Torremolinos History - 1960s 1970s

Torremolinos History

The tourism growth of the 1960's and 1970's.

by Chris Chaplow

.........continued from     Torremolinos the 'in place' of the  1950's and the Hotel Pez Espada.


Beach shacks were hastily constructed and so were wooden sun beds to rent to the tourists. The French brought a new fashion in swimwear, the Bikini, and Playa El Bajondillo became the first beach in Spain to permit this - and later sunbathing topless. Brigit Bardot had tried it out and was not arrested. 

The Tropicana beach club was the first large "chiringuito" on the Costa del Sol, constructed by importing railway carriages; and Hotel Carihuela Palace by Manuel Jaén opened in 1960.

A total of 300,000 international tourists used Málaga airport in 1961.


In order to capitalise on potential tourism revenue after the sun went down, restaurants and music bars opened in La Carihuela and beyond.

The El Mañana events hall was traditional and also served as a wedding party venue, It had opened in the late 1950s and was one of the first purpose-built "salas de ocio" (leisure halls) on the Coast. At 600 square metres there was room for the resident orchestra, two dance floors and also a small garden of shrubs and magnolias - and Elizabeth Taylor as among the visitors. The first to open had probably been El Cupo.

Most music bars were more modest. These included El Dorado and Pedros. Lord Timothy Willoughby de Eresby opened Lai Laki in 1963, La Bodega Andaluz featured flamenco, and Marlon Brando visited El Remo.


These ventures were soon followed by the first large purpose-built discotheque to be built in Málaga. It was called Barbarela after the Jane Fonda film and was relatively short-lived, closing in 1972. Barbarela was followed by El Papagayo, El Piyayo, Vip Club and Disco Bossanova around 1962. Cleopatra's on Avenida Carlota Alessandri had the dubious honour of offering a show that featured the first striptease in Spain. Mach One featured steel plate floors, tiered seating and a booth for the DJ. Tiffany's and Whiskey a Gogo followed in 1968.

While the rest of Spain was still essentially an austere Catholic country, the authorities turned a blind eye to the goings-on in Torremolinos. Co-existing alongside the tourists in the new hotels and beaches were beatniks and hippies, generally lodging in the older Cuesta de Bajondillo district. The Fat Black Pussy Cat bar run by Helen (from the United States) at Calle Chiriva 7 was one famous hangout.

Dr Timothy Leary visited Torremolinos in 1959 to extol the virtues of hallucinogenic substances. In 1962, Toni's opened - the first "bar gay" in Spain. There were other more clandestine ones such as Incógnito, Fauno and Düsseldorf, and more concentrated around the Pasaje Begoña.

Other well-known bars included Betty's (or Blue Note), the jazz run by Betty Pope, whose grand pianos doubled as bars; Shelia's, run by the Rt Hon. Shelagh Tennant; and the Galloping Major (or El Comandante Galopando), opened in 1964 by Edwina Harley.

James Michener wrote best-seller "The Drifters" and the bar that inspired it was Harry's Bar in Plaza de la Gamba Alegre, run by Harry Hubert and Matt Carrey.

The film "Hard Contract" was shot in Torremolinos in 1969 with James Coburn, Lee Remick and Lilli Palmer.


Running parallel to the hotels, real estate development was unabated. The systematic destruction of the beautiful villas in the Montemar district continued. Thankfully one or two remain, namely EL Olivo and El Heliotropit, the latter owned by the late actress Majurita Diaz

La Nogalera (the walnut orchard) was the incongruous name of a large development of six eight-storey residential tower blocks with concrete walkways between them. Shops and bars were on street level, while the resident gardens and swimming pool were on a higher level. The project also included an "Andalucian village". It was constructed in 1963 by Don José Osinalde Peñagaricano architect Antonio Lamela Martínez. In its day it was synonymous with luxury in Torremolinos and was generally popular at the time and seen as the "new Spain". It was officially opened in 1966 by the new minister for tourism, Manuel Fraga Iribarne. Famous businesses located here included Kings Club, and restaurants included Estocolmo, El Caballo Vasco, El Igueldo and Cosa Nostra, as well as the bar El et Lui. Several celebrities lived here, including writer Edgar Neville and forger Elmyr de Ory.  

The Playamar complex was built at around this time by the same architect, Antonio Lamela, following the same pattern as La Nogalera, except bigger and bolder. This 54,000 square metre development comprised 21 bocks of 15 and 16 storeys. There were objections at the time as it totally changed the face to Torremolinos. The residents still like the towers for their large balconies.     

Another notable development was Conjunto Eurosol, built in 1963 by Rafael de la Hoz and Gerardo Olivares.  


Construction continued in the early seventies with Las Tres Torres (1971) by Luis Alfonso Pagán, inspired by the Torres Blancas in Madrid, and Hotel Cervantes (1970) by Fernando Rodríguez and Ricardo Álvarez de Toledo. The skyline changed for the worse with the new concrete Castillo de Santa Clara on the headland (1971) by José María Santos Rein

The Noche y Dia 24-hour bar opened and could serve alcohol up to 4am when the rest of the bars closed, and again from 5am when the beach bars opened for the fishermen.

In 1971 the authorities could only tolerate so much open illegality (drugs and homosexuality) and, following a raid on Pasaje Begoña, hundreds of foreign "undesirables" were deported and Spaniards imprisoned.

The unconventional found other towns to hang out in, and Torremolinos became more dependent on the economy end of the package tourism market. The year 1972 was the end of a decade that is often referred to as Torremolinos's "Golden Age".

"You sit next to a party of people from Rhyl who keep singing 'Torremolinos, Torremolinos', and complaining about the food, 'Oh! It's so greasy isn't it?'"... so ranted the tourist in the Travel Agent sketch on Monty Python's Previous Record, released in December 1972, ridiculing package holidays.

The unfortunate sketch reinforced Torremolinos as being synonymous with budget package holidays and fuelled debate about the nature of the "real Spain". Over the next decade debate about tourism was not exclusive to Torremolinos; other parts of the Costa del Sol were attracting tourists in growing numbers and many developed into more up-market settings, with apartment and villa residential tourism rather than the denser multi-storey three-star hotels.

In 1975 a large part of the old town centre was reconstructed and, with some sensitivity, Centro Entreplazas and Pueblo Blanco with its "Andalucian village" architecture.

The oil crisis of the mid-1970s certainly affected Torremolinos. Increased aviation fuel costs led to a reduction in tourist numbers and some hotels were forced to close, including Pez Espada. By the late 1970s tourist numbers had recuperated, but somehow the magic was missing. Newly-constructed destinations in Greece, Turkey, Morocco and Tunisia added to the economic pressure on Torremolinos. 

After the transition to democracy, a local movement gained momentum for Torremolinos to have its own administration (town hall) again.

Continued....... Torremolinos finding its way since the 1980's



Part 1 - Pre history

Torremolinos Pre-history, Moors, Catholic Re-conquest, and 20th Century. More >

Part 2: 1950s

Torremolinos the ‘in place’ of the 1950’s and the Hotel Pez Espada More >

Part 3: 1960s 1970s

Torremolinos tourism growth of the 1960’s and 1970’s More >

Part 4: since 1980s

Torremolinos finding its way since the 1980’s More >





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