Spain’s sunshine coast, the Costa del Sol, hugs the southernmost tip of the Iberian Peninsula boasting a picturesque coastline with a perfect Mediterranean climate that produces an average 11 hours of sunshine per day.
If you’re looking for a relaxed, laid back beach holiday with an excellent nightlife to boot, this is the place.
But, Spain’s sunshine coast also has a great deal of culture to enjoy. In this article, let’s take a look at the top two cultural hubs on the Costa del Sol – Malaga and Marbella – and some suggestions on how to get maximum bang for your short holiday buck.
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Malaga – The capital of the Costa del Sol
Let’s start in Malaga, with just over half a million inhabitants, this is the largest city on the Sunshine Coast and the 6th largest city in Spain. Thanks to its busy international airport that handles air traffic for the whole of the Costa del Sol, Malaga is well served by transport links, making it easily accessible.
Take a stroll along the charming lanes and buzzing plazas in the Old Town, Malaga’s historic center is loaded with rich history and gorgeous architecture. Sample the many bars and restaurants and taste the full bodied flavors of Andalusian cuisine.
Shop til you drop in Calle Larios, Calle Nueva, Calle Especería/ Cisneros, Calle Compañía, and Calle Andrés Pérez for a wide selection of local, independent and international ware. If time allows, take a trip to the hillside on the eastern side of the city and visit the magnificent Alcazaba Fortress.
Pablo Picasso – Malaga’s most famous son
The painter and sculptor Picasso is not only the city’s most famous son, he was also the most dominant and influential Spanish artist of the early 20th century.
No trip to Malaga is complete without a visit to the Museo Picasso, housed in the Palacio de Buenavista, a 16th century building and the birthplace of the great artist. The museum is home to 285 works by Picasso including the famous paintings ‘Olga Kokhlova with Mantilla’, ‘Mother and Child’ and ‘Portrait of Paulo with White Hat’.
Picasso’s childhood home in the nearby Plaza de la Merced is also open to the public, showing a permanent collection of engravings and temporary exhibitions themed around Picasso’s life and work. For ardent Picasso lovers, here’s a handy guide to 24 hours in Picasso’s Malaga.
Art and culture buffs may be interested to know that Malaga has over 30 wonderful museums and art galleries to explore. If you only have time for one more, make it the Pompidou Center Malaga, the first brand of the Paris-based modern art museum outside of France.
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Marbella – Jewel of the Costa del Sol
Less than an hour’s drive heading south will take you to Marbella, one of the best known luxury cultural hubs on the Costa del Sol. As a popular playground for the rich and famous, its beaches, nightlife and shopping are renowned the world over.
The town has a charming Old Quarter that is well worth a visit. Built around the Orange Square, it’s a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the much larger city of Malaga.
Marbella is famous for its Golden Mile, arguably the birthplace of the city’s fortunes after the opening of the Marbella Club Hotel here in 1954. It’s one of the most exclusive tracts of real estate in Europe, with a stunning beachside promenade that is home to luxury beach clubs and restaurants. You can walk the entire 4.8 miles of the Golden Mile until you reach Puerto Banus about two hours later.
Puerto Banus has a worldwide reputation for glitz and glamour as one of the most exclusive nightlife areas on the Costa del Sol. Based on the design of a traditional Mediterranean fishing village, the marina is the heart of the resort and a great place for a stroll where you’ll spot the expensive yachts of the super rich moored here and possibly the occasional celebrity.
A different and certainly quicker way to view the impressive Golden Mile coastline is by boat. Cruises run regularly from Marbella Marina; the journey only takes 30 minutes before the ship docks in Puerto Banus port.
TIP: If you ever wanted to invest in a luxury holiday home, this is a great place to do so.