The Alcabaza complex has become one of Malaga’s most distinctive landmarks and a must-visit for anyone who comes to the city.
Built during the period of Muslim-ruled Al-Andalus and comprising a palace, fortifications and a maze of beautiful gardens, Malaga’s Alcazaba is one of the best-preserved Arabic citadels in the whole of Spain and attracts thousands of visitors every year.
A location of historical strategic importance
Throughout history, the location where the current Alcazaba sits has always been very important.
Its strategic position, overlooking the port and the historic centre from a hilltop, saw it inhabited by the Phoenicians around 600 BC, and later the Romans (as seen by the theatre they built on the western slope).
During the Islamic period, this was no different. The Alcazaba was initially built as a fortification, and later became a palace-fortress, and the seat of the city government.
The history of Malaga’s Alcazaba
The beginnings of the new citadel were first constructed on the ruins of a Roman fortification during the reign of Abd-al-Rahman I around 756 to 780 AD. However, it wasn’t until the Hammudid Dynasty in the early 11th century that construction of the palatial area in the Alcazaba as the seat of power began.
It became the palace residence of the governors of the city and was progressively adorned with symbols associated with power until the capture of Malaga by the Zirids of Granada in 1056, who refurbished much of the inner palace later that century.
During the early 14th century, when Malaga was under the rule of the Emirate of Granada, significant reconstruction took place in the Alcazaba. The Nasrid emir Muhammad II rebuilt the fortifications and palatial residences while another fortress, the Castillo de Gibralfaro, was constructed by the Nasrid emir Yusuf I on the higher, adjoining hill to the east.
To connect the castle with the lower citadel, Yusuf built a walled corridor, creating a highly fortified complex that was nearly impenetrable (nowadays there is no direct link between the two for visitors).
However, Muslim rule over Malaga came to an end on 18 August 1487 when the Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella successfully seized the city as part of La Reconquista (Reconquest). As a symbol of their victory, the monarchs raised their flag at the Torre del Homenaje within the inner citadel.
From this moment on, the Alcazaba slowly fell into decay. In the 18th century, its military use ceased and it transitioned into a peripheral residential neighbourhood of the city. However, in 1933, the residents were evacuated, and restoration efforts and archaeological investigations began at the Alcazaba. These still continue today.
Visiting the Alcazaba
Unlike other Arabic palace-fortresses constructed in Andalucía, the Alcazaba de Málaga has a distinct feel from its more famous, younger neighbours, namely the Alcázar of Seville and the Alhambra of Granada. This is because it was already three centuries old when the others were built.
Nowadays, two of its original three walls remain, as well as over 100 towers. The Nasrid palace and houses, as well as the Taifa-period palace, are open to visitors.
The Alcazaba complex’s well-kept gardens provide a lovely oasis of tranquillity right in the city centre, too.
If you’re planning to visit, be sure to check the opening hours because they vary according to the season. You can consult them, as well as the incredibly reasonable prices, here.
Daryl moved to Malaga permanently in 2014 having first fallen in love with the city on his Erasmus year. After working for many years at local expat newspaper SUR in English, Daryl gained expert knowledge in life from the perspective of foreign residents and decided to co-found Malaga Guru in 2016.