Planning a trip to Malaga? Find travel inspiration with our Spain in Style guides

Five Cities in Southern Spain You Absolutely Must Visit

Each country has its beautiful cities, but in Spain they blend historic appeal, modern vivacity and a distinctly exotic quality like few others. Which can mean that when choosing which city in Spain to visit you’re often forced to cut favourites out of shortlists, such is the depth of the country’s appeal.

Thank goodness, then, for Andalucia. Spain’s southernmost region is packed with some of the country’s most fascinating cities – and here are just a few of our favourites.

Malaga

Malaga Cathedral

Once an earthy Mediterranean port city, Malaga now has it all: culture, history, architecture, shopping, dining, nightlife and sandy Mediterranean beaches. Indeed, this is a place where you can shop, dine, visit museums and lay on the beach all in the same day.

Geographically the city is dominated by the Gibralfaro hill on which stands the Alcazaba, a fortified Moorish palace from the 11th century. A little further up, on the crest of the hill, a 14th-century castle overlooks the city and its bay amidst spectacular panoramic views.

The foot of the Gibralfaro, where a Roman amphitheatre meets the city centre, forms the point at which past and present come together. Cross the street and you enter the old town, a wonderful maze of squares, streets and pedestrian shopping areas lined with elegant buildings. Crowning this area are the cathedral, built in Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles, and the Picasso Museum, home to the works of Malaga’s most famous son.

A little further along is the Carmen Thyssen Museum, along with the Centre Pompidou at the stylish Muelle Uno portside shopping and entertainment area, just two of many fascinating spots in what is fast becoming one of Europe’s cultural gems. Situated between the centre and the port is a stylish boulevard flanked on both sides by a tree-lined promenade. Here stately buildings alternate with the greenery of botanical gardens, an area that gradually gives way to beaches and the ‘La Malagueta’ suburb.

Granada

La Alhambra, Granada

Another jewel in the Andalucian crown is Granada. Settled within a broad, fertile floodplain known as the Vega, this ancient city is above all known for its association with Moorish Spain, of which the legendary Alhambra palace-fortress remains the most tangible legacy. Surrounded by fragrant gardens, the latter encompasses an entire hilltop complex.

Though most views in Granada are characterised by this hilltop sentinel framed by the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada rising up behind it, the Alhambra itself looks out over the Albaicín – a charming maze of streets, squares and houses that still retains much of its medieval feel. Here you find stylish Arab-style baths and spas, Moroccan-inspired tetería tearooms and also houses whose private gardens, courtyards and rooftop terraces recall the days when this was the last Moorish capital of Andalucia.

From the rich ambience of the Albaicín, the city of Granada spreads out into an elegant baroque historic centre full of grand churches, imposing public buildings and beautiful monuments. In many ways a typically lively and impressive southern Spanish city, Granada is also the official birthplace of the tapa. So, expect many an opportunity to enjoy this very social way of dining across the many tapas bars and small restaurants that dot one of Spain’s most visited historic centres.

Cordoba

La Mezquita Cordoba

Straddling a curve on the Guadalquivir River, Cordoba is the embodiment of Andalucia’s glorious past. The city owes its prominent role in Spanish history primarily to its strategic location at the entrance to Andalucia. Famous leaders as diverse as Julius Caesar, Abd al-Rahman III and Ferdinand and Isabella fought to control the city at one time or another, so it’s not surprising that Cordoba has been destroyed and rebuilt more times than any other in Andalucia.

Though founded in pre-Roman times, Cordoba is above all famous for its magnificent Grand Mosque, the monumental structure that has become the symbol of the city. Surrounded by the tightly packed houses of the medieval Judería, or Jewish quarter, the mosque is one of the many architectural wonders within this corner of southern Spain, to which can be added later baroque edifices such as the Reyes Alcazares palace and the 14th-century Torre de Calahorra, which stands guard over the ancient river.

Seville

Alcazar, Seville

Sevilla, as it’s known locally, is the bustling capital of Andalucia, a sprawling old city full of life and sights. The city, and in particular the old quarter on the east bank of the Guadalquivir river, contains some of the finest buildings and monuments anywhere in Spain. They are the legacy of the centuries during which the riches of Central and South America flowed into Spain through the city, which at the time was not only the country’s main port but also one of the richest cities in Europe.

When you visit Seville you’re in the very heart of Andalucía, for it’s here that quintessentially Andalucian traditions such as bullfighting, flamenco music and vivacious street life come together. Bordered by the Guadalquivir river and guarded by the mighty 13th-century Torre de Oro, one of Seville’s most famous monuments and now a maritime museum, El Arenal used to be the bustling port area of the town, a district of munitions stores, artillery headquarters and shipyards. Today the quarter is dominated by the dazzling white bullring, the Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza, where bullfights, or corridas, have been held for the past two centuries.

Just beyond here lies one of the largest historic centres in Europe, an area that encompasses not only elegant shopping promenades but also the more tightly woven streets of an older area. Here you find the Moorish-style baths and teahouses, the stunning cathedral and its famous Giralda tower, the Reales Alcazares palatial complex and a host of quaint tapas bars and restaurants that form the heart of a lively Andalucian social scene.

Though newer, a part of Seville not to be missed is the Parque María Luisa, an architectural wonderland designed for the Ibero American World Trade Exposition of 1929. Today its magnificently creative buildings house embassies, museums, military headquarters and cultural and educational institutions. The grand five-star Hotel Alfonso XIII and crescent-shaped Plaza de España are the most striking features, but in summer the terraces of the old exposition pavilions come alive with street performers and live dance music that goes on until the early morning.

Cadiz

Cadiz Rooftops

At Cadiz we’ve reached the Andalucian shore again – albeit on the Atlantic this time. Situated on a peninsula that juts out into the sea, and attached to the mainland by a narrow strip of land, Cadiz is surrounded by water on three sides. The port is in many ways different from other cities in southern Spain, its pastel-coloured houses flanking a yellow tiled cathedral that actually seems more at home in Cuba than in Spain.

The city’s position, dominating the entrance to the Mediterranean, has made it a place of great strategic importance since classical times. In fact, Cadiz is the oldest living city in Europe and a veritable archaeological treasure house. Its museums contain findings ranging from 2,500 year-old Phoenician sarcophagi to Roman statues and Moorish artefacts.

Favoured by its location, the city was long the port of call for ships returning with riches from the Spanish colonies in the Americas. Developing apace with the maritime commerce of Cadiz were the watchtowers that were built onto the flat roofs of merchants’ houses. Such was the competition among them that they employed teams of watchmen to look out for incoming ships. Numbers peaked at a little over 160 towers, 126 of which remain today. The most famous tower, the Torre de Tavira, became the official watchtower of the city in 1778, and today offers visitors a spectacular view of the entire city and its surroundings from its rooftop and its camera obscura.

From here, Cadiz is a sea of flat roofs strongly reminiscent of a North African city that seems to float in the deep blue water like a giant ship. It adds yet another dimension to the myriad sights and experiences offered up by Andalucian cities rich in history, culture, mystery and above all, life.

Inspired by our pick of the best cities to visit in southern Spain? Check out our guides to when to visit the region and what to see when you’re there.

Festive Things to Do in Malaga Over Christmas

Christmas Lights in Malaga

Malaga is a great city to visit all year round – and Christmas is absolutely no exception. Here are just a few things that the LVC team will be doing in the city over the festive period.

Ooh and Aah at the Christmas Lights

Every year at Christmastime (until 6th January), the whole of Calle Larios is turned into a cathedral of lights. Malaga Christmas lights are the best in Spain and, with a light display with music usually around 18.30hrs and at 21.00hrs, they make for a great evening experience.

Shop ’til You Drop

Malaga is a great place to do some Christmas shopping. The high street is almost taken over by Spanish brands throughout Europe so it’s good to visit Zara, Maximo Dutti, Bimba y Lola and Cortefiel on their home turf.

Malaga city centre is small enough to wander round on foot. The main shopping streets branch off Plaza de la Constitucion with most international brands represented. There are also Christmas markets held at different locations throughout December, the biggest being on Muelle Uno where you’ll find local produce, crafts and clothing stalls.

Book a Festive Theatre Night

Swan Lake

There’s nothing like a festive trip to the theatre to get you into the Christmas spirit. See Swan Lake at Teatro Cervantes on 13th December. (For more information and to book: Teatrocervantes.com.)

Take in the Views at El Corte Ingles

Every Christmas, the main department store, El Corte Ingles, always has a winter wonderland with ice skating, snow slides, carousels and fun festive activities to do with children. The store itself is decked out and great for a browse in the warm. If you fancy a bite to eat or a drink, head up to the top floor to the Gourmet Experience where there are gorgeous views of the twinkling lights of the city.

Experience an Authentic Zambombá

A Zambomba

The zambombá is a typical southern Spanish Christmas tradition. Direct translation of this word is actually a specific percussion instrument (see above) but a zambombá is also a sort of Andalucian equivalent to Christmas carols with flamenco at its roots. Traditionally anis is drunk, and mantecados or polvorones (soft, crumbly shortbread sweets) are passed around. Not to be missed during a break in Malaga over Christmas. (For more information and to book: Teatroechegaray.com.)

