Category Archives: Things to do

Malaga | Soho Street Art

soho muralsphoto courtesy of East of Malaga

Something’s happening out in the street, and in the SOHO district of Málaga, it’s street art. From doorway size paintings to seven-storey high murals, post-graffiti artworks are appearing on walls all over the SOHO district of Málaga.

But why there, and why now? Soho is the triangular shaped neighbourhood sandwiched between the Alameda, the port and the river like a wedge of cheese. In the nineteenth century it was a prosperous middle class suburb (and still has some very fine buildings from this time), but over the last fifty years has become increasingly run down, missing out on the kind of urban renewal that first the new city centre, and later the historic centre, benefited from.

graffiti ratsphoto courtesy of

Partly because the new Contemporary Arts Centre was located there in 2003, the initiative to regenerate the area that was launched six years later revolved around making it the artistic centre of the city, and was backed by both the city council and private funds. Some of the artworks that have been created by both local and “guest” artists as a result are certainly impressive and colourful. Among the best known contributors are the UK’s Dean Stockton (D*FACE) and America’s Frank Shepard Fairey (OBEY), who created the two big seven-storey high murals behind the CAC, and Belgium’s ROA, whose chameleon and tumbling rats seem to be among everybody’s favourites, as well as Dal East from China. Local artists include emerging talents Jose Luis Puche and Dadi Dreucol. The brightly coloured graffiti-style art has certainly made the area more interesting – and attracted tourists and their money. It will be interesting to see how successful the strategy is in the long term, and whether it revitalises the local community.

graffitiphotos courtesy of

Valentine’s Day in Seville and Granada

Friday week will be Saint Valentine’s Day, so unless you’re Al Capone and have other things on your mind, your thoughts should be turning to romance, a candlelit dinner, and maybe a nice bottle of wine. You could do all that at home of course, but there’s still time to organise a romantic getaway for two. And what could be sweeter than a long weekend in Seville or Granada in southern Spain, home of flamenco, exotic palaces and great food and wine?

becquer monumentdetail of monument dedicated to Gustav Bécquer in Maria Luisa Park, Seville

Explore the Palaces and Gardens of the Alhambra or Alcázar

The palaces of the Alhambra (Granada) and Alcázar (Seville) both date mainly from the 14th century, and though the first was built by the Moors, and the second by Christians, they share many of the same exotic features, with horseshoe arches, pools and fountains, and dazzling ceramic decoration. Be swept off your feet by this Arabian Nights visual feast.

Parks and Carriage Rides

Apart from the Palace Gardens, there are some other exceptional green spots. In Seville stroll through the Murillo Gardens over to the magnificent Plaza de España, but more especially go to the Parque Maria Luisa. It was laid out for the 1929 Expo and full of little grottoes and other surprises, such as the monument to Sevillano poet Gustav Becquer featuring the three stages of love. You can even take a carriage ride for two from the centre. In Granada visit the Carmen de los Martires, or take a walk along the picturesque River Darro.

Arab Baths and Massage

Go on, pamper yourself! Both Seville and Granada have their own Arab baths, the Baños Arabes in Seville and the Hammam baths in Granada, where you can enjoy the full bath and massage treatment at the hands of experts.

Eating Out

Few things beat taking some time out on a pavement terrace with a glass of wine and just watching the world go by, or having a bite at one of the great tapas bars in Seville, such as Las Teresas or Vineria San Telmo. Don’t miss the jamón and sherry, the taste of Spain. For a romantic evening dinner try Becerrita or Sevilla’s only Michelin star restaurant Abantal. In Granada La Tana wine bar is a cosy intimate spot to stop for a drink and a snack, perhaps finishing with a late dinner at the elegant Puerta del Carmen.

alegria flamencoflamenco performance at the Flamenco Museum in Seville


There are plenty of places where you can catch the passion of a flamenco performance, but beware. Not all of them are good. In Seville the shows we like best are at the Flamenco Dance Museum and Casa de la Guitarra. In Granada, head out to the famous Sacramonte Caves for a rather different style.


