Malaga Big Wheel
In March 2019 the wheel was closed and dismanteled in May. The original six month concession was extended several times. It turned out that two of the stays were located on a port thoroughfare. Read about the local controversy below.
The Malaga Big Wheel (Noria de Malaga) was a modern 70m-high big wheel located in Malaga port, near the city centre. Billed as Europe's largest itinerant ferris wheel, it opened in September 2015. The Big Wheel offered fantastic views over the port area, and over the tops of the buildings in the Plaza de la Marina area to the Cathedral and Gibralfaro. In the evening, the sun shone on the cabins when they were at the top of the wheel, while those at ground level were in the shadow of the city centre buildings. The Noria was great for taking photos of the port area and selfies.
A ride on the Noria was 15 minutes long, during which time the cabins rotated three times. The wheel had 21 air-conditioned cabins, (was 42 cabins until August 2017) each of which holds eight passengers, giving a capacity of over 500 passengers an hour. In practice, families, groups, friends and couples often had a cabin to themselves.
The total weight of the Noria was 600 tonnes - this 70m extended version is the biggest such dismountable wheel in Europe - it took 25 trailers to deliver all the sections to Malaga.
The Wheel, named Mirador Princess, was previously in Valencia for the Fallas. Before that, it was in Zaragoza and Andorra la Vella, where the cost of the ride was 8€ (here in Malaga it's 10). A smaller version of the wheel was at the Malaga and Cordoba Ferias in 2013, and Pamplona for the San Fermines. At night the wheel was lit up with 20,000 LED light bulbs and looked stunning.
In early 2015, disagreements between the Malaga Port Authority, on behalf of the Mirador Princess owners, and the town hall, over the site of the wheel delayed its installation. The town hall considered it too close to apartment blocks on the other side of Avenida de Manuel Agustín Heredia, invading their privacy because people riding the cabins could see into their apartments. Following another rejection in the new location, the Port Authority publicly pulled out of the project.
Then practical (or political) differences were settled and the wheel was set up in August (the website mentiions a construction time of two weeks by 42 crew), leading to complaints from the feriantes (annual feria ride owners) that it would be unfair competition for them.
The port was paid 100,000 euros for the eight-month concession of land and had to demolish the 1950s Apostolado del Mar building (Catholic Seamen's mission), which had been uninhabited for many years, to provide space to put it.
In an online survey in July 2015 by local newspaper Diario Sur, 65% liked the idea of a big wheel in Malaga port and 31% did not.
The average loading from September to November 2015 was 800 pasengers a day, which was considered sufficient by the owners to successfully apply to the port for an extension of the original eight-month contract to September 2016. The big wheel had to stop operating on 22 August 2016 after one year, pending a new one year contract with the port authority. This was approved in late October 2016 and a new licence from the town hall was given on 23 November. Residents of the apartment block opposite the site have continually complained about the invasion of privicy. The town hall support the project, and says it took into account of the resident's formal objections but there was no legal basis to deny the application.
In August 2017 the number of cabins was halved from 42 to 21. This was actually because the 21 were send to another big wheel in Zaragoza. The promoters explained that it would afford better views and consume less electricity. The wheels capacity was reduced from 1.000 to 500 per hour which is still above the demand. Actually it only means that at popular times you are now more likely to share a cabin with other tourists. At night it now looks a little empty. The lights are now turned off at 00.30 hrs (in the summer) the sake of the neighbours. In September 2017 the concession was extended to June 2018, and again in March 2018 the concession was extended to September 2018 and later to June 2019.
In March 2019 the wheel was halted for maintenance and to resolve a new issue when it transpired that two of the stays were located on a port thoroughfare which was defined (or clarified) in a 2017 document. Mederyt, the big wheel owners had hoped to be able to move the stays by 4m but in the end a partial dismount would be necessary. In the end this modification turned out not to be economically viable taking into account the risk associated with an operating license had to be renewed every six months. The company requested (or were offered) a new location on the Palmoral de las Sorpresas but the town hall did not like this option, cited that it would take six month to put tender documents together. They later discounted it on grounds of visual impact.
In 2016 the promoter announced ambitious plans to replace this big wheel with a innovative designed permanent 100m structure located further into the port at the 'Estacion Maritimo Melillero'. As part of a new development costing 40 m € there would be a underground car park for 250 cars and a new 'plaza' for Malaga. The plaza is to secure much needed town hall support over the negative noises made by the port authority. The project architect is Jerónimo Junquera who created the Palmeral de las Sorpresas on Muelle 2. In October 2018 the port opened a 20 day public consultation for the project. The port authority stated that the Melillero location would affect the movement of buses that are destined for the cruise ship terminal and be a security issue.
On the 24th April 2019 the port authority requested the owners to dismantle the big wheel. The cabins were removed in mid May 2020 and the reaining structure later in the year.
In January 2021 Carlos Rubio (the new PP president to the Port Authority stated in a newspaper interview. "We want to recover that project, we are going to try to move it forward," He confirmed that two companies have visited the Palmeral de las Sorpresas site in 2020. The possible future big wheel would be about 85 meters high and would be lighter and less impactful than the previous one. The port authority are apparently contemplating a public tender to award the concession. He accepted that first step would be to obtain the town hall approval. As they are now the same political party (PP) this might be more successful than last time.
London Eye: 135m
Malaga Port cranes: 100m
Malaga Cathedral tower: 84m
Malaga Mirador Princess Big Wheel: 70m
Big Wheel at the Feria 2013: 65m
La Equitativa building in Malaga: 42m
Seville Noria: 40m (closed)
Malaga Port lighthouse: 33m
Hours of operation
The wheel closed in March 2019
In the port near Plaza de la Marina. You will see it as you arrive.