Visit a Nativity Scene

Malaga has more than its fair share of nativity scenes. The two we like best, though, are Malaga Cathedral’s – a huge nativity scene from 4th December to 8th January – and The Glass Museum (Museovidrioycristalmalaga.com) where they have a whole nativity scene made from porcelain figures, known as Lladro, running from 13th December to 8th January.

Pay a Visit to Father Christmas

Father Christmas

The big man himself, Father Christmas, is ready for visitors at Muelle Uno (near the Pompidou Centre) between 12 and 14.00hrs and 17 to 20.00hrs – on the 2, 3, 6, 8, 9, 10, 16, 17, 23, and strangely 26 to 30 December, and from 2 to 4 January. There’s also a snow machine and a Christmas market.

Try a Roscón de Reyes

The bakeries are full of Roscón de Reyes, a special cream cake in the shape of a crown, traditionally eaten at Christmastime. Look out for the surprise inside.

Spend an Afternoon on the Beach

Promenade in Malaga

Malaga has the best year-round climate of pretty much anywhere in Europe, and during December daytime temperatures can reach the late teens. With clear blue skies and sun on your face more or less guaranteed, the city beaches are great for running around with the kids, going for a walk or simply kicking back and chilling out.

Visit the Gibralfaro at Night

Perched high above the city looking out to sea, Malaga’s castle is an interesting place to visit any time. However, they offer evening tours, and at Christmas with the city all lit up it’s a beautiful spectacle.

Have a Warming Drink

Sweet Malaga Wine Bar

Visit the longest running bar in Malaga, Antigua Casa de Guardia, on the corner of Alameda Principal. Have a glass of sweet local wine – ideal as the nip of the evening sets in and a perfect foodie gift for friends back home.

Catch Some Verdiales

Pastorales

An annual competition of Verdiales, traditional folk dance and music, takes place on 28th December just outside Malaga. The costumes are colourful and the atmosphere is always upbeat. (Address: Recinto Ferial del Puerto de la Torre, Calle Pirita, 29190.)

Chuckle Your Way through ‘Day of the Innocents’

The 28th December is all about tricks and giggles in Spain. So play a joke on someone for the Spanish equivalent of April Fools’ Day.

Make a Date with the Three Kings

Three Kings Parade, Spain

On the night of the 5th January – at 17.30hrs, to be precise – there’s a huge parade around the historic centre of the city with music and dancers. The Reyes Magos or Three Kings (from whom children traditionally receive their Christmas presents) and their helpers throw tonnes of sweets into the crowds for children to collect.

Take a Tapas Tour

One of the best ways to see a city and learn more about its culture is through its food. Toma & Coe do a fantastic tapas tour (Tomaandcoe.com) that explores the best places to eat and drink over the course of a hugely fun night out.

Coming to Malaga this festive season and looking for a great place for a Christmas meal or to celebrate New Year’s Eve? Check out our pick of the best.

The Definitive Gourmet Foodie’s Guide to Malaga

It wasn’t so long ago that eating out in Malaga consisted of little more than a plate of olives, a slice of Spanish tortilla and a skewer of grilled sardines. While a lot of bars did (and do) this very well, you would hardly describe it as gourmet or any different from the rest of Spain.

But roll in some major refurbs in the city centre and big-name arrivals on the art scene, and the Malaga foodie scene ups its game. And we’re talking several notches here – the city now competes with Barcelona and Madrid when it comes to gourmet experiences.

From the historic central market and traditional corner shops to high-end wineries and restaurants, Malaga offers fine local produce to try and buy. And of course, take home with you to savour long after your holiday (and tide you over until your next one). Read our definitive gourmet guide to Malaga to discover where to go to find your foodie heaven.

Everything under the Malaga sun

Atarazanas Market

Atarazanas Food Market in Malaga

Feast your senses (and that’s all five) with a visit to Atarazanas Market in the centre of Malaga. The dozens of stalls literally groan with local produce, harvested from the fertile valleys and hills in the province or caught the night before in the Mediterranean. Expect sensory overload as you wander through the aisles taking in one of the best foodie sights in southern Spain.

Food Market in Malaga - Atarazanas

Seasonal is key to the best foodie experiences and the choice at Atarazanas Market moves in time with nature’s calendar. Strawberries and asparagus come into their own in the spring, while the summer gives way to cherries and myriad varieties of tomatoes. Autumn welcomes a great selection of tropical fruit, grown in the Axarquía region of Malaga – custard apples, mangos and of course, grapes, that essential ingredient for Malaga wine. Winter’s just as colourful as it’s the season for Malaga carrots (don’t let the bright purple put you off for one second) and citrus fruits – in this case, just the colours you’d expect!

Year-round appearances include cold cuts and cheeses (try the Payayo goat’s cheese); olives galore – don’t miss the olives from Álora, fat, juicy bites laced with thyme, fennel and garlic, and the only olives in Spain with a guarantee of origin label; dried fruits and nuts to satisfy even the most discerning nibblers; plus several stalls selling Spanish store cupboard staples such as saffron for that Sunday paella and sugar cane honey for dribbling on slices of fried aubergine.

Fish Monger at Food Market in Malaga

Yes, our mouths are watering too but the good news is that you can try before you buy at many stalls. Some do a plate of local cheeses and cold cuts with a glass of Malaga wine. If you fancy trying the fish and seafood, head for one of the bars at the entrances for a tapa or ten.

Address: Calle Atarazanas. Open: Mon to Sat 9am to 3pm.

Gourmet shopping

Goats Cheese from Malaga

Despite the huge changes in Malaga, the city still has a traditional feel and has kept several of small specialist shops. A trip to one of these grocer’s shops not only opens the door to the best quality at often competitive prices, but takes you back to the days when your mother used to ask you to pop out to the corner shop.

La Mallorquina

Established in 1943, this gourmet gem is one of the best shops in Malaga for local produce. They stock a particularly good selection of wine (Spanish as well as Malaga), cheeses, condiments and jams. The in-house bakery next door is a new addition and handy for the bread to accompany your cheeseboard. Buy in store to take home or online La-mallorquina.es (in Spanish only) for home delivery.

Address: Plaza Feliz Saenz 1. Open: Mon to Fri 9.15am to 2.15pm and 5.15 to 8.45pm. Weekends 9.15am to 2.30pm.

Ultramarinos Juan de Dios Barba

It’s the window that catches your eye here. Nowhere else in Malaga displays large rolls of air-dried cod (an essential ingredient in many typical local dishes such as ensalada malagueña) and baskets of dried herrings with quite the same panache. They’re had years of practice too because this gourmet corner has been selling cod to locals since 1932. Make this your go-to shop for Malaga raisins and dried figs.

Address: Calle Martínez 10. Open: Monday to Friday 9.30am to 2.30pm and 5 to 9pm. Saturday 9.30am to 2pm.

Ultramarinos Zoilo

Tiny on size – blink and you could miss it – but big on taste, this foodie haven has been around since 1956. They sell all types of Malaga produce but specialise in jamón serrano and Iberian cold cuts. Wash them down with a bottle of Malaga wine – Zoido do a good line in wines from Ronda.

Address: Calle Granada 65. Open: Mon to Sat 9am to 2.30pm and 5pm to 9.30pm.

Gourmet Experience

Malaga's Gourmet Experience in El Corte Ingles

If you’re looking for gourmet shopping on a much bigger scale and fancy incorporating the rest of Spain to your foodie trip, head for the Gourmet Experience on the top floor of El Corte Inglés department store. The choice of Spanish food and wine plus a wide range of international fare on sale is second to none in Malaga. Quality with a capital Q does come at a premium price and you don’t get the local touch here, but your taste buds will be just as grateful.

Address: Avenida de Andalucía 4-6. Open: Mon to Sat 10am to midnight. Sunday noon to midnight.

Gourmet Tastes

While you can try before you buy at Atarazanas Market and local grocer’s shops, you won’t get more than a sliver of cheese or small slice of chorizo making it difficult to get a good overview or a real idea of what you like. Bring in a tasting, however, and we’re talking a whole new culinary experience. Here’s where to go:

El Almacén del Indiano

Based on a traditional grocer’s shop, this ‘Indian warehouse’ offers the perfect combination of tastings and the chance to try typical Spanish dishes. They specialise in jamón serrano – just watching them cut the ham makes the visit worthwhile – and organise tasting sessions for cold cuts, cheeses and wine. Book via their website Almacendelindiano.com or ask for a spontaneous tasting while you’re there.

Address: Calle Cisneros 7. Open: Mon to Fri 11am to 3pm and 6 to 9pm. Sat 11am to 4pm.

Los Patios de Beatas

Wine shop on Calle Beatas, Malaga

When it comes to wine, it doesn’t get better than at Los Patios de Beatas Catasenmalaga.com, whose wine list runs to over 500 entries. And counting. Owner Julián Sanjuán knows his bottles inside out and offers customised wine tastings. He also runs olive oil tastings and pairing sessions where the delicious house tapas perfectly complement the wine. And while you’re treating your taste buds, feast your eyes on the historic interior complete with 17th century wine vats and stunning stain-glass cupola.

Address: Calle Beatas 43. Open: Monday to Saturday 1pm to 4pm and 8pm to midnight. Sun 1pm to 4pm.

Maroleum

A newbie on the Malaga restaurant scene, Maroleum Facebook Page Maroleum takes olive oil culture to a whole new level. You can’t actually buy EVOO here, but you can taste it in every single dish on the menu. You also live and breathe olive oil in the decoration, video installations and wall displays – where else can you watch the olive harvest as you savour the liquid gold at breakfast, lunch and dinner? As well as concocting unique EVOO creations, chef Dani Peinado offers olive oil tasting experiences.

