The Spanish city of Malaga has everything for a perfect short break - easy transfer from the airport, one of the best climates in Europe, culture, bars and restaurants aplenty and an enormous beach
Leaving every half hour, the no19 bus takes you from the airport to la Alameda principal in the centre of the city in under 30 minutes. Or, if you prefer, follow the train sign from the airport for a transfer by rail to Maria Zambrano station but you’ll then have a 15-minute walk to the historic centre.
Where to stay
AC Malaga Palacio (Cortina Del Muelle 1)
Great location with spacious rooms. Also has a rooftop offering stunning views over the city.
Molina Lario (Molina Lario 20-22)
An independent boutique hotel in a perfect location with a small rooftop pool.
Hotel Sur (Trinidad Grund 13)
Great value. Spotlessly clean rooms with aircon. No restaurant but centrally placed for a choice of breakfast venues.
Hotel Maestranza (Avenida Canovas del Castillo 1)
This hotel is near the beach and bullring, yet only a 10-minute stroll down the leafy Paseo del Parque to the heart of the city. Friendly staff and clean rooms.
With average daytime temperatures of 16° Celsius in January and 30° in August, Malaga can be a very appealing proposition to escape the cold dark days of a north European winter.
Malaga is preparing itself for 2016, when it will be European Capital of Culture. A few years back, 2003 saw the opening of two stunning art galleries: CAC Malaga (Centro de Arte Contemporaneo de Malaga; www.cacmalaga.org) and the Picasso Museum (www.museopicassomalaga.org) in honour of its most famous son.
Moorish architecture is also to be found in abundance, with the Alcazaba palace and the Gibralfaro fortress both offering commanding views over the port. In the heart of the old city, you will find the imposing cathedral, known as La Manquita (the one-armed lady) as funds ran out before the second tower could be finished. It is worth venturing inside to see the beautifully carved 17th-century wooden choir stalls.
The sombre but nonetheless impressive Easter celebrations and the August feria give a fascinating insight into religious and local customs.
If you love eating and drinking, you’ll love Málaga! Do as the locals do, and stroll from one bar to another, having a tapa to tantalise your tastebuds at each port of call. You could start off at the atmospheric Antigua Casa de Guardia, Malaga’s oldest bar with its rather surly barmen serving local sweet wines straight from the barrel and chalking your tab on the wooden bar. Try the mussel (mejillones) or prawn (gambas) tapas here. One minute away, across the Alameda Principal, in La Dehesa, have a tapa of the ham (jamón serrano). A local favourite is Pepe y Pepa in Calle de la Caldereria, where you can sample a range of tapas including many fried fish dishes, fried aubergines with sugarcane syrup (berenjenas con miel), potato salad (ensaladilla rusa) and fried chorizo (chorizo frito). Tardis-like Pimpi, on Calle Granada, is always buzzing and full of character and an ideal place for a drink or a snack.
If you simply want a coffee/hot chocolate and churros, either go to Bar Central on Plaza Constitucion (which is fascinating inside for its mural on the varying strengths of coffee) or try Casa Aranda (Calle Herreria del Rey), which has been a local favourite for more than 75 years.
Malaga has restaurants to match all tastes and wallets. Worthy of investigation are Clandestino on Calle Nino de Guevara, El Jardin (next to the cathedral gardens) and, for a more upmarket experience, Mesón El Chinitas, on Calle Moreno Monroy. Several fish restaurants and chiringuitos (beach bars) are to be found at El Palo beach; hop on a No 11 bus from Alameda Principal. For a truly unique experience (but not for the faint-hearted), you could visit el Tintero (Carretera de Almeria 99), where the waiters patrol the restaurant with different plates of fish and you grab one as they pass (a plate, not a waiter!). At the end of the meal, they count up your plates and calculate the bill.