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With about 550,000 residents, the city of Málaga is technically the capital of the Costa del Sol, though most travelers head straight for the beaches west of the city. Approaching Málaga from the airport, you'll be greeted by huge 1970s high-rises that march determinedly toward Torremolinos but don't despair: in its center and eastern suburbs, Málaga is a pleasant port city, with ancient streets and lovely villas amid exotic foliage. Blessed with a subtropical climate, it's covered in lush vegetation and averages some 324 days of sunshine a year.
Málaga has been spruced up with tastefully restored historic buildings and the steady emergence of increasingly sophisticated shops, bars, and restaurants. The opening of the prestigious Museo Carmen Thyssen Bornemisza in March 2011 has further boosted tourism to this Costa capital, although there are still far fewer visitors here than in the other grand-slam Andalusian cities of Seville, Córdoba, and Granada. Note that more tourists usually means more pickpockets, so stay alert, particularly around the historic city center.
Arriving from Nerja, you'll enter Málaga through the suburbs of El Palo and Pedregalejo, once traditional fishing villages. Here you can eat fresh fish in the numerous chiringuitos (beachside bars) and stroll Pedregalejos's seafront promenade or the tree-lined streets of El Limonar. At sunset, walk along the Paseo Marítimo and watch the lighthouse start its nightly vigil. A few blocks inland is Málaga's bullring, La Malagueta, built in 1874. Continuing west you'll soon reach the city center and the inviting Plaza de la Marina; with cafés and an illuminated fountain overlooking the port, it's a pleasant place for a drink. From here, stroll through the shady, palm-lined gardens of the Paseo del Parque or browse on Calle Marqués de Larios, the elegant pedestrian-only main shopping street.
Málaga at a Glance
- Centro de Arte Contemporáneo (Contemporary Arts Center)
- Fundación Picasso
- Gibralfaro (castle)
- La Concepción
- Málaga's Cathedral
Elsewhere in Costa del Sol and Costa de Almería
- Agua Amarga
- The Axarquía
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