Address: Calle Pacífico 49. Open: Daily 8am to midnight.

Like food? Have you been to the vineyards in Ronda?

The Art Lover’s Guide to Malaga

pompidou gallery malaga

In 2017 art storms onto the agenda for Malaga because the city now ranks among the best art destinations in southern Europe. From true Old Master tradition to cutting-edge performance, Malaga’s art galleries offer almost anything that has ever left the artist’s palette.

Picasso Museum

picasso museum malaga

Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga in 1881, a city he left forever ten years later. The Picasso Museum in Malaga is housed in a beautifully restored 16th century palatial mansion, the Buena Vista Palace. With its intricate wood-inlaid ceilings, a smooth columned patio and a deliciously peaceful courtyard, it’s one of Malaga’s finest buildings and galleries. Feast your eyes on all this before you move on to the other masterpieces.

The Picasso Museum has just had a revamp and rung the changes on its permanent collection. Many of the artworks now on display are newbies for everyone except Picasso’s family so there’s a really intimate feel to the galleries. The collection takes you on a journey through the artist’s entire creative lifetime from the lifelike portraits he painted as an early teen to some of his latest works of surrealism in the 1970s.

Something else the museum excels at is combining Picasso with his contemporaries. Louise Bourgeois and Jason Pollock were some of the big names in 2016 and starring in 2017 are Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud. See their take on the delicacy and vitality of the human condition and life until 17 September 2017.

Need to know – the Picasso Museum opens daily 10am to 7pm (8pm July and August). Tickets cost €7 for the Picasso collection, €5.50 for the temporary exhibition and €10 for both. Entrance includes an audio guide and you can take a guided tour in English on Wednesdays at noon. The Picasso Museum is also the busiest museum in Andalucia so time your visit very first thing or at Spanish lunchtime (so 2-4pm).

Don’t miss – the museum shop for a browse; the café’s quiet courtyard for a coffee and just the church bells for company; and a trip back in time in the basement with its Phoenician and medieval walls.

Address: Palacio de Buenavista, Calle San Agustin, 8, 29015 Malaga; phone: 952 12 76 00;  Museopicassomalaga.org.

Russian Art Museum

russian museum malaga

Take one of the largest art collections in the world bring it to one restored tobacco factory and you’ve got Malaga’s Russian Museum. A relative newbie in the city – it opened just a couple of years ago – this museum already flexes its muscles in Spain. It houses a cherry-picked selection of art works on loan from the Russian State Museum in St Petersburg where the catalogue runs to over 400,000 pieces. To say there’s plenty of choice is understating it.

This year’s main exhibition focuses on the Romanov saga from the first Ivan the Terrible – judging by the paintings in his section he more than lived up to his name – to the family’s unfortunate finale at the end of the World War I. Feast your eyes on royal portraits, dramatic war scenes, Russian landscapes and some sumptuous porcelain.

The current temporary exhibition showcases one of the best-known Russian painters who also turns out to be an absolute master of colour. The 78 pieces in the Kandinsky exhibition feature his influence from Russian icons – the opening pieces are exquisite – to his later abstract signature style.

Need to know – the Russian Museum opens Tuesday to Sunday 9.30am to 8.00pm. Tickets cost €6 for the Romanov collection, €4 for Kandinsky and €8 for both, and include an audio guide. There is free parking next to the Museum.

Don’t miss – the fun gift ideas in the museum shop; the tasty tapas and decadent desserts in the café; and a visit to the vintage car museum next door.

Address: Edificio de Tabacalera, Av de Sor Teresa Prat, 15, 29003 Malaga; phone: 951 92 61 50; Coleccionmuseoruso.es. 

The Museum of Malaga

The newest art museum in Malaga also took its time to arrive. Decades and decades in fact, but the wait was certainly worth it. The Museum of Malaga, housed in the elegant Customs House flanked by Malaga’s tallest palms, is by far the biggest museum in the city (it’s the fifth largest in Spain).

The museum brings together the Provincial Museum of Fine Arts and the Provincial Archaeological Museum. There are just over 2000 pieces of historical fine art held and the majority of the museum is taken up with pieces of archaeological importance. Trying to see it all in one go will tip even the world’s greatest art lovers over the edge so choose your floor – first for art, second for archaeology and leave the other one for another time. Your eyes, mind and feet will thank you for it.

That said, do the floor of your choice properly and make sure you see the highlights. On the art floor these include lots of 19th century paintings by Malaga artists who show a bias for seascapes, local customs and portraits of the then A-list celebrities. A big favourite and icon for locals is Enrique Simonet’s ‘And she had a heart!’, a stunning take on a forensic table. Unsurprisingly, Picasso pops up in the final section where you’ll also see some familiar sculptures.

Upstairs sits a veritable treasure trove of archaeological finds. Even if stone pots and iron spears aren’t your thing, it’s difficult not to be impressed by the vibrant green Corinthian warrior’s mask or the giant Roman mosaics. The museum is beautifully curated throughout and the English translations are second to none in Malaga.

Need to know – the Museum of Malaga opens Tuesday to Saturday 9am to 8pm and Sunday 9am to 3pm. Entrance is free for EU nationals, €1.50 otherwise.

Don’t miss – the interior patio that gives you an idea of the true scale of this giant; the unique roof tiles all imprinted with images of Malaga – see them on the top floor; and look out for the top-floor restaurant opening later this year. 

Address: Plaza de la Aduana, S/N, 29015 Malaga; phone: 951 91 19 04.

Pompidou Centre

centre pompidou malaga

The newest of the trio with its iconic multi-coloured cube graces the end of the pergola on the port. The Pompidou Centre, the only branch outside France of its older Parisian sister, is actually underground although the clever lighting means you’d never know it. It houses a collection of some of the best and quirkiest modern art. Just about anyone who was anyone gets their space – Magritte, Chagall, Léger, Tapies, Bacon, Kahlo and of course, Picasso.

This museum is big on installations. David Bowie chats to you in a Tony Oursler video, 150 aluminium foil human silhouettes make up the chilling Ghost installation by Kader Attia and you can also pop into a cinema ticket office. Pop-up performances take place regularly too – check the museum website for information on what’s popping up when – and there are good temporary exhibitions. In 2017 Philippe Starck whose drawings and designs take over the exhibition space from 10 May.

Need to know – the Pompidou Centre opens every day except Tuesday 9.30am to 8pm. Tickets cost €7 for the permanent collection, €4 for the temporary and €9 for both.

Don’t miss – the kids’ area at the museum entrance (currently a Calder Circus exhibition for children aged 5 to 12); the fab shop where you could literally do all your birthday present shopping; and the view of the cube from inside the museum.

Address: Puerto de Malaga, Pasaje Doctor Carrillo Casaux, s/n, Muelle 1, 29016 Malaga; phone: 951 92 62 00;  Centrepompidou-malaga.eu.

CAC Malaga

Unlike the other art museums in Malaga who can shout loud about their architecture, the Contemporary Art Centre (CAC) in the old wholesale market, built in the Modernist style in 1939 is starkly plain.

Since it opened in 2003, the CAC has played hostess with the mostest to the biggest names on the contemporary art scene. The likes of Damien Hirst, Miquel Barceló, Anish Kapoor, Mark Ryden, Gilbert & George, Ai Weiwei, Tracy Emin, Peter Doig, Cristina Iglesias and Marina Abramovic have all shown work here. The permanent collection has an interesting mix of pieces but CAC is best at temporary exhibitions with four dedicated spaces including the largest showcasing visiting artists.

Currently in house is Chinese artist Jia Aili with his largest exhibition ever in Europe (on until 18 June 2017). He’s joined by Scottish Peter Doig with a fun collection of posters he painted for his film club in the Caribbean (until 25 June 2017) and the semi-permanent Neighbours exhibition of paintings and works by Malaga artists.

Need to know – the CAC opens Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 8pm (21 June to 6 September 10am to 2pm and 5 to 9pm). Free entry.

Don’t miss – the guided tours, occasionally in English – if not, be sure to pick up the information leaflet at the entrance to each exhibition space, well worth a read; Óleo restaurant next door serving lunch, dinner and cocktails on the riverside terrace; and a stroll round the neighbouring Soho district where street art comes into its own.

Address: Calle Alemania, S/N, 29001 Malaga; phone: 952 12 00 55; Cacmalaga.eu.

Carmen Thyssen Museum

carmen thyssen gallery malaga

The Thyssen name needs little introduction to art lovers and carries the weight it merits into the Palacio de Villalón in Malaga. The modern art is beautiful curated and presented in this Palace, a late 15th century – early 16th century noble home which is now the Carmen Thyssen Museum. The gallery focuses on Spanish painting, especially that of the 19th and early 20th centuries. From old masters to romantic landscapes you’ll see Hermen Anglada-Camarasa, Gonzalo Bilbao Martínez and Valentín de Zubiaurre.

Need to know – Opening times are Tuesday to Sunday from 10.00am to 8.00pm. Monday closed (except public holidays). Ticket cost Permanent Collection €6, Temporary exhibitions €4.50 and combined entrance €9.

Don’t miss – More gift shop fun and another pleasant coffee shop. Also, if your trip allows the Juan Gris exhibition which is on from 6th October 2017 to 25th February 2018.

