By IAIN MILLER
Sun, sea and sand, the holy triumvirate of sun-seekers everywhere. If cheap and cheerful tickles your fancy, then the Costa del Sol (literally, the Sunshine Coast) in the Spanish region of Andalusia is the tried and tested traveller favourite. The unofficial capital of the Costa del Sol, Malaga, has established something of a reputation for its beachfront bar scene, but fortunately, there’s enough culture here to counterbalance the party lifestyle, leaving you with more than enough to do in the time between recovering at your hotel pool or on the beach with a parasolled cocktail, and heading out to the bars in the evening heat. It’s also great for a winter break, with temperatures averaging at around 20°C even in off-peak season. It’s quieter and less crowded, and the sea is still warm enough to swim in during May and October.
Perhaps surprisingly for this party town, Malaga’s founding in 770BC by the Phoenicians makes it one of the oldest cities in all of Europe. Today, the city still shows its Roman, Arabic and Byzantine influences in its varied architecture. This makes it a great town to explore at street level. It’s packed full of museums (more than in any other Andalucian city), including two dedicated to Picasso, who was born here in 1881. The Museo Picasso combines two extensive private collections of original works with various other pieces, and is housed in a beautiful Renaissance style palazzo. The Museo Carmen Thyssen also hosts some fantastic exhibitions, as well as its permanent collections of some of the best in 19th century paintings. In recent years, the city has undergone a major cultural revival, and upmarket boutique hotels and bars with rooftop bars and pools are opening up around the city. With its City of Culture 2016 nomination, this is one of my top tips for up and coming European cities, and one to watch in the coming years. It surely looks set to give its trendy neighbour Marbella a run for its money! Malaga airport has the advantage of being located only 8 km southwest of the city centre – about twenty minutes by car or taxi – and Malaga airport transfers can be booked in advance at a lower price than from the taxi ranks.
The stretches of beach along the Promenade de Pablo Ruiz Picasso remain one of the main pulling points of the city, with Playa Malagueta and Playa la Caleta being the most popular. The latter has pedalos departing from its 1 km stretch of famously clean sand, and La Malguteta is within easy reach of the city centre. There are other, smaller beaches, most lined with beach bars. El Palo has some good restaurants with lovely sea views, and Las Acacias is great for families. If you’re after a more romantic daytime activity, then strolling the streets of the Old Town could be just the ticket. It’s far enough from the main party drag to be quiet, but filled with enough quirky shops, pavement stalls and beautiful cathedrals to make for an interesting and busy walk through its winding cobbled paths. All in all, there’s plenty to see in this wonderful cultural city. It gets our stamp of approval. But what about yours?
Iain Miller is a travel blogger with an unhealthy interest in poker and dreams of making it big in Vegas. He has been working in marketing for the past 3 ½ years and is now helping to promote www.Suntransfers.com