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Málaga cathedral from the Alcazaba / Image: Getty Images

1. See things differently at the Picasso Museum

Noted artistic oddball Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga in 1881. Though he moved away during childhood, the southern Spanish city has long held a candle for its most famous son. And where better to explore the father of Cubism’s legacy than through his work, at his very own eponymous museum. Some 155 pieces were donated by his family after his death, while the collection also includes private artefacts and photographs exploring the fascinating and sometimes wild private life of this peerless artistic icon.  

Palacio de Buenavista, Calle San Agustín, Centro
General entry €9

2. Find a hidden temple at La Concepción Jardín Botánico Histórico

Duck out of the blazing heat of the city into this charming little hillside Eden, sprawled out around a mid-19th-century country estate north of the centre, and studded with meticulously curated tropical and subtropical plants. It’s all very romantic, with waterfalls and fountains dotted all over the place to be discovered and snapped for posterity. You can even turn your visit into a bit of an Indiana Jones-style quest, by trying to seek out the mysterious overgrown Doric temple that once housed the family treasure. A very jolly folly.

3 Camino del Jardín Botánico, Finca la Concepción
General entry €5.20


3. Lay siege to the Alcazaba fortress

Dominating the city’s lofty eastern hillside, this 11th-century fortification is linked to the muscular, militant-looking Gibralfaro castle along an evocative battlement-lined walk. Frequently compared with Granada’s almighty Alhambra – in terms of its Moorish finery and luxurious interiors – the Alcazaba is a feast of plush gardens, delicate decor and civilised refinement in its own right. Although that view is somewhat undermined if you visit the dungeons, where Christian slave girls were supposedly deposited overnight. Still, the views over modern Malaga are nice.

2 Calle Alcazabilla, La Coracha, Centro
General entry €3.50

4. Colour yourself surprised at the Pompidou Centre

The Pompidou’s only outpost outside France is just as progressive and agreeably nuts as the more famous, pipe-strewn Parisian pile. Browse larger-than-life modern, bold works with lashings of subtle (and not-so-subtle) subtext, alongside stone-cold classics like Salvador Dalí's Partial Hallucination: Six images of Lenin on a Piano; much-loved local Picasso’s primary-coloured still life Nature Morte (Naturaleza Muerta); and a great bevy of work by other Spanish impresarios. The collection is set over 6,000 square metres, under an appropriately brash multicoloured cube, situated right on the seafront. But is it art? Yes, it most certainly is.

Pasaje Doctor Carrillo Casaux, La Malagueta
General entry €7

5. Take a hike up the Rio Chíllar

Although a modest trek – roughly 45 minutes by car – out of Malaga proper, the hike up the Rio Chíllar is not to be missed, being a linchpin of actual-Spanish-people summer family fun. The river fetchingly cuts through the Sierras de Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama Natural Parks, so there’s lots of lush scenery, enough shade and sparkling-clear pools to splash about in. Wear shoes you don’t mind getting soaked, and don’t stop walking until you reach the famous pounding waterfalls.

Near Nerja, Málaga

6. Improve your market value at Mercado Central de Atarazanas

Over the centuries, the lively space under this hulking great iron arch has variously housed a convent, a military barracks, a hospital and a shipyard. Nowadays it’s a buzzy marketplace, where locals and tourists shop for and nosh on the best of local produce. The enormous, ravishing stained-glass window – depicting a time 500 years ago when the Mediterranean lapped up against its very walls – is worth a day out in itself. But it’d be rude not to sample the goods, from tempura-fried veggies to pigs ears, washed down (natch) with a wee caña of beer or two.

10 Calle Atarazanas, Centro

7. Rev up in style at the Malaga Automobile and Fashion Museum

Even if you’re not much of a petrolhead, there’s plenty of beautifully designed autos to coo over at Malaga’s ever-popular auto museum. From vintage jalopies dating back to the 1800s to concept cars designed to run on compressed air, there’s loads here to pique the nerdiest interests (a big shout-out, too, to the psychedelic-painted Rolls-Royce once owned by John Lennon). There’s also high-end fashion, randomly, with dresses and couture millinery from the likes of Chanel, Dior and Galliano. Something for bonnet lovers everywhere, you might say.

15 Avenida de Sor Teresa Prat, near Avenida Maria
General entry €9.50


8. Hit the high notes at the MIMMA

Bored of museums that don’t let you get your grubby mitts on the good stuff? The Museo Interactivo de la Música  (MIMMA) – set in the pretty 18th-century Palacio del Conde Navas – hears you. A great shout on a rainy day, this spot is chock full of stuff you can pluck, beat and blow into (Covid allowing, of course). Whether venting your frustrations in the medium of melody or sincerely experimenting to see what kind of musician you could be in another life, it's all terribly good fun. It's enlightening too, with weird and wonderful sound machines from cultures around the world in the collection. All in all, it’s a surprisingly harmonious day out.

15 Calle Beatas, La Merced
General entry €5

9. Find a hot espetos joint on the beach

Sardines are a huge deal in Malaga, and for absolutely the most authentic experience you should seek out an ‘espeto’ – basically, six sardines on a skewer, grilled over an olive wood fire, on a beach. These delectable fishsticks have been an evening ritual since Phoenician times, with their evocative smells, spitting fat and cracking wood. Try an unfussily served indoor take on the classic at Marisquería Mani at (Urbinazación Puerto Caleta, 177, Caleta de Vélez), or for ultimate traditional vibes swing by titchy chiringuito’ joint Andrés Maricuchi (at 14 Paseo Marítimo el Pedregal, Pedregalejo Playa).

10. Drink in the vibes at Mañana Cocktail Bar

When you’re done with all the hifalutin' cultural stuff, come hang out with the local cool kids at this lively little cocktail spot just off the Plaza de la Merced. An ever-changing menu of perky drinks, groovy snacks, easy-on-the-eye bar staff and a hip soundtrack make for a swell place to start your night out, or settle in for a good old-fashioned sesh. If you’re off the sauce, no stress – there’s decent coffee and juice, if that’s more your vibe. No judgment here – at the end of the day, Mañana is all about quality mixing.

7 Calle San Juan de Letrán, Plaza de la Merced

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