Inspiration and insider guides for enjoying your next trip to Spain in Style

Black Friday Private Dining Offer

Villa Kenia Estepona luxury villa with chef

Looking for a great deal on Black Friday travel? We’ve got just the thing: if you make a reservation of one of our luxury villas in Spain between the Friday 10th November and Wednesday 20th December 2017 we’ll include a complimentary private chef service for one evening or lunchtime during your stay.

Our expertly trained villa chefs will prepare a meal from a range of menus in the luxury and privacy of your villa. You can choose from delicious Spanish or international menus with wine pairings, or a laidback poolside barbecue, while our team take care of the shopping, cooking, service and even clear away afterwards!

This Black Friday offer covers the chef service for up to 8 adults (12 adults in Platinum Collection villas), and to be eligible bookings must be confirmed with a cleared deposit payment by 20th December*. The cost of any food and drink is to be reimbursed to your chef or concierge manager at the villa and menu choice must be finalised 2 weeks before arrival.

Like the sound of our Black Friday private dining offer? Browse our destinations and book your villa.

(*Offer is only valid for 2018 bookings.)

Best Restaurants for Christmas & New Year’s Eve on the Costa del Sol

Are you dreaming of a white Christmas this winter? No? Then you’re in the right place.

While Costa del Sol temperatures during winter may not reach the heady levels of summer, they’re certainly a whole lot more agreeable than the freezing conditions felt in the UK or anywhere else north of the Iberian peninsular at this time of year. You can typically expect delightful December highs of 24°C and unspeakable lows of 12°C. Not too shabby at all, in other words.

What’s more, from traditional and expertly prepared roast dinners to more exciting and innovative takes on the notion of ‘Christmas lunch’, many of the area’s finest restaurants go all out with their Christmas menus to ensure that the most important part of the festive season remains intact.

To help you make your decision about where to eat on the Costa del Sol over the festive period, here’s our roundup of a few of the best restaurants offering mouth-watering Christmas and New Year’s Eve menus.

Christmas Eve / Christmas Day

Lively Vibe & Great Food at Bibo Marbella

Hanging Plants at Bibo Marbella

Hanging Plants at Bibo Marbella

Bibo’s long been one of our favourite restaurants in Marbella. The interiors are stylish but relaxed, the vibe’s lively and fun, and the food’s superb – as you’d expect from Dani Garcia – without being challenging or overly ‘haute’.

This Christmas there are two lunch menus and three dinner menus from which to choose. These include suitably high-end takes on the humble croqueta along with creamy rice dishes, choice Iberian pork cuts, salmorejo, oxtail brioche, grilled hake on a bed of risotto and slow-cooked beef with wild mushrooms – to name but a few things that had us salivating.

To see the full 2017 Christmas menus at Bibo Marbella, go here.

Details: +34 951 60 70 11; reservas@grupodanigarcia.com; Grupodanigarcia.com.

Spectacular Seafood at Sea Grill – Marbella

sea grill outdoor dining

Outdoor Dining at Sea Grill

Just across the road – well the plaza, technically – from Bibo is Sea Grill. Their 2017 set Christmas Eve menu is a thing of beauty: given the name of the place it’s hardly a surprise that seafood features, with oysters and corvina making up two of the courses. But there’s also something for meat-lovers in the shape of a rather tempting sounding char-grilled wagyu beef dish. (You can see the full menu here.)

Perhaps even more temptingly, though, they’ve got a Christmas brunch menu (from 1pm on Christmas Day) on this year. So you can sit back on their outdoor decking with a glass of Champagne and enjoy a range of traditional festive dishes, from turkey to lobster through to delicious desserts, while you soak up a bit of December sunshine.

Details: tel: +34 952 82 09 00; email: restaurantes@puenteromano.com; Puenteromano.com.

