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Nine great ways to discover the real Málaga

For too long Málaga was known as an airport city; the gateway to the beautiful Costa del Sol. But the world is waking up to Málaga's charm and beauty and realised that it is a thriving city begging to be explored.

Nine great ways to discover the real Málaga
Here's how to experience Málaga like a local and find the best hidden gems. Photo: Martijn Vonk/Unsplash
From modern art to ancient history to cutting edge cuisine, here’s the lowdown of ten essential experiences to have in Málaga.
 
1. Drink sweet wine in an iconic tavern

Málaga has two official wine making regions – DOC Sierras de Málaga and DOC Málaga – with the latter being one of the oldest winemaking regions in the world. This region is where sweet wines from the moscatel and Pedro Ximenez grapes are produced, and there are some iconic taverns in Málaga where trying this wine is the ultimate experience. To truly be whisked back in time, stop by Antigua Casa de La Guardia (Alameda Principal, 18) and select your tipple from the 12 different wines found in the barrels lining the back walls – for the perfect dry versus sweet balance you can’t miss a Pajarete 1908!

 
2. Stumble upon SoHo’s street art
 

Photo: AFP
 
The SoHo neighbourhood lies just south of the historic center and is nowadays known as the barrio de las artes (art neighbourhood), and for good reason! As you explore the streets of this area you will stumble upon modern street art lining the outside walls and shutter doors of the buildings. This is the work of the MAUS (Málaga Arte Urban Soho), a recent initiative that grew out of a desire to reform this part of the city, located just behind the CAC (Center for Contemporary Art). Once upon a time the neighborhood was an important bourgeois area with beautiful architecture, yet over the last fifty years or so it became run down and and infrequently visited. However, thanks to the art revival that’s happening here now, it is home to both cultural events and street art that you can’t help but admire as you explore this corner of the city.
 
 
3. Discover Málaga’s Moorish past at the Alcázar
 

Málaga’s Alcazar. Photo: Alf Igel/Flickr 
 
Málaga’s history dates back almost 3,000 years, but some of its most famous monuments today hail from the reign of the Muslims who ruled the city between the 8th and 15th centuries. Don’t miss visiting the Alcázar, the old Moorish fortress perched on a hill on the edge of the city centre. This building was constructed by the Muslims between the years 1057 and 1063, which means that it is actually older than Granada’s famous Alhambra palace. Expect to find beautiful patios with flowers, lines of Andalusia’s iconic orange trees, stunning Arabic architecture and, of course, a spectacular view.
 
4. Sample some of Málaga’s most traditional tapas
 
The modern tapas scene is thriving in Málaga but it’s in the traditional tapas and the places that serve them where the real stories lie. Despite the food renaissance that Málaga is experiencing there are still some wonderful traditional, family run places where you can gorge on Málaga’s old favorites. Pay a visit to Mesón Mariano (Calle Granados, 2), run by the namesake himself with the help of his extended family, and be whisked away from the street into the warmth of a true traditional establishment. Specialities here include artichokes and bacalao (salt cod), both of which come prepared in a variety of ways. Enjoy them washed down with some of Málaga’s new style dry wines from the DOC Sierras de Málaga winemaking region.
 
5. Learn about the art of Pablo Picasso at the Picasso Museum
 

Photo: AFP
 
It’s said that Málaga has two “famous brothers”. One of them is the actor Antonio Banderas, but the other is none other than Pablo Picasso, a household name in the world of modern art. The famous artist was born in Málaga and lived in the city until he was ten years old. Today the house of his birth is open as a monument, as well as a museum which houses many of his works. You won’t find all his famous pieces here (as they are in galleries all around the world) but what you will find is the story and evolution of his life as an artist – an absolute must for any art lover!
 
6. Ramble around the Mercado de Atarazanas
 
 
Whether you claim to be a “foodie” or just like to experience the best of a city, no trip to Málaga is complete without visiting the city’s most iconic food market, the Mercado de Atarazanas. Even the building is historic – it was built in the 14th century by the Moors as a shipbuilding yard – and today is the absolute heart of Málaga’s action. Rows upon rows of stalls are selling every type of local produce you can imagine. Fresh seafood and meat are found alongside stalls and stalls of more varieties of fruit and vegetables than one could imagine – this is thanks to the province’s varied climates which means all manner of fruits and vegetables are available at almost any given time of year. Locals and visitors alike flock here to do their shopping or simply browse the colourful displays. Make sure to try a sample of the almonds and olives, as both are products you might not realize come from Málaga!
 
