Nearly 3,000 years old, Málaga, Spain, on the banks of the Mediterranean, offers an intriguing mix of the ancient and modern. Images of Phonecians in long tunics and mantles trading goods at the port have given way to happy locals in brightly colored sundresses and espadrilles. The Phoenicians named it Malaka (meaning salt), but the city is sweet in every way, offering something fresh to be savored.
The birthplace of Pablo Picasso affords guests 320 sunny days a year, making Málaga an ideal destination for a short or long city break no matter the season. Although it has been dubbed “the new Barcelona,” the local Malagueños respectfully disagree. The city breathes a strong Andalusian spirit and even with increased tourism, Málaga has retained its authentic Southern Spanish charm. The slow pace and relaxed atmosphere make it the perfect destination for food, wine and anything relaxing.
Meander through the Old Town, past centuries-old churches and charming alleys. Two-hundred-year-old buildings with Andalusian balconies blend seamlessly with modern squares. Turn a corner, and you’ll spy an open-air Roman theater dating back to the first century. Continue to the modern port and walk down the promenade, which is surrounded by elegant palm fronds and waterfront restaurants. Breathe in the sights and sounds of this magical seafront escape.
Traversing the winding city streets will satisfy your tastebuds as savory and sweet delights can be found on nearly every corner. Seafood reigns supreme here—it’s a port city after all—with hundreds of restaurants offering fritura malagueña, one of the dishes that define the city. Chefs choose either squid or cuttlefish to deep fry until they are crispy on the outside.
Anchovies are treated like gold here. Locals savor two versions of boquerones—one fried and one doused in vinegar, garlic and parsley. The former is a simple snack while the latter is a typical tapas of the region. For a special detour, head to Pedregalejo, a small fishing village 10 minutes from the city center that is known for its vibrant fish plates.
Paella is also prevalent in the area with crustier bottoms and a thicker texture than other regions of Spain. Wash it down with a Cortejal, a sweet wine native to the region, and you’re already living like a local.
Málaga boasts hundreds of affordable eateries for a light lunch or a more filling dinner. Situated next to the main food market, you’ll find Recyclo Bike Café, a hotspot for young urbanites with a relaxing atmosphere and a wealth of locally sourced vegan, vegetarian or meat options. Bicycles hang from the ceiling—you can even rent one for the day—and local art adorns the walls. Order the menu of the day, which includes a starter, main course, dessert and soft drink. Try the crispy arepas with savory pulled pork and creamy guacamole or, if you’re vegan, the croquetas caseras with spinach and pine nuts.
For a more frenetic but no less authentic vibe, the Taberna del Siglo is an ideal choice, if a little pricier than some of its competitors. The restaurant is known throughout the city as the place to try spinach croquettes and gambas, a local delicacy. The croquettes are super soft, striking the perfect balance between salty and sweet. Pair them with a glass of Rioja, a popular varietal with locals due to its light body and pairing ability.
Gambas al ajillo—garlic shrimp indigenous to Andalusia—is the perfect appetizer. Taberna’s version is soaked in a garlic and tomato sauce, which works perfectly with the seasoned prawns. Order a plate of patatas bravas on the side and you’re good to go.
Málaga is a city renowned for its historic sites. With more than 40 museums—all of which are free on Sundays—and frequent monthly events, you will find many things to do.
Start at the Roman Theater, a 3,000-year-old archaeological marvel. Undiscovered for many years—it was unearthed in 1951—the theater is now one of the most iconic sites in the city. Discover ancient texts and artifacts that tell the story of not just the Romans but the Moors as well. During the summer, the theater is packed with music lovers enjoying live performances under a starlit sky.
Built in the 14th century when the Moors still ruled Spain, Castle Gibralfaro pays homage to the city’s vibrant past. The limestone fort is now a military museum and offers tours throughout the day. To get here, start at the Roman Theater and work your way up dozens of steps. Take your time—you can get to the top in 15 minutes but most locals stroll at a leisurely pace to make the most of the views.
Málaga hosts a variety of events throughout the year, mostly from spring to fall. The week-long Feria de Gusta in August is considered one of the can’t-miss affairs on the Andalusian calendar. The fete celebrates the Catholic reconquest of Spain and activities run the gamut from dance—think verdiales, a local take on traditional flamenco—to bullfights. Activities are split between day and night.
Ibis Málaga Centro Ciudad
In the city center but away from the main tourist drag lies the Hotel Ibis Málaga Centro. Part of the large Ibis chain, the Málaga outpost boasts contemporary design and bright and airy rooms. Grab a drink in the modern bar or relax in the comfy lounge. For a longer repast, head to Le Grand Café Centro next door. Here you can sit back at your leisure and enjoy a coffee or drink before you head out for the night.
Room Mate Larios Hotel
The Room Mate Larios Hotel is in the heart of it all on Calle Larios. Explore the Plaza de la Constitución, one of the biggest and most important squares in the city. The Art Deco design hotel boasts 41 rooms and six apartments. Contemporary furnishings can be found throughout with oval wooden mirrors and flatscreen TVs in all rooms. Upgrade to an apartment for a more intimate experience. Ornate wallpaper, tufted red leather chairs and hardwood floors abound. Enjoy a drink on your private terrace as you contemplate what next to do in Málaga.