Costa del Sol: Malaga, Spain
While we are deep into fall and pumpkin spice lattes in the Northern hemisphere, summer and sangria are still alive on the Costa del Sol. Not as popular as Barcelona in the north, the birthplace of Pablo Picasso – Malaga – is not to be overlooked as a great base from which to explore the magic of Andalucia.
Between May and September, Delta blesses the world (or, at least NYC…) with seasonal, nonstop flights from JFK. Outside of that window, it’s a bit more of a production. If you can get a worthwhile layover somewhere (Amsterdam, Paris), opt for a connecting flight. Otherwise, just fly to Madrid and get on the train down to Malaga (~3 hours). Of course, you can also get a connecting flight through Madrid, but most connections are either 45 min or 5 hours. I am not a huge fan of missing flights or spending my life in airport lounges – but, to each their own.
Where to sleep…
You’ll want to stay right in the city center so that you can walk around everywhere and not have to depend on Uber/taxis.
- Room Mate Valeria – Boutique feel.
- AC Hotel by Marriott Malaga Palacio – Awesome top deck for sunset cocktails (and a generally good option if you’re trying to maximize your Bonvoy points).
Where to eat…
If it’s not obvious by now, I live to eat! There’s nothing worse than having a bad meal. Unfortunately, in Malaga it’s easy to wander into a tourist trap and while you may think to yourself, “Can they really mess up jamon?” Trust me – it’s possible. These are my favorite places for a guaranteed good bite:
- La Barra de Zapata – Rafael, the owner, will ensure you don’t overeat. His seasonal gazpachos are out of this world. Make a reservation.
- Casa Lola – Endless tapas and vermouth on tap.
- Pecado Iberico – Solid food inspired by the Iberian peninsula (pork tataki and octopus are staples here).
- Buenavista Gastrobar – The best oxtail croquettes I’ve ever had.
- Sake Izakaya – If you’re up for Japanese food made with fresh, Spanish ingredients – Chef Juan really crushes it here.
- KGB – Non-traditional takes on traditional tapas.
- Byoko – Fresh, organic juices and other light fare.
- Malaga Central Market – When all else fails, take a stroll through one of the most beautiful markets in Spain.
- Any one of the many chiringuitos – What is a chiringuito? It’s a typical beachside, casual restaurant usually grilling up fresh seafood. Follow your nose and the crowd (the more Spanish you hear – the more locals which usually means the food is better than some place feeding the masses that will likely never return – the ones on the Malagueta are more touristy than others).
What to do…
The beach is always an option, but there’s plenty to keep you occupied if worshipping the sun gets the best of you.
- Hammam Al Andalus – Treat yourself to a spa day!
- Picasso Museum – Not as great as the one in Barcelona, but he was born here so it’s something you should see (NOTE: if you’re really into Picasso, you can visit his birthplace located in the city center which is also a museum).
- Alcazaba – Iconic citadel built in the 11th century.
- Catedral de la Encarnación de Málaga – The cathedral in the center of town is quite iconic given it’s visible above the skyline.
- Caminito del Rey – Formerly the world’s most dangerous footpath (~1 hour drive, 4-5 hours to walk the path)
- Marbella – Yachts and Michelin stars in Puerto Banus (~30 min drive)
- Ronda – Home of Spain’s first bullfighting ring (~1.5 hours drive)
- Nerja – Discovered in 1959 by some kids looking for bats, these impressive caves have some of the oldest prehistoric drawings on the plant (~45 min drive)
- Grenada – La Alhambra (~1.5 hours drive)
- Gibraltar – For those who want to say they’ve been there… They won’t stamp your passport, though. (Honestly, it’s just a rock…and if you’re lucky you’ll see some monkeys. PRO TIP – Don’t drive over the border. Park and walk across as it could take up to ~4 hours to drive out depending on how much border control cares about checking passports that day…~2 hours drive)