At the end of the day you’ll want to find somewhere special for that last drink and remembering the day. There are quite a few good rooftop bars around these days, but in Seville the Doña Maria Hotel bar with its view of the cathedral is still the place to go. In Granada, head up to El Huerto de Juan Ranas next to the San Nicolas lookout on the Albaicin hill for a spectacular view of the Alhambra across the valley.

Where to Stay

There are lots of great apartments at reasonable prices to choose from, but our favourite romantic getaway choices include, in Seville, the gorgeous view from Giralda Terrace, and Campanario Terrace for its unusual location. In Granada, Duplex Terrace overlooking the Plaza Nueva is unbeatable. For something more exotic try Sacramonte Cueva 2.

Malaga | Malaga Cathedral, “La Manquita”

Malaga is one of my all time favourite cities, with a unique combination of sea, mountains, historic monuments, good food, and an indefinable feel-good factor. In recent years it has enjoyed something of a renaissance, with lots of new museums and restaurants, and a complete redevelopment of the old inner harbour as a shopping and recreational area. I love Málaga for the individuality and charm that this mix of old and new gives it, as well as some of its idiosyncracies and the stories behind them. On a recent photo-shoot trip I met up with Victor Garrido from We Love Malaga. Victor has a story for just about every street and street corner in town and one of his favourites is about La Manquita.

malaga cathedralview of the finished Cathedral tower and the unfinished La Manquita in front

If you look above the facade of Malaga Cathedral, you’ll see the cathedral’s north tower, which is 84 metres tall, making it the second highest in Andalucia. But the south tower was never completed, barely rising above the rest of the façade, giving the cathedral an uneven, lopsided appearance. The Malaguenos have a special affection for this “flaw” in the construction, and for this reason the cathedral is popularly referred to as “La Manquita”, the one-armed woman. And of course there is a story behind this. But first a bit of background.

Founded by the Phoenicians, Malaga became a Roman colony (you can see the amphitheatre near the cathedral), and then for more than 700 years it was ruled by the Islamic Moors from North Africa, whose legacy can still be seen in the Alcazaba and Gibralfaro fortresses. Finally, in 1487, it was conquered by the Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand and Isabel. Such a major city naturally required a proper Christian cathedral to mark its new ownership, and Ferdinand and Isabel decreed that it should be built on the site of the Aljama Mosque. Like many cathedrals from those times it was intended to be the most important public building in the city and to show the prosperity and piety of its citizens.

malaga victorVictor Garrido and friend posing in front of La Manquita

In fact, since the necessary funds were not provided by the Crown, and had to be raised by local charitable subscription, work on the Holy Church Cathedral Basilica of the Incarnation (to give the cathedral it’s full proper name) did not actually begin until 1528, following plans laid down by the architect Diego de Siloé, and as with many privately funded major projects, progress was often slow. Construction lasted over 250 years, and when a halt was finally called in 1782, the south tower was still incomplete. Although sufficient funds had been collected to see the work through, it seems that moneys had been diverted from their original purpose.

The central figure in the story was one Bernardo de Gálvez y Madrid, a native of the province of Málaga, who in the 1770s as the Spanish colonial administrator in Louisiana, was active in supplying arms and equipment to the American rebels fighting for independence from England, who were therefore regarded as natural allies by England’s continental rivals. By diplomatic necessity the funds had to be acquired “off the books”, and were siphoned off from the cathedral construction project. Gálvez is, in fact, one of the unsung heroes of American independence, although the town of Galveston in Texas is named after him, and Málaga is the only city in Spain that celebrates the 4th of July – it’s known as Bernardo de Galvez’s day.

In 1998 the city of Málaga received a delegation from Texas, who offered to return the money, as commemorated by a plaque at the bottom of the unfinished tower, but after being left “incomplete” for over 200 years, it was decided that it should stay that way, as the Malaguenos like it.

We have apartments available for your holiday in Malaga, including this one close to the Cathedral.

Barcelona | 10 Things to Do in Barcelona

Barcelona is Spain’s biggest city, with a long history stretching back to pre-Roman times. It’s also one of Spain’s economic powerhouses, and in the early 20th century the confidence of its wealthy citizens spawned the Modernista movement in architecture and city planning that created the modern city. As you might expect from this, there’s plenty to see and do in Barcelona, whatever your interests.

