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If you’re planning a trip to Spain, cities like Madrid and Barcelona may first come to mind, but a formerly overlooked city, situated on the Costa del Sol, is now commanding the attention of tourists and Spaniards alike. Neatly framed by the Mediterranean Sea on one side and the Málaga Mountains on the other, sun-drenched Málaga has become a destination well worth a place on any itinerary. First established by the Phoenicians more than 3,000 years ago, Málaga reflects the influence of Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Visigoths, Moors and Christians. Here are ten reasons you must pay it a visit.

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1. Magnificent beaches

The mild climate makes any time of year the perfect time to catch some rays. In winter, hearty northern Europeans and other cold-weather folk can be seen on the sand, even in 60-degree weather. Málaga boasts more than 8 miles of coastline composed of 16 beaches, separated in most places from busy city streets by a wide esplanade on which to stroll, jog or bike. Beaches like La Malagueta, Pedregalejo and San Andres afford sun bathers places to stretch out or grab libations and a meal at one of the many beach bars and restaurants along the promenade where seafood such as fried anchovy and sardine skewers are menu staples.

The Atarazanas Market

2. Delectable gastronomy

Though seafood reigns supreme, you’ll find any number of local delicacies in restaurants, taverns and city markets. Stroll the Atarazanas Market, opened in 1879 at the site of the 14th-century Nasrid shipyards (only the main door from the shipyards remains), and shop for fresh produce, local products and a quick bite. Sample local olive oil, jamon and wine at one of nearly 300 restaurants, or grab tapas while enjoying the terraces with several wine bars and taverns (it’s common to hop between several during the course of one night).

3. All kinds of museums

Málaga is home to 37 museums, many easily accessible in the historic center of town. From the Pompidou Center, the Carmen Thyssen Museum and the Picasso Museum to the Russian State Museum Collection, Saint Petersburg/Málaga and even the Automobile and Fashion Museum Málaga, there is something to suit everyone’s tastes. The latter contains almost 100 restored vehicles and more than 200 haute couture pieces of clothing artfully displayed under one roof.

Waterfront of Palmeral de Las Sorpresa promenade at port in Malaga.

4. A lively port

Málaga’s port made the city a popular trade route for centuries. Today the recently renovated port is the second most important on the Iberian Peninsula, affording cruise ship passengers access to tourist attractions, as well as entertainment, shops, restaurants and sunset sails directly from the wharf.

5. Easy access

Málaga sits near an international airport; travelers can connect to international flights through Madrid or travel by train to Spain’s capital city on the high-speed AVE (14 daily trips in either direction). Spain’s Iberia Airlines celebrated 90 years of commercial flight in 2017 by adding a premium economy class to long-haul flights, making it more comfortable to fly to Spain from the U.S. while enjoying Spanish gastronomy in advance of arrival.

ALSO: Save on your Malaga hotel and earn toward your next trip with Orbitz Rewards!

The village of Ronda in Andalusia, Spain.

6. Stellar day trips

After exploring the city venture out into more of the Costa del Sol and visit Marbella, golf capital of the region; take a drive to nearby Antequera, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (its Dolmens were erected 6,000 years ago, dating from the Neolithic period to the Bronze Age); experience Andalusia’s white villages; or stop in Ronda to see the bullring frequented by Ernest Hemingway.

Malaga, Spain cityscape at the bullring.

7. Picasso pieces

Málaga is the birthplace of the most important artist of the 20th century. In addition to visiting museums showcasing a wealth of the artist’s work, stop at Plaza de la Merced, the location of the home where Picasso was born. The artist’s enthusiasts can also visit the Church of Santiago where he was baptized and the la Malagueta bullring he visited with his father.

Interior of the Cathedral of Malaga.

8. A charming historic quarter

Shop along Calle Larios, the pedestrian-friendly main shopping street with many well established merchants. Stroll through Plaza de la Constitución, the social center of Málaga, or visit the Cathedral, built between the 16th and 18th centuries and one of the city’s most important landmarks.

Photo courtesy of the Gran Hotel

9. The grand Gran Hotel

Perched along the Mediterranean Sea, in the La Caleta area of Málaga and close to local attractions, the Gran Hotel Miramar Resort & Spa is the city’s only five-star property to date. The hotel opened in January 2017 in a regal building, that was formerly a hotel, field hospital during the Spanish Civil War, hotel again, then a courthouse. Today guests will find a full-service spa complete with a thermal circuit, two swimming pools, a fitness center, a rooftop terrace bar and lounge, two restaurants and a snack bar, a seasonal kids’ club, and ample meeting and event space.

Ancient Roman theatre and Alcazaba palace, a main touristic landmark in Málaga.

10. A trove of architectural treasures

Málaga contains several important architectural sites that are a must-see for visitors. The Alcazaba is a fortress palace dating from the Muslim period, built in the 11th century by King Badis of Granada. It is located near the ruins of the Roman Theater (built in the 1st century) and the Aduana Customs Building at the foot of the Gibralfaro hill. Atop the hill, the Gibralfaro Castle, built in the 14th century to protect the Alcazaba, affords visitors an impressive view of Málaga and the Mediterranean Sea, best seen by walking its walls. Learn about the site’s history in the interpretive center.

Málaga, no longer a city that travelers pass through en route to other destinations, is quickly becoming a desirable Spanish destination. Whether it’s your first visit or your fifth, don’t miss the chance to explore this sunny southern city. For more information on Málaga, visit

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Tagged: Europe, Spain

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