Luxury Dining at Finca Cortesin – Casares

open kitchen finca cortesin

Open Kitchen at Finca Cortesin

If you’re looking to push the boat out this Christmas then look no further than Finca Cortesin. This hotel, complete with its own golf course, is regarded as one of the most luxurious in Spain and often hosts celebrities and royal family members. There are three separate restaurants: El Jardin de Lutz (Spanish/traditional), Kabuki Raw (Japanese) and Don Giovanni (Italian). Each is run by a top, distinguished chef and offers cuisine of the highest standard.

Details: tel: + 34 952 93 78 00; email: reservas@hotelcortesin.com; Fincacortesin.com.

Socialites’ Favourite at El Grill, Marbella Club – Marbella

el grill marbella club

Garden Views at El Grill, Marbella Club

For a very special treat you could take advantage of El Grill’s exquisite Christmas menu options at the incredibly chic Marbella Club. Diners can choose between the restaurant’s beautiful terrace or the tastefully decorated dining room where the grill takes centre stage. Juan Gálvez is El Grill’s award-winning chef, who ensures that all ingredients used are seasonal and locally sourced and that only the very best cuts make the grade.

Details: tel: +34 952 822 211; email: hotel@marbellaclub.com; Marbellaclub.com.

Marbella Club’s full 2017 Christmas Eve and Christmas Day menus can be seen here.

Louche & Laidback at The Playwright – Elviria

the playright elviria

Bar at The Playright

Sleekly decorated and dimly lit, this popular bar and live music venue in Elviria looks, upon arrival, for all the world like a place to order a couple of dirty martinis and settle in for the night at one of the banquettes.

But it also does a very nice line in food, too – as their Christmas menu more than proves. There are quite a few dishes on offer this festive season that caught our fish-loving eye: Ceviche of tuna and seabass? Seafood chowder? Tempura of lemon sole? Salmon gravadlax rolls? Yep. That’ll do nicely.

Details: tel. +34 952 83 08 68; email: info@theplaywrightmarbella.com; Theplaywrightmarbella.com.

To see The Playwright’s full Christmas menu, go here.

New Year’s Eve

Party the Night Away at La Sala – Puerto Banus

Dining Space at La Sala

Dining Space at La Sala

La Sala in Puerto Banus brings you the ultimate buzzy dining experience on the Costa whatever the time of year. Their rear terrace is the ideal place from which to kick off festive proceedings in style, before moving on to one of their Christmas or New Year’s Eve menus featuring a range of international and Spanish classics. This year two different live music acts will be performing to ring in 2018.

You can see this year’s full Christmas and NYE menus here.

Details: tel: +34 952 81 41 45; email: reservations@lasalabanus.com; Lasalabanus.com.

Friendly & Relaxed at Sloanes Bistro – Elviria

A Festively Decorated Sloanes Bistro

A Festively Decorated Sloanes Bistro

As well as their set Christmas Eve/Day menus, Sloanes have a very inviting New Year’s Eve gala dinner planned for this year. The five-course menu features the rather indulgent likes of cod au gratin, veal and foie gras with canapes to start, accompanied by the dulcet tones of owner-cum-resident singer, Alex, and a glass of Cava to toast the new year.

You can see their full Christmas and New Year’s Eve menus for 2017 here.

Details: tel: +34 952 835 560; email: sloanesbistro@gmail.com; Sloanesbistro.com.

Dinner & Dancing at El Gran Gatsby – Puerto Banus

gran gatsby view

View of the Port from El Gran Gatsby

El Gran Gatsby is one of those places that’s set up to cater for a proper ‘nose to tail’ night out. You start with cocktails and views of the boats bobbing in the harbour, before moving onto dinner, and a food offering that’s really strong without being too fussy or fancy; then, afterwards you can sidle through to the terrace-lounge bar for well-mixed cocktails and decent DJ sets.

And never more is that the case than during the festive season. This year they’ve really got things sorted for New Year. You’re welcomed with a glass of Champagne on arrival, before being treated to a luxurious set menu of caviar, black cod, prawns, crayfish and Wagyu beef, all of which is paired with wines from their very fine list, followed by entry to the bar and a long night of partying. All in all, it’s all set to make for a very happy New Year.

