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Travel Report: Plaza de la Merced, Malaga.

Plaza de la Merced in Malaga.

Plaza de la Merced.

2016-2017. The Spanish really know how to do a city square, perhaps more than any other nation I’ve visited. In this regard, Malaga sums up the Andalusian vibe nicely, with over a dozen gorgeous squares from which one can idle away an afternoon nibbling on tapas and guzzling red wine. My favourite was Plaza de la Merced, which dates back to the Roman era.

Visit Plaza de la Merced Malaga.

Plaza de la Merced.

If I wanted a lazy breakfast or an extended blogging session, this is where I came. When I embarked on one of my many aimless city strolls, I usually ended up here. Sometimes for a beer or a coffee, more often a refreshing glass of Tinto de Verano.

Old woman walking dog Malaga Spain

The daytime vibe.

At night the square can get pretty hectic, with noisy groups and a frustrating scarcity of tables along the row of cafes, bars and tapas restaurants.

Hence I quickly switched my visits to slow mornings and empty, siesta-flavoured afternoons. At these times it was so peaceful, just the occasional dog walker and the sound of spoons clinking the sides of coffee cups.

Plaza de la Merced, Malaga.

Monumento a Torrijos Malaga.

Monumento a Torrijos.

The piercing Monument to Torrijos dominates the centre of the square in honour of the Spanish Liberal soldier General Torrijos. His life certainly makes for some dramatic reading.

He fought in the Spanish War of Independence, spent several years in prison and was eventually executed in 1831 upon the order of King Ferdinand VII. Today his remains, along with 48 of his fellow soldiers, rest at the base of the monument. 

José María Torrijos Plaza de la Merced.

José María de Torrijos y Uriarte.

Plaza de la Merced is also where you’ll find Pablo Picasso‘s birthplace and home, now a small museum. In 1880 the Picassos rented the first floor, while Pablo was born in the building just a year later. The family left in 1883 to another apartment nearby before relocating to the city of La Coruña in 1891.

Picasso House Museum Cool Spots Around Malaga.

Picasso’s Birthplace Museum.

The small but cosy museum features original paintings by both Pablo and his father, along with a display of family antiques and letters. A small research centre and library round off an intimate feel to the place. Entrance is just 3 Euros.

Picasso Statue Plaza de la Merced Malaga

Picasso Statue.

Just across from the museum, you can also find a statue of Picasso. What’s more, you can take a seat next to him on the marble bench. Don’t be shy, he won’t object. The famed Spanish sculptor Francisco López Hernández created the bronze sculpture in 2008.

Picasso in Malaga.

Statue of Picasso in Malaga.

Plaza de la Merced.

While I managed to try out every one of the square’s cafes over the course of my year in Malaga, I soon settled on two firm favourites. For coffee and a sweet bite, it had to be Cafe Con Libros (cafe with books), due to their excellent homemade pancakes and cookies.

Cafe Con Libros Plaza de la Merced.

Cafe Con Libros.

For a more substantial feed, nothing could beat Picasso Bar. Their tapas plates stand among the best in Malaga, while a glass of beer goes for just a Euro between 16:00-20:00. Furthermore, the service is probably the best on Plaza de la Merced, which is generally patchy.

Plaza de la Merced, Malaga.

Picasso Bar Malaga.

Picasso Bar.

I invariably went for a Picasso mix plate deal, where you can choose four bowls and a drink for 10 Euros. I particularly liked the chicken paella, the fried cheese croquettes and their crispy chorizo.

Picasso Bar Tapas Malaga.

Tapas time!

Wherever you sit on Plaza de la Merced, there’s usually a bit of live music on offer, especially in the summer. Some are polished singers who do a circuit of Andalusia’s towns and cities. Others, like these guys below, are a little rougher around the edges. But not lacking in enthusiasm!

Buskers Plaza de la Merced Malaga.

Singing for change.

In the summer I tended to stay away as the square, and indeed the historical quarter as a whole, gets flooded with tourists. But in the winter months, when the weather is still fine, it’s a joy to come here.

Plaza de la Merced Cool Spots Around Malaga

Plaza de la Merced.

If you’re lucky, you may even catch a market. Indeed Plaza de la Merced has been hosting events for traders and stall owners since the 15th century.

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Like this? Why not check out more of my travel reports from Malaga.

To delve further afield, I’ve also written articles from across Andalusia and all over Spain.

I’ve been living, working and traveling all over the world since 2001. So why not check out my huge library of travel reports from over 30 countries.

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  • Memo

    Looks like a very pleasant place to spend some hours reading or people watching. I especially liked that the Picasso sculpture was just “sitting doing nothing.” Even he was relaxing.

    January 6, 2021 - 6:16 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Exactly! I’m very happy to add Picasso to the SDN files.

      January 6, 2021 - 7:09 pm Reply
  • Marie

    Spent a very extended long weekend in Malaga in Oct 2019 when my better half ended up in hospital there for 9 days with an infection (pre Covid!!!). I loved this square . There is a restaurant near one of the corners and they produced the tastiest chicken I’ve every had – don’t know what seasoning they used but I went back for more… and back again….
    This was my first visit to Malaga and it was busy enough in mid October….. don’t think I’d like it too much in summer

    January 6, 2021 - 7:40 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Marie, it’s great that you also spent some time on Plaza de la Merced! Not so great about the infection. And yeah, the summer crowds were not so much fun. I tended to stay local to the streets near my apartment.

      January 6, 2021 - 7:43 pm Reply
  • Lookoom

    I like your comment about the quality of city squares in Spain, which I would extend to the Hispanic world. It was and still is the meeting place of the population, in other countries they use pubs for that.

    January 7, 2021 - 3:57 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for reading! I would love to see how the squares look and work in South American countries. We really want to see some of the region in the next few years.

      January 7, 2021 - 7:45 am Reply
      • Lookoom

        The squares still work as meeting places, especially at the end of the day. People come, sit and chat. Or they walk slowly around and chat with others.

        January 8, 2021 - 12:24 am
  • Rebecca

    Another lovely recap of Malaga! I do enjoy Picasso’s work (admittedly, he’s an acquired taste…), and it’s great to learn that Malaga was his birthplace. Those tapas you had look divine, and I miss having them dearly; with one-euro and Tinto de Verano, and it’s a perfect Spanish meal to be had! Thanks for your observations on the city; I’ll have to go to Malaga someday to see it for myself!

    January 7, 2021 - 5:08 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Cheers Rebecca, tinto de verano was my favourite. More on Malaga’s food and drink scene tomorrow…

      January 7, 2021 - 7:50 am Reply
      • Rebecca

        I’d like to know the difference between tinto de verano and sangria? They’re both red wine cocktails, no?

        January 7, 2021 - 8:13 pm
      • Leighton

        As I understand it, Tinto de Verano is red wine mixed with soda and ice. Sangria is red wine mixed with “other stuff”, like sugar, chunks of fruit, a touch of spirits. It varies quite a bit from joint to joint I think. All I know for sure is that I love Tinto de Verano and Sangria… meh.

        January 7, 2021 - 9:35 pm
      • Rebecca

        I’ve only ever had sangria, so I only have that to reference. Will have to try Tinto de Verano someday!

        January 7, 2021 - 11:12 pm

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