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The Spanish Tourist Board recently claimed that although a large proportion of foreign visitors still come to southern Spain mainly because of the climate, over a quarter now say they visit the area to experience its culture as well as its beaches.
With cities such as Cordoba, Seville, Cádiz and Granada boasting some of the most breathtaking sights to be seen anywhere in the world, it’s no surprise.
There’s the narrow, bustling cobbled streets and ancient architecture of the Jewish Quarter in Seville; the harmonious blend of two thousand years of Christian and Muslim religious history in the stunning Mezquita in Cordoba; the Alhambra set against the snow covered peaks of Sierra Nevada in Granada; the golden dome of Cádiz cathedral shimmering high over the white tipped waves of the blue Atlantic ocean, and the Gibralfaro Castle standing proud against the city skyline in Málaga – they’re all absolute must-sees on any holiday.
And thanks to recent road improvements, each of these cities are now just two or three hours away by car from the Costa del Sol, and as such, culturally rewarding day trips to each can be fitted easily in to any Costa del Sol holiday itinerary.
Málaga, located on the Coast itself is the most accessible. It’s a modern, bustling and cosmopolitan city, with a wealth of cultural history stretching back over three thousand years.
For a start there are monuments such as the Cathedral, Gibralfaro Castle, the Alcazaba and the Roman Theatre (which was only discovered 58 years ago), plus a selection of beautiful historical gardens, one of which dates back as far as 1669, and over 20 different museums to choose from.
But for a city that’s campaigning to become Europe’s Capital of Culture in 2016, many Malagueños (people from Malaga) would argue it’s the city’s artistic heritage that is its biggest claim to cultural fame.
Málaga was Picasso’s birthplace, and has dedicated not one, but two museums to its most famous son – The Pablo Ruiz Picasso Foundation Museum and The Picasso Museum – which are within a short walking distance of each other.
The Pablo Ruiz Picasso Foundation Museum features original works by the artist, both from its own permanent collection and those on temporary loan. The museum is actually located on the first floor of the house he was born in and spent the first few years of his life, with different rooms dedicated to the different areas his work covered, from paintings and ceramics, to etchings and illustrated books.
The Picasso Museum meanwhile, is located in Buenavista Palace, a 17th century Renaissance building (which is of cultural interest itself) and owes its existence to the artist’s own desire to see his work exhibited in the city of his birth.
There are over 200 examples of works by Picasso on permanent display, including oil paintings, sculptures, drawings, sketches, etchings and ceramics.
Any visit to Málaga would not be complete without a visit to either one or both of these museums. So if you get the chance, go for it!