Often bypassed by visitors heading to their holiday resorts further west, Malaga is undergoing a renaissance at the moment as a destination worth visiting in itself.
Just over two hours from the UK by plane, it’s one of Europe’s most popular timeshare destinations and always full of surprises.
Here are ten things to do – and love – when you’re visiting Andalucia’s vibrant southern city.
1) Start the day at Malaga’s Café Central – one of the best places in town for a Spanish hot chocolate and churros (deep fried doughnuts).
2) Cool off in one of the many tiny parks and gardens. Malaga has a sub tropical climate, so its gardens are explosions of exotic flowers and colours.
3) Shop for the freshest local fruit and veg at the central market. You’ll find a huge variety of Mediterranean produce to rival the best markets anywhere in the world.
4) Unless it’s very hot, take your time to stroll around town. Malaga has its good and bad bits, but explore its historic quarter and you won’t be disappointed. Like most cities, it has an industrial core but skip that and focus on the churches, landmarks and local cafes down the side streets and you won’t be disappointed.
5) Treat yourself to a little luxury at El Corte Ingles. The closest thing to Harrods in Spain, El Corte Ingles’s deli-style food halls and beauty halls are tempting. The brand has department stores all over Spain and regularly advertises special sales on TV and billboards around town, so look out for the ads and pop in for discounts on summer clothes, perfumes, cosmetics, handbags, accessories and statement jewellery.
6) Treat the kids to a morning at Tivoli World, the Costa del Sol’s biggest adventure park and work up an appetite before lunch.
7) Soak up the greenery at the La Concepcion Botanical Gardens. Created over 150 years ago by the Marquess of Loring, there are now over 50,000 different plants in one very green, very beautiful, tranquil setting.
8) Admire the largest, most important Catholic church in the entire city, the much-photographed Catedral de Malaga. This masterpiece of Spanish Renaissance architecture was started in the 16th century and finally completed in the 1700s. For locals, it’s a religious icon.
9) Delve into Andalucia’s Arabic past at Alcazaba La Malaga. You’ll recognise it from the guide books and postcards, but have you ever seen it close up? This Arabic fortification dates all the way back to the eleventh century. You’ll get a bird’s eye view of the city and bay of Malaga as it’s perched on the Gibralfaro Monte, is the perfect spot for a late lunch picnic and a great place to take in the panoramic views.
10) Toast a beautiful sunset with tapas and a tinto de verano. As the temperatures cool off in anticipation of nightfall, head for one of Malaga’s world famous tapas bars, order a selection of small plates and a round of cooling tinto de veranos. One part red wine, one part lemonade, served with a slice of lemon a crushed ice, it’s lighter than wine or sangria and very refreshing – not surprisingly, it’s one of southern Spain’s favourite summer drinks.