Address: Calle Alemania, S/N, 29001 Malaga; Phone: 952 12 00 55; Carmenthyssenmalaga.org.

As always, we work with the best guides who can pick you up at your villa and show you the best of Malaga’s art scene. Do contact our Concierge team and ask about the Art in Malaga Tour which offers special insight into the life of Pablo Picasso.

Enjoyed our pick of the best Malaga art galleries? Find out what else the city has to offer.

Mouth-watering Michelin Star Restaurants in Malaga

various dishes Kabuki Raw

Few things get tongues wagging at LVC HQ quite like food and drink. It’s hardly surprising – we’re lovers of a country where they’re never too far from being the main topic of discussion, after all.

When we eat out we want more than just delicious food and wine; we want to undergo a full sensory experience from mouth-watering dishes to stunning surroundings. Which is precisely what the below Michelin starred restaurants in Malaga have to offer.

Jose Carlos Garcia, Malaga City

appetizer jose carlos garcia

Nothing symbolises Malaga’s rebirth into a fabulous, forward-facing, tourist-friendly destination more than the city’s port area, Muelle Uno. And nothing better encompasses Muelle Uno’s ambitious vision than the glittering Michelin starred dining at Jose Carlos Garcia. There are three dining spaces, each of which is spacious with stylish but comfortable design touches. The food is experimental with whimsical, exotic takes on local dishes, from suckling pig served with pineapple and sweet pumpkin jus, prawns with Korean kimchi, hand-poured gazpachuelo and red mullet served with curry gnocchi.

The famous chef himself tries to go out of his way to welcome you (or at the very least sends you on your way, after a dazzling gastronomic experience, with a cheery thank you). All in all, it’s a dining experience that’s equal parts surprising and delicious.

Opening times: 13.30–15.00hrs, 20.30–23.00hrs. Address: Puerto de Malaga, Plaza de la Capilla, 1, 29016 Malaga. Phone: 952 00 35 88. Restaurantejcg.com.

Kabuki Raw, Casares

table setting Kabuki Raw

Malaga’s finest five-star hotel, Finca Cortesin, needed a restaurant that truly did justice to the lovely, luxe-y surroundings. And in Kabuki Raw, the Japanese Michelin starred restaurant that opened in 2014, they got just that. Put simply, Kabuki Raw is the best place to eat Japanese food in southern Spain. The service and surroundings are impeccable, with each table having a view of the chef, and the food and perfectly paired wine are… well, an event.

The courses are themed around acts from the Japanese theatre, Kabuki, after which the restaurant is named. You start with a ‘Hanamichi’ curtain-raiser of light tempura and sashimi-style morsels and work through acts two and three before a dramatic ‘Shosagoto’ denouement of Wagyu beef ribs. From start to finish, it’s all utterly spectacular.

Opening times: Dinner only (smart casual dress code is insisted upon). Fincacortesin.com.

Restaurante Dani Garcia, Marbella

hare dish dani garcia

Slap-bang in the middle of the Golden Mile, in the heart of the Puente Romano complex, Dani Garcia’s dining room screams indulgence from the moment you cross the threshold – low ceilings channel the eye to vibrant green living walls that serve to offset a monochrome colour palette and gleaming black floors. This taste for the avant-garde and theatricals is carried over into the food where flamboyant twists on otherwise traditional, prosaic-sounding dishes are the order of the day. Gazpacho meets sea anemone and ceviche, ajoblanco comes with herring roe, a workaday ‘Gypsy stew’ is married with seafood and the likes of roast hare, spider crab and murex (rock snails) pop up on fantastically themed menus like the Little Prince, Alice in Wonderland and 2017’s technicolour offering, Caleidoscope. Fabulous.

Opening times: Dinner only. Address: Hotel Puente Romano, Av. Bulevar Principe Alfonso de Hohenlohe, s/n, 29602 Marbella, Malaga.

Sollo, Fuengirola

view from sollo restaurant

A little unusually for a, quite frankly, seafood-obsessed Malaga, chef Diego Gallegos favours fresh water fish – on our visit sturgeon seemed to be a favourite and there were no complaints from us. As you’d expect from a fine dining restaurant there’s a tasting menu available, but in Sollo’s case it extends to 19 (count them) courses. Each course is beautifully presented and dressed exquisitely with plates substituted for shells, leaves, dried seaweed or wooden boards, the sort of touch of drama which really adds to the overall experience.

Opening times: Dinner only. Address: Urbanizacion Reserva del Higueron, Av. del Higueron, 48, 29640 Fuengirola, Malaga. Phone: 951 38 56 22; Sollo.es.

Messina, Marbella

dining room messina, marbella

Messina is that fairly rare thing: relaxed fine dining. Which isn’t to say that the food isn’t superb – if their steaks alone are worth travelling for, you’d camp out overnight on the pavement for their succulent baby goat. Set in Marbella’s old town, chef Mauricio Giovanini and his wife Pia Ninci earned their star in 2016 making them the newest place on the Malaga list.

Opening times: 13.30-15.30hrs, 20-23.00hrs. Address: Av. Severo Ochoa, 12, 29603 Marbella, Malaga.

Skina, Marbella

meat dish skina

One of the smallest Michelin star restaurants in the Malaga area, sitting down to dine at one of Skina’s five tables can’t fail to make you feel special. In the centre of Marbella on a pedestrian street this now very established restaurant has Jaume Puigdengolas as head chef offering the best ingredients with creative flair – think huge, fat prawns, red mullet and sea bass sourced daily from the market then transformed into dishes of rare delicacy and subtlety.

Opening times: 13.30–15.30hrs, 19–23.00hrs. Address: Calle Aduar, 12, 29601 Marbella, Malaga.

El Lago, Marbella

Exterior El Lago

El Lago’s Michelin star dates all the way back to 2005 – for which you’ve got to take your hat off: serving up food of the highest quality, without letting standards drop off for a moment, for well over a decade is no mean feat.

The ethos of the chef Diego del Rio is ‘zero kilometre food’, something that ordinarily might be limiting but given El Lago’s sun-soaked southern Spanish setting in reality means very few ingredients are off-limits. Local goat’s cheese, Malaga goat, veal and a dazzling array of tropical fruits and vegetables picked from the neighbouring Guadalhorce Valley all make an appearance on the set menu, alongside fresh fish and seafood hauled by the boatload from the sparkling Mediterranean.

Opening times: Dinner only. Address: Urb. Elviria Hills, Avda. Las Cumbres, s/n, 29600 Marbella, Malaga.

And finally…

Sollun, Nerja

dish sollun nerja

Sollun may not have a Michelin star to its name (or not yet, anyway), but it’s still one very fine restaurant. Chef Juan Quintanilla eloped from Messina and opened this restaurant in Nerja a good few of years ago now. And it was about time, too. We needed a great eatery on our forays east of Malaga and Sollun has served us well on a few occasions.

Quintanilla is a chef who’s passionate about the food he serves up and will come out to discuss preferences with diners and explain what special dishes he recommends. Whether fish or meat we have never been disappointed. There are no gimmicks here, just a selection of, what on the surface appear to be, surprisingly simple dishes that are brought to life with sublime ingredients and the touch of a seriously skilled chef.

Opening times: 13.00–14.30hrs, 19.00–00.00hrs. Address: Calle Pintada, 9, 29780 Nerja, Malaga. Phone: 653 68 94 52. Sollunrestaurante.com.

Like our pick of Michelin starred restaurants in Malaga? Book a gastro getaway at one of our luxury Costa del Sol villas and our Concierge will assist with personal recommendations and reservations at these and many more mouthwatering restaurants in Spain.

Exploring the Wines of Andalucia – More Than Just a Sweet Affair

Wines in La Axarquia

Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Cava and Albariño are the big names in Spanish wine. It’s well known that to the north of Spain the land is ideal for vineyards. While in southern Spain with its hot climate and mountainous terrain it was left for fortified wines. However, not any more…

Up until 2000 Andalucia was famed only for its excellent fortified wines from Cadiz, Cordoba and Malaga provinces. However, in recent years small providers have been working hard in Granada, Malaga, Cadiz and Huelva producing dry whites, sparkling wines, rosés and reds that are starting to give the well-known wine regions of the North a run for their money.

Here at the Luxury Villa Collection we have discerning tastes when it comes to what ends up in our glass at the end of the day. And although there are a lot of new bodegas (wineries) in Andalucia, not all Andalucian wines are good. We’ve had great fun (hiccup) picking the best bodegas to visit.

Malaga Province

Axarquia Region

This mountainous region to the east of Malaga is famed for its avocados, mangos and sweet wine. Its white villages are pretty, charming, authentic and home to many food-related fiestas throughout the spring and summer.

Bodegas Bentomiz

bodegas bentomiz with mountains

Address: Finca El Almendro, Pago Cuesta Robano, 29752, Sayalonga, Malaga

What: The bodega building itself is a handsome, modern, slate affair which is strikingly bold in its very rural setting. Wine tastings are paired with nibbles of food, but the set course lunches they offer are exceptional so don’t miss them. The chef (and owner) has been trained by one of the best chefs in the province.

Products: Aromatic red, rosé, white and sweet wines under the Ariyanas label.

