While it's mostly known for the many resorts nearby, Malaga offers much more than just sandy beaches and cocktails. Sure, you'll see Brits Abroad flying into Malaga Airport for their raucous stags and rowdy hen parties, but they mostly move on to the more touristy nearby towns like Marbella and Fuengirola. Malaga itself remains, for the most part, authentically Spanish, with a plethora of fantastic museums and cultural attractions on offer. Plus, it's a great base for exploring other towns in Andalucia like Sevilla, Granada, Ronda, Caminito del Rey and Nerja.
Most of the activity in Malaga takes place in the historic city centre, which is almost completely pedestrianised. Here you'll find the Roman Amphitheatre, Malaga Cathedral, the main shopping street of Calle Larios and most of the important museums including Museo Picasso and the Carmen Thyssen Museum. It's also where you'll find dozens of delicious tapas restaurants all along the cobbled pathways that wind through the city centre.
Malaga Centro begins at Plaza de la Merced, one of the liveliest squares in Malaga. In 1881, Pablo Picasso was born in a yellow house on the corner of Plaza de la Merced, which is now the headquarters of the Picasso Foundation. There's also a sculpture of the painter sitting on one of the benches in the square. Plaza Merced is a popular meeting spot for tourists and locals alike, thanks to its central location and the abundance of bars and cafes dotted around the square. There's no better way to while away a sunny Spanish morning than sitting at a table outside at Cafe Con Libros and enjoying un mitad (a latte) and a pitufo con tomate (toasted bread topped with a garlicky-tomato spread).
A short walk away from Merced is Alcazaba, the sprawling Moorish fortress that's Malaga's version of the Alhambra in Granada. With its marble patios, bubbling fountains and rows of fragrant orange trees, the Alcazaba is definitely worth seeing when you visit Malaga (plus, entry is free on Sunday afternoons!)
Unlike some other Spanish cities like Madrid, Malaga doesn't wind down in the summer months. In fact, it really comes to life in August with the yearly Feria de Agosto, a lively week-long festival featuring flamenco dancing, a fun fair and lots of drinking. The specific drink of choice during the Feria de Malaga is Cartojal, a sweet wine that comes in a bottle adorned with a distinctive bright pink label. Be warned: Cartojal may taste like sugary sweet grape juice, but it's actually super strong!
The Malaga Fair is quite the experience if you're up for it, and if you can stand the heat. Temperatures reach the 40s Celsius in the summer, and a hot, dry wind that locals call El Terral can make it feel even hotter. That being said, you're never too far away from the beach in Malaga, whether it's the city beaches like Malagueta and Pedregalejo, or the ones further out like Maro and Marbella.
Another reason to book that trip to Malaga is that it very rarely gets cold. Winter months stay relatively warm and you'll always see people sitting on tables outside cafes or bars. Plus, flights to Malaga are typically very reasonable in the off-season (and it's less than three hours from London).