To see here El Gran Gatsby’s full NYE menu, click here.

Details: tel: +34 951 77 87 97; email: reservations@elgrangatsby.com; Elgrangatsby.com.

To take the hassle out of making your festive restaurant reservations, our expert local concierge team will be happy to assist when you stay in one of our villas. Find out more about our concierge.

Private Chef & Christmas Menu 2017

Chef Curro at Villa El Chorrito

Chef Curro at Villa El Chorrito

Alternatively, if you just fancy a Christmas holed up in your luxury getaway, we would be thrilled to provide you and your family with a private chef. They will take care of the shopping, cooking and the clearing away, leaving you to enjoy family time together. Take a look at the excellent Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and NYE menus that our chefs have created for this season, which can be downloaded here.

Can’t face another year of endless cooking and washing up for the whole family? Thinking of an indulgent Christmas 2017 in southern Spain instead? Have a look at a few of our available Christmas break villas.

Seven of the Best Ronda Restaurants & Tapas Bars

While Ronda may not a big town, it’s certainly a town that’s big on flavours. From fine dining to neighbourhood tapas bars, some of the finest eating and drinking in Andalucia can be found in amongst our pick of the best restaurants in Ronda.

Tragata

Interiors of Restaurante Tragata

Tragata’s been one of Ronda’s top restaurants since it opened what seems like yonks ago – which is hardly surprising given that owner/chef Benito Gomez cut his teeth in Ferran Adria’s La Alqueria at Hacienda Benazuza, as well as the kitchens of Jean Luc Figueras and Dani Garcia.

And the food? Asia meets Andalucia in a nutshell, with squid sandwiches, Russian salad and eggs ‘a la flamenca’, all making an appearance alongside the likes of prawn tempura, beef tataki and noodles and Thai-style seabass. Not only is it high quality fare, but it also makes for a nice change from the more traditional dishes you tend to find on your average southern Spanish menu.

(We’ve been hearing great things about his newer, fine dining restaurant, Bardal – and as soon as we’ve had a chance to eat there, we’ll let you know what it’s like.)

Address: Calle Nueva 4, 29400 Ronda; Tel. 952 87 72 09; Tragata.com.

Restaurante Azahar

Terrace at Azahar Restaurant

One of the best fine dining options in town, Azahar is the Andalucian outpost of Eboca Restaurants, an extensive network of top-class eateries that stretches from Barcelona to Ibiza via the Dominican Republic. The restaurant of the Hotel Catalonia Reina Victoria, as you’d expect from such a serious set-up – and the fairly elevated price tag – the emphasis is on high-end ingredients beautifully put together into dishes that are as elegant as they are delicious.

Mouth-watering meat dishes include bull’s tail, kid slowly oven-cooked to crispy perfection and served with a cherry jus and vegetable tempura, and a suckling pig that can even (just about) vie with the jaw-dropping views as the most inviting part of the restaurant.

Address: Calle Jerez 25, Ronda 29400; Tel. 952 87 12 40; Restauranteazahar.com.

Restaurante Bodega San Francisco

Bodega San Francisco terrace

No matter what your gastronomic ambitions are, you can’t spend more than a few days in Andalucia and not set foot in a typical spit and sawdust joint. While there are undoubtedly rougher round the edges places to eat where you’d still expect an excellent bite to eat, Bodega San Francisco more than fulfils this brief.

All of the basic ingredients are in place, from the beams and polished terracotta floors to the legs of ham hanging above the lovely gleaming wooden bar. Fancy the food is not, but whether it’s green peppers ‘al padron’ (fried, salted and blistered to within an inch of their greasy lives) to fried fish, spicy prawns, or snails when they’re in season, it’s a quintessentially Andalucian experience.

In the evenings, the terrace area – out on a square dotted with noisy, bird-filled plane trees (pictured) – is one of the most inviting spots in town for a drink and a light bite.

