Three hundred days of warm sunshine and palm trees swaying on gorgeous public beaches may sound like a dream, but they are all key parts of the relaxed culture you’ll find on Costa del Sol in southern Spain.
The clean, walkable city of Malaga is rising as a prominent tourist destination. Cloaked by mountains that shield it from weather and featuring a gorgeous harbor, this city offers fantastic international family getaways. As the birthplace of Pablo Picasso and Antonio Banderas, there are touch points you can relate to, yet so many new experiences to explore.
Taste fresh seafood roasted in overturned metal boats and dabble in dishes like paella and adobo, vinegar-marinated fish. Taste exotic fruits, like custard apples or fresh fish at the Atarazanas Market.
Spend an afternoon with the Spanish Food Sherpas for the low-down on the cuisine and culture with quick intros to the best places to go.
Stay at the Gran Hotel Miramar, a luxurious five-star property with mesmerizing Mediterranean views, and you must try luxury hotel, Parador. For much lower prices than you would probably imagine, you experience a historic building renovated to modern accommodations, with postcard-worthy backdrops. Roman ruins, the Alcazaba fortress and El Teatro Romano, the oldest monument in Malaga city, are just a few of the experiences.
The dolmens in nearby Antequera are 5,000-year-old megalithic structures. The prehistoric burial chambers are some of the largest and most complete in Europe. Situated by the Pena de los Enamorados (Lover’s Leap), a mountain with the profile of an Indian man’s face and home to a tragic legend similar to Romeo and Juliet, there will soon be a new museum to enjoy here also.
While in Antequera, try more than 50 flavors of traditional Spanish pastries at La Antequerana and lunch under a bullring at Indulto Restaurant. Bullfighting season runs mid-May to October.
Take a family-friendly excursion to Benalmadena. Catch sight of a butterfly taking its first flight in the lush butterfly park. Across the street is the largest stupa in the West, where anyone curious about karma can request words of wisdom. Glide up Mt. Calamorro in a cable car, where on a clear day you can catch sight of Africa or Gibraltar. Soak in the spectacular views of the Mediterranean and Costa del Sol, take in a falcon show or hike the trails at Teleferico Belalmadena. Trek over to Torremolinos to visit a Crocodile Park where piles of living dinosaurs lounge in the sun. Hosted by a lively Scottish keeper, you’ll be offered the opportunity to hold a baby croc.
Iberia Airlines provides the only nonstop service from Chicago to Madrid. The new Premium Economy is a wonderful option, with seats that recline further back, higher-end food, larger entertainment screens, and amenities like travel kits with toothbrushes and socks.
Zip to Malaga from Madrid on the AVE, a high-speed train that reaches speeds up to 200 mph. You can also reach other popular Spanish cities, like Seville, Barcelona and Valencia, by AVE.
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2018 issue of Chicago Parent’s Going Places. Read the rest of the issue.