…IDEAL for a holiday of culture, cuisine, sand and sun.

The capital of the Costa del Sol, Malaga is slowly shedding its unfair reputation as a destination for Brits to get sunburnt and sozzled. Now, it’s a town seriously on the up, with a thriving arts scene, glorious architecture, hiking opportunities, a fabulous cuisine and beautiful beaches. Yes please! Though you can still get ‘dos cervezas por favor’ and a great tan in the city, there’s so much more to enjoy if you scratch the surface just a little. With that in mind, here are 5 of the best things to do in Malaga, IDEAL for a holiday of culture, cuisine, sand and sun.

THE PICASSO MUSEUM

The city’s reinvention started here. The Picasso Museum (Museu Picasso Malaga) was built in 2003 and heralded the arrival of a whole new energy in Malaga. The world renowned abstract artist was born in the city, and the Malagueños are rightly proud of their most famous son. There are 300 of Pablo Picasso’s masterpieces here, and a deep dive into his life and what inspired him, too. For art and culture lovers, this is one of the world’s must visit museums. 

ALCAZABA PALACE & ROMAN THEATRE

The Alcazaba Palace is one of the defining structures of the city, fusing Moorish architectural aesthetics with flourishes of Hispanic art and design, all juxtaposed with the Roman amphitheatre next door. Built in the mid 11th century, the citadel is still in remarkably good nick, and is considered the best preserved of its kind in the country. The surrounding gardens and stroll downhill to the theatre through the Courtyard of the Orange Trees is worth the trip alone. 

If you’re up for more of the same, but on an even grander scale, then Granada’s Alhambra is 130km north east of Malaga, eminently doable as a day trip, we think. Consider renting a car from the city centre or choosing car hire Malaga airport when you land in the city. 

SEAFOOD & SWEET WINE

Being on the Costa del Sol, and boasting several miles of pristine coastline looking out over the Mediterranean Sea, Malaga boasts some of the finest seafood in the country. And considering the high repute of Spanish cuisine, we could also say some of world’s best. If you’re an anchovy lover, then the boquerones of the region (fresh or cured) are arguably the most delicious around.

The locals also love to eat espeto (essentially barbequed sardines) by the bucketload; and since trying them in Malaga, we do too. But don’t stop there; the Fritura Malaguena (fried local fish, usually comprising anchovies, squid and red mullet) served anywhere along the beachfront or at the renovated Puerto de Malaga is the definition of superb, fresh ingredients treated with the utmost respect. Wash it all down with a glass of the region’s fantastic fortified wine, D.O Malaga, and soak up some sun. Heaven!

ATARAZANAS MARKET

To truly get a feel for any of the world’s great cities, you should first head for its main market, to see how the locals do and get a feel for the rhythm and flow of the place. Malaga’s Atarazanas Market is certainly no exception to this rule; this market dates back to the 14th century and still has a resolutely ‘old school’ feel about it. It’s a gorgeous building, with a magnificent stained glass window on the rear facade depicting the city set on the hills. Incredible. The food within somehow manages to best it; seasonal fruits and vegetables, charcuterie and tubs on tubs of boquerones en vinagre (pickled anchovies) all rub shoulders. Or should we say fins?

There’s also plenty of tiny tapas bars if you want to make a day of it. Be warned, the market as a whole closes at 3 pm, though some of the bars stay open longer.

HISTORICAL BOTANICAL GARDENS

Malaga has a 24/7 party culture, make no mistake, and sometimes it’s nice – necessary, even – to step out of the city to enjoy a spot of peace and tranquillity. It seems like the city’s Botanical Gardens were made for just that; 8 km north of the city centre, this gorgeous tropical forest of 50 hectares is blessed with flora, fauna and exotic wildlife to boot. The perfect respite after all that sun, seafood and sangria, we think.

If you’re continuing your Southern Spanish sojourn, then check out our tips on the best places to visit in the south of Spain for inspiration.