Explore the culture of Spain and Andalusia to enrich your travel experience when staying in our luxury 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.

when is the best time to visit Andalucia

When’s the Best Time to Visit Andalucia?

Let’s get one thing clear from the start: it’s never exactly a bad time to visit southern Spain, as on any given day of any given week all year round, there’s something going on. However from full-on fiestas to solemn religious ceremonies, via annual harvests and music festivals, we’ve picked out a few of the very best times to visit.

Planning a Visit around the Weather

Weather-wise, when’s the best time of year to visit Andalucia? It’s a question that gets put to us a lot here at the Luxury Villa Collection. And the answer we always have to give is… it very much depends.

Andalucia’s a big region – four times as large as that default indicator of size, Wales – plus, it’s also an area of huge geographical diversity. So while you may have lovely winter sunshine and 20 degrees down on the coast, the snow might well be falling on the mountains inland.

Let’s focus on the positives, though, and the average temperatures in the region’s most sun-soaked province, Malaga:

Weather in Malaga, Average Temperatures

Traditional & Religious Events

Easter (Semana Santa) in Andalucia

Carnival – Cadiz; 2nd to 12th March 2017: The weekend before Lent is a massive party weekend in southern Spain and nowhere does it bigger than the city of Cadiz. It’s a noisy, messy affair where everyone takes to the streets in fancy dress and parties until sunrise.

Semana Santa – Seville; 9th to 15th April 2017: With the sound of brass and the scent of incense on the night air, every Easter the streets of Seville are filled with the processions of Semana Santa (or Holy Week). While Seville undoubtedly puts on the biggest and grandest display of devotion, other places of note include all the big cities – Granada, Malaga and Cordoba especially – while the small town of Velez-Malaga is a spectacular and lesser-known alternative.

Las Cruces de Mayo – Granada; 2nd to 3rd May: Another city, another full-scale party dressed up as a religious occasion. While the crosses which are displayed in squares throughout the city are undoubtedly lovely, Granada’s Las Cruces is, in reality, just a great excuse for a party. And why not?

Patios de Cordoba; second and third week of May: North, south, east or west, spring is one of the best times to visit Spain, wherever in the country you might be thinking of heading. Nowhere is that more the case than in Cordoba. In May, some of the oldest and most beautiful patios of the town’s historic centre are decked out in their full floral finery and opened up to the public. Unmissable.

El Rocio Pilgrimage – Huelva; Pentecost/depending on Easter: One of the region’s most impressive devotional displays, up to a million people have been known to make the journey to this remote church to see the Virgin make her spectacular appearance in the early hours of Pentecost Monday. With El Rocio sitting right in the heart of the Doñana National Park, it makes for a great excuse to explore one of Spain’s great natural wildernesses, too.

Music & Nightlife Events 

Flamenco festivals

Beach club opening parties, Marbella and Puerto Banus; mid-late April: Something of a curtain-raiser for summer on the Costa, the beach clubs throw everything they’ve got into their annual opening parties. Nikki Beach, perhaps the best of the bunch, gets their season underway this year on 28th April with most of the others falling either side of it.

Granada international festival of music and dance; 17th June to 8th July: While the flamenco on display during Granada’s annual festival is fantastic (2016 headliners include Eva Yerbabuena and Miguel Poveda), it’s undoubtedly the setting that steals the show. Sitting under the stars in the gardens of the Generalife accompanied by some top-class dance and exquisite views of historic Granada is an unforgettable experience.

Starlite Marbella; 14th July to 20th August: Marbella‘s music festival is now a firm fixture on the Andalucia events calendar. 2016’s big international names include Carlos Santana, Robert Plant, and the ageless Tom Jones, while Siempre Asi and Alejandro Sanz top the line-up of Spanish performers.

Flamenco festivals; June-September: while Andalucia’s greatest art form is very definitely a year-round affair (check out our guide to Flamenco), it really heats up every year along with the summer temperatures. Malaga’s summer alone is studded with superb flamenco events from Alhaurin de la Torre (June) and Alora (July) to Antequera and Ronda (both August) before, finally, the main event of the Malaga Bienal Festival takes place in early to mid-September.

Ferias

Spain as a whole celebrates more local virgins’ and saints’ day than you can shake a stick at. But if there’s a capital of the religious holiday, it has to be Andalucia. Aside from the religious elements, they mean one thing: letting your hair down and partying in a colourful blur of flamenco dresses, fairgrounds, dancing and drinking under the stars.

Ferias are held from April until September and are one of Andalucia’s greatest spectacles. In terms of city ferias, a few of the main ones of note are:

  • Seville’s Feria de Abril: 12th to 17th April 2016
  • Feria de Caballo in Jerez de la Frontera; 30th April to 7th May 2016
  • Feria de Nuestra Señora de la Salud, Cordoba; 20th to 28th May 2016
  • Feria de San Bernabé, Marbella; 7th to 12th June 2016
  • Feria de Malaga; 13th to 20th August 2016

Gastronomy, Food & Wine Events

Down in Andalucia, the seasons – and the harvesting of the fruit of land and sea – still have a huge impact on people’s everyday lives. Spring sees olives, oranges, avocados, asparagus and the Almadraba fishing of bluefin tuna in Cadiz. By the late summer the region is exploding into wine harvests, while come the autumn the almonds and figs are bursting.

