Málaga, SPAIN – you can never go wrong when visiting Andalucía. As the largest city on the Costa del Sol and home to Pablo Picasso, Málaga is the perfect Mediterranean destination to soak up the sun and catch up on your siestas.
Our stay: 6 days / 6 nights
Our preference 9 times out of 10 is to use Airbnb when traveling, so we chose a centrally located apartment off a quite side street – between Plaza de la Merced and the Picasso Museum. Not to mention the nightly rate was 80€, allowing more $ for shopping!
If you’re looking for a 5 star experience, check out the Gran Hotel Miramar for elegant rooms near the beach. Room Mate Valeria is a trendy, more affordable option if you prefer to hit the rooftop pool. Room Mate Larios is a boutique hotel located near the main shopping avenue, restaurants, and cathedral.
Picasso Museum – arrive early at 10:00 am to beat the crowds and marvel at Picasso’s work. Free admission every Sunday the last two opening hours.
Alcazaba + Gibralfaro– explore the Moorish fortification before the sun peaks and don’t forget to visit the Roman Theater at the bottom (near El Pimpi). If you are short on time or energy, bus #35 will take you to up to the castle. Free entrance Sundays after 2:00 pm.
Hammam Al Andalus – relax at these Arabic baths while taking in stunning mudejar architecture. Choose the Midra 45 and indulge in a full water ritual on a hot stone bed (15 minutes) followed by an exclusive massage (30 minutes). Then head to the baths and alternate from cold, warm, hot and top it all off with the steam sauna. Bring your bathing suit and prepare to fully recharge. *Not to be confused with El Hamman Arabic Baths (Calle Tomas y Cozar).
Casa Lola – a must visit! Service is rather quick for being Spanish so order two tapas at a time if you want to enjoy a longer lunch or dinner. So great we went back twice!
We visited in September and needed dinner reservations after 9:00 PM each night, in true Spanish fashion. Tapeo de Cervantes, Meson de Cervantes, and Terral Gastobar were tasty options for dinner and Casa Aranda was the best for churros the next morning. We also frequented La Canasta for a quick breakfast many mornings before exploring the city.
La Barra de Zapata -#1 restaurant on TripAdvisor at the moment. The owners are very friendly and explain the seasonal menu in detail and make the experience highly personal. Reservations are needed to dine here. Ask to be seated “afuera” and get a view of the cathedral’s bell tower.
Marbella – the definition of Costa del Sol. Full of vacationing travelers, Marbella will give off more of an international feel. Don’t be surprised if you hear more Arabic than Spanish as Puerto Banús is a popular destination for Saudi royalty. The Golden Mile is home to some of the most exclusive and luxurious villas and estates with spectacular views.
The beach in Málaga city (Playa de la Malagueta) wasn’t our favorite so we traveled 45 min via Avanza Bus for a day of sun and sailing. We booked a half day private sail boat with Marbella Yatch Charters – incredible! There are two departure times to choose from (10am and 2pm) and 4 hours will run you 600€.
Hungry? Casa Blanca specializes in regional Andalucian cuisine. Grab a table outside (for people watching, of course) and order a variety of tapas from fried fish, Iberian hamburger, pork (all ways), and there’s even vermouth on tap. The brocheta de gambas and croquetas de jamón were at the top of my list. Mom’s favorite was the ensaladilla ruso (Russian potato salad). Make sure to leave some room for chocolate con churros at Churreria Ramon next door.
Travel tip: look for the DIRECT bus route to Nerja (not Nerja Caves) or be prepared to travel for 1:45 minutes with stops. We purchased our tickets with Alsa one day prior for about 10€ each way to reserve our seats. When arriving in Nerja, the bus stop is a small kiosk stand on the side of the street (no physical bus station). From there take a taxi to the caves (about 10 minute drive).
Pack your bathing suit and enjoy the crystal blue waters of Nerja. It’s a smaller beach, but you’ll be glad to cool down even if it’s for a quick dip.
Now off to Madrid to catch our flight back to the states!