Address: Plaza Ruedo Alameda 32, 29400 Ronda; Tel. 952 87 81 62; Bodegasanfrancisco.com.

Abades Ronda Restaurante

Abades Restaurant in Ronda

Another restaurant that falls firmly into the category marked ‘special’ is Abades Ronda. Standout dishes range from the sublime – think foie with local goat’s cheese and caramelised apple and delightfully delicate turbot on a bed of baby vegetables – to the frankly ridiculously delicious, a sirloin of Iberico pork that, in our opinion, would be worth trying to scale the gorge for.

And speaking of the gorge… it’s right there, like an extra dining companion, opening out on to views that stretch away across the sun-dappled fields and olive groves to the misty Serrania de Ronda in the distance. Mesmerising.

Address: Paseo Blas Infante, 1, 29400 Ronda; Tel. 952 87 13 67; Abadesronda.com.

Entre Vinos

Entrevinos Restaurant in Ronda

First the downsides: Entre Vinos is on a rather humdrum residential street out to the far north of the old town. The positives more than outweigh its slightly uninspiring location, however: it’s an inviting little neighbourhood wine bar with a lively atmosphere and a cracking selection of local Ronda wines.

Elsewhere in the positives column, food-wise all the classics are here from jamon, morcilla, presa and garlicky mushrooms to some fine cheeses and pates. Our top tip, though, has to be the squid cooked in its own ink and served with noodles.

Address: Calle Pozo 2, 29400 Ronda; Tel. 658 58 29 76; Facebook page.

Restaurante Almocabar

Tucked away at the southernmost end of Ronda’s historic centre, this charming little neighbourhood tapas bar and restaurant is very much one for all seasons. On chilly winter nights, great hearty plates of oven-cooked lamb and partridge stew are served up in the cosy interior.

In the summer, by contrast, the terrace is a great spot for sitting out in the square over a cool gazpacho or one of their fine salads and admiring the swooping swallows against a backdrop of the Moorish Puerta de Almocabar gate.

Address: Plaza Ruedo Alameda, 5, 29400 Ronda; Tel. 952 87 59 77; Facebook page.

Taberna Tropicana

Tropicana Restaurant in Ronda

There’s much more to Tropicana than meets the eye. A modern looking tapas joint on the corner of a typically Spanish block of flats way off the tourist trail to the north of the town, as seriously good dish after dish comes out of the kitchen you soon realise that you’ve stumbled into one of the best tapas bars in Ronda.

What’s good? On a fairly extensive and varied menu, it’s the meat that really stands out. The crisped oxtail tapas is a great way to kick things off, while the house speciality gourmet burgers are vast towers of juicy meat. It’s the barbecued entrecote and T-bone steaks that claim the prize, though – they’re things of rare beauty, crisscrossed with marbling, lightly charred on the outside and succulent and tender within.

Oh, and they serve a very mean gin and tonic, too.

Address: Avenida Malaga & Calle Acinipo, s/n, 29400 Ronda; Tel. 952 87 89 85; Tabernatropicana.com.

Appetite whetted by our pick of the best Ronda restaurants? For more things to do in this stunning town, check out our guide to Ronda in a day.

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?

Seven Spanish Music Festivals that You Just Can’t Miss

Heady summers, long nights and time off from work allow us to indulge in all sorts of fun. No matter your age, life stage or persuasion there’s a music festival to suit everyone.

Souvenirs don’t always have to be physical things. Music is the soundtrack to our lives, so they say, and everyone takes home that special ‘holiday song’ as a lasting memory. Much easier to carry home than a straw donkey!

What better way to create a whole music memory album of your holiday, than by attending one of the upcoming festivals? There might be one close to your planned holiday destination, so browse our list of some of the hottest Spanish (and Gibraltar) music festivals for 2017.