There are simply too many food and wine festivals in the region to name them all, but here are a couple that come with the LVC seal of approval:

Las Fiestas de la Vendimia y Otoño, Jerez de la Frontera; 1st to 18th September: One of the oldest ferias in Spain, Jerez’s annual Sherry shindig is a blur of wine crushing, bodega visits and tastings, flamenco, horses and general festivities.

Axarquia food festivals; August to September: this mountainous region to the east of Malaga has been getting something of a name for itself in recent years for its cluster of food-related festivals – and all the singing, dancing and general celebrations that comes with them.

  • Dia de Morcilla (blood sausage), Canillas de Aceituno; 24th April 2016
  • Dia de la Cereza (cherry), Alfarnate; 25th June 2016
  • Fiesta del Gazpacho; Alfarnatejo; 6th August 2016
  • Noche del Vino (sweet wine), Competa; mid August
  • Fiesta del Ajoblanco (cold almond soup), Almachar; 3rd September 2016
  • Dia de la Pasa (raisin), El Borge; 18th September 2016

Sporting Events 

Polo at Sotogrande

Moto Grand Prix – Jerez Motor Racing Circuit – 22nd to 24th April 2016: one of the biggest events on the Spanish motorsports calendar roars into Jerez every April. The second race of the Moto GP season is a big deal in Spain, and the atmosphere track-side over the course of a long weekend in April is one of the liveliest around.

Golf on the Costa del Sol: while the region’s +300 days of sunshine mean that golf is very much a year-round sport in Andalucia, the best times of year to book a golf holiday are probably spring and autumn, when you get the sunshine without the searing summer temperatures. (Have a look at our pick of the best golf courses on the Costa del Sol.)

Land Rover International Polo Tournament – Sotogrande; 28th July to 29th August: Sotogrande’s Santa Maria Polo Club hosts one of the highlights of the polo calendar every summer. One of the most prestigious events in Andalucia, it’s an occasion in which to see and be seen – obligatory glass of bubbly in hand – as much as it is to watch what’s going on out on the field.

Sanlucar Horse Racing, Sanlucar de Barrameda; 10th to 27th August: This hell-for-leather horseback sprint along the Sanlucar sands goes all the way back to 1845. The setting’s superb and the atmosphere’s lively (with more than a drop or two of Manzanilla being supped). Best of all, though, you get right up close to the action and feel the thundering of hooves underfoot.

Ski season in the Sierra Nevada: Europe’s most southerly ski resort opens for business every year with the first snows in December, before closing up again in late April (or even on occasions in late May). Which means that you can literally spend a morning on the slopes before dropping down to the coast and hitting the beach in the afternoon.

Nature & the Great Outdoors

Cherry Blossom in Andalucia

Flamingo migration at Fuente de Piedra; late February: For many of us bird-watching is not exactly the stuff of riveting holidays. However, seeing the flamingos at Fuente de Piedra is a little different. To catch a glimpse of them, as a vivid flash of pink against the blue sky, before they descend on the salt lakes of is one of the most beautiful natural spectacles in Europe.

Arrival of the cherry blossom, Axarquia; March (depending on the weather): Andalucia’s cherry blossom season may not be quite as well-known as Japan’s, but it’s still pretty spectacular. Alfarnate’s Ruta de las Pilas, a 12km round trip through the orchard-lined countryside, is one of the very best ways to experience it.

Beach weather; May onwards: While you can obviously stretch out on the sand at any time when the sun’s shining in southern Spain, locals tend not to venture onto them until summer has really kicked in. May and October can regularly touch on 30 degrees Celsius – more than warm enough for most of us to get the beach bag out, in other words.

Cork oak harvest – Los Alcornocales Natural Park; June-August: The serious business of the cork harvest is still carried out by hand and mule every summer in the cork forests of Los Alcornocales. A morning winding your way through the sun-dappled trees, stopping off to watch the trees being painstakingly stripped of their bark along the way, can be neatly finished up with a long, leisurely lunch in a stunning mountain town like Gaucin, Jimena de la Frontera, Ubrique or Zahara de la Sierra.

Our guide to when to visit Andalucia is far from definitive. There’s simply SO much more to see and do in this fabulous region of Spain – to the extent, in fact, that we’ve missed out, not just one but two, entire provinces in Almeria and Jaen.

So what’s stopping you? See the best of southern Spain from one of our luxury villas.

Where to See Flamenco in Andalucia

If there’s one Spanish institution that needs absolutely no introduction, it’s Flamenco. Perhaps paella, bullfighting, tapas or Rioja wine would yield higher scores in a round of Family Fortunes when attempting to guess Spain’s most immediate subtexts, but Flamenco would certainly be in there somewhere.

What is Flamenco?

It is considered less a genre of music and more an artform in southern Spain. A typical Flamenco performance is made up of four elements: cante (singing), toque (guitar playing), baile (dancing) and jaleo (vocalisations and rhythmic clapping). The structure of each song is often determined by its palo – the specific Flamenco style, according to rhythm and geographical origin among other criteria. Some palos are sung without a guitar; others are danced while others aren’t. However, both Flamenco artists and enthusiasts would probably argue that the key components to any Flamenco recital are spontaneity and individual interpretation of the performers.

flamenco show, promotion

Espectaculo Flamenco (Source: FlickrCC travelho)

Origin, Transcendence & Meaning

Flamenco, as it’s know today, goes back at least 200 years, shaping the cultural perspective of many a Spaniard along the way. However, it isn’t necessarily as central to the lives of ‘Spaniards’, on a national scale, as, say, the pub is among the British. Only in the southern regions of Andalucia, Extremadura and Murcia is Flamenco sometimes considered the holy grail of music and dance.

