As a destination that has long made a name for itself as a haven for package-holidaymakers, I wasn’t sure what to expect from a weekend in Malaga. I pictured high-rise hotel buildings, sun worshippers packed on the sand like sardines and a lot of baked beans on the menu - but I couldn’t have been more wrong.
With its mild weather, slightly quieter streets and lovely slow-paced life, Spain’s south coast in spring couldn’t be a better choice for a long weekend jaunt. I stayed in an apartment for 2 days in Malaga and discovered it’s the perfect city for wandering, gallery-ing, eating and drinking a weekend away. Here’s the best of my discoveries on the Sunny Coast:
You can’t miss this bar and tapas spot, whether it’s the blue and white tiled exterior or the queue that seems to snake out the door at all hours. Fortunately, it moves fast, and you’ll be escorted through the bustling room for excellent vermouth, modern and tasty tapas and some of the best cured cheese I’ve ever had the pleasure of consuming.
Although it doesn’t open until 10am, a bit after breakfast if you’re trying to cram lots into a weekend in Malaga, a lazy afternoon tea is well-spent at Julia Bakery, with its lovely staff, excellent coffee, and stellar bread and pastries - we ended up taking the bread home for a DIY breakfast the next morning. Highly recommend the raspberry and mint lemonade on a sunny afternoon with a sugary pastry.
It’s a real treat wandering through Malaga’s central food market: the fruit stalls with strawberries the size of your head, the fishmongers with their catches of the day or the stalls that’ll give you a sample of their grilled almonds, manchego or stuffed olives if you linger long enough.
There’s also a bar in the middle of the market where you can pull up a stool to try Malagueña delicacies - fried fish, battered eggplant with a cane sugar sauce and the red pepper salad are all highlights, washed down with a pint of local beer or Rioja.
Tinto de Verano and fresh orange juice
They’re not bar recommendations per se, but you can’t leave without trying these two. The smell of blossoms from the orange trees follows you around the Costa, and the orange juice is every bit as fragrant and beautiful. Tinto de Verano is a local staple, Sangria’s fizzy mate - red wine mixed with local homemade lemonade, ice and a slice of lemon, and absolutely nothing goes down better with olives on a sunny afternoon. I’m taking the recipe back home.
Watch the sun go down behind the old Roman amphitheatre ruins as you down glass after glass of Tinto de Verano and traditional local tapas at this Malaga institution. El Pimpi is so popular they’ve taken over the entire square, with a gorgeous indoor restaurant with a maze of tiny rooms and wine barrels signed by their famous clientele.
It’s lacking the cool, calm atmosphere you might expect from a teahouse, but bustling La Teteria, sitting in the shade of Malaga’s Picasso Museum, is a lovely place to stop and gather your thoughts, figure out where the next meal will be, and enjoy a fruity tea and a great slice of cake.
La Madriguera Craft Beer
Spain is hardly known for its beer, but is definitely not immune to the brewer trend of the past decade. La Madriguera has a revolving door of interesting brews and some good light food to line the stomach with. Don’t (or...do…) try and get yourself on their leaderboard of pints consumed in a night. So far it’s 11, which gives me a hangover to even think about.
Galleries in Malaga
As Picasso’s birthplace, you can’t miss the Picasso museum - a fascinating look into the painter’s life that’s not too long, not too short and has a brilliant collection of works, sculptures, letters and photographs spread across the rooms of a beautiful Spanish mansion. They also present temporary exhibitions which are incredibly well-curated - currently it tells the story of Olga Picasso, the painter’s first wife and former ballerina.
In 2015, a Malaga offshoot of Paris’s modern art gallery Centre Pompidou was opened on the city’s port, with a solid permanent collection that’s lovely to spend a morning wandering around, and really good temporary exhibits straight from the Paris gallery. (For arty types, its gift shop is pretty excellent too; I had to have a couple of Frida Kahlo mugs prised out of my hands!)
Caminito del Rey
Hop on a 40-minute train from Malaga’s main train station to El Chorro, and you’re ready to walk the Caminito Del Rey - a 7.7km trail that was once the world’s most dangerous walkway, but has been transformed into a boardwalk that clings precariously to the cliff face with breathtaking views over the canyons and river below. Book early, as it sells out, and don’t do the guided tour if you can help it - wandering along at your own pace is much more exciting and satisfying.
Ferry to Morocco
It might be the easiest place in the world to go continent-hopping: from the Costa del Sol you can take a literal day trip to Africa or turn that long weekend into a week and experience the sensory overload that is Morocco’s northern port town. Two hours on a bus from Malaga, the port city of Algeciras has dozens of ferries that arrive in Tangier in just an hour and a half - and you can do organised day trips, or take things into your own hands and spend a couple of days wandering through the Kasbah, drinking tea on roof terraces overlooking the Strait of Gibraltar and bargaining for rugs and candles in the Medina.
Tempted to visit Malaga? Book your Malaga flights here and don’t forget to add the #RyanairStories tag to your Instagram photos.
- Matilda Edwards