Looking to get away? Malaga is cultural jewel in Mediterranean crown with history, beauty and fine cuisine

By Chris Adams

An epicentre of Andalucian beauty, a city steeped in history and a culture shaped by more than 3,000 years of Phoenician, Arabic and Roman rule.

Malaga is shaking off an unwanted tag of Costa del Sol beach holiday associated with neighbouring Marbella and Torremolinos and rightly tapping into the popular city break market exhibited by compatriots Barcelona and Madrid.

Spain’s sixth largest city in terms of population, it is only this last decade that has seen holiday-makers venture east from the airport along the coast to experience the subtropical Mediterranean climate and spectacular sights of Picasso’s home town.

At the heart of the city’s culture is the Arabic Alcazaba Fortress, sitting pride of place on a pedestal above the city and offering a unique insight into Malagan rule in past centuries en route to undisturbed views over the modern port and Alboran Sea.

Beneath the Alcazaba sits the Roman Theatre, excavated and well-preserved and central to the many monuments and museums in the landmark-lined Plaza de la Constitucion.

Sitting beside the central square tourists can marvel at Malaga’s impressive Cathedral, easily accessible through city’s pedestrianised core – as are the adjoining shopping avenues which snake almost all the way up to the colourful local markets packed with fresh fruits, meats, fish and cheese.

With unrivalled heritage crammed into a string of picturesque squares and narrow streets exposing Malaga’s Arabic and Roman legacy, it is easy to forget just a short walk away the birthplace of Pablo Picasso can be found.

Despite never returning to Malaga after the age of 19, a walk through Plaza de la Merced, a tour around the painter’s house and a visit to the Picasso museum suggest a nostalgic, if somewhat distant, relationship he shared with his native city.

The museum boasts an unrivalled exhibition of his work, portraying how Picasso switched from one style to another with unparalleled ease – a revolutionary credited with rethinking the history of painting.

For all its history, the capital of the Costa del Sol is now the driving force behind the Andalucian economy and more accessible than ever before with high-speed rail links – Madrid is less than three hours away – a constant stream of cruise passengers and just half an hour drive from the airport, with flights as little as £35 one-way with Jet2 from Manchester.

An influx of tourists to the city has seen an increase in attractions, but the Glass and Decorative Arts Museum, the Hammam Baths and the Automobile Museum live up to their historic predecessors.

The Automobile Museum of Malaga’s title does not do it justice, a collection of vintage cars – some worth upwards of €8million – dresses, hats and bags are all on show in an old tobacco factory which even includes a wedding ceremony facility.

The Glass and Decorative Arts Museum, set in a beautifully restored 18th century house, hosts a private collection of more than 3,000 pieces of glass from different epochs, accompanied by pictures, furniture and decorative objects immersed in an environment contextualising each historical period and presented by the friendly and welcoming owners.

However, for the weary traveller, a trip to the recently-opened Hammam Al Andalus promises absolute relaxation and stimulation in a warm and luminous atmosphere across a series of hot and cold baths, steam room, aroma corner and oil-scented massages.

In compliance with its rich culture, Malaga conjures up a host of fine cuisine with a variety of restaurants and eateries serving fresh fish, tapas and regional meats washed down with an array of locally-produced wines.

Famous winery El Pimpi is just a stones-throw from the ancient amphitheatre and enjoys a lively atmosphere at all times of the day.

Patio de las Beatas pairs food and wine courses superbly and lies within walking distance of the city centre.

Celebrity-signed barrels and pictures furnish the bar and intimate tables inside sprawl out onto a popular courtyard.

For waterfront views head to Antonio Banderas’ Kaleido Restaurant, located along Palm Grove Promenade on Malaga’s new waterfront, Candado Beach Club or the charming fishing area of Pedregalejo, where freshly-prepared sardines virtually leap off rustic beach-side grills onto your plate.

With such a vibrant city centre and a majority of attractions within walking distance, the MS Maestranza prime location sees its 13th floor sun terrace (including jacuzzi and sauna) overlooking the bull ring on one side and the port on the other.

Three nights’ bed and breakfast at the four-star hotel will set you back £199 when flying from Manchester, based on two adults sharing.

Alternatively, with their uber modern approach to hotels, a similar deal at the four-star Barcelo Malaga costs £249.

The Barcelo sits above Malaga’s railway station, so is great for links to the rest of Spain and a shopping centre and, albeit slightly longer, is again within walking distance of the city.

Perfect for business visitors the Barcelo offers an extensive range of conference rooms and even a slide from the first floor into reception.

With so much to explore, welcoming locals and average yearly temperatures of more than 18 degrees, Malaga certainly promises a veritable treat for holiday-makers looking for something extra from their Mediterranean break.

Three nights’ bed and breakfast at the four-star hotel will set you back £199 when flying from Manchester, based on two adults sharing, available to book through

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