Situated in a “basin” and surrounded by mountains, Malaga’s history has been difficult due to the communication problems it has with the inland areas as its only connection with other peoples was by sea (until the road communications were finished). The presence of Africa just next door has always led to Malaga being a meeting place for all kinds of cultures, which also lad to it being active on a commercial level with many countries through its port.
The first people to step on the shores of Malaga were the Phoenicians who, not only began a process of civilisation of the many indigenous peoples in the area through trade, the use of their currency, and alphabet, but they also improved the agricultural industries in the zone at the same time as they introduced iron-working and precious stone industries, and remodelled the fishing practices of the locals. They founded Malaka, which was then situated at the foot of the Gibralfaro hill on the site of the present day Alcazaba. During the time Cartamo reigned in the Mediterranean, Malaga experimented considerable growth as far as defence structures were concerned and its port also became much more widely known.
Later on the Greeks would arrive on the scene followed by the Romans, who were responsible for the building of the most of the current urban centre of the city and the highway between Seville and Granada. With the arrival of the Romans Malaga began to be called, Malaca, although there were few changes made to the city itself except the adding of several public buildings. Historians calculate that the Roman settlement would have housed some 3000 people and have been some 6000 square metres big. The Roman city was protected from attacks by the city wall and there were passageways that linked it with the Phoenician wall. The temple and the theatre etc must have been situated on the hillside where the Alcazaba is today which would have been part of a series of stepped terraces carved out of the side of the Gibralfaro hillside. The whole area was obviously very important, something that is evidenced by the large number of archaeological sites that have been discovered. The most outstanding of them all is undoubtedly, the Roman Theatre, which was uncovered in 1951.
After three centuries of Roman occupation and another three during the Visigoths and Germanic periods, it was the turn of the Islamic invasion of the Iberian peninsular, and along with it, Malaga. During the period of Arabic rule occupation the city experienced some of the its best moments, above all from a trading point of view as it became one of the most important trading ports of the whole empire. However, this long period of prosperity came to an end with the fighting began for the conquest of the Kingdom of Granada. The territorial and demographic organisation of the land that supposedly belonged to the city of Malaga was carried out in the Nasrid period. The amount of agricultural produce for sale is so great at that time that they started to export olive oil, raisins, figs, almonds, and silk, which were all passed through the port by the Italians, above all by the merchants from Genoa who set up important departments in the city. They were also in charge of most of the trading that went on in the North-eastern part of Europe at the time. Such was their strength in the area that they were allowed to build the Castil de Genoveses, which was a part of the urban centre of the city up until the beginning of the 17th century.
The Malaga of the Nasrid period had a urban city centre very much in line with the Islamic concept of a city. There was the heart of the city (The Medina), a fortress that was linked to the residence of those in power at the time (The Alcazaba Castle Gibralfaro complex), and the areas outside the walled city that were in expansion (los “arrabales”). Therefore, the Medina, which is the ancient historic quarter of the modern day city, was where the main religious, commercial and militry matters were treated. However, it was in the Alcazaba-Castillo de Gibralfaro complex, which is excellent state of repair nowadays and visited by tourists, where the persons in power resided. The Alcazaba, an enclosed, private fortress, is finished off by the castle on the top of the hill and the several “corachas” which were fortified walls that were built at tangents off the main fortress. As for the "arrabales", historians point out that there were two; the one named the Fontanella, which went from the Puerta de Antequera up to the Puerta de Granada; and the second from the Tratantes de Paja. This way they dominated the horizon and created the Islamic Al-Idrisi suburbs which stretched out to the west of the Guadalmedina, to make up the Perchel and Trinidad neighbourhoods.
Málaga was included into the Kindom of Castille in1487 after a long siege that forced its surrender as people were dying of hunger. From this moment on the city underwent some important changes, especially in the way its urban centre developed. The Christian leaders maintained the Arab layout in general, but they did set about reorganising the city in accordance with their customs and needs. It was in the new, undeveloped zones that the difference between the Arabic style and the Christian style was to be most seen. All the mosques were changed for Christian churches, while a lot of new religious buildings were built, especially convents. The most worthy of mention are the ones that were built outside the city walls on the sides of some of the historic highways (The Granada highway, The Antequera highway, The Casabermeja.highway..). These convents are called La Victoria, de la Trinidad, de Capuchinos, de San Andrés and Santo Domingo, and, today, as is obvious, they are all within the Malaga city limits. The most important work that was undertaken within the walled city was the inauguration of Calle Nueva, which was completed in 1491 in order to connect the Plaza Mayor (today the Plaza de la Constitucion) with the port area provide a quick exit for the traffic created by the activity around the harbour.
After this short parenthesis this city experienced another period of economic growth provoked by the impetus of the animal farming and agricultural sectors. The incorporation of different cereal crops as well as wines from the vineyards in the area were the most important in the agricultural sector. This new activation of the commercial activity attracted a large number of foreigners to Malaga in the 18th century and eventually they made up five percent of the total population. Both in the 17th and the 18th centuries the parts of the city called the Perchel and the Trinidad were both used as experiments for new kinds of buildings called “corralones”, which were houses organised around a central courtyard. There are still some that are inhabited today.
