Often referred to as the ‘jewel’ of the Costa del Sol, Nerja on the east of Spain’s most famous coast is a relatively tranquil and reassuringly Spanish destination.
Just an hour’s drive east of Málaga, set against the stunning backdrop of the Sierra Almijara, Nerja has managed to fight off the over-development of much of this stretch of coast so that, especially in the town’s low-rise heart, it remains resolutely Spanish.
Of course there are souvenir shops and it does get its fair share of day trippers but, so long as you avoid the peak summer season, you’ll be able to enjoy its peaceful atmosphere and beautiful beaches without having to share them with too many crowds.
A weekend in Nerja is a blissful combination of relaxing on a beach, swimming in the sea (sea temperatures are still a little chilly in February at around 15ºC but the water is clear and inviting for those brave enough to give it a go), and a little gentle sightseeing.
Here’s my suggested itinerary for the perfect weekend break in Nerja.
Morning – A Ride Around Town
A great way to kick off your time in Nerja is to get to know the town a little so that you can navigate yourself for the rest of the weekend. A lovely, relaxing way to do this is to take a leisurely horse-drawn carriage tour of the town’s centre.
Head down to the Plaza Fabrica de los Cangrejos and you’ll find a number of carriages waiting. The tour takes about 30 minutes and should cost around €30.
Lunch – Paella on the Beach
For a truly unique lunch experience head to Merendero Ayo on Paseo Maritimo Antonio Mercero. Set practically on the beach at Playa Burriana, this open-air eatery serves paella cooked over an open fire. The friendly staff will pile your plate high with sizzling, delicious paella, and if you manage to finish it all, they’ll give you second helpings for free.
Afternoon – Relax in the Sun
After all that sightseeing and paella you’ll deserve a lie down, so the best thing I can recommend for your first afternoon is a relaxing sunbathing session on the beach. Step across the sand from Merendero Avo and you’re on one of Nerja’s best beaches, the long stretch of sand which makes up Playa Burriana.
If you’re looking for something a little more secluded, head back down the coast towards the Balcón de Europa and you’ll discover the picturesque cove of Playa Calahonda.
Evening – Stroll Down the Balcón de Europa
The Balcón de Europa or ‘Balcony of Europe’ is pretty much the beating heart of Nerja. Built on a cliff edge on the site of a ninth-century fortification, the Balcón was transformed in the nineteenth century into a beautiful vantage point for the town. With spectacular vistas out across the sea, it has become a bustling meeting place for the town’s population and tourists alike.
In the evenings the Balcón comes alive with street performers, artists and live musicians, while many locals come here to take an evening stroll as the sun goes down.
Dinner With a View
For a truly romantic experience head to Rey Alfonso set in the rocks below the Balcón. Its own panoramic views are complemented by the semi-circle of plate-glass windows looking out over the sea and the food is a delicious modern fusion of Spanish and European, making the best of the fresh seafood on offer here.
From the Balcón it is only a short walk to the lively bars of the Plaza Balcón de Europa. After dinner stroll up here and enjoy the lively atmosphere in the bars, some of which will happily stay open way into the early hours.
Take a Day Trip to the Nerja Caves
You can’t really come to Nerja without posting a picture or two of you standing in the famous Cuevas de Nerja or ‘Nerja Caves’. Discovered in the 1950s, the caves are not only beautiful in themselves but also contain wall paintings believed to be around 20,000 years old. While only some chambers are open to the public, it is well worth the excursion to see these stunning caves.
Out of peak summer season the caves are open from 10.00-18.30 and entrance will cost €8.50.
Dinner – A ‘Tapas Run’ in Nerja
This is really a more sophisticated, Spanish version of a pub crawl so expect dinner to run into drinks that keep on flowing well into the early hours.
The idea of a ‘tapas run’ is that you move from tapas bar to tapas bar through the town, enjoying a selection of the great local dishes and a drink or two in each bar. There are so many tapas bars in Nerja to choose from and most of them are very good but my selection would definitely include Los Bilbainos, close to Calle Pintada, La Puntilla and Chispa’s.
How to Get to Nerja
The closest airport to Nerja is Málaga, just 70km away, which offers a range of budget flights from airlines including easyJet, Ryanair and Monarch. Transfers are also possible from Granada and Almeria airports.
The quickest way to kick off your weekend in Nerja is to book an airport transfer with Shuttle Direct before you set off; that way you can be sure a driver will be waiting for you when you arrive and you won’t waste part of your precious weekend queuing for taxis.
Where to Stay:
Marinas de Nerja Beach & Spa – You’ll find everything you need for a relaxing beachside minibreak at Marinas de Nerja Beach & Spa. The stylish apartments and studios all have their own balconies. Downstairs there’s a spa, two swimming pools, two restaurants (one with a terrace overlooking the beach), a bar and a poolside bar.
Hotel Balcón de Europa – This elegant four-star hotel is tucked into the cliff face of a beautiful cove just below the Balcón de Europa, which puts you right at the heart of Nerja. The Hotel Balcón de Europa offers stunning views out to the ocean, especially from its excellent restaurant; it also has an outdoor swimming pool.
Parador de Nerja – Watching the sun set from the terrace of the restaurant at Parador de Nerja is a memory you won’t quickly forget. Set up on a cliff top, the ocean views are spectacular. There’s a lift down to Burriana Beach if you want to sunbath on sand or you could lounge by the hotel’s pool or play tennis on its tennis court.
About Shuttle Direct:
A leading provider of airport transfers to hundreds of destinations across Europe and North Africa, Shuttle Direct provides the quickest way of getting from the airport to your hotel destination. Book a private car or an economical shared group transfer online before you set off and you’ll be met at the airport and taken directly to your destination so you can start enjoying your weekend straight away.