Andalusia, a destination for all tastes
The city of Málaga, which served as a backdrop for The Crown, is a clear example of the wealth of options offered by Andalusia’s eight provinces. The city has experienced a surprising transformation in recent years that has converted it into a cultural hub, with a tourist offer that ranges from luxury travel to backpacking or adventure tours. There’s something for everyone!
By: Luis Meyer
Not long ago – no more than ten years in the past – some inhabitants of Málaga called it the ‘transparent city’. Far from being a poetic definition, it reflected a much more prosaic and crude reality: the thousands of tourists that disembarked from the cruise ships that docked each year in the coastal city hardly took two steps along the port’s seawall before hopping on minibuses or rental vehicles that ferried them to Granada, Seville or any of the numerous beach towns that dot the Málaga coast. The visitors passed through the city without taking in its magnificent architecture of the modernist Félix Suárez shopfronts or the residences of the Desfile de Amor building. Likewise overlooked were the 14th century Gibralfaro Castle, the bustling Ataranazas market and its Nasrid arch, the spectacular fortified palace of the Alcazaba, and elegant villas and mansions like Villa Suecia, Villa Maria and Villa Fernanda, to say nothing of the formidable houses of the nobility built prior to the 19th century, like the Salinas House Palace, of Muslim origin, or the Buenavista Palace. Few visitors even stopped to enjoy the irresistible hubbub of the coastal neighbourhood of Malagueta or the succession of sixteen beaches that span the coastline of the Andalusian city.
The town of Málaga has sixteen beaches that span its coastline
Today, the panorama is much changed. In the last decade, this millennial city (founded by the Phoenicians in 8th century BC) has embraced modernity whilst preserving the layers of tradition that have been left by the successive civilisations and cultures that have populated it. The city has been given a stratospheric boost by initiatives including the extensive restoration of the main streets and emblematic monuments like the Roman Theatre, not to mention the recent arrival of the world-renowned Thyssen and Pompidou art collections. Haute cuisine has flocked to the city, with the opening of restaurants like the Michelin-starred José Carlos García, and luxury accommodation like the Gran Hotel Miramar, which reopened the doors of its stunning neoclassical building 90 years after it was first inaugurated by Alfonso XIII at the beginning of the last century. Local businesses have thrived on every corner of the main thoroughfare of Calle Márques de Larios and its neighbouring streets, with numerous jewellers sharing the avenue with retailers of chic clothing brands.
The city was founded by the Phoenicians in the 8th century BC
But for those who want haute couture with a distinctive malagueño flair, a visit to the studio of Rafael Urquizar is a must. The international designer and regular at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Madrid has never once considered leaving the Andalusian city. ‘I was born here and it is very difficult to give up the quality of life of this place’, he says. ‘Collections are influenced by where you live, but Andalusia is also present in the minds of most designers – even international ones – because it is a source of universal inspiration’. And what is there of Málaga in his collections? ‘The sea, the colours, the light of the city, they’re in absolutely everything I do. And of course the artisanal traditions, the embroidery and fringes’. Urquizar has been a privileged witness of the city’s transformation. ‘Málaga has seen a turning point in recent years. Now it is experiencing rapid growth. It has always been a transient capital city, but cutting-edge places have opened and it has come to occupy an important position, not only as a tourist destination, but also culturally’. He concludes: ‘Before, it was much more of a provincial city, people would go straight to Marbella. Now Málaga is the focus, people come here and stay; we’ve never seen so many foreigners walking through our streets’.
As in all of Andalusia, Málaga knows how to combine sophistication with a certain closeness: it can be an opulent city, but one that remains highly accessible. This fact is part of why so many backpackers come to enjoy its charms each year (say, enjoying a skewer of freshly roasted sardines on the beach of Malagueta) without draining their bank accounts. Anyone who wants affordable Málaga fashion can head to Quizás, a shop recently opened by make-up blogger Jennyfer Reyes, now a successful entrepreneur. To delve deeper into the city’s traditions, especially from a culinary perspective visit Zoilo grocery shop, one of the city’s oldest, which has also maintained a certain classical approach to pricing.
El Pimpi Bar. Photo: Noemí del Val Malagueta Beach. Photo: Noemí del Val Pier One. Photo: Noemí del Val
In the last decade, Málaga has undertaken an extensive restoration of the main streets and emblematic monuments
Finding reasonably priced accommodations in charming settings is possible thanks to offerings such as Urban Jungle, a project by Eli and María, have been living the wonderful cliché of ‘I’m going to leave it all behind and set up a hotel’ for two years now. In their case, it is a hostel located in the city centre which was set up with help from a design studio, a fact that can be noticed in every corner, with no detail overlooked. ‘It was something I had seen in my travels in many countries, but not in Málaga’, explains Eli, ‘accommodations for all budgets that are still comfortable and sophisticated’. Nor are rooms all they offer: on their idyllic roof terrace they occasionally offer acoustic concerts at sunset for their young guests.
‘We used to live in Barcelona, but we chose Málaga because it has grown a lot as a hub of tourism and culture. And we were right on the money: all this is still going strong and the city has many good years in front of it’.
Zoilo corner store. Photo: Noemí del Val Eli and María. Urban Jungle. Photo: Noemí del Val Málaga street. Photo: Noemí del Val