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Two Asian tourists take a selfie before entering the Alcazaba. Salvador Salas
Malaga's Alcazaba-Gibralfaro, the city's most-visited monument
Tourism

Malaga's Alcazaba-Gibralfaro, the city's most-visited monument

The fortified complex overlooking the bay has seen its best visitor data ever, although its comprehensive conservation plan is still pending

Francisco Griñán

Malaga

Sunday, 14 January 2024, 20:46

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For centuries it was the objective of all those who wanted to dominate Malaga. So it is not surprising that the waves of tourists that 'invade' the city every year revive that warlike ardour in the form of conquerors of the Alcazaba-Gibralfaro fortification. They are not the only ones, as the people of Malaga also have a weakness for this emblematic monument, as is evident every Noche en Blanco, when the night-time tickets to the Andalusian past sell out first. The defensive complex, which is managed by Malaga city council, has reaffirmed its status as the most visited cultural landmark in the province by smashing its all-time attendance record with 1,785,162 people, surpassing its previous record, from 2019, by more than half a million visitors – a spectacular increase of almost 42 per cent. And if we compare the latest records with those of 2022, which reached 1,162,244 tickets sold, the growth in visits in the last year is even more significant, climbing 53.6 per cent.

The record figures for visits have been accompanied by takings which are well over four million euros (4.5million), which is nearly 1.3 million more than in 2022. Examining the data of the last decade, the figures also speak of the great attraction for visitors to the Alcazaba from the Taifa period (11th century) and the 14th century castle, as since 2014 almost ten million people have passed through the monument, leaving 20.8 million euros in its ticket offices.

Busy May

Broken down by month, the official statistics for the last year 2023 offer striking data. The fact is that the summer months were not the ones that recorded the highest visitor rates to the ancient complex. The spring month of May was the busiest, being the only one to break the monthly barrier of 200,000 visitors, followed by August (176,687), November (174,331) and October (171,459), which indicates, not surprisingly, that the public prefers to visit both sites on dates with milder temperatures. In terms of spaces, the Alcazaba broke the one million mark for the first time in 2023 (1,072,116), while more than 700,000 tourists and locals climbed up to conquer the Gibralfaro.

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The figures are on a par with the general tourism records in Malaga in 2023 or the historical records of cultural references such as the Picasso Museum which, with its 779,279 entries, last year revalidated its title as the most visited exhibition centre in the region. The proximity to the art gallery and other cultural landmarks of the capital – Roman Theatre, Malaga Museum, Cathedral, Casa Natal, Pompidou – is another attraction of the Alcazaba-Gibralfaro complex which, in addition to being at the "epicentre" of the city's historical heritage, is favoured by the having "the best views of Malaga", the councillor for Culture, Mariana Pineda, told SUR earlier this week.

Family visits are one of the keys to this monumental space, although the councillor acknowledges that, until now, no statistics have ever been kept on visitor profiles, an analysis that will now be taken into account. "We want to work on the treatment of audiences in order to interpret them, get closer to the public and increase the new audiences of the Alcazaba-Gibralfaro and improve the relationship with loyal audiences," explained Pineda, who also believes that ticket sales and access via the Internet (available since 2021) can be optimised.

The councillor proposed offering a joint ticket to monuments and museums managed by the different administrations (Junta and city hall) and private foundations. "We can promote the sale of tickets with a combined ticket that includes the Pompidou, the Museum of Malaga, the Picasso... to make the visitor's experience easier," Pineda said, adding that private institutions collaborate in such packages in cities such as London, New York and Prague.

Conservation plan

The great unfinished business of the Alcazaba-Gibralfaro complex is its integral conservation plan which, following an agreement between the Junta and the city hall, has been in preparation for two years and will still take several months for the Alcazaba, and longer for the Gibralfaro. "Work continues on the plan, to which must be added the authorisations from the Junta, and here the misfortune in cultural matters is that this is a long queue. So we can't be childish and believe that it will be cleared up from one moment to the next," Pineda said. She noted that the money raised from the fortified complex cannot be invested in its improvement and rehabilitation due to the difficulty of the tender projects.

In view of this situation, and in parallel to the comprehensive plan, the city hall wants to promote more actions to improve the facilities. The councillor has launched "a project in the internal part of the Alcazaba-Gibralfaro to completely illuminate the monument so that it can be enjoyed at night all year round".

A project for an internal connection of both fortifications through the Coracha has not been presented for Government funding, as the drafting of the project has not yet been completed.

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