Sagrada Familia
Still under construction (it was started in 1882), the Church of the Holy Family is the astonishing masterwork of modernist architect Antoni Gaudi. A unique combination of gothic and modernist elements, especially its unusual spires, make it a stunning visual feast, and probably Barcelona’s number 1 attraction.

casa batlloinside the salon at Gaudí’s Casa Battló

The Gaudi Houses
After the Sagrada Familia, Casa Batllo (one of my all time favourite buildings) and Casa Mila (La Pedrera) in the Passeig de Gracia are the two most famous of Gaudi’s creations. Built in the Catalan modernista style of the early 20th century they are notable for being designed with almost no straight lines, and for the incredible detail of their decoration. They also give an insight into how the upper classes lived in the 1920s and 30s. Be prepared for queues, but trust me, it’s worth the wait.

Las Ramblas
Take a stroll down Las Ramblas, the busy, bustling main tourist street that runs from Plaça Catalunya down to the Columbus Monument by the port. It’s a wide, tree-lined avenue full of kiosks, cafes and street-performers of all kinds. Famous sights include the Canaletes Fountain, and the mosaic by Joan Miró. At the top end, between the old city and the 19th century Eixample district, is the grand open space of Plaça Catalunya, with its fountains and statues, the official city centre. Halfway down is the famous La Boqueria Market, one of the largest in Spain, and always full of people buying and selling a huge range of fresh produce. At the southern end is the Columbus Monument, built for the 1888 exhibition, with the statue of the great explorer pointing out to sea. The Avenue also serves to separate the neighbourhood of El Raval to the west from the oldest part of Barcelona, the Barri Gotic (Gothic quarter).

boqueria marketentrance to La Boqueria Market in Las Ramblas

Barri Gotic and El Born
The Barri Gotic is the oldest part of Barcelona, and still retains most of its medieval street layout and a number of medieval buildings, although two of its principle sights, the Plaça Real and the facade of the Cathedral (although the body of the building is 15th century), are more modern. The neighbourhood to the east, El Born, is another historic area that is worth visiting. It’s home to some of the city’s most interesting bars as well as the Caterina Market and new El Born Cultural Centre, housed in the renovated old market space.

Wherever you are in Barcelona, you can always see Montjuic hill looming over the city. If you’ve a head for heights take the cable car up to top from the port. The views over the city are fantastic, but there’s lots of other stuff up here, too, including the old castle, several important museums, and the Poble Espanyol, an architectural museum like you’ve never seen before with 117 buildings in various Spanish styles. On winter evenings go down by way of the Magic Fountains (presently closed for restoration) and watch one of the light and music shows.

If you have children take them to the Aquarium, which has underwater viewing tunnels through tanks with an abundant variety of marine life. The sight of shsrks and other large fish swimming so close by is quite awe-inspiring.

Ciutadella Park
Barcelona’s principal city centre park is both a zoological and botanical garden and includes a lake, a cascade and fountains, and several museums. Just the place for a stroll in the sunshine.

Nou Camp Stadium
Perhaps not everyone’s idea of a tourist attraction, but the home of Barcelona’s famous football team is up there with the Wembleys and San Siros, and the club’s museum is the second most visited in Catalonia.

Picasso Museum
The 3500 works by Spain’s most famous painter, spread through several former palaces, make this the largest Picasso collection anywhere in the world, and allow you to follow his artistic development from childhood to old age. An absolute must for all art lovers.

dragonthe Gaudí dragon in Parc Güell

Parc Güell
Parc Güell is a bit of a trek out into the northern suburb of La Gracia, but Gaudi’s gardens with their many fascinating architectural elements are well worth the time and effort (and nowadays, entrance fee). Here you can see, among other things, the famous mosaic “dragon” and the hypostyle hall with the mosaic seating area on its roof.

On top of all that, there is always the food, the beaches, and the weather, and our quality apartments will put you in the thick of the action.

