Culture and gastronomy are two words, which until recently, you would struggle to find in the same sentence as this regional coastal hub. Traditionally seen as the gateway to the Costa del Sol and for a long time synonymous with tourist blocks, packed beaches and flamenco, Malaga is undergoing a renaissance and offers a masterclass in the art of reinvention.

When carving out a new identity, culture is the obvious choice. Malaga is the birthplace of Picasso and a new Picasso Museum heralded a wave of new museums in the last 15 years under the steer of city mayor Francisco de la Torre. Currently, the town is home to 30 museums. In a city of just over half a million people, that’s a significant cultural investment.

Gastronomically, Malaga sits in a region which produces quality olive oil, tropical fruits and grapes. A new wave of chefs and restaurateurs are celebrating local produce and raising the profile of the city in food circles both regionally and internationally. From Michelin starred restaurants to good rustic tapas, Malaga caters for all budgets. I visited Malaga in January and I’ve curated a tour of my highlights.



Right in the heart of the renovated harbour district sits the Rubik’s cube of coloured transparent glass, known as El Cubo, that houses the pop up Pompidou Centre, Malaga. It’s the museum’s first satellite outside France and will stay in Malaga for five years. Over those five years, in addition to the main collection which includes work from Sophie Calle to Tony Oursler to Francis Bacon, there will be a programme of temporary exhibitions. The underground galleries are generous and spacious and it’s perfect on a Saturday afternoon in winter when it’s quiet.
09:30 – 20:00 everyday; summer (16 June to 15 September): de 11:00 a 22:00


The Picasso Museum was a long time in the making. The project started in the early fifties with donations from Picasso’s daughter in law, his grandson and the Junta de Andalucía which created the collection. The project was shelved until 1993 when the widow of Picasso’s son took it on and it was another ten years before it was finally realised. The collection is housed in the Palacio de Buenavista, minutes from Plaza de la Merced, Picasso’s birthplace. The collection spans his lifetime and showcases his creative sensibility, experimentation and aesthetic. The Palacio de Buenavista is a beautiful building in itself with the perfect courtyard to stop and reflect in and a good cafe.
March-June:open daily 10am-7pm,July-August:open daily 10am-8pm, September-October:open daily 10am-7pm,November-February:open daily 10am-6pm


Also opened in 2003, the Contemporary Art Centre has gained an international reputation for its exhibitions. The collection spans the fifties to the present and includes work by international artists like Louise Bourgeois, Juan Muñoz, Olafur Eliason and Damien Hirst. It’s an exciting, dynamic contemporary centre modelled on the German Kunsthaus with a mission to respond to the evolving nature of contemporary art. As well as permanent and temporary art collections, there is a good programme of events from film to workshops and talks.
Winter (Tuesday to Sunday: 10.00 – 20.00), summer (June 20 – September 7 inclusive) – Tuesday – Sunday 10.00 to 14.00 and 17.00 – 21.00



The Mercado Central de Atarazanas features fresh, local, produce with fish obviously a big focus. 14th century Moorish architecture meets 19th century industrial design. It’s steeped in history with a past which includes former lives as an arsenal, a shipyard, a hospital and a medical school. Big stained glass windows create a cathedral like vibe, but it doesn’t have a reverential atmosphere. It’s a bustling, lively working market and used by locals and Malaga’s chefs and worth a visit.
Open 08.00 – 14.00 every day except Tuesday


Dulces Dreams is a good place to start the day. The breakfasts served in this cafe / gallery / chic hostel are good – toast with a range of good toppings from avocado, ricotta, to the traditional Spanish olive oil and tomato. It’s a good pit stop too. The organic coffee and cake is a good excuse to stop for elevenses or afternoon tea. It’s a nice, fresh, laid back space to watch the world go by and see work by local artists.


In the heart of the old town, a few steps away from Picasso’s birthplace is Mercado Merced. It perfectly fuses Malaga’s two new identities – it’s a buzzing gourmet food market with 22 different food stalls serving traditional tortilla fare to fusion and international. It’s the perfect place to eat your way around. There is a good events programme too from exhibitions to music to add a dash of culture to your eating experience.
Sunday – Wednesday 11am – 12am, Thursday 11am – 1am, Friday & Saturday 11am – 2am


You can find all the mainstream brands on the main shopping drag, Calle Marqués de Larios. It comes alive in the evening when the Malagueños come out to pasear along the glistening marbled street



This is the ideal way to end the day. An hour and a half of pampering in a traditional Arab style Hammam. The Hammam Ándalus offers massage and bath packages or you can just spend the time moving between the three water rooms and two hot rooms.
Open every day 11am – 12am


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