9 October 2017 by Simon Langley
While you’ll know the Costa del Sol for its pristine beaches and near-endless supply of sun, there’s plenty more to Málaga than its blonde-sands good looks. From great Moorish fortresses to uniquely modernist art galleries, this is a city of substance.
In fact, Málaga has become something of a self-styled ‘City of Museums’, wearing its moniker with pride in the likes of the Centre Pompidou, Thyssen Museum, Russian Art collection of Saint Petersburg and the Automobile & Fashion Museum. Together, they host everything from the contemporary cutting edge to Van-Gogh masterpieces and classic cars. Lastly, as the hometown of Picasso, there’s a full spread of exhibits dedicated to the Spanish master, including the Picasso Museum and even the very house he was born in.
There’s also plenty of historical intrigue outside the galleries, with the Alcazaba prime among the highlights. Part Moorish citadel, part Renaissance palace, it’s the perfect summary of Málaga’s rich and variety past, having been built atop Roman ruins over a thousand years ago. Indeed, the city owes much of its charm to its unique blend of north-African exoticism and Spanish beauty. And, wandering through the Alcazaba’s intricately carved cloisters, you’ll be treated to a fresh view over the city at every turn – hilltop panoramas shared by the Gibralfaro Castle. As the Alcazaba’s younger brother – by a couple of centuries – it eschews palatial opulence for stone-wall severity.
Then, once you’ve taken in the city’s Moorish grandeur, be sure to pause at its famous cathedral. Dating back to the 16th century, it’s a lesson in Renaissance accomplishment, with its Baroque façade opening onto a dramatically columned interior. However, for the furthest step back in time, head for the Teatro Romano. As the name suggests, it’s a Roman amphitheatre, which – in spite of its two millennia of history – is wonderfully preserved.
But, in between the headline-grabbing treasures, there are plenty of lesser-known secrets. Our top tip? Head east, along the coast, to Pedregalejo. This charming fishing village welcomes with a sun-drenched promenade where lazy strolls are rewarded by stops at local restaurants for fried fish, fresh salads and, of course, sangria.
Which brings us to one of Málaga’s greatest joys – its food. Of course, given its geography, the seafood is a special highlight. Fishermen arrive back in port daily, bringing with them just-caught prawns, squid and crayfish to be presented across hearty paellas and indulgent tapas bites. Then, while the more adventurous will certainly appreciate the perfectly stewed bull’s tail, you can also expect all of the Spanish classics. The meatballs are a particular favourite, with the local offering dressed in a ground-almond sauce. It’s all showcased in a full spread of superb restaurants, ranging from Michelin-starred fine dining to cosy, family-run bars.