It’s this undying and moderately provincial passion that characterises Flamenco down to its core. From its 18th century roots in gitano pueblos through to modern day arena-sized performances, the enthusiasm for practicing and watching Flamenco has always remained as fierce. You only have to wander into a busy Flamenco bar to observe its significance and steely staying power. Children, parents, grandparents and great grandparents crowd around the small ensembles and will strain their necks to watch the magic unfold.

Flamenco Shows & Peñas

venta el gallo, granada, flamenco

Flamenco at Venta El Gallo, Granada (Source: FlickrCC arteunporro)

There is ample opportunity to see Flamenco in Andalucia, but before you do it’s well worth understanding the difference between a Flamenco show and a peña.

Flamenco shows are often better-planned and promoted events and are thus more expensive to attend. They are quite spectacular and can generally be relied upon to see the best-known Flamenco artists. Locals, though, will likely tell you that the real Flamenco is to be found in the peñas.

To be in with a chance of seeing Flamenco at a peña, which roughly translates as a member’s club, you have to read the newspaper; look out for cheap flyers taped to lampposts; talk to locals; generally keep your eyes peeled and ears pricked in bars and cafés, as they are often impromptu in nature. Inside, the walls are bedecked with Flamenco photos, portraits and general memorabilia – it’s clear from the moment you walk in that the patrons live and breathe the music. Performers are not professional, rather people with regular day jobs with an insatiable passion for Flamenco. Generally speaking, anyone can play if they’d like – the principle is akin to a jamming session – though the standard of singing, dancing and guitar playing tends to be very high, despite the performers only being ‘amateur’.

Where to Go

People will pay large amounts of money and queue for unseasonably long periods of time to get a seat at a top Flamenco show or peña. However, in Andalucia, and particularly in major cities like Seville and Granada, you don’t usually have to try hard to find and get into an authentic Flamenco performance in a busy bar.

Unlike other live, acoustic music shows the audience are not required to remain completely silent as songs are played out; singing and clapping along is encouraged, as are cries of approval and encouragement, usually in the form of an ‘ole!’ or a ‘jale!’

Hundreds of shows and peñas take place across Andalucia every month, so it would, frankly, be near-impossible to list all (or even most) of them here. Instead we have picked out a few noteworthy examples of where to see Flamenco in Andalucia.

Jerez de la Frontera

flamenco, andalucia, dancing

Flamenco in Jerez de la Frontera (Source: Wikimedia Commons: El Pantera)

Jerez is popularly regarded as la cuña – the birthplace – of Flamenco in Spain. It boasts the Andalucian Centre of Flamenco for a start, so there is probably a good chance that it all started there, and many of the most famous Flamenco artists come from Jerez, such as Lola Flores or José Mercé. In any case, Flamenco is to Jerez like cheese-rolling is to Gloucestershire. If passing through, and you’d like to catch a show or peña, head to:

Bars & Tablaos

Puro Arte, Tablao Flamenco (Flamenco every night. Reservation necessary.)

Details: Calle Conocedores, 28; Tel: +34 647 743 832; (puroarteflamencojerez.com)

Tabanco el Guitarrí³n de San Pedro (Flamenco Thursday night, Saturday afternoon, Sunday night.)

Details: Calle Bizcocheros, 16; Tel: +34 649 65 69 18; (Facebook Page)

Tablao del Bereber (Flamenco on Friday.)

Details: Calle de las Cabezas, 8-10; Tel: +34 605 94 75 77

Tabanco El Pasaje. (From Thursdays to Sunday.)

Details: Calle Sta. Marí­a, 8; Tel: 956 33 33 59; (tabancoelpasaje.com)

La Guarida del Angel

Details: Calle Porvenir, 1; Tel: +34 615 60 12 23; (Facebook Page)

Peñas

Peña Flamenca Los Cerní­calos

Details: Calle de Sancho Vizcaí­no, 25; Tel: +34 956 33 38 71; (flamencodejerez.com)

Peña Flamenca Buena Gente

Details: Calle ínimas de San Lucas, 9; Tel: +34 956 33 84 04; (Facebook Page)

Peña de la Buleria

Details: Calle Empedrada, 20; Tel: +34 856053772; (Facebook Page)

The Flamenco festival in Jerez is held during the last week of February and first week of March. This is when the big names come out to play and the best classes are held. To attend a class, you must book in advance in September when tickets go on sale (yes, it’s that popular!)

Seville

flamenco, seville, tablao el arenal

Flamenco at Tablao El Arenal, Sevilla

Since Seville is a much larger city than Jerez, there are, unsurprisingly, many more Flamenco bars and peñas to be found. However, Flamenco isn’t quite as popular as the livelier and crowd-galvanising Sevillanas, which dominates Seville’s renowned Feria in Spring.

Bars & Tablaos

Tablao Flamenco El Arenal (Flamenco every night. Reservation necessary.)

Details: Calle Rodo, 7; Tel: +34 954 216 492; (tablaoelarenal.com)

La Carbonerí­a (Flamenco every night.)

Details: Calle Leví­es, 18; Tel: +34 954 56 37 49

T de Triana (Flamenco on Tuesday, Thursday.)

Details: Calle Betis, 20; Tel: +34 95 43 31 203; (Facebook Page)

Casa de la Memoria (Flamenco every night. Reservation necessary.)

