"To be a Cubist you have to have been born in Málaga," Picasso once said of his native city. Looking up at the Moorish Alcazaba and the Renaissance cathedral bathed in pure Mediterranean light, you too will feel inspired. Like a true Andalusian, Málaga is a friendly, noisy, fiesta-loving extrovert. Go beyond the Picasso Museum and La Malagueta beach to see how the real Málagueños live -- eating in jam-packed tapas bars, strolling along palm-fringed promenades and partying in the Old Town like there's no mañana.
Things to Do
Housed in a 16th-century Mudéjar palace and a grouping of modern buildings, the Picasso Museum is a tribute to Málaga's most famous son, skipping from Cubist to late-1970s paintings. Damien Hirst's provocative art is the big draw at the Contemporary Arts Centre. Moorish life is seen through keyhole arches at the hilltop Alcazaba fortress. Fragrant with orange trees and bougainvillea, its gardens command far-reaching views over city rooftops to the Mediterranean. By night, Málaga's ornate Renaissance cathedral has a golden glow.
Nightlife and Entertainment
On summer weekends, central Málaga feels like one big fiesta, and bars spring up along the Mediterranean beaches at La Malagueta and Pedregalejo. Animated bodegas, bass-driven clubs and live-music bars are crammed into Old Town, particularly on Calle de las Beatas, Calle Granada and Plaza de la Merced. The buzzy Antigua Casa Guardia has been serving sweet Málagan wine straight from the barrels that line its atmospheric walls since 1840. Torremolinos' mega clubs are just a short taxi ride away.
Restaurants and Dining
This is a city of 1,001 tascas (tapas bars). Mingle with the locals at the elbow-to-elbow joints in Old Town between mouthfuls of boquerones (fresh anchovies), wafer-thin Serrano ham and calamari. Málaga's best fried fish and sundown cocktails draw locals to the relaxed chiringuitos (beach cafes) at La Caleta and Pedralejo. For creative seafood and Mediterranean views, you can't beat the restaurants in La Malagueta. Any of the center's squares will do for an alfresco lunch.
Cool down under the shady palm and plane trees on the fountain-dotted Paseo del Parque promenade. Framed by clipped hedges, the Puerta Oscura Gardens afford fine views up to the Alcazaba. English aristocrats once swanned around La Concepción Botanical Gardens, which bristle with tropical flowers and sky-high palms. Come summer, sun worshippers flock to the beach at central La Malagueta and the coves at El Palo. Relax with a steamy hammam (Turkish bath) and a soapy massage at Málaga's Baños Àrabes.