There’s a reason the sandy strip of beach land in beautiful Andalucia, Spain is called “the coast of the sun”.
The Costa del Sol enjoys mild winters and hot balmy summers, with an average of 320 days of sunshine a year, making towns such as Estepona, Torrox, Mijas, Marbella, Nerja, and Fuengirola a haven for sun-seeking Brits and Scandi ”snowbirds” alike.
We’re focusing on the Province’s namesake, Málaga, however, in a bid to escape the throngs of tourists that flock to the Costa each year to soak up the sun.
Now, don’t get us wrong, you’ll still find tourists in the city, but it tends to have a lower amount of holidaymakers based there than the surrounding resort towns, and retains a higher degree of authentic Spanish culture.
So, if you want sun, sea, and sangria, without crowds of WAGs and Brits abroad, go Málaga!
To become acclimatized to the city, and enjoy the hands-down most spectacular views of Málaga and the surrounding coastline, head to Gibralfaro castle.
There’s a footpath you can climb if you fancy a hike, and on a hot summer’s day, it’s exactly that….a HIKE… or you can jump on the number 35 bus from Avenida de Cervantes and let the wheels do all the hard work for you.
Gibralfaro means “mountain of light” and is home to a lighthouse in addition to the 14th-century castle ruins, but seriously it’s the view that’ll be your primary focus.
On a clear day, it’s possible to see all the way to the Strait of Gibraltar, which is a whopping 91 miles away, but it’s also worth a trip at night to see the sparkling lights of the city laid out below you.
Whilst we’re on the subject of ruins and views, you’d be remiss not to also visit the Alcazaba, (Arabic for “Citadel”) an 11th-century palace built by the Moors which acted as a home to Muslim rulers of the city and later as a fortress as they battled the Catholic invaders.
The Moors ultimately lost the fight for control, but thankfully, unlike many other monuments of the time, the Alcazaba was kept intact, in fact, it’s the best-preserved Arab fortress in Spain.
There are glorious gardens and courtyards to stroll around, fountains galore, a cool little museum to visit, and beautiful views of the ocean and port to enjoy.
Oh, and did we mention the Roman theater?!!
Built-in the first century AD, the theater is located at the bottom of the Alcazaba, and despite being the oldest site in Málaga, it was only discovered by accident, after the building on top of it was destroyed in 1951. If you’re lucky you can catch one of the live performances that are held there regularly.
Málaga is home to a plethora of shopping and dining opportunities, but the best by far is the Atarazanas market.
Housed in an impressive 19th-century renovated building, with stunning colorful stained-glass windows, the market is one of the most important shopping centers in the city.
Dating back to the 14th century, the site used to be a Nasrid boatyard but following the Catholic conquest of the Granada Kingdom, it was turned into a warehouse before being used as an arsenal, hospital, and army barracks.
In 1870 it was converted into a food market and nowadays it’s where locals head to buy all the best of the bountiful produce that Málaga offers, and/or dine at one of the many fabulous little tapas bars dotted around the main entrance.
Not surprisingly, Málaga is also home to a wealth of museums and art galleries, including, the Museo Picasso (the artist was born in the city before relocating to France); the Museo Carmen Thyssen; the CAC (Contemporary Art Centre); the Centre Pompidou; and the impressive Málaga Museum, amongst others.
All are worth a visit, but if you’re somebody who likes to mix some cardio with your culture head to the Soho district.
Soho used to be a rundown, crime-plagued district, but over the years it’s been transformed by the city’s many street artists. The area is home to the CAC and street art is everywhere. The buildings are covered in colorful, vibrant murals and paintings in addition to super cool graffiti and installations.
There are also a ton of artisan and craft stores, galleries, restaurants, and uber-trendy bars if you get cultural overload and fancy sitting back and indulging in some people watching over an icy cold San Miguel.
Get your beach on
It’s not all culture, art, history, shopping, eating, and drinking though. Yawn! Málaga has a whopping 15 different beaches if you fancy a day of just vegging out and topping up the tan.
The best of the lot is El Pedregalejo, which is located in one of Málaga’s trendiest neighborhoods, about a 30-minute stroll from the city center.
El Pedregalejo is stunning, with ¾ of a mile of golden sand and crystal blue sea, but best of all? When you’re done with all the beachfront and chill it’s also home to some of the city’s very best restaurants and bars.