7. Gorge on seafood at a true malagueño institution
 
Málaga’s most prized culinary treasure is all the fish that is hauled from the sea daily – especially once it’s been battered and fried – and what better place to try it than the Malagueño institution known as El Tintero (Av. Salvador Allende, 340), which is found seven kilometers outside of the city center at the end of Chanquete Beach. The many tables sit alongside the sand as waiters rush from the kitchen and grill, weaving their way among the tables carrying plates of different dishes. As the dishes come towards you the waiters publicize their plates with a loud shout, and when you see something you like you simply flag them down and a plate lands on your table. At the end you pay based on how many plates are left on your table. El Tintero embodies the kind of organized chaos that you can only expect to find in Andalusia. If you are feeling adventurous you can even hire a bicycle and cycle east along the seafront boulevard to get there!
 
Don’t be fooled by El Tintero’s humble exterior. Photo: Tamorlan/Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)
 
8. Take in the views from above at Gibralfaro Castle
 
With such beautiful views of Málaga, these walls of the Gibralfaro Castle conjure up all kinds of tales of years gone by when the castle was used as a lookout and military barracks. It was originally built in the 8th century by the Moors for defense reasons – hence its prime hilltop location, but today you can enjoy the scenery from the high defensive walls as you walk around them.
 
Photo: Jwh/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)
 
To further bring the stories of the castle to life, there is also a small military museum in the middle of the fortress displaying weapons and armors used by the soldiers on the battlefield.
 
 
9. Soak up the sun on Malagueta beach
 

Photo: Jorbasa Fotografie/Flickr 
 
Málaga is so much more than the Costa del Sol, but given that we have more than 330 days of sunshine per year, no trip to Málaga is complete without paying a visit to the beach. Take a short walk down to Málaga’s most popular beach, Malagueta Beach, where you will find the famous stone sculpture proclaiming its name. Sit in the sun, swim in the sea, or stop by one of the chiringuitos (beach front restaurants) for a cold cerveza and something to eat.
 

This article was written by James Blick of Devour Tours which offers award-winning fun and delicious food tours and tapas tours in San Sebastián, Seville, Barcelona and Madrid. Follow them onInstagram,Pinterest,Facebook andTwitter for Spanish food news, tips and recipes.

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FOOD & DRINK

Did Spain make Coca-Cola before the US?

Could Kola-Coca, the drink produced in a small Valencian village, have been the inspiration for the world-famous soft drink, Coca-Cola?

Did Spain make Coca-Cola before the US?

Coca-Cola, or coke as it is often referred to, has become one of the most popular drinks around the world since it was invented in 1886 in the United States. It has also become the drink most synonymous with American culture and the secret formula has been patented there too. 

Despite this, in the small town of Aielo de Malferit almost 140 years ago, three partners, Enrique Ortiz, Ricardo Sanz and Bautista Aparici, set up a distillery, which later went on to supply drinks to Queen María Cristina, who was married to King Alfonso XII, and the rest of the royal household. 

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Among the drinks that they created, the most popular by far was the ‘Jarabe Superior de Kola-Coca‘. It was made from kola nuts and coca leaves from Peru, and was dubbed by locals as ‘Heavenly Anise’.

The drink became so successful and popular that in 1885, one of the three founders, Bautista Aparici, travelled to the US to promote it and present the product to consumers in Philadelphia. 

He then returned to Spain, but a year later in 1886 in Atlanta, the pharmacist John Stith Pemberton invented the famous Coca-Cola. Sound familiar?

Whether this was a coincidence or not is open to interpretation, but what is even more interesting, other than the similar name, is that the drink contained basically the same ingredients as the Spanish Kola-Coca too. 

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When it was first created, the basic ingredients of Coca-Cola were just coca leaves, cola nuts and soda water, the same recipe that was made in Aielo in Valencia, except, they used cold water from the region, instead of soda water.

While Coca-Cola went from strength to strength and finally achieved world domination, the distillery in Valencia went on to produce other drinks. 

Then in the mid-1950s, Kola-Coca disappeared from sale when it is said, that representatives from the Coca-Cola company visited the Aielo factory to buy the patent for the ‘heavenly anise’ drink. 

Although there is no material evidence of this patent ever exchanging hands, it’s interesting to think the inspiration for this most American of drinks could have originated in a small village in Spain.

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