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Since the arrival of the Picasso Museum in 2003, it has shot up the cultural charts with the opening of a cluster of museums, and the burgeoning, boho SOHO area has only added to its credentials as a cool, stylish Andalusian destination. Its proximity to other Costa del Sol destinations means it's easy to travel from Málaga to swanky Marbella for lunch overlooking glitzy Puerto Banúsmarina, or to make a day trip from Málaga to Gibraltar to see the famous Macaque monkeys living on the Rock.
Whatever your reasons for visiting Málaga – a golfing holiday with friends, a family holiday in Málaga beach hotels or a flying visit for work, the Accor portfolio of the best hotels in Málaga city will offer you the perfect stay.
Things to do in Málaga
Málaga's glorious setting tucked in between the Med and the Montes de Málaga mountains is best admired from the miradors scattered around Castillo de Gibralfaro, a hillside fortification that has been the exquisite backdrop to the city since it was originally built in the 10th century. Largely reworked in the 14th century, little remains of the original Moorish structure but the walk around its fortified walls gives fantastic views over the city, its bullring and its harbour to the sea. Today it is a lovely spot for sunset views and a tapas or two in one of the terrace restaurants nearby.
Sitting below the castle is the Alcazaba Málaga, the photogenic, partially restored remnants of a fine, 11th-century Moorish palace. Its fountain-filled courtyards and walkways are elegantly set in verdant gardens scented by jasmine and orange blossom, and there are more spectacular city panoramas from its ramparts, as well as a museum displaying medieval Moorish finds.
Squatting neatly below the Alcazaba is an even older construction – an amphitheatre built in the 1st century BC under the auspices of Roman Emperor Augustus. It was rediscovered in the 1950s and open-air concerts are held there over the summer; it's a popular spot to catch your breath after walking up the steep, twisting Paseo Don Juan de Temboury to the Castillo de Gibralfaro.
Back down in the city centre, all roads lead to the Catedral de la Encarnación de Málaga, over 200 years in the making and notable for its detailed Gothic and Baroque façades and the fact that it's unfinished – its original design featured two towers instead of its solitary spire. Inside you'll find an eclectic mix of Renaissance and Baroque styles, with ornate mahogany choir stalls backed by intricate wooden figures of saints carved by leading Spanish master craftsman Pedro de Mena in the late 1650s.
Other major attractions in Málaga include its peerless art museums; first on the scene was the Picasso Museum Málaga, opened in 2003 and showcasing stellar paintings, sculpture and ceramics from all the periods and styles of the city's favourite son. You can learn more about Picasso's early life at the memento-filled Museo Casa Natal Picasso, set in the house where he was born in 1881.
Several more prestigious art collections arrived in Málaga after the advent of the Picasso Museum: Spanish decorative arts are celebrated in the Museo Carmen Thyssen Málaga, while the Centro de Arte Contemporáneo Málaga (CAC) highlights contemporary Spanish artists in a former market hall. The CentrePompidou Málaga – housed in a contemporary waterfront gallery topped by a multi-coloured glass cube – offers rotating exhibitions of standout pieces from the archives of its big sister in Paris.
Nevertheless, with an average of 300 days of sunshine per year, you can't visit the Costa del Sol without spending time on glorious Málaga beaches. First among equals is Playa Malagueta, a five-minute walk from the centre of the city along the seafront promenade, while Playa La Caleta is popular for its craggy mountain backdrop and trendy chiringuitobeach bars. Both beaches have plenty of options for nautical activities in Málaga, including jet skiing and banana boating.
Excursions around Málaga
Staying at hotels in Málaga city centre puts visitors within easy reach of a clutch of famous beaches; lying at the eastern limits of the Costa del Sol, Málaga is gateway to sandy swards in Marbella, Torremolinos and Estepona among many other resorts.
Marbella is renowned for its celeb-dominated nightlife and high-end designer stores as well as the superyachts bobbing in Puerto Banús marina. But it also has a charming old town begging to be explored, centred on quaint, leafy Plaza de los Naranjos, full of al fresco tapas bars and indie shops. Further west is Algeciras, departure point of ferries to Tangier in Morocco. The landmark Rock of Gibraltar looms up along the coastline nearby, and the British enclave is home to monkeys, bobbies and subterranean concerts in St Michael's Cave.
If you're staying in Málaga family hotels with the kids, one of the best days out locally is to the water rides and artificial surfing beach at Aqualand Torremolinos. If you're on a golfing break, you're simply spoilt for choice, with enough golf courses in the area to keep you going for months.
North of the city you'll find numerous family strolls and challenging mountain hikes to be had in the Montes de Málaga Natural Park, as well as the Caminito del Rey Málaga, a death-defying trail that winds through the vertiginous Desfiladero de los Gaitanes canyon.
Also heading inland and more than rewarding a visit is gorgeous Ronda, an ancient and beguiling Moorish pueblo blanco (white town) perched atop a precipitous limestone gorge – the best vantage point over the surrounding panoramas is on the 18th-century Puente Nuevo (New Bridge). You can admire vivid Moorish mosaics at the ornate, colonnaded Palacio Mondragón.
What to Eat in Málaga
Most of the best restaurants in Málaga serve seafood almost straight from the sea, but you don't have to pay a fortune to dine on the city's favourite dishes. Just head to an informal beachside chiringuito restaurant or a tapas bar. Málaga's best places to eat tapas include the Mercado Central de Atarazanas, housed in a 14th-century building once a boathouse – as depicted in the enormous stained-glass window at one end of the hall – and with a vast, decorative arch at its main entrance. Inside, you'll find stalls heaped with fresh shellfish, seasonal fruit and vegetables, and piles of fragrant herbs, as well as busy tapas bars selling pescaíto (tiny fried fish), gambas al ajillo (prawns in garlic) and boquerones en vinagre (white anchovies marinated in vinegar), all best washed down with a caña of beer.
Accor is proud to offer some of the best places to stay in Málaga for business travellers or family visits. Arriving on a late flight or flying out of Málaga at first light? Guarantee yourself a sound night's sleep at Accor's ibis budget Málaga airport hotel, with a breakfast buffet to set you up for the day. Another of our hotels near the airport in Málaga also has fast access to the AVE high-speed train services to Madrid.
Holidaying with the family? We have two of the best hotels in Málaga old town, including a mid-range, suites-only property ideal for longer stays, with well-equipped kitchenettes for making simple meals, a fitness room and easy connections to the airport in around 10 minutes.
How to get to Málaga
Málaga-Costa del Sol Airport is roughly 20 minutes' drive south-west of the city and is the main airport for the Costa del Sol, with budget flights connecting with the UK and much of mainland Europe. RENFE-run trains link into the city centre in slightly over 10 minutes, while Express bus services deliver you into Málaga in 15 minutes. Car hire and taxis are available too.
AVE high-speed trains arrive at Málaga - María Zambrano railway station from cities across Spain including Madrid (2.5 hours), Barcelona (5.5 hours) and Seville (1 hour 55 minutes). There is also a daily train to Ronda in the Andalusian hills. Málaga bus station is adjacent to Málaga - María Zambrano, with routes covering much of Spain, including Algeciras for ferries to Tangier in Morocco.
When to go to Málaga
With a warm Mediterranean climate, Málaga is a pleasant destination to visit at any time of year. Autumn, winter and spring are mild and dry, ideal for golfing fans keen to get in a few rounds on quieter courses. The best time for beach holidays in Málaga is between June and September, when the temperatures are at their hottest, averaging around 31°C; these are also the most popular months with visitors, so if you're looking for Accor's Málaga hotels with pools or spas, be sure to book accommodation in Málaga well ahead of time.