A Roof with a View

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Málaga's rooftop scene is hip and happening

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The social scene in Malaga has received a shot in the arm in recent years, from various initiatives, pedestrianisation being a significant one. However, the rise in popularity of the rooftop bar has definitely transformed nightlife in the city. There are currently at least eleven venues on top of buildings where you can enjoy that penthouse rooftop urban vibe, with more on the way. The majority are on top of hotels or hostels, but all are open to the public, not just paying guests.
 
What better way to kick back and relax than in the open air, away from the humdrum traffic of cars or pedestrians, aloof and carefree with a vista of roof tiles, old stone and the city's higgledy-piggledy architecture surrounding you. There's something entirely refreshing about a view that has neither traffic nor pavements, and where you see the world completely differently from the street below.
 
There's a great variety of views to be had as well in the city. One feature that dominates most of the skylines from the terraces is the old lady herself, Malaga's Cathedral, lopsidedly peering down with its missing tower, creating a spectacular image, especially lit up at night. There are terraces with sea views also, where the spectacular new harbour refurbishment that is Muelle Uno can be seen. Definitely the highest terrace is that of the AC Malaga Palacio Hotel. Up on the 14th floor with a magnificent panorama of most of the city, you can take a drink or a meal, and even a swim. In terms of views, not much can compete with the AC, as it almost the highest building in the centre and commands excellent views on three sides. It's a long stylish bar and terrace with the small pool at one end.  Across the road at the Hotel Molina Larios is a smaller quirkier terrace on various split levels, with even a tiny pool crammed into the curious little spaces. It has great views across to the port, and is interesting for its programme of culinary events and tastings, as much as its characterful little spaces. Close by, overlooking the Plaza de la Marina, on the edge of Soho, with a great view on to the AC, the ancient palace and castle behind and along the harbour front, is the Valeria Hotel Terrace. It's colourful striped sun loungers give it a seaside retro feel, enhanced by the nearby Ferris wheel. It's a breezy open terrace, also with a small pool, and is closest of all of them to the actual sea. These views are equally special at night, but probably the most famous view is from the Parador del Gibralfaro. While not strictly speaking a rooftop terrace, it is the top terrace of Malaga, being located high on the hill above the city giving the visitor the picture book classic panorama of the city. Here there are jazz nights and old world charm, away from the white sofas and DJ's of the hipper scene down below.
 
The Arts Barrio Soho is not without its contenders. The Bahia Soho boutique hotel has a cute little terrace, its view is a truly urban panorama of a hotchpotch of architecture. From there you can see the terrace of Mariposa Hotel, on the next block. Opened in May of 2018 it is one of the more spacious terraces around with a design of natural wood and some funky multicoloured sculptures. 
 
Before we get to the old town proper, two spacious and exciting propositions are to be found on the opposite bank of the river. The Terrace Lob is a large top floor terrace restaurant at the Corte Ingles department store. This is a high-end gastronomic eatery rather than the more usual cocktail bar, but there is a comfortably sized bar area as well. The design is industrial chic, and the whole feeling is sleek and modern, the cuisine definitely so. Further up the river is the Malaga Centro Hotel Aurea terrace. This features three distinct areas on split levels. There is the spacious main bar, where frequent live music events are held, a separate decently sized pool, and a sun deck. It is just over the river from the old town and high up enough to afford a good view over much of the old centre and most of the newer city as well.
 
Once into the old town, the terraces are smaller and more intimate, hipper rather than chic, and each comes with a particularly idiosyncratic view, rammed as they are into the chaos of medieval streets and closely packed buildings. One of the most curious and imposing settings is the Terraza de San Juan, so called as the tower of the ancient church of the same name dominates the terrace as it stands over it for another ten meters. The stonework and distressed baroque lend a filmic air, like some old movie set. The terrace itself has two separate bar areas, plenty of sofas, and is a favourite for receptions and private parties. The Premium Hotel below has one of the finest gastronomic restaurants in the city. Not too far away is the small but elegant terrace of the Hotel Larios, with its art deco echoes and great views over the main street and square. Just a few metres beyond you'll find the Terraza Club Chinitas, a thoroughly hip and stylish little bar on top of the hostel of the same name. They have monthly flamenco music concerts in a terrifically intimate atmosphere with the old Cathedral staring down, not far away. A very similar vibe can be found on top of another hostel, the Oasis. This one is deep into the maze of old streets and is an equally intimate and hip hang out, a favourite with travellers and locals alike. Over on the other side of the cathedral is a hostel with one of the prime rooftop locations, the Alcazaba Premium hostel roof terrace. This double, split level terrace features stunning views onto the old Moorish palace, and back across the city to the mountains behind. It has a smashing little restaurant just underneath.
 
All of these places serve an enticing list of cocktails, and are open, in true Malaga style, into the late hours in summer. Many are open all year round, and if you want the experience without the crowds, it's best to go in mid to late afternoon, or early in the week. They are popular, so on weekends after midnight, they will all be buzzing and fairly crowded. Not all of them have food on offer, but many do, and the hotels underneath certainly have great dining. Consult the individual listings here for details.
 
Málaga is fast becoming the Andalucian capital of the rooftop scene, and there are sure to be more innovations over the coming years. So many cities are only really visible to the visitor from street level, but in Malaga, there are now at least thirteen places to get that spectacularly different view of the city, little oases of fun and calm, or a hot night spot with a nightscape to die for.

If rooftop bars are your thing, there's plenty more in Spain and beyond. Check out therooftopguide.com and find your rooftop bar wherever you are.