We’ll forgive you for thinking of Málaga as a jumping off point to explore the cheap nightlife of the Costa del Sol, but it’s so much more. A sophisticated, culture-rich city that brings together history and modern art deserves more of your time than a race through the airport to bundle onto a holiday resort bus.
Where to stay
We stayed at the gorgeous Barceló Málaga, right next to the María Zambrano train station – with high speed access to Madrid and a ten-minute wander into the old town. The Barceló Group has to be one of Team Coco’s favourite chains. You get the best of both worlds; great service and prices and quirky design tweaks, like the slide from the first floor into reception that we definitely didn’t go down after an evening out of tapas and Sangría at El Pimpi (Calle Granada 62). What’s even more quirky is that the slide regularly features in ‘Top 10’ global slides lists and is referred to by the Spanish acronym EDHA, which translates to “Sliding Structure for Daring Humans”.
If that doesn’t make you think of the magical realism of Wes Anderson locations, one peek at the brushed gold drinks cabinet and pink tiles in the highly Instagrammable ground-floor bar surely will. In contrast, the bedrooms take a more of a business-traveller design approach with huge beds, baths and wall-to-wall views over the city.
What to do
Málaga is home to 37 museums so you may not even find time to go to the beach. Our picks revolve around art that you’d be hard pressed to see elsewhere. Start at Museo Picasso Málaga (Palacio de Buenavista) to see works by the artist that have not been shown anywhere else. Picasso was born here and is rivalled only by Antonio Banderas in claiming the unofficial title of Málaga’s favourite son, so the city is immensely proud of this museum which opened in 2003 with 285 works donated by Picasso’s family.
For modern art, head to the CAC Málaga (Calle Alemanía) housed in a repurposed warehouse on the banks of the Guadalmedina river. An incredible spot considering you can explore both the permanent collection of international work and temporary exhibitions of rising Spanish artists for free. When outside the gallery, look up to see murals by D*Face and Shephard Fairey on the side of residential buildings.
Heading away from the river will bring you to the dusty historic streets of Soho, lined with inviting bars and cafés – and plenty of street art. This part of town has been enlivened thanks to the work of MAUS (mausmalaga.com), which aims to create a new cultural legacy for the city. While away a sunny afternoon exploring the pieces or, if you’re feeling impatient to see the most famous ones, visit the MAUS website for an interactive map.
Away from the art scene, don’t pass up the chance to visit the Alcazaba, a beautiful example of Moorish architecture which is more accessible and miles cheaper (3,50e) than the more famous Alhambra in Granada. If you can, find a tour guide to bring the history to life as its complexity is fascinating.
Where to eat
While the old town is full of adorable bolthole tapas bars, and the seasoned El Pimpi, our recommendation would be to book a table outdoors at La Terraza de Aduana for lunch on the rooftop of the Museo de Malaga (Plaza de la Aduana). Not only do you get to escape the midday rush of cruise ship visitors but the view over the Alcazaba is magnificent, and the truffled croquetas will feature in your commute-home daydreams for weeks to follow.
For a sweet treat, explore the narrow, bohemian streets around Calle Andrés Pérez; an old part of town which was once a bustling thoroughfare and now houses charming independent shops and the alternative culture patio bar Casa Invisible. Stop in at the newest outpost of famous Casa Mira C/Andrés Pérez 16 for dreamy interior design and turrón icecream.
Where to drink
We’re all about the rooftop bars and in Málaga we were in ‘mojito with a view’ heaven. If you take our recommendation and stay at Barceló, be sure to head up to the guests-only roof bar where the excellent team will look after you.
In the old town, there are some great rooftop bars open to the public. We love the roof at Room Mate Valeria (Plaza Poeta Alfonso Canales) with views over the port and will reluctantly give away our hidden gem, Terraza San Juan, tucked away in the Hotel Malaga Premium (Calle San Juan, n.º 11).
Rates at Barceló Malaga start from €123 per room per night based on two people sharing a Superior room. Head to barcelo.com to plan your trip.
The Barceló Group, was founded in 1931 by Simón Barceló on the island of Mallorca, Spain. The group includes the Barceló Hotel Group, which has more than 250 hotels and more than 55,000 rooms in 22 countries. Since 1989 the company has been channelling its social work through the Barceló Foundation, which collaborates in health, education, economic development and culture projects in underdeveloped countries.