So there you are, lying by the pool, enjoying the Spanish sunshine and staring up at the crystal blue sky and the white fluffy clouds floating by, when you hear those dreaded words.

“Dad, can we go to Aqualand tomorrow?”

Your body starts to twitch involuntarily at the prospect of thousands of screaming, sunburnt kids hurtling down death defying water slides and encouraging you to join in. The lack of shade, the smell of hot dogs, overcooked onions and tortillas and queues for toilets shatter your peace and tranquillity and induce a state of semi-paralysis. You try to ignore it, but your wife joins in.

“Go on, you know how much you’ll love it.”

Well if you have no excuses, don’t despair. Here’s the perfect solution. Get up early, drop the little darlings off as soon as the gates open at 10.00 and agree to pick them up at 17.00 when they’re totally exhausted. Give them enough money for copious amounts of soda, chips and ketchup, smother them in factor 50, and then wave them goodbye, knowing that the day is yours. Bliss.

Half an hour down the Autopista del Sol, you turn off to Malaga and have six hours to indulge yourself in Andalucia’s second most important city after Sevilla and one of its most atmospheric. Mention Malaga and most people think of the airport, a transit point to the Costa del Sol and beyond. Their memories are of queues of massed ranks of bright pink holidaymakers returning home, laden down with bottles of sangria, oversized sombreros and stuffed black bulls to put on their mantelpieces. What they miss is one of the jewels of southern Spain, a place steeped in history and the birthplace of one of the world’s most famous artists, Pablo Picasso himself.

Park in the underground car park near the citadel of La Alcazaba, and if you are feeling energetic, take a walk up the steps to the magnificent castle of Castillo de Gibralfaro, dominating the headland. It may be a bit of a hike for some, but the views all the way up are magnificent. Catch your breath half way up and take in the wonderful Ayuntamiento Palacio de la Aduna surrounded by bougainvillea trees.

Once at the top, the ramparts of the castle provide a 360-degree panorama of the city itself, the sea and harbour below and the wonderful backdrop of mountains. Looking seawards is the magnificent bullring, the Plaza de Toros de la Maqueta below, one of the oldest in Spain. If you are lucky, you will be able to make out the toreadors practicing their manoeuvres with their red capes flashing in the noonday sun.

Nearby is the English Cemetery, where Catholic Spain eventually allowed English Protestants to be buried rather than leaving them with their bodies protruding above the sands and subject to the vagaries of the seas and wild dogs. Its wonderful gardens and flower arrangements provide an oasis of tranquillity.

If you have time, then relax for lunch or just a drink and snack at the famous Parador de Malaga-Gibralfaro, only a few minutes walk away from the castle. If you have not, then descend to the city below and savour the beauty of this place and the friendliness of its people, the malaguenos. Much of it is pedestrianised and you can wander around aimlessly without the fear of traffic.


Picasso’s birthplace at the Casa Natal in the Plaza de la Merced and the Museo Picasso are a must even if you will have to limit your time there. The last is housed in the beautiful Palacio de Buenavista and contains some two hundred of his most famous paintings. Nearby is the unfinished baroque cathedral of La Manquita (the one armed lady) with its wonderful stained glass windows and refreshingly cool interior, a welcome relief from the noonday sun.

Beyond is the wonderful Plaza de la Constitucion with its fine square and beautiful ornate houses. All around are small alleyways filled with cafés, bodegas and tapas bars enticing you in to sample their culinary splendours–especially the fritura malaguena (fried mixed fish), which is served everywhere and reputed to be the best in Spain. If you did not indulge at the Parador, this is the place to stop eat, sip a cold beer and relax and watch the locals and visitors stroll by in this very Spanish city.


Places to shop in Malaga

It is also the place to do that last minute shopping. Malaga is full of chic shops mostly congregated along the Calle Marques de Larios or simply “Larios”The long avenue is draped in fine cloth to provide a modicum of shade and if you are exhausted by now, take one of the pedal taxis around the centre for light relief. Failing that, just take a coffee and relax. Savour this city for what is before venturing down to the Mercado Central de Atarazenasthe fresh food market bustling with local shoppers.Five hours is nowhere near enough to experience the beauty of this city but it does provide a little sample of a world far removed from crowded beaches, high rise buildings and the hustle and bustle of the tourist haunts.


Experience it once, and you’ll be dying to return and indulge once more. This time to perhaps sample the Arabic Baths in the Old Jewish Quarter, Calle Tomas de Cozar near the Picasso Museum or to gorge yourself in one of the exquisite restaurants that have made Malaga the culinary capital of Andalusia.


Perhaps as the little ones grow older, they too will see the attraction of culture and history over theme parks, water slides and sun drenched beaches.

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