Malaga, the City of Paradise, as poet and Nobel Prize winner Vicente Aleixandre called it. This is where the continent ends and another begins across the water, a maritime city that has been port of call to many different civilizations throughout the ages. The first to settle here were the Phoenicians, and they left behind them a rich heritage of commerce, coinage and alphabet, and set the economy of the city on its way through agriculture, ironwork, precious metals and fishing. Later came the Greeks and then the Romans, responsible in great part for the development of the city and its communications with Seville and Granada. Three centuries of Roman rule, another three under the Visigoths and Byzantines, and then came the turn of the Moors. This was a time of glory for Malaga City, especially in the area of commerce, when Malaga was the leading commercial port in the kingdom. The conquest of Granada ended this period, and Malaga was incorporated into the kingdom of Castille in 1487 after a seige that hunger ended. A period of decline followed, but the city did not take too long in recuperating its position as leader in agricultural. Cereal and grape production was introduced on a large scale, and the number of foreigners that settled in Malaga in the 18th century as a result of this wealth amounted to five percent of the population. The political and administrative importance of Malaga began in 1833, and the 19th century would also be one of industrialisation, when Malaga province was to become the second in Spain in industrial output.
The economy declined again in the third part of the 19th century, along with the national economy, and Malaga was not to pull itself out of this economic crisis until the 1960s. The coastal area around Malaga was now the Costa del Sol, and it is one of the most famous tourist areas in the entire world. Sport, culture, construction, services: all went along for the ride, and the problem that Malaga now faces is not how to maintain its leadership position in world-wide tourism, but how to maintain it at the same level all the year round. And even this would seem not to be a problem any longer. The best way to see Malaga is on foot, and a good place to start would be the Park. The route from the Fuente de las Tres Gracias brings us down to the Casona del Parque, the present home of the Town Hall, and the Palacio de la Aduana, and from there we can head up to the Alcazaba and Gibralfaro Castle, open from 9 to 8 p.m. and closed on Tuesdays. This is one of the most interesting monuments in the city. The views from the Gibralfaro, over the bay and the Roman Theatre, are spectacular, and well worth the walk up. Following this, we should cross calle Alcazabilla to reach the Plaza de la Merced, where we find the house that Malaga's greatest son, Pablo Picasso, was born in. It shows prints and ceramic pieces done by the artist. From here we cross the plaza to calle Granada, to reach calle San Agustín, a small street filled with teahouses where we find the Palacio de Buenavista, future seat of the Picasso Museum. We can leave from here directly to the Cathedral, which is open to the public from 10 to 6.45 p.m. every day except Sundays and feast days, and on Saturdays from 10 to 5.45 p.m. Watch out for the well-known 'La Manquita', the unfinished tower. We should now cross calle Santamaría and head for the Plaza de la Constitución, from where we can walk down the most famous shopping street in the city, calle Larios. This ends in the Alameda Principal and the Plaza de la Marina. The route might be easier with a map of the city, available free at any of the five tourist offices in the city or at any hotel.