More and more UK travellers are making time in their holidays to Spain’s busy beaches to schedule a stopover in Málaga. There’s a good reason for this – the ancient port has become something of a hip city hangout in recent years.
After years as the rather grotty city you passed through on your pilgrimage to sand, sea and sun, the mayor Francisco de la Torre has put the city through a programme of rejuvenation. Cleaning up the city centre so that visitors could actually see the beautiful buildings, investing in new art projects and architecture and encouraging a burgeoning scene of independent restaurants and boutiques have all helped to bring the city back to life.
So, if you have just 24 hours to spare on your next trip to a Spanish beach, here’s my itinerary for getting the most out of the city in a short time.
A Morning to See the Sights
The sun should be shining and you’ve only got a limited amount of time so I’m not going to suggest you spend it trawling around cathedrals or galleries. An outdoor tour of Málaga’s street art scene in the up and coming Soho District is a great way to spend a morning.
Málaga Arte Urbano Soho (or MAUS) is an initiative which has brought together world-renowned street artists like D*Face, Obey, Pejac and Faith47 with local practitioners to create a cutting edge urban art scene. Download a map of artwork from their website or book a tour.
To get a sense of how the old sits beside the new in the city today, follow your street art tour with a trip to the Alcazaba fortress, a Moorish palace set in the heart of the old town, with beautiful gardens reminiscent of Granada’s Alhambra. It’s a great place for a dramatic selfie to post for friends back home.
Lunch at El Pimpi
With a terrace which looks up towards the Alcazaba, El Pimpi may be a tourist trap but it has also been frequented by the likes of Antonio Banderas and Paloma Picasso, as well as the locals who still flock here in droves. The interior is traditionally Spanish with tiles and wooden beams, while the food is just as authentic with plates of Iberian ham, calamari and a delicious cold local soup called Salmorejo.
Time For a Little Relaxation at Hammam Al Andalus
Just because you’re on a whistle-stop tour doesn’t mean you don’t have time for a little pampering indulgence. The Hammam Al Andalus offers authentic Arabic bath treatments close to the city’s ancient Arab Wall (so you could almost call this a cultural experience… almost).
Enjoy a traditional hammam in a range of hot and cold baths followed by a massage against a backdrop of lantern-lit Arabic tiles and marble floors at this atmospheric spa, followed by a cup of green tea with mint.
After all that relaxation it’s probably time for more food, and luckily it should be about tapas time. (Don’t even think of eating dinner this early – the locals never eat until gone 10pm, so tide yourself over with some delicious tapas and think like a Spaniard.)
Some of the best tapas in Málaga is to be found at Gorki, with a great range of fresh local specialities served with some excellent wines. If you’re looking for something a little more casual, with more emphasis on wine and less on the food, try the traditional Mesón Cortijo de Pepe.
The great thing about searching out the best tapas is that it also takes you to some of the city’s best bars – you might want to turn tapas time into cocktail hour at one of the city’s many rooftop terraces. Check out La Terraza at Alcazaba Premium Hostel or Molina Lario for hotel rooftops open to non-guests.
Dinner at Last
Okay, you’ve waited long enough and, let’s be honest, you probably need to soak up some of those cocktails; it’s time to head out for a traditional Spanish dinner at Los Patio de Beatas. Two eighteenth-century villas were combined to create this stylish eatery with its emphasis on excellent wine. For a really indulgent treat, try the four-course tasting menu which pairs each course with a different wine from its cellar.
How to Get to Málaga
As the gateway to many of Spain’s beaches, Málaga has a large international airport with many regular flights from the UK at all different price points. The journey from the airport only takes around 20 minutes but save yourself a queue at the taxi rank by booking an airport transfer before you leave home with Shuttle Direct. Book online and a Shuttle Direct driver will meet you at the airport when you arrive and drive you to your accommodation.
Where to Stay:
Villa Málaga – Enjoy the convenience of a Bed & Breakfast option for your 24-hour stopover at the Villa Málaga. Close to the beach with a bus stop outside for quick access into the city centre, it also has access to a shared bathroom and kitchen.
Salles Hotel Málaga Centro – Put yourself at the centre of town at the Salles Hotel Málaga Centro. Close to the sights and sounds of the city, this hotel also has a beautiful rooftop pool terrace for guests to enjoy.
Hotel Don Curro – Right in the centre of town, the Hotel Don Curro is a great place to lay your head during your 24-hour stopover as you’ll be within walking distance of everything you’ll want to see. There’s also a restaurant serving local Mediterranean dishes, a lounge area, and even a bingo hall!
About Shuttle Direct:
A leading provider of airport transfers to destinations across Europe and North Africa, Shuttle Direct is the quickest and most convenient way of getting from the airport to your final destination. Choose between a private car or an economical shared group transfer – you can book online before you set off to ensure a hassle-free journey the other side.