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Over the decades millions of visitors have made their way to the Costa del Sol and for many the word Malaga is synonymous with airport. But now the city of Malaga – vibrant, beautiful, and rich with history and culture – is less of a hidden gem as many more visitors to southern Spain take time to discover this city of exuberance and colour.
Malaga is compact and easy to manage; full of beautiful churches, elegant buildings restored to their former glory following a busy renovation programme and a stunning array of museums and galleries. Day visitors from the Costa del Sol explore the city streets alongside tourists from the big cruise ships that are now a familiar sight moored in the harbour.
As well as a cultural and creative heritage you will also find chic boutiques and top name shops rubbing shoulders with traditional bars – including the city’s oldest tapas bar on the Alameda serving sherry out of huge barrels – and shops selling flamenco frocks and festive wear for feria time, as well as ancient hardware shops selling paella pans and other household items.
At the heart of the city, and just a few minutes walk from the bustling port area with its recently created glitzy restaurant and shopping area Muelle Uno, is Calle Larios – Malaga’s answer to Bond Street, with leading footwear and clothes shops and jewellers.
Looming over the city is the Alcazaba Palace. It’s a major landmark, and one of the largest Muslim military buildings preserved in Spain, with tranquil gardens and magnificent views over the city, and connected by walled corridors to the Gibralfaro Castle. Down below in the pedestrianised street is an excavated Roman theatre dating back to the 1st century AD.
Nearby is the imposing cathedral, known as La Manquita – the one-armed one – as its south tower was never completed. Work began in 1528 on the site of the Aljama Mosque, and encompasses architectural styles spanning the 16th to 18th centuries.
Malaga’s most famous son
Of course for Malagueños the words culture and art are interlinked with the name of Pablo Picasso. He was born in Malaga and the city has paid fine homage to its artistic son. The house where he spent his early childhood can be found on the corner of Plaza Merced and it contains an archive of his life and work and is open to the public. But the real gem is the Picasso Museum, which is housed in a sympathetically converted old palace just a few steps from the cathedral. His children donated more than 200 of his works, which are on permanent display, and the museum is regularly refreshed by temporary exhibitions. Archaeological remains unearthed in the basement revealed Phoenician, Roman and Arab occupation.
There is an enormous range of museum, gallery and theatre experiences which have put Malaga firmly on the cultural map. And its importance as a culturally rich city was firmly cemented by the arrival of the magnificent Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in the restored 16th century Villalón Palace, just a few steps from the top of Calle Larios. It’s sister to the Thyssen Museum in Madrid and displays more than 230 works from the art collection built up by Carmen Cevera, a former Miss Spain who was the fifth wife of the late Swiss industrialist and art collector Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza. The Baroness’s collection is recognised as one of the most important in the world and includes works by Picasso, Joan Miró and Francisco Zubaran.
For those who prefer more contemporary art the CAC Malaga exhibits modern artists which have, in the past, included noted names like Tracey Emin, and for museums with a difference the Malaga Motor Museum(Museo Automovilistica Malaga) offers the opportunity to admire an astonishing collection of cars, from the very first ‘horseless carriages’ through the glamorous days of The Belle Epoque, The Twenties, and La Dolce Vita, up to creative models using alternative energy sources. It includes iconic models like the 1956 gull-winged Mercedes, known as ‘The Masterpiece’, Porsche’s 1956 Speedster ‘The Myth’ and the supremely elegant E-Type Jaguar. The cars are accessorised with fashion displays from the various eras and the collection is housed in a beautifully renovated former tobacco factory.
Malaga is an all-year-round city. Its historical heart and its cultural gems are complemented by its landmark famous events, like the enthrallingly moving Semana Santa processions at Easter, the buzzing annual Feria each August and the glittering Christmas lights which draw throngs of visitors and are believed by some to be one of the best Christmas displays in Europe. So whether it’s shopping, culture or enjoying Spanish tradition first hand, there is plenty to draw the visitor into this welcoming city.
Make the most of your time at CLC Club La Costa World and head to Malaga with a Transandalucia Tour (Tuesdays), available in conjunction with CLC World and bookable on resort at Zacs First Avenue or Guest Services.
Alternatively, public transport/taxi are simple ways to get there. Firstly, catch the number 220 bus from outside the resort, or take a cab from resort, into central Fuengirola. Walk around the corner from the bus station to the Renfe train station and take the train all the way into central Malaga, roughly 45mins. Trains run every 20 mins back and forth with the last train leaving Malaga at 23:20.