Krista the Explorer
8 Castles in the Province of Málaga Worth Visiting
Updated: Dec 22, 2021
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What's the first thing that pops into your head when you think of Málaga? More likely than not, it's going to be beaches, hitting the shops, and the nightlife. Sure, Málaga has plenty of beaches to visit along the Costa del Sol, and yes it's also known for its nightlife and large array of shops on offer. But there is so much more to Málaga, and the Province of Málaga, than just that. The Province of Málaga has a rich history dating back thousands of years, and a lot of the ancient and medieval ruins that make up its fascinating history are still there waiting to be explored. If you're a big fan of history like me, there are plenty of castles in the Province of Málaga to visit, many of which are ruins, but some are incredibly well preserved or have been restored recently.
The Province of Málaga is probably a lot larger than you may think, but the great thing is that there are plenty of castles within an hours drive of the city of Málaga. If you're thinking of heading out on a road trip in Andalusia, starting from Málaga, make sure you do some research and plan out an itinerary of the province first, before heading to further points of interest in southern Spain such as Seville or Cádiz. Out of all of the castles in the Province of Málaga, I've put together a small list of the ones that I would recommend visiting while you're in the province or as part of a road trip in Andalusia.
1. Castillo de Gibralfaro
I wanted to start off this list in the city of Málaga itself, right in the heart of the historic centre. Castillo de Gibralfaro is often confused with the Alcazaba de Málaga, because the two sit next to one another. The first time I visited Málaga, I thought I had seen the castle, only to realize later that I had been looking at the fortress in front of it instead. The Alcazaba de Málaga is what you'll see directly behind the remains of the Roman Theatre, but Castillo de Gibralfaro is accessed by a 20 minute hike to the top of the hill along the Paseo de Don Juan Temboury. You can purchase tickets for both sites at the entry to the Alcazaba, but the two are not connected so you will need to leave the Alcazaba once you're done visiting it, and follow the signs for the walking path to the castle. Or, if you're only interested in seeing Castillo de Gibralfaro, you can drive to the top of the hill and purchase a ticket on site. The castle was built in the 14th century by the Muslims with the purpose of protecting the Alcazaba below, and in the mid-15th century it was besieged by the Catholic monarchs, with Ferdinand making it his temporary residence following their victory. If you look closely at the coat of arms of Málaga, you'll see the full extent of the castle on it, which was designated as a symbol of the city by Ferdinand. It's one of the most historically significant castles in the Province of Málaga to visit, and offers amazing views of the city as well, especially at sunset.
Entry fee: Alcazaba & Gibralfaro €5.50, Castillo de Gibralfaro only €3.50
Address: Camino Gibralfaro, 11, 29016, Málaga
2. Castillo Árabe
If you find yourself heading to the famous Caminito del Rey hike, I would highly recommend stopping at the gorgeous white village of Álora on the way. There are some interesting sites to look at in Álora, but its main attraction is the 5th century Castillo Árabe, which sits at the top of a hill overlooking the village below. The castle was built on top of Roman fortifications, and was considered a key stronghold during the area's Muslim rule. The castle is currently in a bit of a ruined state, but they have managed to restore two of the towers as well as a beautiful Arab arch, so the castle is well worth visiting. Castillo Árabe was also used as a cemetery for over 200 years before it was deemed a National Historic Site, which becomes apparent as you walk around its interior. This is definitely one castle in the Province of Málaga not to be missed!
Entry fee: Free
Address: Calle Ancha, s/n, 29500 Álora, Málaga
3. Castillo de Mijas
Another great option for a day trip from Málaga is the white village of Mijas. It's a beautiful village to walk around, with a few interesting points of interest in it as well. It's also home to the remains of a medieval castle. There are only a few parts of Castillo de Mijas remaining, including a tower and parts of the castle walls, and it's been given the nickname La Muralla (The Wall). The area where the castle once stood has now been turned into a beautiful garden, with fantastic views of the Costa del Sol and the surrounding landscape. Paseo de la Muralla is one of the main attractions in Mijas and is open all year round so everyone can enjoy the plants and flowers. This may not be one of the more typical castles in the Province of Málaga to visit, but despite it being largely a ruin, Castillo de Mijas has a lot of interesting history behind it and is still very much a central aspect of the village of Mijas.
Entry fee: Free
Address: Paseo de la Muralla, 2, 29650, Mijas, Málaga
4. Castillo Sohail
Continuing along the Costa del Sol, in the coastal town of Fuengirola, is the 10th century Castillo Sohail. It was built by the Muslims in order to strengthen their defence in the area, and was almost fully destroyed in 1485 during the Christian Reconquest of the area. It was later rebuilt though, due to its strategic location on the coastline, and played an important role in the Napoleonic era during the War of Independence in 1812. Despite its importance throughout history, the castle fell into neglect, and it wasn't until recently that it was given a new lease on life in the form of an auditorium. If you're lucky enough to be in Fuengirola when there's an event on in Castillo Sohail, make sure you get a ticket for a unique experience! This is one of the best castles in the Province of Málaga if you're looking for unrivalled views of the coastline, as there's an easily accessible viewing platform along the castle walls.
Entry fee: Free
Address: Calle Tartesios, s/n, 29649, Fuengirola, Málaga
5. Castillo de la Estrella
By far one of my favourite castles in the Province of Málaga is Castillo de la Estrella (Castle of the Star). It may only be a ruin now, but it's a formidable one sitting high up on the hilltop overlooking the Spanish countryside. It's located in the small town of Teba, and it was once the second largest castle in the Province of Málaga. The castle dates back to the 13th century and had 18 towers, which you can see the remains of as you walk around the perimeter of the castle. Interestingly enough, Castillo de la Estrella has strong ties to Scotland. It's known for being the location in which the Scottish knight Black Douglas was killed with his troops on their way to the crusades carrying the heart of Robert the Bruce. The body of Black Douglas and the heart of the king were eventually sent back to Scotland by the Muslim king, and they still rest together in Melrose Abbey (the city is twinned with Teba as well). During the first week of August, Teba commemorates Black Douglas during what's known as Scottish Days. The main tower has an interesting exhibition inside of it which outlines its Scottish connections in more detail.