Details: Calle Cuna, 6; Tel:  +34 954 560 670; (casadelamemoria.es)

Auditorio Alvarez Quintero (Flamenco every night.)

Details: Calle ílvarez Quintero, 48; Tel: +34 605 13 01 30; (auditorioalvarezquintero.com)

Peñas

Torres Macarena (Flamenco on Wednesday night.)

Calle Torrijiano, 29; Tel: +34 954372384; (torresmacarena.com)

Niño de la Alfalfa (Flamenco Friday night.)

Details: Calle Castellar 52 Acc C; Tel: +34 619038562; (Facebook Page)

Amigos de Manuel Mairena (Flamenco Tuesday to Sunday.)

Details: Calle Guillén de Castro, 26; Tel: +34 686947804; (Facebook Page)

To be absolutely sure of catching a show, go in Autumn when the Peñas de Guardia take place, featuring talent young and old. If you go in Spring during Feria, the standard will be very high but many of the tents with best shows are often ‘guest list only’.

Granada

gitanos, flamenco, granada

Granada is famous for its gitano Flamenco style

Flamenco flows liberally through the veins of Granada’s music scene, and can be traced back as far as the 1700s when gitanos – gypsies – first arrived on the scene. The musical culture in the city was already rich in flavour but the gitanos brought with them their own enchanting artform, which combined with Andaluz styles to create Flamenco as it is known today. It is the gypsies who have preserved Flamenco throughout the years. The barrio of Sacromonte is still home to many people of this origin and this is where the best, most authentic Flamenco – gitano style – in Granada takes place. However, Flamenco can be found all over the city, more predominantly in El Albaicin.

Bars & Tablaos

Tablao Flamenco Jardines de Zoraya (Flamenco every night. Reservation necessary.)

Details: Calle Panaderos, 32; Tel: +34 958 20 62 66; (jardinesdezoraya.com)

Cuevas los Tarantos (Flamenco every night.)

Details: Camino del Sacromonte, 9; Tel: +34 958 22 45 25; (cuevaslostarantos.com)

Venta El Gallo Restaurant (Flamenco most nights.)

Details: Barranco de los Negros, 5; Tel: +34 958 22 84 76; (ventaelgallo.es)

El Templo del Flamenco (Flamenco every night.)

Details: Calle Pernaleros Alto, 41; Tel: +34 622 50 00 52; (templodelflamenco.com)

Cueva La Rocio (Flamenco most nights.)

Camino Sacromonte, 70; Tel: +34 958 22 71 29; (cuevalarocio.es)

Peñas

Peña La Platerí­a (Flamenco every Thursday.)

Details: Placeta de Toqueros, 7; Tel: +34 958 21 06 50; (laplateria.org.es)

Sala Vimaambi (Flamenco Thursday-Saturday.)

Details: Cuesta de San Gregorio, 30 Granada; Tel: +34 958 22 73 34; (vimaambi.com)

Soniquete (Flamenco Fridays and Saturdays.)

Details: Carrera del Darro, 51; Tel: +34 639 69 20 41

There is no particular time of year when Flamenco is best in Granada. All through the year you can find high-quality shows being advertised around the busier areas of the city, in Plaza Nueva or along Carretera del Darro, for example. Entry fees are usually between 6-15 euros.

Malaga

flamenco shoes, stage

Flamenco Stage Cam (Source: FlickrCC fatifloresita)

While Malaga might be better known for its large amount of upscale places to eat, and trendy bars and clubs, there’s much in the way of authentic Flamenco, too. All around Malaga province there are peñas hidden away in small towns and villages. The best thing about them is that many of them do not want to be found, although if they are, then customers are always welcomed with open arms. The higlight of the Malaga Flamenco calendar is the Bienal de Arte Flamenco which comes to town at the end of the summer every year.

Bars & Tablaos

Liceo (Flamenco Thursday-Saturday night. Reservations are required.)

Details: Calle Beatas, 21; Tel: 625 55 70 12; (liceoflamenco.com)

Bienal de Flamenco (Month-long festival held every September. Shows in participating bars.)

Details: (labienal.com)

Restaurant Tipi Tapa (Flamenco Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday nights.)

Details: Calle Mšlaga, 4, 29640 Fuengirola; Tel: +34 951 31 16 30; (flamencotickets.com)

Kelipé Centro de Arte Flamenco (Flamenco Friday and Saturday from 9:15pm to 10:30pm. Reservations recommended.)

Details: Calle Caldereria, 6; Tel: 692 82 98 85; (kelipe.net)

Sala Chela Mar (Flamenco every Sunday.)

Details: Calle Vendeja, 30; Tel: 951 25 63 92; (Facebook Page)

Peñas

Peña Flamenca Fosforito

Details: Arenisca 12, Santa Cristina; Tel: 952 35 11 15

Peña Flamenca Juan Breva

Details: Calle Ramí³n Franquelo 4; Tel: 952 21 08 76; (museoflamencojuanbreva.com)

Peña Flamenca El Piyayo

Details: Urb. Las Padrizas 2, Rincí³n de la Victoria; Tel: 952 40 48 29

As well as regular shows and peña performances, various espectšculos take place throughout Andalucia, especially over the summer months. These ‘spectacles’ are much more theatrical and friendly to the casual observer than ordinary shows. The Alhambra Palace, for instance, has hosted events in the past, as has the otherworldly Cuevas de Nerja (Malaga) – a large, stalagtite-laden, underground cavern with an installed Flamenco stage at its core. Now that’s pretty spectacular.

