From designer clothes and luxurious jewellery stores to village street markets; from the city centre department stores to the out-of-town malls, the Costa del Sol is the ideal place for a bit of retail therapy. That said, like me, most visitors would rather be soaking up the sun than browsing the stores.
Despite there now being more than 30 shopping centres, most of which are situated at entrances to larger towns, most urban central areas are still thriving with a range of boutiques, high-street names and specialist shops. In addition, most towns and villages have weekly street markets selling everything from fresh produce to ceramics.
Supermarkets, shopping centres and department stores are generally open from 9.30am or 10am until 9pm or 10pm. Smaller, independent shops, especially those within town centres, close for a three hour siesta from 2pm. Oh, and almost every retail outlet will be closed on Sundays, except during December and August.
Food and drink
In my opinion, this part of Spain produces some of the best food in Europe. I love to bag myself some speciality olive oils and jamón serrano to take back to the UK from one of the many independent food stores found in every town and village. If, like me, you have a sweet tooth, get yourself some handmade confectionary at Le Panto in Fuengirola, Malaga and Marbella town centres.
Most of the exclusive clothes, accessories and jewellery shops can be found in the millionaires’ playgrounds of Puerto Banús and Sotogrande. Bulgari, Prada and Armani, amongst a host of others, will have your credit cards crying out for mercy.
All under one roof
Spain’s leading department store, El Corte Inglés, which reminds me of the UK’s House of Fraser chain, are found in Malaga, Mijas Costa (although it’s closer to Fuengirola), and Puerto Banús.
Out of town malls
With brands like Top Shop, Dorothy Perkins, Mango and Zara, plus smaller gift, electrical, music and shoe shops, you could be anywhere in the world in these retail centres. La Cañada and Marina Banús in Marbella, Myramar in Fuengirola, and La Rosaleda, Plaza Mayor and the Larios Centre in Malaga are, in my opinion, the best options. All have free parking, cinemas, and a range of fast food restaurants and cafés.
Most towns and villages have a municipal street market once a week where professional market traders (who go from town to town) set up next to amateur car-booters. Besides the usual souvenirs, clothes, local produce (including olives, herbs and pastries), look out for brightly coloured ceramics, leather products, handmade jewellery, as well as Moroccan kitchenware and rugs (North Africa is just a few miles across the sea). In some markets, like Estepona and Fuengirola, you’ll find antiques and handmade furniture.
My favourite weekly markets
Marbella – Monday mornings, near the car showrooms on the eastern side of town.
Puerto Banús – Saturdays, by the bullring. This is a large, sprawling market with lots of antiques.
Fuengirola - Tuesdays and Saturdays at the fairground site. This is a massive market catering for the large expat population.