Entry fee: Free to walk around, €1 exhibition
Address: Castillo de la Estrella, 29327, Teba, Malaga
6. Castillo de Vélez-Málaga
Castillo de Vélez-Málaga is actually considered to be an Islamic fortress, built in the 10th century and later expanded during the 14th and 15th century. At the top of the hill, overlooking the landscape sits the Torre de Homenaje, the main tower of the castle complex which is the only one that has been rebuilt in its entirety. The city of Vélez-Málaga was once one of the most important cities of the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada, because it granted access between the Moorish city of Granada and Málaga along the river that flowed through it. The fortress was captured by King Ferdinand in 1487 and later turned into barracks and a jail. The castle is a bit confusing to get to, even using Google Maps. I had to turn around countless times and backtrack on myself to find it, but there will most likely be very few people there (if any) which means you'll have the site all to yourself to explore! The grounds are beautifully maintained, and since it was once one of the most important castles in the modern day Province of Málaga, it's definitely worth visiting.
Entre fee: Free
Address: Calle Palafranero Sebastián Sáncez, 28, Vélez-Málaga, Málaga
7. Ruinas de Bobastro
This may not look like your average castle, but the Ruinas de Bobastro are an incredible preserved piece of history in Andalusia. Finding the ruins of this fortress is part of the fun. On the road to the popular walk at El Caminito del Rey, there will be signs posted for Bobastro heading in the opposite direction. After a lovely scenic drive through the mountains, you'll eventually find a little hut on the side of the road where the tickets are sold, and a fence on the opposite side of the road where you need to enter. Google Maps takes you a bit further through the mountain for some reason, so make sure you keep your eyes peeled for the hut! There is a guided tour option available in Spanish, but the tour guide let me go ahead of them and make my own way along the trail to the ruins since I only spoke English. There are however a good number of information points along the forest route which are in English giving the history of the area and the ruins.
It takes no more than 20 minutes to get to the Ruinas de Bobastro, which is the most important 9th century cave complex in Málaga. There is a lot of history behind this archaeological site, but it was essentially built as a refuge for those who were rebelling against the Caliphate of Córdoba. Its location within the Ardales made it impassable, and the Caliphate's troops were unable to attack, which made it the perfect hideaway for the Christians who were living under Muslim rule at the time. Bobastro was actually a castle of Roman origins, and today you can see the remains
of a few key aspects of its 9th century constructions such as the ruins of the Alcázar, the Muslim necropolis, and the Mozárabic church which is the only one if its kind in the world. It's a historical site completely different than other castles in the Province of Málaga, and one well worth visiting in my opinion.
Entry fee: €3
Address: MA-448, s/n, 29550 Ardales, Málaga
8. Alcazaba de Antequera
Last on my list of castles in the Province of Málaga worth visiting is the Alcazaba de Antequera. It's a Moorish fortress built in the 14th century on top of Roman ruins, with the walls of the complex stretching further down the hill than the core parts of the citadel itself. During a visit to the Alcazaba, you can also enter the Real Colegiata de Santa María La Mayor which is a beautiful 16th century Renaissance church - the first in this architectural style in Andalusia. The Alcazaba is easily located by foot, walking uphill through the charming historic streets of Antequera. I would recommend parking at the bottom of the hill because the streets can be a bit tricky to navigate the further up you climb. The views from the top of the hill of the city below are incredible as well, and if you're feeling peckish there are a couple of restaurants facing the castle for you to choose from.
Entry fee: €4
Address: Plaza de los Escribanos, s/n, 29200, Antequera, Málaga
BONUS: Castillo Monumento Colomares
One of the most unique locations in Andalusia to visit is Castillo Monumento Colomares. Though not a castle in its own right, this monument was built in the form of a castle which is why it makes my "castles in the Province of Málaga" list. Located only a short drive from Málaga's city centre, Castillo Monumento Colomares sits in the hills of the coastal town of Benalmádena, and is an interesting option for a day trip from Málaga. It was built between 1987 and 1994, in commemoration to the life and adventures of Christopher Columbus. The monument (or castle) is covered in intricately carved stonework, with the different sections relating to important events in the explorer's life. Upon entry you're given a map which points out the key carvings so they're easier to locate. It doesn't take long to walk around, so you can easily add it to your southern Spain itinerary, or take a couple of hours out of your schedule to plan a stop here.
Entry fee: €2.50
Address: Finca la Carraca, Ctra. Costa del Sol, s/n, 29639, Benalmádena, Málaga
There are many more fascinating castles in the Province of Málaga to explore, but most of them are ruins and sadly barely noticeable now due to centuries of neglect. The eight Spanish castles that I've pointed out in this list are well worth adding to your southern Spain itinerary, and are under an hour from the city of Málaga itself, which is great if you're short on time but want to explore some of the surrounding areas. So the next time that you're in Málaga, remember, it's not all about the beaches and the nightlife! There are plenty of historical and cultural attractions around Málaga to keep you busy.
Drop me a comment below if you've had the opportunity to visit any of these fantastic castles before, or if you have any recommendations on where I should head to next in the Málaga area! I love to keep in touch with fellow travellers too, so don't forget to follow me on Instagram as well.