Mad Cool Festival – Madrid

madrid festival

When? 6th – 8th July 2017

A newbie on the summer Spanish festival scene, Mad Cool Festival is only in its second year. It means business, though, with big indie acts like Green Day, Kings of Leon, and the Foo Fighters headlining as well as Neil Young, The Who, The Prodigy, Die Antwoord, Biffy Clyro, Jane’s Addiction, Editors and Two Door Cinema Club. This rock/pop festival in Madrid with four stages is going from strength to strength, promising to be one of the best urban music festivals in Spain.

More information: Madcoolfestival.es.

Bilbao BBK Live

bbk festival

When? 6th – 8th July 2017

When it comes to festivals there aren’t many in Europe that beat the location of Bilbao BBK Live – the Arriaz Mountains as a backdrop, views over Bilbao city, nearby beaches and stunning sunsets at the end of the day. It’s simply stunning. The music starts late so it’s ideal for visitors as you can sunbathe during the afternoon or even see some sights in the city. If this year’s line-up – featuring the likes of Muse, Mumford & Sons, alt-J or Disclosure, Depeche Mode, Die Antwoord and Fleet Foxes – doesn’t tempt you, then we’re not sure what will.

More information: Bilbaobbklive.com.

Festival Internacional de Benicassim – Castellon

benicassim festival

When? 13th – 16th July 2017

FIB to its friends, with four days of non-stop rock, alternative, indie and electronic music in a beach setting, Benicassim has become a permanent fixture on the Spain festival circuit. Running for 23 years, tickets are quickly sold out, so if you still want one you’ll have to start hunting.

The most successful music festivals now offer more than just music and FIB, being something of a veteran now, is no different. We want more from our festival experience, and FIB delivers – expect to see a short film festival, fashion shows, art exhibition, and a festival of dance and choreography, with educational arts courses provided by a local university, too. If you’re bored by all of that there’s even a water park just down the road for a cooling respite. Headliners this year are The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Kasabian.

More information: Fiberfib.com.

Marbella Starlite

marbella festival

When? 13th July – 26th August 2017

This eagerly awaited annual event has celebrities, pop stars, and Marbella’s elite reaching for their Louboutins at the chance to see Anastacia, Juan Magán, Art Garfunkel, Elton John, and more over the course of an event that runs well over a month in total. In true Marbella style, the Starlite’s a glamorous affair – no dust or porter loos here. Instead it’s very much a case of see and be seen, with the chance to rub shoulders with the rich and famous at an important annual social event for the town.

More information: Starlitemarbella.com or contact our Concierge to book your tickets or VIP entrance

DGTL Barcelona

djing at a festival

When? 11th & 12th August 2017

If you like electronic music and house is on your playlists then DGTL is for you. The Spanish spin-off of the Dutch festival is celebrating all things in digital arts. World-class DJs provide the sound while visual arts play a huge part in the ambience, too. This is no one-dimensional concert: sculpture, futuristic design, boundary-pushing experimental visual arts and around 60 DJs all make for one of the best examples of clubbing in 2017. Big names like Jackmaster, B.Traits, Seth Troxler and Tale Of Us will all be stepping up to the decks to play to an artsy, hipster-heavy crowd.

More information: Bcn.dgtl.nl.

Arenal Sound – Arenal de Burriana

guitarist fiery background

When? 1st – 6th August 2017

The first beach-side Arenal Sound was in 2010, and with its location on the Costa del Azahar about 60km outside Valencia it’s proved very popular with a younger crowd, camping and hanging out on the beach. You’ll require energy for this one – it lasts for six days. Into its eighth year, and proving more and more popular with each passing year, it attracts fans of pop, indie, electronic, and rock with headliners of the calibre of Clean Bandit, Jake Bugg, Bastille and Martin Garrix.

More information: Arenalsound.com.

MTV Calling Gibraltar Music Festival – Victoria Stadium, Gibraltar

mtv gibraltar poster

When? 2nd & 3rd September 2017

It may not be the first time this festival has taken place, but it is the first year it’s been produced by MTV – a guarantee that the music-filled weekend will be a roaring success. Ok, so technically its not Spain, but its the best musical event by far that’s close enough to be enjoyed by anyone staying on the Costa del Sol and Costa de la Luz.