We love: Their 100% Moscatel de Alejandrí­a, sweet Terruño Pizarroso (a typical Malaga wine) and their rosé, Ariyanas Romé Rosado, is absolutely perfect on hot evenings.

Point of difference: They cork with reusable glass stoppers – very chic and a useful memento.

More information: Bodegasbentomiz.com 

Ronda 

Ronda has a wine-making heritage which goes all the way back to Roman times, and has been recently revived. There are 18 wineries (on our last count) so more than enough to warrant a private chauffeur and a whistle stop tour of a few of them.

The town itself is in a magical setting and packs quite a punch in terms of sightseeing credentials, so coupling up a day wine tasting with cultural sights is ideal. Whether you choose to wine taste before or after visiting the town there’s plenty to enjoy from palaces and pretty squares, to a traditional bull ring and the famous old bridge.

Descalzos Viejos

descalzos viejos wine barrels

Address: Finca Descalzos Viejos, Pdo. de los Molinos, Apartado de Correos 365, 29400, Ronda, Malaga

What: A restored convent building steeped in history. With its frescos, vaulted ceilings and atmospheric feel it’s not only one of our favourite bodegas in Spain, but anywhere else in the world, too.

Products: Red and white wine as well as a sweet wine called Dv Mí­nima – which is absolutely delicious. All wines have the D.O. Sierra de Malaga seal of approval.

We love: There are no set tours; each tour is specific upon request.

Point of difference: The vineyards are in the gorge of Ronda, making it a spectacular setting and within easy reach of the town for a spot of sightseeing.

More information: Descalzosviejos.com

Joaquín Fernández

Horse Riding Through A Vineyard in Spain

Address: Finca los Frutales, Paraje Los Frontones, 29400, Ronda, Malaga

What: An organic winery created in a self-sustainable ecosystem.

Products: Red, rosé and a blush wine.

We love: The rural setting and the in-depth explanations provided in to mixing traditional methods with new technology and organic procedures.

Point of difference: You can go on a horse riding tour through the vineyard – that’s pretty special.

More information: Bodegajf.es 

Cadiz Province 

Cadiz province is very much the Andalucia wine heartlands. Home to the Sherry Triangle – Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlucar de Barrameda and Puerto de Santa Maria – in Cadiz province it’s all about sweet and dry Sherry. If you’re not familiar with Sherry, don’t let that put you off – it’s an incredibly versatile, rich and complex wine. Some of these wineries have been producing wines for hundreds of years, and with this heritage comes quality. On a tasting in Cadiz province you will be taken on a journey through history and will know your different Sherries at the end of it, from sun-drenched sweet Pedro Ximénez to the salty dryness of Manzanilla.

Puerto de Santa Maria 

On the Atlantic coast the old town of Puerto de Santa Maria is filled with cobbled streets, traditional fish restaurants and an imposing Moorish fortress.

Bodegas Gutierrez Colosia

wine barrels gutierrez colosia

Address: Avda. Bajamar, 40, 11500 El Puerto de Santa Marí­a, Cšdiz

What: One of the area’s smaller wineries, Bodegas Gutiérrez Colosí­a is family owned and a beautiful example of a typical southern Spanish bodega.

Products: Sherries – Fino, Amontillado, Pedro Ximénez, Oloroso, Palo Cortado – and Brandies.

We love: It’s very atmospheric and romantic; they offer great tapas and the family have a real understanding of flamenco (a show can be arranged).

Point of difference: Beside the Guadalete River in the charming El Puerto de Santa Maria it makes for a wonderful day out.

More information: Gutierrezcolosia.com

Sanlucar de Barrameda 

Sitting alongside the Guadalquivir estuary, the town of Sanlucar old quarter (Barrio Alto) is delightful. The town is famed for its wide, golden beaches, seafood, beach horse racing and its salty Manzanilla wine.

Barbadillo

wine barrels in barbadillo bodega

Address: Luis de Eguilaz, 11, 11540, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Cádiz

What: Barbadillo is one of the oldest and largest family bodegas in Andalucia as well as being home to the Manzanilla Museum.

Products: White, red and sparkling as well as Sherries (Manzanilla, Oloroso, Amontilado, Palo Cortado, Creams, Pedro Ximénez) and Brandies.

We love: The Cathedral of Manzanilla, where the barrels are kept – it truly is enormous. The beginner’s wine tasting course gives a good understanding of Sherry and gets you prepared to sound like you know what you’re talking about even if this is your first foray into Sherry.

Point of difference: Barbadillo has 17 wine cellars covering 75,000 m2!

More information: Barbadillo.com

Jerez de la Frontera 

A visit to Andalucia wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Jerez – the home of the Spanish Riding School, the Buleria (a type of flamenco) and Sherry. It’s a beautiful city with great restaurants, a wonderful food market and many, many wineries.

Las Bodegas Marqués del Real Tesoro y Valdespino

Manzanillla La Guita bottle & barrels

Address: Ctra. Nacional IV, Km. 640, 11408 Jerez de la Frontera, Cádiz

What: Many famous Sherry household names (La Guita and Real Tesoro for instance) sit under the Estévez Group who own the cellars of Marques del Real Tesoro y Valdespino.

Products: Cava, Brandy and Sherries (Manzanilla, Fino, Amontillado, Oloroso, Palo Cortado, Cream, Pedro Ximenez).

We love: The modern art gallery which is part of the cellar – look out for the Picasso prints as well as works from Dali, Botero and Miro.

Point of difference: Three very unique experiences in one: a vineyard and winery, art gallery and stud to the rare, black cloaked, pure breed Spanish horses (pure Andalucian horses are usually grey and these are black).

More information: Grupoestevez.es

More Details – When Should You Visit?

The vineyards and wineries are open all year round. However, the harvest is carried out mainly in August and September (sometimes stretching to October depending on the weather). So to see the fields and hills full of harvesters and the grapes being selected and crushed September is the time to book. If you want to visit some of the boutique bodegas around the Malaga or Ronda area then do contact our Concierge who can organise an excellent guided tour in small private groups with a door to door service.

Enjoy exploring the wines here in Andalucia – and don’t worry: all the bodegas ship abroad.

Like our guide to exploring Andalucia’s wine? Try out some of the wines mentioned at one of our pick of the best restaurants in Malaga and Marbella.

Best Malaga Nightlife

Wondering where to go on a night out in Malaga? Well, wonder no longer. From bouncing bars to ultra-glam clubs via chic rooftop hangouts, we’ve got the best of Malaga nightlife covered.

The Malaga party scene is more understated contemporary cool than uber-glamorous. However, while it may be slightly less hedonistic than Marbella‘s (Champagne spray parties are not on the menu) it’s still very definitely a place to play come nightfall.

Malaga Rooftop Bars

Best for a Post-Shopping Drink 

Larios Terrace at Room Mate Larios

rooftop terrace hotel larios

Every summer since, well, forever Larios Terrace has had the upper hand in the roof terrace drinking stakes. Great views of the cathedral from designer monochrome seating ensure that once you’re there you’re unlikely to leave until you’ve sunk at least a few sun-soaked vinos or sunset cocktails. Its location on the city’s main shopping street means it’s a popular place to start a night out. If you’re visiting during Easter, it’s worth noting that local boy Antonio Banderas can often be seen knocking about the place as it’s the best vantage point from which to see the processions.

Opening times: In spring it’s open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 6pm to 1am, and Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 6pm to 2am. In summer it’s open every day from 8pm to 2am.

Address: Calle Marques de Larios, 2, 29005 Malaga; Phone: +34 952 22 22 00; Larios.room-matehotels.com.

Best for Jaw-dropping Views

AC Hotel Malaga Palacio

Malaga isn’t a modern skyscraper-type city, so up on the terrace on the 15th floor of the AC Hotel you feel on top of the world, and the uninterrupted panoramic views across the whole city are stunning. There’s great service here with a very well stocked bar offering a choice of rare gins, wines, cocktails and whiskeys. The clientele tend to be of the smart, 40-plus international variety, but it’s also very much a local haunt for Malagueños too.

Opening times: The glassed area is open all year, the pool area (oh, did we forget to mention the amazing rooftop pool?) when the weather is good. Open from noon until 1am. Thursday, Friday and Saturday open until 4am.

Address: Calle Cortina del Muelle, 1, 29015 Malaga; phone: +34 952 215 185; Marriott.com.

Best of the Rest

Alcazaba Premium Hostel – Rooftop Terrace

alcazaba rooftop terrace view

Yes, this is a hostel, but do NOT let this put you off. Because, if you venture up to the fourth and fifth floors (fear not, there is a lift), you’ll find yourself in the coolest place to hang out for cheeky lunchtime tipples, sundowners, pre-club drinks or that last, end-of-night drink you definitely didn’t need.

At the top of the building, the Roof Terrace bar is a mezzanine affair with a decked terrace, a smattering of bar stools and low box seating, and a vibe that’s buzzy most nights of the week. It’s the view which really wows, though: the terrace opens up on to the surrounding rooftops, the Roman Theatre below and the illuminated Alcazaba fortress on top of the hill opposite. There’s not much more to say, really – it’s just an incredible location.

Opening times: Sunday to Wednesday from 4pm to midnight and Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 4pm to 2.30am.

Address: Calle Alcazabilla, 12, 29015 Malaga; phone: +34 952 22 98 78; Alcazabapremiumhostel.com.

