For a laid back vacation destination, Malaga is a food and culture dream. But what are the long-term prospects for living in Malaga? Let me break down some factors that might make it a suitable home and some aspects that are not so ideal.
Malaga has a little bit of everything. It feels like a beach town with a 9 to 5. It’s obviously a large and busy city, but ultimately, it’s still Spain so the chill vibes permeate the city’s streets. Perhaps the busiest places in Malaga in the middle of the day are not offices or commuter buses, but popular tapas bars. The music is loud, the servers are running around frantically, and the food and drinks are always excellent.
The architecture gives Malaga a distinctly foreign feel compared to almost all of Europe, like you might have accidentally ventured into Africa instead of Spain. It’s interesting and makes a lot of Malaga’s public spaces seem more grandiose and beautiful than the average large European city (ahem… like basic ass Madrid). The city has everything one really needs – a beach, great hiking, nightlife, and an airport that’s 20 minutes away.
Having spent almost a week in Spain before arriving in Malaga, we had already fallen in line with the strict dining hours and even taken to napping in the afternoon between meals. While that’s certainly not ideal over the long-term, there are other aspects of the culture that are even more bothersome. For one, Malaga is the kind of place where unwanted social interaction is constant. People approach you to sell you things (or swindle you with fake “gifts”) everywhere, even when you’re sitting inside a restaurant.
On the subject of restaurants, one of the hardest aspects of the culture to cope with is that my wife and I are simply too reserved to compete with these loud ass Spaniards when we’re in a busy venue. When people complain about the service in Europe, they’re probably referring to these kinds of situations where your table goes ignored because you can’t find a good moment to flag a server down, while everyone around you has no problem grabbing one even if you’re carrying a stack full of dirty plates. It makes it a little exasperating to go anywhere lively, because you become invisible if you’re not as pushy as everyone else.
Food and drink
Being a large city, Malaga has its fair share of excellent Andalusian and Spanish restaurants, but they have some variety too. A lot of cuisines are represented throughout the city, including bewilderingly several restaurants that specialize in both Mexican and Indian food. Prices are also far more reasonable than cities on the Costa del Sol like Marbella that cater almost exclusively to tourists. Little cafeterias where you can get an incredible sandwich and churros or half a dozen tapas and not spend more than €10 are pretty much everywhere. Even if you want a nicer atmosphere with cushy outdoor seating in city center or on the Palmeral de Las Sorpresas that overlooks the port, prices are pretty reasonable.
The center of Malaga is fairly walkable, but since the city sprawls out around it, there is plenty of public transportation to help get around faster. With a two-line metro, a network of buses, and city and regional trains all at your disposal, it’s fairly easy to get anywhere in Malaga, including the airport. It also makes it simple to travel outside the city to other parts of the coast and Spain as a whole. But the mild weather year-round is a great reason to take advantage of the pretty views on a nice walk. You can get to the nearest beaches on either side of the port like the Malagueta in 10-15 minutes, or an hour and a half if you stop for a beer and tortilla on the way.
Total Livability Score 7/10
It has its faults, but overall, it might not be so bad to live in Malaga. I would just have to become a lot more demanding so I can get a damn drink refill.