A stellar line-up is on the cards in the shadow of the Rock, with Craig David, Fatboy Slim, Jonas Blue, The Kaiser Chiefs, Tinie Tempah and The Vaccines all confirmed and various other acts still to be announced.

It’s the perfect family weekend with the added bonus of superb acts, food stalls, and of course, warm September sunshine. For more information and tickets, go to: Gibraltarcalling.com.

Like our pick of the best summer music festivals in Spain? For more after dark activities, check out our guides to the best Marbella nightlife and beach clubs.

Polo – Sotogrande’s Summer Sport

The European polo season has begun and the 10 goal world-class players are looking forward to play and to chalking up some serious goals. As spectators, on the other hand, we can’t wait to see the fast-paced, warrior-like tournaments and talented, agile ponies – not to mention, of course, dressing up to the nines, getting the fizz in, and everything else that goes on at a day at the polo.

Where is the Polo in Sotogrande?

Polo match in Sotogrande, Spain

The Santa Maria Polo Club in Sotogrande – which is just over the border of Malaga province into Cadiz province in southern Spain – is a famed location on the polo high goal tournament circuit.

Holding 20 tournaments this year, Sotogrande is the location in Spain. Santa Maria Polo Club with its magnificent manicured grounds is perfect for the big games of the summer. The Gold Cup and Silver cups, which attract the best polo teams in the world, are the major dates in Spain’s polo diary.

Address: Sotogrande, A-7, 11310 San Roque, Cadiz; telephone: 956 61 00 12. Santamariapoloclub.com.

Other Polo Clubs in Sotogrande

Dos Lunas Polo Club Match, Spain

Dos Lunas Polo Club has two polo fields; address: 11349 San Martín del Tesorillo, Cadiz; telephone: 956 61 80 52. Doslunas.es.

Polo Valley Polo Club for polo tuition; 29692 Casares, Malaga; telephone: 951 97 95 58. Polovalley.co.uk.

Ayala Polo Club has three fields; Hacienda de San Enrique, Km 1, 11312 San Enrique de Guadiaro, Cadiz; Telephone: 670 96 18 41.

When to Go to the Polo in Sotogrande?

2-4th June – XVIII Andrés Paradé Memorial Tournament

9-11th June – IV Doña Maria de la Mercedes Memorial Tournament

16-25th June – II Patrick G. Hermés Cup and XIV Conde de la Maza Memorial Tournament

30th June – 2nd July – XIII Copa de Jerez Tournament

7-9th July – XXIV Enrique Zobel Memorial Tournament

14-16th July – IV Manuel Prado Tournament

26th July – 27th August – 46th International Polo Tournament (the main event)

What to Expect?

An exciting day out for everyone, it’s great for families, couples or groups of friends. There’s plenty to do at Santa Maria Polo Club during the tournament – a shopping village, bars, lots of socialising and after parties with live music and DJs. Friday and Saturday nights are the busiest during the month long tournament.

Santa Maria Polo Club In Sotogrande, Spain

What to Wear?

If you’re a guy you can’t go too far wrong with adopting the Nacho Figueras look, basically. Ladies keep it comfortable, classic and elegant. By all means go casual with linen but a touch of formality wouldn’t be out of place, either. This isn’t Ascot, though, so keep the hats at home.

Polo Elsewhere in Europe

Since its heyday in the 20s and 30s polo is having a major resurgence. Urban polo clubs are popping up across the continent, and more and more variations of the game are becoming popular (snow polo is even played in St Moritz, Courcheval, Kitzbuhel, Klosters, Megeve and Val D’Isere during the winter months).

In Europe, England, France and Spain are the main players for polo. For the biggest tournaments the season starts in early May in England, then France and Spain in July and August. The high goal season in England includes the Cartier Queen’s Cup at Guards Polo Club, and the Veuve Cliquot Gold Cup at Cowdray Park. Once the Gold Cup is won the focus is on mainland Europe until the end of August.