Cuevas de Nerja (Source: FlickrCC juanpol)

Cuevas de Nerja (Source: FlickrCC juanpol)

In southern Spain and looking to see some authentic Flamenco? Speak to our concierge and let them find – and book – you the very best.

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.

Seeing the Best of Seville in a Day

Staying in a villa on the Costa del Sol offers the perfect opportunity to see the best of the Andalucian cities like Seville and Granada, as they can easily be reached in a day.

Thanks to the excellent Andalucia road network it’s perfectly possible to spend a day in Seville while staying on the coast.  To get the most out of your trip you will want to know the best things to do, so here are five must-sees for visiting Seville in a day.

Our Top Tips For a Day in Seville

Seville is the quintessential Andalusian city where fine monuments, haunting flamenco and fragrant orange blossom come together to make it one of Spain’s most romantic cities. The capital of Andalucia and home to the regional government, Seville is a bustling metropolis with a long list of cultural and leisure attractions.

Divided by the winding Guadalquivir River, Seville has a skyline is dominated by the Moorish Giralda tower (the city’s symbol) and the ultra-modern Pelli Tower (Andalusia’s tallest building). Seville is somewhere to take your time over as you soak up the atmosphere in the Santa Cruz and Triana districts, stroll along the river or explore the Arenal, home to the world’s most famous bullring La Maestranza.

It’s worth dedicating a couple of days to this lively city if you can, and we would be happy to assist with arranging “A Spoily Sleepover” in the city with our private guides. But if you only have a day to spend in the city, here are five unmissable things to do in Seville.

Alcšzar

This Moorish-style palace is Seville’s answer to the Alhambra in Granada. The fine rooms and patios were commissioned by Pedro I, the Christian king who reigned in this part of Andalusian during the 14th century. The craftsmanship is on a par with the Alhambra since the building was done by Moorish workers based in Granada. Admire the delicate stucco and decorative tiling throughout as well as the characteristic keyhole arches and courtyards.

Highlights in the Mudejar masterpiece – still used by the Spanish royal family as a residence – include the intricate Patio de las Doncellas, sumptuous Sala de los Embajadores where ambassadors were received and the antique and tapestry-packed Royal Chambers. The gardens are a treat for the senses with bougainvillea, orange blossom and fountains at every turn.

Cathedral

Visit Seville in a day

The Iconic Giralda Tower in Seville

Everything about Seville’s Cathedral is big -it’s the largest in Spain and the third largest in the world. Started in the early 15th century, it’s also the world’s largest Gothic building. This giant ochre structure was built on top of the Moorish mosque, completely demolished except for the minaret.

Inside this vast place of worship, admire the main chapel whose altarpiece is the largest in the world, the monument to Christopher Columbus (it contains some of his remains – the whereabouts of the others is much debated), the Royal Chapel with the tombs of several monarchs and the Orange Tree Patio whose central fountains were originally used for ablutions by worshippers at the mosque.

Next, climb the minaret, the original 12th Moorish tower with its later additions of 24 bells and the weather vane in the form of a bronze statue of Faith. Known as the Giraldillo (small turning object), the vane gave its name to the Giralda Tower, the city’s most famous landmark. The ascent to the top is unusually via ramps, built to allow soldiers on horseback to climb the tower. The panoramic views of Seville are well worth the climb and give you a good idea of the city’s layout.

Santa Cruz

This corner of the city is a maze of alleyways, squares and whitewashed houses. Lose yourself as you wander round the narrow streets, pausing to admire the typically Andalusian wrought-iron grills and flower-filled balconies, dip into the curio-packed antique shops or enjoy a fino sherry and tapa at one of the outdoor cafés.

If you have time, visit the Casa de Pilatos (so-called because the 16th mansion is supposedly modelled on Pontius Pilate’s house in Jerusalem) with its exceptional Andalusian tiles, Renaissance architecture and lovely patio.

Santa Cruz is also home to a must for flamenco fans – the Flamenco Museum where displays explain the background and art behind Spain’s best-known music. Shows and classes are also held here.

Parque de Maria Luisa

This lovely park brings some welcome respite from Seville’s hustle and bustle. If you don’t fancy exploring the park on foot, hire a horse and carriage to take you round. Small cafés provide perfect stops for refreshment.

The park, a mixture of formal gardens and parkland, was redesigned for the 1929 World Fair (Seville also hosted the event in 1992) and houses several pavilions including the magnificent Plaza de España. Here, each of Spain’s provinces is represented in a tiled mosaic and you can hire a rowing boat to sail along the small canal.

Hotel Alfonso XIII

Hotels reach a new dimension at this emblematic venue, built also for the 1929 World Fair in the Mudejar style. Walk through the doors and you leave the busy city behind and enter a slice of history, but, although the essence is traditional, a recent head-to-toe renovation means all mod cons are available too. The central glass and brick courtyard is perhaps the architectural highlight and perfect for enjoying a leisurely cocktail after a day’s sightseeing.

Visit the Hotel Alfonso XIII on a day in Seville

The Hotel Alfonso XIII is a highlight in Seville

costa del sol white villages

Exploring the White Villages behind the Costa del Sol

To really get to know Andalucia it’s often best to head away from the crowds and instead seek out the quiet solace of village life. This is the perfect accompaniment to a relaxing villa break here in Spain.

In “Los Pueblos Blancos” you can escape the daily grind, and take a step back in time to a place where gentle fountains animate quaint town squares, and the slow pace of life is often interrupted only by children kicking around a ball, or by the town’s old folk enjoying animated debates at their favourite bench.

