Colossal castles, hundreds of beaches, exciting art scene and a true wonderland for foodies: Málaga ticks all the boxes of a perfect holiday destination. Not to mention it receives 300 days of sunshine per year which is why it is also known as Costa del Sol or the Sun coast.
Appreciate the Arabic treasures
Located in southern Spain, on the northern side of the Mediterranean Sea, Málaga is one of the oldest cities in Europe. The city was founded by the Phoenicians in 770 BC. The opulent fortress palace Alcazaba is a quintessential vestige of the Arabic presence. It served as an Arabic citadel until it was captured from the Muslims in 1487.
Being an architectural grandeur itself, the palace features additional little treasures like the Patio de la Alberca and the Torre de Maldonado as well as stunning views over the city. Another must-see historic site is the Gibralfaro Castle, which means ‘lighthouse rock’ in Arabic. Built in the 5th century, for a long time this was considered the most impregnable fortress on the Iberian Peninsula, with two lines of walls and eight towers. Nowadays you can still see the 40-metre-deep Phoenician well, various baths, cisterns, and other interesting structures.
Spend time with Picasso
Málaga is proud to be the birthplace of the fabled Spanish artist Pablo Picasso. The Picasso Museum was opened in 2003, housed in the magnificent Palacio de Buenavista at the very heart of the Historic Centre of the city. It features almost three-hundred works of the artist, donated by members of Picasso’s family, including “Mother and child” and “Woman with arms raised”.
And just a brief walk away, in the Plaza de la Merced square is the Casa Natal – the birthplace of Picasso. The Casa Natal features an exhibition with pictures and other cues presenting the early life of the artist. In the square there’s also a statue of the artist sitting on the bench – waiting for you to take a picture with him.
Experience the local creative scene
Like London or New York, Málaga has its own Soho district, known as the arts neighbourhood. Here you can find several art galleries and the Contemporary Art Centre of Málaga (CAC) which plays a host to travelling exhibitions. What makes the area more special are the colourful street walls decked out in murals and graffiti made by such street artists as Obey, the author of the Barack Obama poster with the caption ‘HOPE’, and D*face. There is also a lot of trendy shops and great tapas places to spend some dinero.
Taste some sardines at chiringuitos
Málaga is a paradise for food lovers, with delicious seafood and sweet delicacies wherever you look. For a daily fresh catch go to El Pedregalejo area: the old fishing district with a sea of chiringuitos (beach bars) sitting in the sand, right at the coast.
A must-try is sardine skewers – a dish that has become a symbol of the local cultural identity. Accompany it with a glass of local dry white wine from Sierras de Málaga, and you will have a truly exquisite lunch.
Save room for churros
But seafood dishes are not not the only morsel Málaga masters. The city is lauded for having some of the best churros in Spain. Since 1932 the iconic Casa Aranda on Calle Herreria del Rey has been serving this delicious fried-dough pastry as well as one of the best hot chocolates in town. But since you’re in Málaga aim for the local speciality – tejeringos: a thinner and crispier churros’ cousin.
Tejeringo’s Coffee on Calle Méndez Núñez is proud to have developed one of the best recipes in town. The city is also known for tortas locas (crazy tarts): custard pastry with orange icing and a cherry on top. One of the best places to try this delicacy is at Confitería Tejeros on Calle Obispo Salvador de los Reyes.
Another site not to miss for food lovers is the Atarazanas Central Market – another stylish remnant of Arab times. Open from 8 am to 3 pm Monday to Saturday and featuring 260 stalls, it’s a good spot to marvel at the great variety of local seafood and vegetables. For light lunch check out the bar Bar Mercado Atarazanas hiding in the market’s corner. The menu is mainly based on fresh fish, with skewered prawns, catfish, and tasty paella being one of its highlights. But for more luxurious shopping head to the main shopping street – the glitzy Calle Larios, which boasts an array of the top-notch international brands.
Hit the beach
The city has a beach for every kind of holiday-maker. To blend in with local sunbathers, check out La Malagueta beach. Easily accessible from the city centre, it offers a small patch of palm trees to protect yourself from the sun, and an open-air cinema during the dark hours. The picturesque beach in Pedregalejo neighbourhood is popular among youth and tourists and a good place to practise pedal boating and other water sports. Not far from the city centre is Cala del Moral: a big urban beach located in Rincon de la Victoria. It’s easily reachable by bus and is the perfect place to spend a day with the family and also a one of the best places to enjoy the sunset.
Located less than 50 kilometres from Málaga, Marbella is a good destination for a daytrip. With an array of posh mansions owned by Spanish and international celebrities, it is of the trendiest towns on the Costa del Sol. One of the most exclusive beaches in the area is Nikki Beach: think champagne rains, fine food, and sunset parties around the clock. But for something more tranquil, there is The Playa Real de Zaragoza, located just a stone throw away from the centre. This quiet area features golden-coloured sand, crystal-clear water, and some interesting beach restaurants.
Climb the mountains
Málaga is located at the feet of the Montes de Málaga mountains which gives a plenty of options for hiking and biking. The Montes de Málaga Nature Park is a big forest full of pines, small valleys, and waterfalls. Málaga is one of the few cities in Europe to have such a natural area close to its centre: but the down side of this – due to the close proximity the park is very crowded during holidays. But for those who want to stay closer to the ground, Málaga also has a unique botanical garden called La Concepción housing more than 50,000 plants and an interesting collection of palms, bamboos, and aquatic plants – a beautiful scenery for a leisurely stroll.
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