Malaga | 10 Things to do in Malaga

Malaga airport is the busiest in southern Spain, and every year tens of thousands of visitors pass through it on the way to various holiday destinations in the region. Sadly, all too many still think of Malaga itself as a somewhat tacky Costa del Sol beach resort, and don’t stop to see what it has to offer. And there’s lots. So much, in fact, that despite some cheating in the form of two things for one item, our list of the top ten things to do doesn’t include the Cathedral, most of the city’s eclectic collection of museums, or the famous Botanical Gardens, although it does include a few more unusual and personal choices that you might not find in the tourist guides.

malaga view from gibalfaro

1. Get a View from the Top

Take a bus or a taxi up to the top of the Gibralfaro Hill, visit the fortress, and have a drink on the terrace of the Parador Hotel. Both are worth doing in themselves, but the real attraction is the stunning view across the city and its harbour. It’s a great way to start your stay. Afterwards walk back down the path that leads to…

2. The Alcazaba

The 11th century Moorish palace-fortress complex stands on a rocky outcrop at the edge of the old centre. Reminiscent in many ways of the Alhambra, though smaller, it has some opulent living quarters and beautiful formal garden courtyards, though it’s principal function as a castle is always obvious. Nearby are the well-preserved Roman amphitheatre (rediscovered by chance in 1951), the Palacio Aduanas and…

3. The Picasso Museum

Málaga is the birthplace of Pablo Picasso, so a visit to the museum in the Palacio Buenavista is a must. Although it’s not by any means the biggest Picasso collection it does have some interesting works and special exhibitions in a gorgeous building complete with Phoenician ruins in the basement. While you’re in the centre of town you should also look in at the Carmen-Thyssen museum, and the house in Plaza Merced where Picasso was born. From Plaza Merced…

4. Walk the Main Drag

For a flavour of the historic centre walk down Calle Granada, past the church of St James and the Restaurant El Pimpi to the Plaza de la Constitución, and on down Calle Larios, perhaps the most elegant shopping street we’ve seen in Spain, to the entrance to the old harbour, now totally refurbished and known as…

5. Muelle Uno

muelle unoThe inner harbour has recently been redeveloped as a shopping and leisure area, with a marina and restaurants where you can watch the sun sparkling on the water while you eat. The old landmarks of the lighthouse and the fishermen’s chapel preserve some of the original character of the port. Stroll the Paseo El Palmoral de las Sorpresas to…

6. Málaga Park

Beside the harbour is the long shady promenade through Málaga Park, full of exotic plants, statues and one of my favourite “water features” anywhere. Although it’s right next to the main road it’s still a peaceful oasis and a lovely place to walk or just sit for a while. There are more gardens across the street with little hidden paths below the walls of the Alcazaba.

7. Atarazanas Market

No visit to a Spanish city would be complete without going to its main market. The Atarazanas has been refurbished in recent years, but has a history dating back to Moorish times, when it was the city’s shipyard (and on the waterfront). There are the usual great displays of fresh produce, a market bar with really fresh tapas, and more unusually, a big stained-glass window at one end.

8. The Automobile Museum

A little way out of the centre, but still easy to get to, is the Automobile Museum, regarded as one of the best of its kind in Europe. Housed in the splendid old tobacco factory building it boasts a large and immaculately maintained collection of vintage and modern cars, as well as fashion and art exhibitions. Definitely worth a visit even if you’re not an enthusiast.

9. Pedregalejo Fishing Village

Take a walk out along the palm-tree-lined seafront road from Malagueta Beach, past the rustically dilapidated Baños del Carmen, to the fishing village of Pedregalejo. Have a seafood lunch or dinner at one of the beachfront restaurants where they grill your food on a barbecue, and stroll along the wooden boardwalk beside the Mediterranean Sea.

10. Tapas

Malaga has a thriving and innovative tapas culture, with lots of great places to eat from small traditional tapas bars to beachfront chiringuitos to stylish world-class restaurants. If you find the whole tapas thing a bit daunting then born-and-bred Malagueño Victor Garrido can take you on a tour of the best traditional and gourmet tapas bars and show you how it’s done (in five languages!). We Love Malaga Tapas Tours