Malaga Clubs 

Best Crowd Pleaser

Liceo

Housed within a beautiful 19th-century mansion, Liceo is a great venue in a lively, dead-central location. Once used as the backdrop for the Chemical Brothers’ music video Galvanize, it’s now home to a flamenco club (which actually makes for a pretty atmospheric spectacle), as well as regular club nights from midnight until 6am. There are several rooms playing different music and two floors, the second being a mezzanine level around the central patio. The crowd on the club nights is largely under 35 and they target the student population during term time. However, before the club really gets going the flamenco is a good option.

Address: Calle Beatas, 21, 29008 Malaga; phone: +34 625 55 70 12; Liceoflamenco.com.

Best for Music-lovers

The Clarence Jazz Club

clarence jazz club malaga

If you like jazz then this is the place you need to head for. Open all year round with critically acclaimed artists frequently appearing, this live jazz venue is always a pleasurable place to while away a few hours. It doesn’t veer away from what you’d expect from a jazz club: think comfy tub chairs, exposed brickwork, standing room and a generally very chilled vibe indeed.

Opening times: Wednesdays and Thursdays 8-2pm; Fridays and Saturdays 4pm-4am.

Address: Calle Cañí³n, 5, 29015 Malaga; phone: +34 951 91 80 87; Clarencejazzclub.com.

Best for a Typical Spanish Experience 

If you’re wanting to dance and party until 6am then head to Calle Beatas/Plaza Uncibay and Calle de Luis de Velazquez/Calle Lazcano where there’s club after club. In true Spanish nightlife fashion these clubs seemingly spring from nowhere after midnight. A little less polished, perhaps, than the above but lots of late-night fun all the same… 

Sala Gold

Right in the centre of the old town is Sala Gold, perhaps the most sensational late-night Malaga nightlife joint. This is a club to dance in not to pose or chill out in – leave that to the rooftop terraces. With three rooms to choose from decked out with huge flat screen TVs, it’s one of the larger clubs in the city centre. The music is largely popular Spanish, the décor is, as the name suggests, gold and the emphasis is all about unpretentious fun.

Opening times: from 10pm-6am.

Address: Calle de Luis de Velšzquez, 5, 29008 Malaga; phone: +34 670 09 87 49; Discotecasenmalaga.es.

Best for Mid-Week Partying

Theatro Club

This small club takes its inspiration from an old theatre – all high baroque cornicing, huge, glittering chandeliers and theatrically themed, burlesque-style live entertainment. All of which comes together to make this more than just your average club in Malaga. It’s in the centre of the old town again – so you’ll have no difficulty finding it – and it’s open every night of the week until 6am. There’s a VIP area that can be reserved by contacting the club, too, in case you like your own space and dedicated waiter. (If you’re looking for someone to arrange your night out in Malaga, speak to our concierge.)

Address: Calle Lazcano, 5, 29008 Malaga; phone: +34 670 09 87 49; Discotecasenmalaga.es.

And finally…

If you’re spending a night or two partying in Malaga and want to try a few more places, then here are some other smaller clubs that you can check out: Tokyo, Bubbles, White Lounge Club, Discoteca Anden, Granados 10 and 30 y Tantos. All run a series of nights offering live entertainment, different types of music and easily bar hop-able locations.

Like our pick of the best Malaga nightlife, but thinking of a more sedate sort of evening? Have a look at a few of our favourite restaurants.

Make sure you’ve got an ultra-glamorous pad to return to after your night out in Malaga – check out the Luxury Villa Collection’s villas in the area.

Things to Do in Granada in a Day

When visiting Granada, the Alhambra palace is always going to be high on any visitor’s itinerary. With its intricate carvings, magical gardens and marvellous views of the city you’ll need at least two or three hours to take in this breathtaking monument. Make sure you book well in advance (Alhambra-patronato.es) to avoid disappointment.

Ideally, any visitor should really allow at least three days to properly explore the city, but if you’re only visiting on a whistle-stop tour, here are a few unmissable things to do in Granada in a day…

One: Walk from Plaza Nueva to Sacromonte

granada, sacromonte, alhambra

Granada seen from The Sacromonte Barrio (Source: FlickrCC SnippyHollow)

A stroll from the city’s central and crowded Plaza Nueva up to the iconic gypsy barrio, Sacromonte, is the best way to discover Granada’s historic area either before or after you’ve seen the Alhambra. Along the way, you’ll find plenty of interesting sites such as El Bañuelo – a free to visit, Arab bathhouse dating from the 11th century – and Paseo de los Tristes, probably the city’s most popular spot to grab a coffee or a tapas and admire the view of orange trees and Alhambra towers looming above.

Once you’ve reached the top of Cuesta de Chapí­z – a steep hill that will leave you gasping for breath – take a left past Jardines de Zorraya (a well-known Flamenco venue) and carry on until you reach Plaza Larga. This is a bustling square filled with fruit markets, timeworn cafes and nattering old Spanish ladies. Pure Granada.

From Plaza Larga take the right turn up Calle Agua del Albayzin, which will take you the rest of the way to Sacromonte. A great place to stop and admire the view is Sacromonte’s tiny Chiringuito, which offers cheap beer and soft drinks. With the Alhambra perched on one side of the valley and the Albayzin tumbling down the other, there really is no better view in town.

Two: Explore the City Centre

cathedral, granada

The Cathedral of Granada (Source: FlickrCC maveric2003)

Back in the city centre, if there’s time, head to the Corral del Carbon (Alhambra.info). This building dates back to around 1336, when it was used as an inn for merchants of the silk trade, but over the years has had many uses. There would probably have been hundreds of these buildings in Spain but, sadly, very few still stand today. For this reason it has great historic significance and is an excellent example of a Moorish-dating construction in superb condition.

Those with an interest in Royal Spanish history would enjoy a visit to the Capilla Real, where the Catholic Kings Isabel and Ferdinand are buried. The mighty Cathedral also forms part of the sample complex and can be visited alongside the Royal Chapel.

ferdniand, isabel, reyes catolicos, granada, capilla real, royal chapel

Catholic King & Queen Ferdinand and Isabel at The Royal Chapel (Source: FlickrCC z_wenjie)

Close to the Cathedral, Plaza Bib Rambla was once the entrance to the city of Granada. Still an important place for festivities and markets, this picturesque square is a great place to stop off for a cool beer or a coffee in the heat of the day. The nearby streets of the Alcaiceria where silver and exotic silks were once traded still have the feel of a Moroccan souk today.

Three: Grab a Tapa

tapas bar, calle navas, granada

A Busy Tapas bar on Calle Navas, Granada (Source: FlickrCC daquellamanera)

Come lunchtime you’ll want to make the most of Granada’s tapas scene, famed for its agreeable pricing structure; that’s to say, tapas come for free with any alcoholic or soft drink. One of the best spots to find a wide selection of tapas bars is Calle Navas, just up from the Town Hall. The street is quite narrow and some of the outdoor furniture virtually blocks your path as you weave your way through the standard bundle of bodies. The atmosphere is electric and the food made fresh.

Four: Explore the Albayzin

albayzin, albaicin, granada

The Albayzin Barrio, Granada (Source: FlickrCC julianrdc)

Also not to be missed are the Arab tea shops and hookah bars along Caldereria Nueva, close to Calle Elvira. This is in the lower part of the Albayzin and is an emblematic part of Granada.

If you continue up Caldereria Nueva and follow the cobbled path that leads upwards at the top, you will eventually arrive at el Mirador de San Nicolas, easily the city’s most popular viewpoint since it is directly opposite the Alhambra behind which the Sierra Nevada mountains are visible. The view is best on a clear winter’s day, when the mountains, underneath a bright blue sky, are covered in snow.

Five: Dine in Style

For something completely different and indicative of Granada’s modern-day attractions, the Panoramic 360º (Panoramic360.es) revolving restaurant is worth splurging on if you still have time at the end of your day. It is the only one of its kind in Spain, and can be found on the outskirts of the city past the Palacio de Congresos. This unique setting offers diners views of the Sierra Nevada mountains, the Alhambra, Albayzin and Sacromonte barrio, as well as a panoramic view over the city of Granada itself.

Planning a daytrip to Seville, too? Have a read of our post on ‘Seeing the Best of Seville in a Day‘ to get some ideas.

jose carlos garcia restaurant interior

The Definitive Guide to the Best Restaurants in Malaga

It’s said that, once upon a time, Malaga boasted more bars per capita than anywhere else in Europe. Whether or not that’s the case, it’s certainly true that scruffy, spit ‘n’ sawdust neighbourhood joints out-numbered decent restaurants and tapas bars in the city until relatively recently.

How things have changed. From newly opened gastro markets in the Old Town centre to sophisticated beach-side terraces and full to bursting gourmet tapas bars down narrow alleyways, there are more great places to eat in Malaga than a city of its size has any reasonable right to.

If you want to get a taste of what it’s like to live like a local in a city where the people are very serious about their food and drink, then hit Malaga, basically. And while it’s been tricky to narrow them down, here are a few of the Luxury Villa Collection’s pick of best Malaga restaurants.

Best for Gourmet 

Jose Carlos Garcia

Terrace at Jose Carlos Garcia

The only Michelin-starred restaurant in Malaga is at the port, just next to the lighthouse at Muelle Uno. It’s the culinary base of Jose Carlos Garcia who is one of the most famous names in food in the city. The chef himself will be in the kitchen while you dine in this pleasant, spacious dining room which extends onto the terrace outside when the sun shines.