When you choose to spend a villa holiday on the Costa del Sol you can find a surprising number of charming sleepy villages within easy reach, just waiting to be explored. Here is a quick run through of some of our favourite white villages in Andalucia:

Casares

Casares is fifteen kilometres inland of Estepona, to the west of Marbella, in the Mšlaga province of of Andalucí­a. It is perched on the side of a mountain close to the Sierra Crestellina national park, approximately a twenty five minute drive from Estepona.

It is a breathtaking village which has been described as ‘sugar cubes’ on the side of the mountain and looks particularly stunning when lit up at night with the blue/green street lights. The best view is from the approach into Casares so be sure to take the time to stop and take in the sights before you get there.

Casares has a spectacular 12th century Moorish castle, several churches and chapels, each one as beautiful as the previous one, a visitor centre, fountain and is close to the Baths of La Hedionda which are Roman baths and sulphur springs said to have been used to cure a skin infection of Julius Caesar! It is known as the ‘Hanging Village’ due to its precarious location on the Cliffside. There are many great restaurants and tapas bars and lots of village shops to explore, if you are lucky you will see some eagles soaring above the cliffs around Casares.

As well as the national festivals such as of Andalucí­a day on the 28th of February, the Easter festivities and the Three Kings parades on the evening of the 5th of January, Casares has its annual feria in the second half of July and a second feria in the first week of August so it’s a great time to visit around then.

Frigiliana

Frigiliana is to the east of Mšlaga and only a ten minute drive from the coastal town of Nerja in the area of  Andalucí­a known as the Axarquia.

Voted most beautiful village in of Andalucí­a for several years running, the village’s cobbled streets gently wind up through the beautifully maintained white houses of the old town, splashes of colour wherever you look from the balconies and doorsteps full of beautifully kept flowers. The houses are painted every year and it is traditionally the women of the village who carry out this work.

Frigiliana has a great infrastructure including many shops, bars and fabulous restaurants, several hotels and a working molasses factory right in the centre of town. The streets are hilly here and there are beautiful mosaic covered steps leading to the tiny narrow residential streets from the main road.

The very famous Frigiliana festival, Festival de las Tres Culturas, is celebrated at the end of August each year, drawing crowds of hundreds to watch the fabulous concerts and many other festivities. There are also other fiestas throughout the year including Saint Sebastian day in January, the patron saint of Frigiliana. The day of the cross is in May each year and the annual Frigiliana feria is in June.

Gaucin

North of Casares, also to the west of Marbella, in the Mšlaga province of of Andalucí­a, is the white village of Gaucin. It is approximately nineteen km from Casares and a thirty minute drive from the coast.

Gaucin is around 600 metres above sea level in the Sierra del Hacho and has great views over Gibraltar and Morocco. It is surrounded by cork forests and because of this the local shops sell many items made from cork to tourists. The surrounding mountains provide a fabulous backdrop to the pretty white village, with contrasting colour from the wild poppies, orchids, olive groves and almond blossom.

At the very top of the village is a medieval castle, Castillo del Aguila or Eagle’s castle, where you can see eagles over the mountains as the name suggests. It is a sleepy, laid back town with a few similarly laid back bars and restaurants serving the traditional fayre of the area. The narrow winding streets of Gaucin have always been an inspiration for artists and photographers and there is a large artistic community here.

Among the many festivals of Gaucin, of particular note are the release of two bulls on Easter Sunday which are left to run around the village and chased by the more adventurous or crazy villagers. The annual feria is in August, around the fourth, and involves three days of live music, eating, drinking and dancing.

Iznšjar

Located north of the Costa del Sol in the Cordoba province of Andalucí­a is the beautiful town of Iznšjar. It is around one hour drive from Mšlaga and one hour from Granada.

Iznšjar has a unique location overlooking the Embalse de Iznšjar which is the largest lake in of Andalucí­a and has a lovely clean, sandy beach which is very popular in the summer months with whole families arriving in their cars, driving straight onto the beach, unpacking gazebos and tables and spending the day there swimming, sunbathing and eating. The village is nestled on a rocky outcrop with amazing views of the lake below. It is dominated by a majestic Moorish castle which is sadly in ruins but is lovely to walk to and the views from there are spectacular.

The village offers bars, restaurants and a lakeside hotel as well as a municipal museum. On the lake you can go fishing, learn to sail and you can rent out pedalos and kayaks from the campsite right on the beach. The lake is clean and safe to swim in and there are several beach bars to shelter from the sun in the hot afternoons.

The local festivals of Iznšjar include a fabulous carnival, with parades and dressing up, in February. The patron saint of Iznšjar, San Marco, has a special day on the 25th of April where the whole town heads off for picnics in the countryside. The feria is around the 7th of September every year and usually lasts for three days and includes a candlelight procession through the town.

Jimena

Jimena de la Frontera is in the province of Cadiz in Andalucí­a, it is about a thirty minute drive west of Gaucin and directly north of La Linea and the border of Gibraltar.

The village is surrounded by the Alcornocales Natural Park and is overlooked by a Moorish castle which was built around 750 A.D. It has been occupied since prehistoric times and here you can see cave paintings, at the archaeological site of La Laja Alta, which are the only examples of maritime cave paintings from the Bronze Age in Spain.

Transport links make Jimena easily accessible from all directions and the road and rail network is much improved in recent years. There are several beautiful churches and other buildings to visit. Other activities in the area include bike riding, horse riding and hill walking due to the proximity of the beautiful Natural Park.