The city underwent considerable urban growth in the 18th century and some very important public works were conducted. This urban expansion was due to the incredible population explosion which took Malaga to almost 50.000 inhabitants in 1789. However, the growth was also brought on by the agricultural and commercial boom, the ideological changes, the newly created institutions (Consulado Marítimo y Terreste or La Sociedad Económica de Amigos del País), the loss of the traditionally upheld work categories in favour of a wider accepting commercial market which favoured the “middle class masses”…. All of these factors led to important urban changes and it also meant the military-orientated society began to become more and more secular ( the defence wall was even destroyed in parts to allow for commerce). The convents were considered as important and some important public works were carried out ( La Aduana and El Salon de la Alameda) highways were built and the port was expanded, etc.
From a political and administrative standpoint, Malaga exists since 1833. And it was during the 19th century that it became an important city due to the rapid industrialisation that it was exposed to. So much so that it became the second most important province of Spain behind Barcelona. This process was led by a few families like the Lorings, the Larios and the Heredias, who set up the control of the local business class. But they not only revitalised the growth of industry, but they also promoted the much needed associated entities such as the: Málaga to Córdoba train, the Banco de Málaga, Insurance companies, etc. The immediate results of this growth were seen in construction of factories, warehouses, the train station and the kilometres of track (finished in 1865), the docks of the port, which were expanded again in 1865, and the birth of the first working class neighbourhoods on the western side of the city like; Huelin, El Bulto and La Pelusa.
However, an economic crisis hit at the end of the 19th century which was to ruin Malaga’s growth period and destroy industry and almost bankrupt its economy. Recovery was not felt until well into the 60’s of the last century when the industrialised past gave way to a sharp demographic growth united with a rapid construction boom. Málaga’s population grew from 90.000 in 1870 to more than 134.000 in1887. This period coincided with the sale of the church’s properties, which went on from 1835 onwards at the same time as the urban renovation and reform were going on. The sale of Church lands was especially influential in Malaga as there were so many religious buildings in the city. Convents such as; San Bernardo, Santa Clara, el Angel, el de Santa María de la Paz, el de las Capuchinas and la Merced were all destroyed, which changed the urban horizon quite a lot. Some public and civil buildings were constructed in their place such as; Atarazanas or en la Alhóndiga. Perhaps the most important and relevant building project that was undertaken in those days was the Calle Larios Project, which meant the opening on this emblematic street along with the 12 blocks of buildings that lined both sides. This was all executed and financed by the Sociedad Mercantil "Hijos de M. Larios" (The sons of Mr Larios) and it was completed in a four year period. Ever since its opening, Calle Larios has been considered as one of the most successful urban developments of al of Malaga as it enhanced the original street layout substantially. The main avenue named El Parque also dates from that period and gave Malaga its first environmentally-friendly area.
However, during this period of crisis the lack of infrastructures worsened. It was not until the dictatorship led by Primo de Rivera that the whole idea of urban development of Malaga came to the fore again. It is at this time that the urban suburbs begin to take shape such as El Palo and Toremolinos, and also, the then named, “casas barartas” (cheap housing) in the Carretera de Cádiz, Camino Suárez, Trinidad. The neighbourhood known as Cuidad Jardin was the largest of the residential neighbourhoods that was built then. After the dictatorship the urban boom drops once again and with the start of the Civil War it came to a complete standstill. Once the war was over the reconstruction job included the planning and building of some huge masses of urban housing estates like Carranque, which was built in 1955 and consisted in 2161 individual flats. As for the rest of the city, there were very few other changes. The Parque Avenue was linked with the Alameda and the block known as the Marina was demolished. Some important civic buildings were erected like the Municipal Arts Centre (Casa De La Cultura, which was later demolished, and the Palacio de Justicia and the Trade Unions Headquarters.
It was at the end of the 50’s in the 20th century when the Costa del Sol began its spectacular tourism boom, which gave rise to an enormous influx of emigrants and a an incredible amount of construction work all along the west side of the coast. In 1960 the population was at 300.000 inhabitants, while some 15 years later in 1975 it had already grown to 410.000. At the same time as the numbers increased, the economy became more and more orientated towards the service industries. And the extremely complicated urban development that was underway began to receive criticism and there were calls for a new style of construction to be used.
Today, Malaga is a cosmopolitan city with over 545.000 and it is in a constant process of transformation and growth with a view to create open spaces that the general public can enjoy. The most important economic elements are the construction and tourism industries. It is the fifth largest city in Spain after Madrid, Barcelona, Mallorca, Gran Canarias y Tenerife. It also has an important Technological Park, which is considered as the most relevant in all of the Autonomous community as it is a promoter of all kinds of high technology business projects. It also counts on the presence of a port that sees more and more cruise ships each year. However, this rather privileged economic and strategic position has not meant that Malaga has forgotten its roots or history. Malaga is, above all, a city that is open to all. A friendly place with an exceptional climate, which nobody who visits can fail to enjoy at the same time as the locals make them feel at home.