The dining room is one of our favourites in the city: its hard-edged industrial chic is offset by a comfy softness – think a sharp glass box with classic Eames chairs in grey, and thick pile rugs to soften the pressed concrete. (LOVE it.) Food-wise, it’s the finest of fine dining with plate after delightfully crafted plate descending on your table over the course of a meal.

Address: Puerto de Malaga, Plaza de la Capilla, 1, 29016 Malaga. Telephone: 952 00 35 88. Restaurantejcg.com. 

Best for Art Lovers

Óleo Restaurante

oleo terrace

All that talented creativity going on at the Contemporary Art Centre (CAC) next door flows right on through to the menu at Óleo Restaurante where taste buds go into overtime. A sleek, but informal venue with a great riverside terrace – an oh-so-perfect spot for a sundowner G&T – this restaurant never fails to provide a great dining experience.

At the helm is Sergio del Rio whose culinary creations combine Mediterranean dishes with a touch of nouvelle cuisine, but not so much that you don’t recognise what’s on your plate. So, good-old patatas bravas get an extra shot of heat via a spicy foam, traditional red tuna is joined by half-dried tomatoes from nearby Alora and the up-and-coming Malaga kid goat becomes the main ingredient in the Vietnamese rolls. You get the idea.

Taking the oriental connection that bit further is Rui Junior whose sushi ranks as the best in town. Prepare to be spoilt for choice. This is casual dining and all plates are suitable for sharing. And the best of all? The bill at the end – mains range from €7 to €22.

Address: Edificio CAC Malaga, Calle Alemania s/n, 29001 Malaga. Telephone: 952 21 90 62. Oleorestaurante.es.

Best for a Post-shopping Lunch

Restaurante La Deriva

Dining room at La Deriva

On a corner in Soho, just before you reach the river, is the stylish La Deriva. Ticking all the boxes for a relaxed vibe, good service and good food – and within easy strolling distance from Calle Larios – it’s ideal for a refuelling stop after a morning’s shopping with friends.

The food is excellent overall, but there are standout dishes like the mouth-wateringly tender grilled octopus, oysters and saffron risotto served with jamón and sundried tomatoes. Other things not to miss include a superior cheese board and a wide selection of Vermouths.

Address: Alameda Colon, 7, 29001 Malaga. Telephone: 951 28 69 21.

Best for Traditional Tapas 

Uvedoble Taberna

dishes uvedoble

Sitting between the Alcazaba and the Cathedral, Uvedoble is well placed for lunch on a day jampacked with sightseeing. This small unassuming restaurant has bar, table and terrace seating. It’s nothing really to write home about environment-wise, but you’re not here to look at the décor, you’re here to eat local Spanish food and wine.

Most dishes come in half or full plates and are ideal for sharing. The ceviche of swordfish with avocado from the Axarquia is melt in the mouth; sauteed artichokes with cuttlefish from Malaga are a favourite; the giant meatball in almond sauce is a crowd-pleaser, and Cannelloni stuffed with kid goes down well with a glass of Ribera del Duero. If you want to eat local Malagueno dishes prepared with flair with an emphasis on farm to fork produce, then you’ll be hard pushed to do better than Uvedoble.

Address: Calle Cister, 15, 29015 Malaga. Telephone: 951 24 84 78. Uvedobletaberna.com.

Best for Kids 

As for family-focused, child-friendly eateries in Malaga there… really aren’t any. However, the southern Spanish are very accommodating when it comes to children, so smaller plates for smaller people will be produced if requested. 

Vino Mio

The situation of this restaurant is great for parents with especially energetic broods: right on a square next to the Teatro Cervantes, they can run themselves ragged within eyeshot while you sit back with a chilled glass of wine.

On the food front, we’re talking international, so the menu is varied and more likely to be familiar to smaller, non-Spanish mouths. The portions are incredibly generous, so it’s important to remember to leave room for their delectable double chocolate Guinness cake. If you’re a fan of flamenco, they hold a show at 8pm every evening. Check the website below for more information.

Address: Plaza de Jeronimo Cuervo, 2, 29012 Malaga. Telephone: 952 60 90 93. Restaurantevinomio.es.

Best for Sharing & Pairing

Alexso

facade of alexso

Slightly off the beaten track but still just a few steps from the centre, Alexso has quickly established a name for itself on the Malaga foodie scene.

The venue comes small on space but huge on taste, with Chef José Antonio Moyano taking local recipes, giving them a whole new look and then throwing in some surprises for good measure. So that invisible fried egg really does taste like the real thing. And who’d have thought of putting Malaga salchichón (cold sausage) into an éclair? But it works and works well.

Dishes make ideal sharing plates – an option we’re always keen on because you get to work your way through lots of different items on the menu. Pairing is something else Alexso excels at, and the waiters are more than happy to step in and recommend the perfect wine for a dish.

The restaurant also has two set tasting menus: Alexso Route (allow an hour and a half for the seven dishes) and Cooking Up Sensations (just over two hours for ten dishes).

Children are made to feel very welcome at Alexso, with friendly waiters, colouring books and pens.

Address: Calle Mariblanca 10, 29012 Malaga. Telephone: 951 91 35 85. Restaurantealexso.es.

Best for an Informal Bite

La Luz de Candela

spinach salad la luz de candela1

La Luz de Candela is very much a family affair: French chef Charlie heads things up in the kitchen, while his daughter Candela runs front of house with great energy and charm.

The food ethos of the restaurant is simple but appealing, revolving around slow cooked local, seasonal ingredients – Mediterranean cuisine as it should always be cooked and presented, basically. The dining room has a home from home feel with little more than 10 tables, and where possible dishes are served in half plates as well as full plates, making it ideal for a relaxed evening with friends.

It doesn’t have much curb appeal – but there are no seats outside so, frankly, who cares? It’s really all about the quality of food and relaxed atmosphere. On LVC’s last visit we were particularly taken by the scallops and the desserts (yes, plural – we did try all the desserts on the menu).

Address: Calle Dos Aceras, 18-20, 29012 Malaga. Telephone: 648 85 32 53. La-luz-de-candela.com.

Best for Vegetarians & Vegans

Siete Semillas

Vegans, on the whole, don’t fare too well when it comes to dining options in Spain, but in Malaga, Siete Semillas comes to the rescue. Not only do vegan dishes always feature on the menu, other dietary restrictions and food intolerances are simply no problem at all. How’s that for a breath of fresh air?

The funky venue – we love the industrial loft-look with super high ceilings and upside-down spider plants – sits on Atarazanas Market’s doorstep so you know you’re in good company. But it gets even better because everything, and that’s absolutely everything, is organic. And your non-vegan fellow diners get a look in too because the daily menu (€14) includes vegetable as well as meat options. The taboulehs and soups (hot and cold) are particularly good as are the organic juices and smoothies. And if it isn’t time for lunch, grab a coffee and a slice of one of the homemade, organic cakes. Delicious and virtuous. Not a bad combo.

Address: Plaza Arriola 1, 29005 Malaga. Telephone: 645 93 57 96.

Vegetariano El Calafate

Always full to bursting, El Calafate is the best vegetarian restaurant in Malaga. They have a €9.50 set lunchtime menu which changes daily (it’s slightly more expensive on the weekends). It offers the usual things you’d expect from any self-respecting veggie restaurant with thick soups, curries, stir-fries, Moroccan-inspired dishes and one or two vegan options. The candlelit dining room can accommodate a largish group (of up to around 14 people) but you have to book it in advance.

Address: Calle Andres Perez, 6, 29008 Malaga. Telephone: 952 22 93 44.

Best for Living like a Local 

Refectorium Catedral

Ordinarily we would never recommend eating in the same square – or even the same vicinity – of a city’s cathedral. However, the Refectorium is a rare exception to the rule. There’s great service (some of the best in the city) in this busy, modern, light and airy restaurant, while the food is a mix of time-honoured classics cooked to perfection and the sort of wonderfully simple, let-the-produce-speak-for-itself dishes that are what Spanish cooking is all about. Everyone raves about its Russian salad – and with good reason, too: this pretty bland and basic Spanish staple is transformed into a mouth-watering morsel.

Although the restaurant welcomes children, the well-heeled clientele are less welcoming to small children. It’s an adult’s establishment, in other words; a place to enjoy the food, service and atmosphere.

Address: C/ Postigo De Los Abades, 4, 29015 Malaga. Telephone: 952 60 23 89.

La Antxoeta

You could never call chef Pablo Ramon Caballero Larios’ dining room a restful place; rather it’s brilliantly bustling and busy. The restaurant can be found in Soho just before the port. It’s Malaga city proper, and it harks back to an older, slightly less polished Malaga where there was always something a little hectic and chaotic going on.

The menu is short – but more than sufficient – and the wine list is likely to please most tastes. The chef himself is in the open kitchen, creating playful dishes which are a delight to look at as well as to eat. On our visit, we worked our way through the squid tartare with tigernut milk (horchata), saffron risotto with truffles and beetroot, pig’s trotters with king prawns and chocolate and tiramisu. And if the squid and the tiramisu were the genuine standouts, suffice to say it was all really rather splendid.

Address: Calle Barroso 7, 29001 Malaga. Telephone: 659255532.