As well as the national festivals of Spain, Jimena has several of its own throughout the year. The Carnival with parades of floats is in February, the agricultural fair is in the second week of May every year. There is an annual music festival in the second week of July and the Jimena feria is generally in the first week of September.

Mijas

Mijas pueblo (village) is a short twenty minute drive from Mšlaga airport in the Mšlaga province and is only fifteen minutes from the coast at La Cala de Mijas and Fuengirola.

Mijas is situated in the Sierra de Mijas mountains and is surrounded by beautiful pine forests. It has the best of both worlds with its white village charm, winding cobbled streets, breathtaking views and close proximity to the sea. If bullfighting is your thing, Mijas has its own bull ring which is still in use and is also used for horse displays. There is an auditorium which is used for concerts throughout the summer and there are also two museums to visit.

As well as being close to the coast, Mijas has its own fabulous infrastructure which includes shops and a wide and varied range of restaurants, all the usual supermarkets and other food shops and, perhaps best of all a chocolate factory!

Special festivals in Mijas include Mijas International day which is a multicultural festival giving people from all over the world the opportunity to tell others about their culture and lifestyle, it is usually held in the first week in May. San Juan is celebrated on the night of the 23rd of June and is the celebration of the longest night of the year with festivities including dancing and fireworks. 

Ronda

Ronda is in the Mšlaga province of Andalucí­a and is a one hour twenty minute drive from the airport at Mšlaga. It is situated north and inland of Marbella and Estepona.

The village of Ronda is third only to Seville and Granada in the most visited places in Andalucí­a. It is famous all over the world for being perched on the edge of the El Tajo gorge and offers fabulous views and countless photo opportunities. It is the modern birthplace of bullfighting and its bullring ‘Plaza de Torros’ is now a museum and attracts many thousands of visitors each year.

Ronda is accessible by road and rail, the drive to the village from the coast or from further inland is quite spectacular.  There are two tourist offices here and a whole host of fabulous shops selling traditional, and not so traditional, Spanish crafts and other goods.

The ‘Fiesta de la Virgen de la Paz’ is the celebration of the patron Saint of Ronda and is held on the 24th of January every year.  The feria is around the 20th of May and the main events of the year are held in the first week in September with the International Folklore Music and Dancing Festival and other festivities.

Viñuela

Viñuela is another white village in the Mšlaga province of Andalucí­a. It is inland of Velez Mšlaga, to the east of Mšlaga city, and is approximately fifty minutes from Mšlaga airport.

The stunning village of La Viñuela is set in the breathtaking landscape of the Axarquia and situated next to the man made reservoir of Lake Viñuela which provides the majority of drinking water for the local area. There are many luxury villas nestled in the hills with beautiful views over the lake and the lake itself boasts pretty beaches and non motorized water sports for all. There are picnic areas and barbecue areas all around the lake and the surrounding pine forests provide shade and a peaceful atmosphere for visitors.

La Viñuela was named after the local grape vines from which a delicious sweet wine is still produced today. The town is also famous for its local olive oil which is of particularly good quality. There are many arts and craft shops here including basket making and leather goods. There are also archeological sites in the village dating back to prehistoric, Roman and medieval times.

In May in La Viñuela there is a pilgrimage from the village to the hamlets of Los Gomez and Los Romanes for the Romeria which is a traditional gypsy festival. The annual feria is in mid July and there are three more ferias locally in early August, mid August and mid September.

Our readers would love to hear about your favourite white villages to visit from the Costa del Sol, just leave your comments below.

If you love the idea of exploring authentic Andalucia, then here are our top villa recommendations from our Andalusia Collection

Visiting Malaga in a day, Costa del Sol

Must-Sees for a Day in Malaga

One of our favourite places to spend a leisurely day out on the Costa del Sol is Malaga, a city that is full of charm and character, and surprisingly easy to visit.

Since the Picasso Museum opened ten years ago, Malaga has become a vibrant, happening city whose cultural attractions now rival those in Seville, Andalusia’s better known capital city.

Recent upgrades have turned what used to be a somewhat shabby historical centre into a chic and fashionable cultural capital that’s overflowing with things to do, which is now firmly on the Spanish map.  Visitor numbers and hotel occupation are at their highest ever and Malaga is now a definite must-see on any Costa del Sol to-do-list.

Getting around Malaga

Malaga is Spain’s sixth largest city, but it’s compact with most attractions within easy reach of the centre. And it’s mainly flat making it ideal for sightseeing on foot or bike. Several companies offer rental bikes and cycling tours round Malaga including Bike2Malaga, or there’s the open-top Malaga Tour Bus whose routes gives you a good overview of the sights including the Gibralfaro Castle overlooking the city.

Taxis are plentiful and usually easy to find in the centre either at Taxi ranks or flagging down a passing cab showing a green light, though with much of the city centre pedestrianised it can be quicker to walk than take a taxi.

Top tip for visiting Malaga in a day

Pick up an audio guide from the Tourist Office in Plaza de la Marina (guides are free but you need to show your passport and a credit card). The six themed guides walk you round the main sites in Malaga and each tour lasts around two hours, excluding time for visits to museums etc.

You can also book a private tour guide through The Luxury Villa Collection for a bespoke day in the city with a local expert. Our Art in Malaga or Malaga Tapas tours are both excellent ways to see a side to the city you might miss with a guidebook.