Polo match close up

Haven’t Experienced a Polo Match? The Need-to-Know Polo Guide for Newbies

A polo field is 15 acres – so pretty large – but given that there are 8 horses per game sometimes topping 35mph the space soon gets eaten up. Teams are of four: player 1 is offence, 2 is defence (they really cover the ground and is the hard worker in the team), 3 is often the captain (and chief strategist) and 4 is defence, the person who can hit the ball the hardest.

Polo is incredibly fast-paced and the ball can reach speeds of 100 miles per hour. A polo chukker (or period of play) is seven minutes and most are played to six chukkers. After the first seven minutes horses can be changed for fresh legs as many times as a team wishes and are ready waiting for players throughout the game.

Fast, exciting and fun, there’s quite nothing like a polo game.

It’s free entrance to see the polo in Sotogrande and it’s a fun thing to do while visiting this part of southern Spain. If you fancy experiencing it for yourself, check out our handpicked selection of luxury villas in Sotogrande. Our concierge can help with any aspect of planning a day and night at the polo – just get in touch.

Eight of the Most Jaw-Dropping Beaches on the Costa de la Luz

horse-riding-valdevaqueros1

Psst… want to know where the savvy, sand-loving traveller heads for their European beach fix? Four little words: the Costa de la Luz.

It’s long been a jealously guarded secret amongst in-the-know Spanish visitors that the beaches on Cadiz’s Costa de la Luz are some of the best in Spain. These days, though, the definitely secret’s out, and barely a year goes by without one magazine or another stating this fact.

Where is the Costa de la Luz? 

Good question. It’s the coast that faces the Atlantic Ocean stretching from the Portuguese border to Tarifa (just west of the Gibraltar and the Costa del Sol) where the Mediterranean sea and the Atlantic meet – as the Flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia said, entre dos aguas, or ‘between two waters’.

The Costa de la Luz stretches over two provinces in Andalucia, Cadiz and Huelva. Now, these beaches have a different feel altogether to those of the neighbouring Costa del Sol. Wilder, and yes occasionally windswept, but also in many places almost completely lacking in development. The glamorous beach clubs are swapped for boho-chic beach-side bars, and raucous champagne spray parties traded in for chilled sun-downers. In a word: bliss.

Our Pick of the Best Beaches on the Costa de la Luz

Valdevaqueros Beach

dunes at valdevaqueros beach

Along from the lovely little port town of Tarifa is the epicentre of the kitesurfing scene on the Costa de la Luz, Playa Valdevaqueros. This huge beach, which rises to an enormous sand dune at its westernmost end, is where you go if you want to get active or at least be seen with the surfer types. The few beach bars that flank the edge of Valdevaqueros beach are cooler-than-cool chill out affairs with plenty of facilities for your boards and low-slung seating to kick back in.

El Palmar – Near Vejer de la Frontera

sunset at el palmar beach

Our absolute favourite Costa de la Luz beach for, well, everyone really is El Palmar. Crashing Atlantic waves and surf hire shacks keep the most energetic entertained. The pristine huge white sand beach is ideal for sunbathing and sandcastle-making for little ones.

The small but perfectly formed selection of beach bars and restaurants keep hunger pangs away and allow for easy afternoon beverage runs. Then, as the evening sets in, the livelier beach bars with live DJs and music keep the young (and young at heart) happy with beach beds and a place to be seen. El Palmar beach has it all.

LVC recommended place to grab a bite: Restaurante La Torre; Latorredelpalmar.com.

Bolonia Beach

bolonia-beach1

Next on our list of go-to Cadiz beaches is in the hamlet of Bolonia. As with El Palmar, the coastline is protected so there are only a few buildings around. The few that make up the hamlet and a handful towards the dunes are there to make your time more convenient. A handful of low-key bars and restaurants sell mainly seafood to visitors who want a respite from the midday sun.

