No matter where you go in the world and which country you visit you are bound to find differences when it comes to traditions food and culture. Spain is no different and if you have been enamoured by stories of what life is like in Southern Spain you need to experience the Costa del Sol.
Vibrant Malaga for free
Capital, of the province of Malaga, the same-name city is the gateway to the Costa del Sol with thousands of people passing through its airport and cruise ship terminal every year.
Besides its incredible warm climate appeal, being the birthplace of the 20th century’s greatest artist, Pablo Picasso, you may not be surprised to hear that Malaga is jam-packed with history and culture. What might surprise you though is that many of the city's attractions can be visited for free.
Alcazaba and Castillo de Gibralfaro
The Alcazaba palace is the best example of a Moorish fortress-palace in Spain and while it may not be as well-known as the Alhambra in Granada, or the Alcázar of Seville it is a fitting introduction to life under the Moors.
Enlarged in the 14th century to protect the Alcázar below, the Castillo de Gibralfaro is famous for withstanding a three-month siege by forces loyal to the Catholic monarchs Isabel and Ferdinand and only surrendered when the defenders ran out of food. When you reach the Castillo de Gibralfaro you are rewarded with magnificent views of the city and coastline.
The good news is that once you have made the trek up the hill is that the walk back into the city is downhill all the way.
Both the Moorish fortress of Alcazaba and the 14th century Castle of Gibralfaro are free to visit on a Sunday afternoon between 2 pm and 8 pm.
Life of Picasso
To learn all about Spain’s favourite artist you can see an exhibition of his work in the home where he was born free every Sunday from four o’clock in the afternoon until 8 pm in the evening.
Centre for Contemporary Art
Celebrating artists from 1950 to the present Malaga’s Centre for Contemporary Art is not just a collection of paintings and photographs, but also sculpture and installations displayed in futuresque looking rooms.
While Contemporary Art might not be everyone’s cup of tea, it is synonymous with the world in which we live today and could very well have you changing your mind after visiting Malaga’s wonderful collection.
Located in the historic old Malaga Wholesale Market, The Malaga Centre for Contemporary Art is free to the public and open every day of the week.
Eating out in Malaga
Malaga city has some of the finest tapas bars in the South of Spain and you’d be forgiven if you thought that eating out in the city is expensive. In fact, for less than 2 Euros you can get a small local beer and delicious home-made tapas. Tapas can range from fresh salted white fish dishes, grilled sardines, famous potato and onion tortilla, mouth-watering beef stew, to tender pork slowly marinated in delicious homemade tomato salsa. Some of the best places to eat in Malaga would suit even a smaller budget.
When you take into account the money you have saved using a low-cost airline to get to Malaga, why not treat yourself and stay at one of the upmarket resorts in Marbella. A little pampering never hurt anyone so go on and indulge yourself. Travelling the 54 kilometres from the airport to Marbella won’t break the bank either with transfers available from as little as $70.
Surrounded by the beautiful Sierra Blanca Mountains the resort towns of Marbella and Puerto Banus provide the ultimate people-watching opportunity while you sip a cocktail on Nikki Beach or one of the other celebrity hangouts on the “Golden Mile”.
No trip to the Costa del Sol would be complete without a visit to the seaside town of Nerja. In fact, with so many of the Costa del Sol’s top attractions nearby why not make Nerja or the nearby town of Torrox the base for your trip to the Costa del Sol.
Nostalgic reminders of this once tiny fishing village can be found scattered around Burriana and Carabeo beaches. Here, pretty and colourful wooden fishing vessels are still utilized to fish for the local catch of the day.
Las Cuevas de Nerja
Besides having wonderful beaches and the spectacular Balcony of Europe, Nerja has Las Cuevas de Nerja a series of caverns that contain the world’s largest stalagmite and artefacts that date back to the Bronze Age.
Discovered by a small group of teenagers, these awe-inspiring caves even hold spectacular concerts underground thanks to its incredible acoustics.
A hike you will never forget
The Sierra de Tejeda and Almijarra Natural Park offer some of the best hiking trails in Spain that include one of the highest coastal paths in Europe. At close to an altitude of 5,000 feet its possible see the African continent across the Mediterranean Sea.
Chill out in Torrox
After having sampled the lifestyle of the rich and famous in Marbella filled up on culture in Malaga and embraced nature in Nerja, it’s now time to kick back and relax in Torrox Pueblo.
Andalucía is renowned for its famous white villages the best of which is Torrox located 475 feet above sea level in a microclimate that is claimed to have almost perfect weather.
The popular Torrox plaza is a social hub for the older generation, where old gentlemen will enjoy a fun game of domino on a wooden bench and their wives would congregate on another to chat about life in relaxed Torrox. This fine reminder of bygone days is a pleasure to experience in Torrox village even today. Bed and breakfasts and hotels in Torrox are few, yet staying in Torrox is a great central location to visit Nerja.
Caminito Del Rey
Originally built so that maintenance workers could reach a power plant in the El Chorro Gorge, the Caminito Del Rey or “King’s path” as it is called in English had the distinction of being the most dangerous pathway in the world.
After several fatalities the local authorities to closed the pathway to the public until safety measures could be put in place.
Now fully operational again the Caminito Del Rey is one of the areas most popular attractions.
Recommended hotels on the Costa del Sol
Try the amazing 5* Hotel Bahia Kempinski located in Estepona around a 10 minuted drive from Marbella. Situated right on the beach this world renowned hotel looks after its clients very well indeed. Large comfy rooms and a stunning spa and wellness centre plus amazing food are just some of the positives. Reviewer Rating: 9.0
The 4* Hotel Fuerte Marbella is a popular choice hotel in this range. Located just a two minute walk from Marbella's old town and situated right next to the beach with superb views looking across the bay and the town. Close to lots of bars, cafeterias and eateries to suit everyone. Reviewer Rating: 9.0
For a budget stay on the Costa del Sol try the 3* Hotel Itaca in Fuengirola. The rooms at around £35 are well worth every penny, or Euro in this case. Located the the western end of Fuengirola just a 3 minute walk to the beach. Plenty of shops, bars and restaurants close by, so many in fact you are definitely spoilt for choice. This hotel is also very secure, situated right next to the main national guard police station! Reviewer Rating: 7.1