By Sally James
Despite the major developments that have taken place in the infrastructure and cultural development of the south coast of Spain, many still associate Málaga (the Coast’s capital) with little more than its powdery beaches and espetos (grilled sardines on the beach). Over the past decade, however, big changes have taken place to the city and the coastline alike, in an attempt to continue to attract discerning clients from all the world. Marbella (a smaller city around 45 minutes by car from the capital city) is a luxury destination the caliber of St. Tropez, where luxury yachts moor and high-end designer shops vie for top spot on the famous Puerto Banús. It is also an excellent choice for those wishing to marry various elements in their trip – visiting beautiful beaches, de-stressing at world class resorts, and soaking in the rich culture and history of one of Spain’s liveliest cities.
Málaga – Birthplace of Picasso
Málaga has become one of Spain’s most dynamic cities from a cultural perspective. The city of Málaga is home to many wonderful museums, all within walking distance from each other. The Port itself has been completely transformed, and now boasts renowned restaurants, shops, and the colourful Pompidou Art Centre (the first Pompidou centre to open outside France). The Port has a beautiful walkway, lined by a bevy of palm trees that add welcome shade on a sunny day. The Old Town, a 10 minute walk from the Port, is also home to many museums – including the Picasso Museum of Málaga, built in a renovated 19th century palace and containing a wealth of works ceded by the Picasso family, and the Carmen Thyssen Museum – a fascinating foray into 19th century Spanish art. Between the Port and the Old Town is the Contemporary Art Centre – home to top exhibitions by artists the caliber of Louise Bourgeois, Ron Mueck and, most recently, Mark Ryden.
Málaga and Marbella, Dining Havens
The city of Málaga boasts an array of classic tapas restaurants, as well as Michelin-starred establishments. A great place to start your gastronomic journey is the Old Town – the bevy of streets that branch out from the stunning Cathedral of Málaga are peppered with excellent Spanish cuisine and tapas restaurants. Another nucleus of all things culinary is the Plaza de la Merced, a cobblestoned square housing Picasso’s family home (where the famous Cubist was born). Marbella, around a 45 minute drive from Málaga, is a great place for those into high-end dining, since it boasts restaurants the caliber of Dani Garcia (a two-Michelin-starred establishment), Skina (one Michelin star) and El Lago (one Michelin star), all around five minutes by car from each other. While in Marbella, head for Puerto Banús – the elegant port
boasting luxury shopping stores such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Jimmy Choo, as well as a plethora of fantastic restaurants. One of the oldest and most renowned restaurants on the Port is 30-year-old restaurant, Los Bandidos, serving international cuisine made with the very best quality produce.
R ‘n R
Those into health know that our mental health and wellbeing is constantly facing the challenges imposed by stress. Doctors and therapists are continually emphasizing the importance of self-care: of taking time to recharge batteries, eat well and rest, especially when we have jobs that involve taking care of others. Málaga and Marbella are ideal spots to enjoy a laidback holiday. The beaches in the city centre and in Marbella are top notch and most are graced with beachside restaurants serving the region’s most famous dishes: espetos (barbecued sardines) and fritura Malagueña (fried fresh seafood from Málaga).
Málaga is also home to many top resorts, where special health and wellbeing nutrition programmes and facilities are offered. One of the very best of these centres is Shanti-Som Retreat (a gorgeous boutique hotel close to Marbella, offering yoga, weight loss and detox retreats). Another is the Marbella Club Hotel (with its luxury spa offering a host of luxurious treatments for the face and body). One establishment that really takes health seriously is Healthouse Las Dunas: featuring a host of weight loss and health programs, supervised by qualified nutritionists and doctors. Between Málaga and Marbella is La Cala Resort, with a magnificent spa boasting a circuit pool and an impressive list of treatments.
The south coast of Spain, now a leading choice for Brits and Scandinavians keen on purchasing a second home in the sun, is also famed for its family friendliness. With a host of farms, play centres and educational centres for kids, it is also a safe place you can feel at home in – a crucial consideration when it comes to winding down and forgetting your cares.