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Places

A weekend in Malaga

If you thought Malaga was just the airport you land at on your way to sun-drenched beachfront towns like Marbella or Fuengirola, think again. The capital of the Costa del Sol has undergone a dramatic transformation in recent years. With its glitzy port area, an exciting variety of art and a burgeoning food scene, it’s time to consider Malaga a vacation destination in its own right.

Day one

Photo: Palacio Solecio

Live your Andalusian dream

Wake up in Palacio Solecio, a stunning boutique hotel set right in the heart of the historic old town, steps away from the Museo Picasso and the Roman Amphitheater. Built in the 18th century, the facade of this Andalusian palace was considered a masterpiece of architecture for its times. Fast forward to 2022, and it has been meticulously transformed into a modern boutique hotel that strikes the perfect balance between old and new. It is also home to one of Malaga’s gastronomic must-visits, Balausta, where chef José Carlos Garcia wows locals and visitors with his traditionally inspired, contemporary cuisine.

Palacio Solecio

Get your pedal on

Malaga’s first bike café, Recyclo Bike Café offers everything you need for a healthy morning in the capital of the Costa del Sol, from delicious artisanal coffee to tasty snacks and, of course, bike rentals. Bikes range from city bikes to hardtail and full suspension mountain bikes, available to rent by the hour. Before setting off to explore the city, enjoy a cup of locally roasted coffee (or a glass of craft beer, if that takes your fancy) with some nibbles made from fresh produce sourced directly from the nearby market. Better still, Recyclo offers plenty of vegan and vegetarian options.

Recyclo Bike Café

Plaza Enrique García Herrera, 16, Malaga

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Stock up on jamon

Just down the road from Recyclo Bike Café, Mercado Central de Atarazanas is not the most famous covered market in Malaga, but it might just be the most interesting. The market here dates back to the 14th century, although the construction of this particular building began in 1870. Apart from a fabulous selection of fresh produce, this is also a great spot to stock up on everything from acorn-fed jamon ibérico to jars of olives and salted anchovies. While you’re at it, stop at one of the food stalls for a lunch of grilled sardines or juicy pescaitos fritos (Andalusian-style small fried fish).

Mercado Central de Atarazanas

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Soak up some street art

Once one of Malaga’s most chic neighborhoods, the modern-day Soho might appear to be little more than a collection of derelict buildings – that is, until you look more closely. Thanks to an initiative known as MAUS (Malaga Arte Urbano Soho), this grungy-looking neighborhood has become the city’s center of street art. From Calle Casas de Campos with its mural of Charlie Chaplin and the giant rodents by Belgian artist ROA, to the lesser-known works in Calle Alameda Principal and Plaza de la Marina, it’s easy to while away an hour or two in fascinating, yet often overlooked, part of the city.

Calle Casas de Campos

C. San Lorenzo, Malaga

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Dine with the glitterati

Since opening in 2021, Only YOU Hotel Malaga has become the place to see and be seen in Malaga. Besides the hotel itself, a beautifully designed 93-room, five-star boutique gem, the property also features two excellent restaurants and a rooftop terrace with an infinity pool, a well-stocked bar and views to die for. Start the evening off with dinner at the seventh-floor Lola Restaurant, which serves a Mediterranean menu of seasonal, locally sourced dishes, before moving over to the Lolita rooftop bar from where you can gawk at the panorama of the city over some killer cocktails.

Only YOU Hotel Malaga

Alameda Principal, 1, Malaga

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Day two

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Shop till you drop

If shopping is your poison, then Malaga has you covered, with its wide range of high-street and independent brands. Malaga’s main shopping district is centered around the pedestrianized Calle Marqués de Larios, where you will find most major brands including Mango, Massimo Dutti, Bimba and Lola and COS. Zara, a must-visit when in Spain, is in Calle Liborio Garcia, just off Calle Larios. For smaller boutiques, head to the top of Calle Larios, take a right at Plaza de la Constitucion, and then a left until you reach Calle Andrés Pérez, with its independent stores including the La Casa del Cardenal antiques shop.

Calle Marqués de Larios

Calle Marqués de Larios, Malaga

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Centre Pompidou Malaga. Photo: Shutterstock

Be a culture vulture

For art lovers, Malaga is a veritable treasure trove. Pablo Picasso was born here, and the museum dedicated to him, hidden down one of the prettiest streets in the old town, is one of the best. Then there’s the Carmen Thyssen Museum, with its impressive collection of 19th century Spanish art and the Centre Pompidou Malaga for modern and contemporary art. For something more off the beaten track, check out the CAC Malaga contemporary art center, which exhibits works by international and emerging Spanish artists – including Louise Bourgeois, Olafur Eliasson, Damien Hirst and Julian Opie – in a former market built in 1927.

CAC Malaga

Calle Alemania, S/N, Malaga

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Refresh yourself with a side of history

Founded in 1840, Taberna Antigua Casa de Guardia is officially the oldest bar in Malaga. Far from a historic gimmick, it continues to serve a superb selection of fresh tapas and Andalusian wine and sherry drawn directly from the wooden barrels that line the wall. Be aware, lunch here is not a buttoned-up, sitting-down kind of affair. These people do it the old way, so jostle your way to an empty space by the bar, order some freshly grilled seafood, Iberian ham and local sheep’s cheese and wash it all down with a glass of outrageously affordable wine.

Taberna Antigua Casa de Guardia

Alameda Principal, 18, Malaga

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Take a siesta on a beach

If all that food and wine has you feeling drowsy, it’s time to make like a Spaniard and go for a siesta – and where better to do so than on the beach? The city beaches may not be as lovely as the ones at Torremolinos or Puerto Banus, but they do the trick. Playa Malagueta is the closest to the city, but it gets quite crowded. Meanwhile, La Caleta is a 30-minute walk (or five-minute cab ride) away and well worth the effort. Just make sure you lather up with plenty of factor 50 if you feel the zzz’s coming on.

Playa de la Caleta

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Gorge yourself on seafood

Malaga is a seaside town so where better to sample the freshest, spiniest of creatures from the Mediterranean? Marisqueria Noray II may not look like much from the outside, but this unassuming bar on a particularly unappealing side street in Soho just happens to be one of the city’s top shellfish spots. Here, brothers Miguel and Paco Robles prepare the catch of the day, provided by fishermen from the bay of Malaga, for a discerning crowd of hungry seafood lovers. Don’t miss the razor clams, the grilled shrimp or the scallops – and whatever is on special.

Marisqueria Noray II

Calle Pinzon, 10, Malaga

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