MÁLAGA seems at first an uninviting place. It’s the second city of the south (after Seville), with a population of half a million, and is also one of the poorest: an estimated one in four of the workforce are jobless. Though the clusters of high-rises look pretty grim as you approach, the city does have some compelling attractions. The elegant central zone is now largely pedestrianized with the focal and marble-paved Calle Marqués de Larios – lined with fashionable stores – its most elegant thoroughfare. This leads into the Plaza de la Constitución, the city’s main square, with a monumental fountain flanked by slender palms, and the terraces of numerous cafés and restaurants. The centre has a number of interesting churches and museums, not to mention the birthplace of Picasso and the Museo Picasso Málaga, housing an important collection of works by Málaga’s most famous son. Perched on the hill above the town are the formidable citadels of the Alcazaba and Gibralfaro, magnificent vestiges of the seven centuries that the Moors held sway here. The city authorities hope that a revamped seafront and cleaned-up coastline will make the city attractive as a beach resort and has encouraged new hotels, restaurants and bars along the promenades east and west of the centre.
Málaga is also renowned for its fish and seafood, which can be sampled at tapas bars and restaurants throughout the city, as well as at the old fishing villages of El Palo and Pedregalejo, now absorbed into the suburbs, where there’s a seafront paseo lined with some of the best marisquerías and chiringuitos (beachside fish restaurants) in the province.