The vibrant capital of the Costa del Sol, Malaga, brings to mind beaches and breaking waves.
But while it is the heart of sun, sand, sea and bleed, the city also has bucket culture.
The Pompidou Center's Spanish outpost is here, as well as a brilliant collection of works of art at the Carmen Thyssen and Picasso Málaga museums – the abstract artist was born in the city in 1881.
A map showing sights in Malaga, the vibrant capital of the Costa del Sol
Where to stay
Hotel Soho Boutique
A great place to hide, just around the corner from the Center for Contemporary Art. Rooms are tidy, elegant and minimalist, with images of local scenes converted into murals. There are 44 rooms, plus a seventh floor rooftop bar open from 6pm to 2am. Rooms from £ 85, en.sohohoteles.com.
A delight for food lovers as it is just across the street from Atarazanas Central Market, Malaga's best market. The rooms are well designed, again with minimalist decorations. Sweets and a glass of wine are provided at reception to welcome guests. Rooms from £ 89, hotel-atarazanas-malaga.com.
Alcazaba Premium Hostel
At the foot of the hill that leads to the ancient citadels of Alcazaba and Gibralfaro, don't let yourself be taken by the hostel. Yes, there are really good dorms that cost £ 18 a night; Some groups reserve exclusively rooms with eight bunk beds. Doubles with private bathrooms, however, are elegant and comfortable. Brilliant views of the rooftop pub and restaurant. Rooms from £ 77, alcazabapremiumhostel.com.
Airbnb in Malaga
Many 19th-century apartments have been converted into places for short stays. My studio near the Museo Carmen Thyssen was excellent, with a nice small kitchen, a large shower and a sofa bed (the studio sleeps four). £ 90 center fold, airbnb.co.uk. Prices may vary.
What to see and do
See the cathedral
A glorious manifestation of Renaissance / Baroque architecture. Marvel at the stained glass and vaulted ceilings, and then pay £ 3.50 more to participate in a rooftop tour (in addition to £ 5.35 for general admission, malagac Catedral.com)
Pablo Picasso lived to be ten years old in Malaga. He promised never to return to Spain during Franco's rule, but died in 1973 two years before the dictator. The Picasso Museum, opened by the King and Queen of Spain in 2003, has many excellent works (museopicassomalaga.org; entry £ 7.20).
More Art Museums
The Carmen Thyssen Museum's works offer glimpses of everyday life in past centuries
The Carmen Thyssen Museum (opened in 2011; admission £ 9) and Center Pompidou (opened in 2015; admission £ 8) make Malaga – along with the Museo Picasso – a major artistic destination. The Carmen Thyssen Museum's works offer glimpses of everyday life in the past centuries, while the Center Pompidou offers cutting-edge modern works (carmenthyssenmalaga.org; centrepompidou-malaga.eu)
Go up the hill
The castle of Alcazaba and Gibralfaro dates from the Moorish period of Spain. Both show Arab mastery of living in a dry climate, with fresh fountains, irrigation canals and courtyards. Admission for both costs £ 4.50.
Go to the car museum
Petrolheads – and fashionistas – will love the Museo del Automovilistico. Combines vintage cars (including Rolls-Royces, Jags and Cadillacs) with same-era clothing: Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, and more (museoautomovilmalaga.com; entry £ 8.50).
Picnic on the beach
Playa De La Malagueta (above) is busy, although you can find a picnic spot near the lighthouse
Playa De La Malagueta is busy, although you can find a picnic spot near the lighthouse. Try a glass of cava (£ 7.15) in Gran Hotel Miramar's lovely garden bar (granhotelmiramarmalaga.com)
Where to eat
Bar no. The 1
This wonderful bar / seafood brasserie is in the middle of Atarazanas Central Market, with grilled prawns, tuna skewers, mullet and seafood paella on offer. My grilled octopus and standardized (spicy) peppers were first rate. Each serving costs about £ 3.50.
It can be expensive at this tapas bar / restaurant on Calle Pinzon if you order lobster, caviar and catch of the day. Or order some olives and a drink (£ 2.70 combined). Soak up the atmosphere and enjoy your favorite places.
Freiduria Marisqueria Chupytira
Book a table at this lovely seafood restaurant or risk being refused. A two-mile walk from downtown, it's worth it. Locals settle on grilled prawns, clams, squid and crab legs. I recommend the spicy mussels. About £ 9 for a main course and a drink (chupytira.es)
In a narrow street from Atarazanas Central Market, Casa Aranda is the place to have breakfast. Tables are usually full, but turnover is fast. The churrios (tubular donuts) and coffee here are perfecto. Try the toasted pan with tomatoes (tomato and olive oil on toast). About £ 3.50pp.
British Airways returns from Gatwick from £ 44 (ba.com); a subway ride from the airport to the center takes about ten minutes and costs £ 1.60.
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