Open for lunch and dinner. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Best for a Smart Pre-Night Out Dinner

Restaurante Montana

patio at restaurante montana

Housed within a small palace to the far north of the old town, Restaurante Montana is definitely something of a looker. Opening out from a plant-filled central courtyard, the grand 19th-century premises dovetail beautifully with stylish, modern interiors, and the lighting inside and out is just right.

It’s far from a case of style over content, though, as it offers fine dining without the foodie fashion whims. We love to sit in the sunny courtyard and order a plate of melt-in-the-mouth Jamón Iberico as an after-shopping treat. In the evenings, its excellent international wine list, cocktails and comfortable seating area make it the perfect place to kick back after dinner and plan out the next steps of a night out.

It’s convenient, too: highly unusually for a restaurant in Malaga city centre, it also has its own parking.

Address: Calle Compas de la Victoria, 5, 29012 Malaga. Telephone: 952 65 12 44. Restaurantemontana.com.

Best for a Big Group 

Bodega El Pimpi

Traditional Tiles at El Pimpi

This place has seemingly been around since time began. What started as a traditional tapas bar where everyone from the ages of 19 to 90 went to have Jamon Serrano washed down with Malaga wine (made from sweet Moscatel grapes – don’t knock it until you’ve tried it) is now a Malaga institution and must-visit.

The setting is outstanding and typically southern Spanish: inside, it’s all tinkling fountains, tumbling plants, huge wine barrels from floor to ceiling and photos of famous people who had visited over the years. It’s cavernous, too, with two floors and several different sized rooms that can be easily taken over by large groups.

Taking the décor and atmosphere out of the equation, the food is only so-so to be completely honest. But it’s well worth a visit, even if it’s just for a pre- or post-dinner drink inside or out on the terrace looking over the Roman amphitheatre.

Address: Calle Granada, 62, 29015 Malaga. Telephone: 952 22 54 03. Elpimpi.com.

Best for Views

Restaurante Especia Parador de Málaga Gibralfaro

Malaga Parador Restaurant

If you like a vista with your vino, it doesn’t get much better than at the Parador up next to the Gibralfaro Castle. Treat your taste buds to some delicious local cuisine while you feast your eyes on the bright lights of Malaga and the Mediterranean below your feet. Views are pretty good from inside the restaurant, but nothing short of exceptional on the outside terrace and certainly the best at any table in Malaga.

With chef Bartolomé Rodrigo at the helm, the menu puts the accent on local produce harvested from the nearby Axarquía mountains, Guadalhorce Valley and of course, the Med (all part of your table view).

Dishes change with the seasons; on the menu this summer are refreshingly cool soups – try the almond and garlic with fig bread or the thick tomato porra malagueña with Iberian ham – and fresh salads as well as fish and meat dishes. There are also some Malaga classics such as fried fish and battered aubergines with honey. The dessert menu falls a little short, but you’ll be too sweet on the views to notice. And if you want to make that vino with a vista that bit extra special, time your dinner to coincide with sunset.

Address: Castillo de Gibralfaro s/n, 29016 Malaga. Telephone: 952 221 902 Parador-de-malaga-gibralfaro/gastronomy

Best for Beachside

Gutiérrez Playa

Malaga excels at chiringuitos, beach bars that specialise in locally-caught fish and seafood, and it’s difficult to go wrong for a lunchtime bite. One of the best sits on the western side of Malaga Bay near the Russian and Car Museums. Gutiérrez Playa has been around for a while and this experience, plus the fact that the family runs one of the busiest fishmongers in the nearby Huelin market, means they know what they’re cooking. Staples on the menu include deep-fried fish – think anchovies, baby sole and whitebait – delicately flavoured salt-baked fish and that Malaga classic, chargrilled sardines on an espeto cane.

If you like your fish cooked gently over an olive wood fire, try the other espeto specials – langoustine, bream, squid or octopus. Book your table on the sand where you’ll dine just yards from the Mediterranean and stunning views of the Bay.

Address: Paseo Marítimo Antonio Banderas 2, 29004 Malaga. Telephone: 952 118 908

If you have a bit of a group (or even just the two of you!) and fancy having a local expert show you around Malaga, then why not book a Malaga tapas tour with our partners Toma & Coe?

Like the sound of our pick of best restaurants in Malaga, but staying a little further up the coast? Check out our selection of top places to eat in Marbella.

cycling, mountain biking, andalucia, costa del sol

Top Activity Holidays in Andalucia

As Europe’s most popular holiday destination, Andalucia is not in the business of disappointing its visitors – no matter what interests they might have. Most would immediately associate Andalucia with week-long, sun-drenched escapes spent lazing on the beach or by the pool, but a week’s holiday doesn’t necessarily have to include such slothful yet satisfying pastimes.

Thanks to the diverse landscape and 800km-long coastline that southern Spain boasts, the range of thrilling activities on offer is broader than just about anywhere in Europe. That’s right: even adrenaline junkies can be guaranteed of the perfect getaway. From kite-surfing and jet-skiing to quad-biking and snowboarding, there are plenty of white-knuckle activities to get stuck into, if you dare!

Kite-surfing

Kitesurfing in Spain

Kitesurfing in Spain (Source: Kitesurf Tour Europe)

Possibly now even more popular than surfing, kite-surfing certainly guarantees thrill-seekers an experience they won’t quickly forget. After learning to fly the kite (harder than you might think), learners strap into the kite-surfboard and ride the waves to their pumping heart’s content. Quite a bit of upper body strength is needed to be able to hold on for longer than a few minutes, but with enough practice anyone old enough to do it can succeed.

Where? Estepona

Who? Freedom Kite School – Kitesurfestepona.com.

Contact: info@kitesurfestepona.com

Jet-skiing

jet-skiing in spain

If you love a good buzz but would rather have an engine do all the hard work for you, then jet-skiing is definitely worth considering. As you might expect there are the usual and obligatory safety measures to complete (and fully understand) before you are permitted to hop on this high-speed joy-wagon, but when the moment comes there’s no hanging around, as you’re propelled forwards at break-neck speeds into the tide.

It’s a bumpy ride, but well worth picking up a few bruises for.

Where? Marbella

Who? Marbella Jet Ski – Marbellajetski.com.

Contact: Daniel@marbellajetski.com

Rock-climbing

Rock-climbing in El Chorro

Rock-climbing in El Chorro (Source: Jerome Bon)

With so many mountains to climb it’s no wonder Andalucia is regarded the world over as a rock-climber’s paradise. Beach-goers may not be as enthusiastic but anyone looking for a little excitement away from the waves might want to consider an afternoon scrambling up the side of a large cliff or rock either in the Malaga or Granada province of the region.

Be sure to have fun and give it your all if you go rock-climbing but if you’re even slightly squeamish when it comes to heights, just remember: Don’t. Look. Down.

Where? El Chorro

Who? Rockbusters – Rockbusters.net.

Contact: info@rockbusters.net

Mountain-biking

cycling, mountain biking, andalucia, costa del sol

Mountain-biking in Andalucia (Source: Juan Pablo Olmo)

Andalucia has a well-deserved reputation for having some of the best mountain-biking trails in all of Europe, from technical and bumpy downhills to tame cross-country routes. Thanks to the abundance of sunshine the region receives, conditions are nearly always perfect for some biking, no matter what time of year.

The terrain is perfect for hairy off-road excursions, which will leave you breathless and with adrenaline flowing through your veins, not to mention a wide grin from ear to ear. Just bear in mind the aches and pains that’ll hit you the next day.

Where? Serrania de Ronda, Sierra de Nieves and Grazalema Natural Park

Who? Andalucian Cycling Experience – Andaluciancyclingexperience.com.

Contact: +34 677 028 469

Quad-biking

quad-bikin, quad bike

Source: “Polaris Scrambler” with Wikimedia Commons license.

For a truly alternative driving experience, waste no time in climbing aboard a hulking quad bike and letting rip in the Andalucian countryside. Beginners and advanced riders alike can be guaranteed of a fantastic day out thanks to the endless scenes of breath-taking beauty and wealth of terrains suited to all levels.

It may be a little unnerving to begin with, but as soon as you find the rhythm and get used to the roar of the engine beneath you, you’ll fly like the wind…

Where? Sierra de Las Nieves, Marbella

Who? Quad Mountain Adventures – Quad-mountain-adventures.com.

Contact: info@Quad-Mountain-Adventures.com

Skiing & Snowboarding

Sierra Nevada, Andalucia (Source: Melissa Ramirez [CC BY-SA 3.0 es], via Wikimedia Commons)If you’re holidaying in Spain during winter and willing to make the 2-3 hour trip across the region to the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada, you can spend the day either skiing or snowboarding at the impressive, 100km2 boasting Sierra Nevada ski resort. There are pistes suited to all levels – from greens right through to blacks – a snow park, halfpipe, boardercross and of course plenty of cosy restaurants to settle down in if you’re only there to watch!

The views on a clear day are unsurpassable, and it is even possible to see the peaks of Morocco’s Atlas Mountains towering on the other side of the Mediterranean.

Where? Sierra Nevada, Granada

Who? Sierra Nevada Ski Resort – Sierranevada.es.

If you’re looking for an activity suitable for all the family – the very young and elderly included – then take a look at our post on family-friendly things to do on the Costa del Sol.

Alternatively, if you want someone else to take care of the organising, leaving you more time for having fun, then get in touch with our concierge manager at concierge@theluxuryvilla.co.