga. We fell in love! We checked out of our apartments and stumbled across a really good deal for a week at Hotel Vincci. I could not possibly write enough good reviews about this place. The location is incredible; the staff was sweet, accommodating and professional. I knew if I was going to be sick for at least a week stuck somewhere that I needed a certain amount of comfort. I normally love hostels when we are traveling as a smaller group, and especially when I’m traveling alone, but not when I’m sick. To our surprise the hotel was built on top of an archeological dig of Roman ruins. When you enter the hotel the entrance floor is glass so you are literally walking on top of the ruins. If you go downstairs you can walk through it and it’s pretty cool. The rooftop pool was my favorite. It’s small but the staff is amazing and the champagne is cold and inexpensive.


Probably my favorite find in the entire stay was a complete accident. We were just wandering and looking for a place to eat when we found a little alley and heard music coming from it. It’s a little hidden local bar and sometimes restaurant (until they run out of food as I was told). It’s called Casa Invisible. There are some great murals, a water fountain and some plastic tables and chairs. It’s definitely a locals place but great for people watching. The vibe is one I can’t really explain but I’ll try. It’s magical and mysterious and you can feel a spiritual connection with it somehow. I swear I could feel Hemmingway sitting in a corner flirting with the locals and planning his next novel.


IMG_5740Another great find was Taberna Mitjana. Nothing was special about it from the outside but on a hot day; exhausted from wandering and exploring sometimes you just sit at the first table that can bring you a cold jar of sangria. It’s almost impossible to find bad sangria in Spain. And Taberna Mitjana didn’t disappoint with their summer sangria, which has a little fizz in it and more orange zest for the heat. What made this place on my top 10 in Malaga was the food. I have to confess I went back 4 times in a week for the Brie Cheese plate. The eggplant fries drizzles with honey and molasses is also one of the greatest things. There was never an argument to stop in for both those items randomly throughout the day. It’s right in the middle of all the best shopping so it’s nice to take a break every so often to cool off and rest your feet.


I think my favorite activity was when we bought tickets for the catamaran cruise through Catamaran Estrella Fugaz. It lasted just 2 hours and I wish it were longer. Any time I’m on a boat, I’m in my happy place. They also sell bottles of cava for the price I’d pay for champagne in the store in the U.S. You can’t beat a day on a catamaran with a bottle of cava for only 10 euros + bottle price. The boat stopped for a little while so we could swim and cool off for a bit and we got back in time to shower and make it to our Balinese massages that we scheduled at Naisha Massage Center.


chilling on a catamaran

IMG_5959Near the hotel is one of the cutest organic brunch places called BrunchIt. All the bread is homemade and the food designed from our favorite big cities. The cold pressed juice was amazing. My only regret is not finding this place the first day so I could load up on vitamins the entire time. After brunch, my friend and I wandered past the most enchanting book and map store. We wanted to live there. It’s a magical little store called Mapas y Compania where vintage toy airplanes and hot air balloons hang from the ceiling. You absolutely want to be stuck in there and it would be so easy to spend an entire day exploring.


Our favorite meal was at the Tapeo de Cervantes. It gets busy so definitely make a reservation. The wait staff was friendly, attentive and fast. The food was incredible. The chef came out twice to talk to us and we couldn’t complement the food enough. The skirt steak was so tender it would fall off your fork and the blood sausage with the quail egg was impressive to say the least. We all split a caramel pancake for dessert before we had to be rolled out the door. We were so busy eating and enjoying that we didn’t even get pictures, though they wouldn’t have done it justice.


Our last night in Malaga, we scheduled a Flamenco show at the Kelipe Arts & Cultural Flamenco Center. We had about an hour to kill so we went across the plaza to grab a meal over at Café Central. I wish we knew more about the history of that place. Its history is all over the walls and the decorum, floors, walls, stained glass ceiling and bar were perfectly maintained from the past. It was like eating in a time machine. Great food, great service and fast enough to get us to the flamenco show on time. My friend had always wanted to see a Flamenco show and I really didn’t care either way. It was 10 euros and included 2 sangrias. Let me just tell you, that was the most unexpected highlight of my trip and the perfect way to end the night. It’s a small venue so you want to purchase your tickets early or online. The emotion that you felt from the dancers and singers is inexplicable. Everyone had tears in their eyes and goose bumps. If your blood didn’t dance with the beat then you might have to get your pulse checked. What an incredible experience.


We were planning to go to bed early before our flight the next day but after the performance there is no way you can go right to sleep. So what else do you do if you can’t sleep? Sangria. We stumbled across a place called 21 Bou off Calle de Sanchez where I deemed it my favorite sangria of the entire trip. I’m not sure if I was still amped up after the show and just madly in love with Spain or if it really was the best sangria. But it was the gran finale for our trip.


If you only have 24 hours in Malaga I would normally suggest grabbing roadies and hopping on the hop-on buses and just cruising and seeing everything. Picasso’s birth house was something I experienced a few years back in Malaga and I still think fondly of that day. I learned so much and I felt a stronger connection with the painter from that day.


I realize that a hop- on bus is taking the easiest way out but when you’ve been traveling so long and you are tired and only have one option, that’s always my choice. You aren’t stuck wandering, you can choose with places are important for you to stop at, you don’t have to walk (especially when it’s 95 degrees) and you can tell everyone you saw the important stuff. However, if you are up for the challenge, I’ve designed a little 24-hour layover that I think anyone would love.


Book your tickets online before you get to Malaga to save time. Book tickets for the flamenco show, the catamaran and reservations at Tapeo de Cervantes.

Breakfast at Brunch-it. No brainer. Now go walk that off and head through town, go to Picassos birth house, walk more, work up an appetite because the one thing you need in Spain is an appetite! Grab a pitcher of sangria and that brie cheese plate and the eggplant fries over at Taberna Mitjana, I like traveling with my big groups because we can share lots of plates and I don’t have to eat so much. Head over to the catamaran cruise and enjoy the views and have a swim. Work up more appetite, because now you have dinner reservations at Tapeo de Cervantes. You should finish dinner just in time to head over to the Flamenco show where you can sit and digest and obviously drink more sangria. To top off the night I’m throwing out two suggestions, the day has been so busy already but you have to have a nightcap while your heart beat slows down after the flamenco. If you want a little more upscale, definitely choose Batik for that view. If you want to slow down and watch the locals, I choose Invisible Bar. Either way you will leave with your belly full, a perfect buzz, your taste buds happy and just about every single one of your senses pleased.

Check out our other Spain adventures


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