It’s a common dilemma – you like to spend time seeing the sights when you’re on holiday, but your companion just wants to stretch out in the sunshine. Book a few days in Malaga, however, and the problem is solved, as you can do both.
The city is renowned as a gateway to the marvellous sun, sea and sand summer holiday hotspots of southern Spain’s Costa del Sol, but it’s a great short break destination in its own right, too.
Malaga has 14 kilometres of great beaches and hotels to suit all budgets, of course: from five-star choices with all the trimmings, such as Hotel Vincci Selección Posada del Patio in the historic centre, which even has a rooftop pool, to inexpensive self-catering apartments.
But it also has world-class museums, lots of shopping, tempting bars and restaurants and diverse experiences to enjoy, from flamenco lessons to Segway tours.
What’s more, the flight from the UK takes only around three hours and Malaga’s airport is just a 20-minute drive from the city centre. So, here is your guide to spending 48 hours in Malaga…and making the most of it!
Day one: morning
Jump on a City Sightseeing bus, the quickest, cheapest way to get a good overview of Malaga (from 18 euros for a 24-hour hop-on, hop-off ticket, city-sightseeing.com).
Do the whole circuit, which includes Gibralfaro Castle, the impressive 11th-century Moorish citadel called Alcazaba and the Roman Theatre, to get your bearings, then choose sights which interest you most to go back to.
Malaga has more than 30 museums, but don’t miss the Picasso Museum (entrance from 8 euros, museopicassomalaga.org) and especially Picasso’s Birthplace Museum (entrance 3 euros, fundacionpicasso.malaga.eu), where you can learn about the artist’s childhood and see fascinating artefacts including his toy soldiers and early works.
Day one: afternoon
Grab lunch on the hoof if you need to save time – Malaga Central Market (Mercado Central de Atarazanas) is foodies’ heaven, with olives, almonds, cheeses, mouth-watering cured meats, munchy bread… There are sit-down places to eat, too.
Next, move on to the Carmen Thyssen Museum, a short walk away. This museum focuses on 19th-century Spanish painting, but also has impressive special exhibitions, so do buy the combined ticket (entrance 9 euros, carmenthyssenmalaga.org). Arabian Fantasy. Orientalist Painting in Spain (1860-1900) runs until March 1, 2020, for example.
My favourite cultural place though was MIMMA, the interactive music museum. Apart from the displays of ancient and modern musical instruments, there’s the chance to have a go yourself on everything from violins to pianos (entrance 5 euros, mimma.es). Do catch the Jaleo Flamenco Show there, too, if you can, 15 euros – it’s excellent.
End the day very pleasantly at a bar on La Malagueta Beach, with an ice-cold beer and a leisurely dinner of scrumptious ‘espeto’, fresh sardines on a skewer cooked on a barbecue.
Day two: morning
After breakfast, hire a bike (from 10 euros for a day, rentacarprima.com, Calle Alemania) and cycle to the Jardin Botanico Historico La Concepcion (you can take the bus or jump in a taxi if you prefer).
Around 5kms from the city centre, these truly lovely 23-hectare gardens dating to 1855, feature more than 25,000 lush plants from around the world. There are also waterfalls, fountains, statues, multi-coloured frogs, gorgeous butterflies, terrapins and delightful red squirrels who aren’t too camera-shy.
Don’t miss the stupendous view over Malaga from the old gazebo, or El Mirador Historico – do sit and enjoy the sunshine for a while and have a light lunch in the cafétiera after a good walk round. Entrance 5.20 euros, laconcepcion.malaga.eu
Day two: afternoon
Late afternoon, return your bikes to the hire shop in the city centre. Take a stroll along the tree-lined Paseo del Parque, then down towards the harbour, calling in at the colourful Rubik’s Cube lookalike Pompidou Cultural Centre if you like. Take a turn around La Farola, one of Spain’s oldest lighthouses built in 1816, buy a few souvenirs perhaps in the new shops lining Paseo del Muelle Uno, then choose a restaurant – popular Restaurante Toro serves good Mediterranean cuisine.
Finally, head for Antigua Casa de Guardia for a nightcap. Dating back to 1840 and the oldest bar in Malaga, the atmospheric tavern was reputedly a favourite haunt of the young Picasso, and serves famous Malaga wine from the barrel.
This post is written by guest writer Wendy Gomersall.