28 Mar Sun, food & wine in Malaga
In need of sunshine and good food? The Spanish city of Malaga, which sits between the Mediterranean and the Montes de Malaga mountains, is blessed with 300 days of sun each year.
The city is closer as the crow flies to the Saharan desert in Mali than the green hills of England, and looks out over a coastline that offers some of the best seafood in Europe.
The Phoenicians built the first settlement in the area, back in 770BC, and then it was the Romans who planted the olive trees and vines. The Moors came later, bringing exotic spices and the likes of saffron, rice, coriander, artichokes, apricots and peaches.
Throughout most of the year, Malaga’s surrounding hills remain dry and arid, apart from the shot of colourful wildflower blooms after the spring rains. The vibe of the city, meanwhile, is one of happy abandon.
I spent three days in Malaga in early March. Each day, the sun’s rays went from one side of the horizon to the other, with temperatures up to 23 degrees C.
Atarazanas food market
For food shopping, head to the Moorish-style Atarazanas food market. I came away with dried figs, Moscatel raisins, pecan nuts, and a packet of herbal cola de caballo (horsetail) tea, said to cure eczema. Did it work? No. Maybe I needed to drink more.
Breakfast at Casa Aranda
My favourite breakfast haunt was at Casa Aranda, a Malaga institution, near the Atarazanas market. The tradition is chocolate, but I took coffee and porras – thicker and lighter than the more famous churro madrileño. During my wonders in the city, I never did find the tejeringo, the Malaga form of churros.
Seafood lunch at Pedregalejo
Then for lunch I walked for an hour east, along a promenade, along the coast to Pedregalejo, for a seafood meal at El Caleño.
Sitting on the terrace, I had a little gem and tomato salad, a whole grilled squid with boiled potatoes, and a glass of Botani, a nice dry Moscatel, a Sierras de Malaga denominación de origen from Bodegas Jorge Ordóñez… oh, how I liked those dry Moscatels!
From May to August – so all the months without an ‘r’ – El Caleño serves traditional espetos, sardines salted and then barbecued on a stick, with the barbecue propped up on an old fishing boat on the beach in view of the diners in the restaurant.
More food & drink in Malaga
- Vinoteca Museo Los Patios de Beatas: for a late-afternoon glass of Pago El Espino (a full red wine of Petit Verdot, Tempranillo and Merlot) from local bodega Cortijo Los Aguilares. I wanted to try the Sedella (Romé and Grenache) but it was only available by the bottle.
- La Cosmopolita for an evening meal, and where I ate fresh, seasonal artichokes cooked in butter and with thinly sliced raw tocino, a type of bacon from the belly… not a dish pretty enough to Instagram, but delicious.
- La Mallorquina for fresh goats’ cheese from the town of Rueda.
- La Canesta for the local cateto bread, a white, round rustic-style bread, from one of the best bakeries in town, and the local speciality of torta loca, translated as the ‘mad tart’, which made for an excellent pick-me-up sugar boost.
3 world-class museums in Malaga
- The Picasso Museum, housed in the old palace of the Count of Buenavista. I share the same birthday as Picasso, 25 October, so he is always an artist close to my heart.
- The Carmen Thyssen Museum, which time did not permit me to visit.
- The Centre Pompidou – my favourite, from both outside and inside.
A walk to Gibralfaro castle
For one of my best evening walks, I headed up to the Gibralfaro Castle. The views across the city are unmatched. The fresh orange juice at the café at the top also went down well after the climb.
A scrub at the hammam next to my hotel
For the final luxury, I had a scrub down and massage at the local hamman, the Hamman Al Andalus. The oil was laced with jasmin, the traditional flower of Malaga, introduced by the Moors.
The hammam was next to where I was staying at the guesthouse, Dulce Dreams, or Sweet Dreams. Each room is themed according to a dessert. Mine was tiramisu. Go for a room on the second floor, as the first floor can be noisy. Downstairs is a café. My double room with own bathroom was a reasonable €58 a night.