Eating and sun-bathing aside, there’s also horse riding on offer, a summer craft market and the extensive Roman ruins of Baelo Claudia to explore. A wooden path winds its way up from the edge of the village to the waving fringes of a pine forest that skirts the dunes towards the west of the beach. As well as being a beautiful spot, it’s ideal for a run or leisurely saunter. Stay for sunset and take the hike up to the top of the dunes: the view of the sun melting in to the horizon is the stuff that holiday memories are made of.

LVC recommended place to grab a bite: Off the beach – Las Rejas (Lasrejasrestaurante.com); on the beach – Sirocco (Siroccobolonia.es).

Playa La Fontanilla in Conil de la Frontera

Convenient – with a capital ‘C’ for Conil. From little boutiques, supermarkets and banks to restaurants, tourist information and bars, Conil de la Frontera is a whitewashed town beside the sea with every amenity you could possibly ask for. It has a lovely old centre and is very popular with Spanish visitors from the interior towns when the mercury starts to climb and the heat becomes just too much to bear.

Just to the west of Conil de la Frontera is Playa La Fontanilla. This huge, golden sandy beach with surf is really family-friendly. While there are restaurants that spill onto the sand, don’t fret, the skyline isn’t spoilt by high-rises or congested eateries.

LVC recommended place to grab a bite: Restaurante La Fontanilla – it’s open all afternoon and is a popular local haunt (Lafontanilla.com).

Calas de Poniente – Near Conil de la Frontera

 calas de poniente cove

Another beach near Conil de la Frontera is Calas de Poniente. A cala is an area enclosed by cliffs, so unsurprisingly these beaches, which number seven in total, are like hidden coves. They aren’t the easiest to access (but aren’t prohibitively difficult by the same token) so just pack light and expect to have plenty of space to yourself. If you want to get back to nature these beaches with clear sea and clean sand are nudist, but we’d describe them as more ‘clothing optional’ as beach-goers don’t have to completely disrobe. However, if you fancy banishing all tan lines then these are the beaches to visit.

LVC recommended place to grab a bite: Lunch options in the immediate vicinity are next to non-existent, so take a cooler box with Jamon Iberico, melon, anchovies, tomatoes, avocado and fresh bread.

Los Caños de Meca

canos de meca beach

Just up the coast from the rugged fishing town of Barbate and fringed with dramatic cliffs, Caños de Meca is everything you’d hope for from a wild Cadiz beach. On the main street (Avenida Trafalgar) right by the beach there are a few scruffy bars where everyone gathers to drink cocktails and watch the sunset. Once the sun’s melted into the ocean, the party gets started – and the night is a long one.

LVC recommended place to grab a bite: La Laja (La-laja.com); or in Barbate, the superb El Campero (Restauranteelcampero.es).

Playa del Carmen / Playa Zahara de los Atunes

playa del carmen cadiz

Smaller and with a slightly sleepier feel than Conil, Zahara de los Atunes sits between Cape Trafalgar and the Costa’s nightlife hub, Tarifa. The town beach (although there are many beaches either side to choose from) is Playa del Carmen. This beautiful beach caters for families with sunbeds, upbeat chiringuitos (beach-side restaurants), surf board hire, paddle boarding, longboarding, kite surfing and everything you’d need in between.

Zahara de los Atunes is foodie to its core, and eating seems to be the first thing on everyone’s agenda when they get here. And with good reason, too: if you like Red Tuna, a town with ‘tuna’ in its name is likely to be the place for you. You can expect a lot better than average fare in the restaurants in Zahara de los Atunes – it’s a town that prides itself on its cuisine.

LVC recommended place to grab a bite: In town – 21 Restaurante (21restaurante.com); on the beach – La Luna which gets lively as the sun sets.

Fancy spending the summer on one of Cadiz’s best beaches? Match the stunning surroundings with a stay at one of our luxury Costa de la Luz villas.

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.