What to See in Malaga

Modern Art: Take in some contemporary art in Malaga’s up-and-coming Soho District situated between the river and port. Begin at the Contemporary Art Centre (Cacmalaga.org) housed in a 1940’s market where the permanent and temporary exhibitions showcase the latest trends in modern art. Entry is free and guided tours are available in English.

Before you leave the CAC behind, admire the two massive murals that backdrop the museum. Painted by graffiti artists Obey and D Face in late 2013, these are a taste of the street art that characterises the narrow streets in the Soho District with galleries and small restaurants and bars. For coffee and snacks, try Picnic (Barroso 10) or Señor Lobo (Somera 10).

If you’d like a further dose of cutting-edge art, head for the Pompidou Centre on Muelle Uno on the Port. The iconic multi-coloured cube gives you a taster of what’s inside where the permanent collection of very, very modern art is guaranteed not to leave you indifferent. Don’t miss the museum shop, packed of fun and unusual gift ideas.

Indoor Market: Malaga’s largest and most colourful market, is the Mercado de Ataranzas, whose recently restored building contains the original 14th-century Moorish gateway plus some stunning stained glass windows. Take your time to browse the stalls for fresh local produce including olives, dried figs and raisins, and Malaga sweet wine.

Calle Larios: Next stop is Malaga’s most famous street, the pedestrianised Calle Larios, which is also its busiest and has become the vibrant central spine of the city.

Some sort of cultural display usually lines this pedestrian street and musicians, magicians and human statues always provide entertainment. Admire the 19th-century architecture as you make your way to the Plaza de la Constitución square at the top. Pop into the Café Central to see the tiled board explaining the ten types of coffee you can ask for in Malaga.

‘One-armed Lady’: Stop to admire Malaga’s unfinished Cathedral, known as ‘La Manquita’ as it only has one finished tower. Interior highlights include the Pedro de Mena choirstalls and two giant 18th-century organs. And if you fancy a tour of the Cathedral rooftops, book your place at the Palacio del Obispo or online (Museosmalaga.net). It’s 200 stairs up, but the panoramic views of the city below you make the climb more than worth it.

Museum of Malaga: The newest arrival on the Malaga cultural scene – it opened in mid-December – this giant museum ranks as the fifth largest in Spain and houses a unique collection of priceless archaeological pieces plus Spain’s largest exhibition of 19th century Spanish art. Look out for the opening of the top-floor restaurant (due mid-2017) with some of the best dining views in town. Find them on their Facebook page.

Romans Meet the Moors: Take a stroll round Malaga’s best-preserved and largest Roman monument, the Theatre, now restored to its former glory. From here, visit the Alcazaba fortress, not in the same league as the Alhambra in Granada, but the ruins give you an excellent idea of an 11th-century Moorish palace and there are lovely views over Malaga.

Picasso Museum: This is one of the best museums to get an overview of all the Malaga-born artist’s styles from adolescence to his last days. All the works were donated by the Picasso family and the permanent works are complemented with excellent temporary exhibitions. Tours are available in English (Museopicassomalaga.org). The 15th-century palace also houses Roman and Moorish remains in the basement.

Museo Carmen Thyssen Malaga : Over 200 works, mainly Spanish paintings from the 19th century, from the Baroness Thyssen’s private collection (Carmenthyssenmalaga.org) are on show in this restored Baroque palace. Temporary exhibitions are worth visiting too as they often include paintings by the world’s masters.

Sky-high: Take a ride on the Malaga Ferris Wheel (find it to the right of the port entrance) for some more great views of the city. Time your twirl for sundown to make the most of the last light over the sea, port, mountains and Costa del Sol beyond.

Gibralfaro: If you’re feeling energetic, walk up the (very) steep pathway to this Moorish castle perched over Malaga’s old quarter. If not, take the tour bus or a taxi. Admire the sunset over Malaga and the Mediterranean while sipping a drink on the terrace at the Parador hotel.

Meal stops – a few of our favourites

El Palmeral, Palmeral de las Sorpresas (just inside port, near Plaza de la Marina) – Open all day for food and drink, specials here include innovative starters and traditional mains (the fideuš is excellent). Sit outside for prime views of the port and pergola walkway. Palmeralmalaga.com

El Pimpi, Granada 62 (near the Roman Theatre and Picasso Museum) – A long-running favourite with locals, this labyrinthine restaurant also has a great outdoor terrace overlooking the Roman Theatre. While the food’s can be so-so, the setting and general atmosphere more than make up for it. Elpimpi.com

Eboka, Pedro de Toledo (off Císter, near the Cathedral) – One of the newest restaurants in town and it’s already difficult to get a table without a reservation. Eboka takes traditional Spanish dishes, gives them a new twist and accompanies them with the perfect wine – ask Antonio the manager for advice on pairing. Ebokarestaurante.com

Mixtúrate Gastrobar, Casas de Campos 4 (in Soho, one block from Hotel Room Mate Valeria) – Brazil meets Asia in Malaga at this funky new restaurant in the heart of Soho where all the dishes are a feast for the senses. Don’t miss the dessert tray – take your pick of the Kilner jars and lick your lips to the very last spoonful. https://www.facebook.com/pg/mixturategastrobar/about/?ref=page_internal

For more restaurants in Malaga see our top picks here, and for additional ‘must sees’ in Malaga, check out the Guide to Malaga travel app Guidetomalaga.com.

Like the sound of these things to do in Malaga – and looking for a beautiful place to stay nearby? Check out our collection of luxury villas near Malaga.