Long known for just being the gateway to the rest of the Costa del Sol, hoards of tourists (or guiris as they’re affectionately known in Spanish) are now starting to take note of this hidden gem in the south of Andalucía. But how can you avoid the crowds to experience authentic Malaga at it’s best? Well since packing up my life back in the UK and moving to this wonderful city three years ago I have gained the insider gossip from my local friends on how to really experience Malaga like a true Malagueño.When it comes to restaurants, you are sure to find something that tickles your fancy. If it’s traditional Spanish cuisine you’re after, you’re in for a real treat. For the most Malagueño meal on offer, head down the east coast to Pedregalejo where you’ll find a row of Chiriguitos (beach front BBQ’s) and make sure you order the Espetos (sardines on a skewer), which are a local favourite. For tantalizing tapas, look no further than El Pimpi Florida, one of the most unique spots in the city.
A poky little bar come restaurant full of locals bellowing at the top of their lungs. The best part is with every drink you order, you get a free tapas – a clever design to make you drink more (it works!). For nightlife there is one bar that really sticks out in my mind – Emily’s. A small bar in the Malagueta neighbourhood, which is really just a house that a lovely old man called Emilio has successfully turned into an exclusive watering hole that only those who have heard through word of mouth go to. The doors aren’t even open; you have to ring the bell to get in. I must admit the first time my friend took me there I did think it was a bit odd and felt like I was just sat in a strange old man’s house, but I soon fell for the charm (of the bar that is). If dancing into the wee hours is more your style (and when I say wee I really mean wee, with most nightclubs shutting at 7am) there are a whole host of options.
My personal favourite is Andén, a glamorous club full of intimidatingly beautiful young Spaniards dancing inconceivably well. I’ve got a few moves myself but I’ve never felt as British and uncoordinated as I do in there. You can dance (and drink) the night away whilst listening to the latest Latino hits and admiring the beautiful specimens having the times of their lives. So when Sunday morning (or afternoon) hits and you need somewhere to rest your inevitably hungover head, what better place than the beach! One thing’s for sure if you want to avoid the tourists, steer clear of Malagueta beach, where not only are there pasty vacationers as far as the eye can see, but the sand is not so much sand as it is…dirt. If you do go, don’t wear white – you’ve been warned! I suggest you opt for Baños del Carmen, where if you go past the main beach and restaurant you’ll come to a very rustic but beautiful dog beach, which is also a nudist beach. If you prefer to keep your swimmers on you can’t beat Peñon del Cuervo, which is an extremely scenic beach complete with free BBQ’s to use and a massive rock in the sea where you can see local teens partaking in dangerous looking cliff jumping. Fun fact – Spanish people tend not to believe in personal space at the beach (or at all actually), so don’t be alarmed if you nod off under the parasol and wake up to Juan Pablo’s left elbow daringly close your face, it’s normal.
If you still haven’t had enough of the wondrous nature then veer inland towards El Chorro. Not only is it home to the Caminito del Rey (a scarily narrow walkway through a gorge) but there are also a group of breath-taking lakes, perfect for sitting back and relaxing, or if you’re in the mood for some adventure you can take advantage of the water sports on offer. If you’ve got a rental car and you want to avoid the crowds then try and go on a Monday, when the buses don’t run and there will be very few tourists. I unfortunately learnt that the hard way when I went (without a car) and was told there were no buses on Mondays and so I had to fork out 50 euros for a taxi there and back from the train station. Now if you really want to experience the real Malaga then you need to come on one of the many days in the year that they hold processions. They really are quite something and although it can be slightly claustrophobic to be surrounded by thousands of people, it’s truly spectacular to see the intricate details of the floats or “tronos” and the passion of the people carrying them and following along behind. The kids here absolutely adore them and while the favourite activity of most teens back home is to sit on their Ipad’s, here they love nothing more than to walk in a procession for 12 hours.
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