As anyone who’s visited will tell you, the quickest way to the glittering coast of the Costa Del Sol is to head straight from Malaga airport down the N340. But while the Malaga car rental desks are the first port of call for those desperate to reach the beach, holidaymakers who bypass the capital, Malaga are missing a treat.
Filled with narrow, winding streets, open plazas and cafes, and even a Moorish fort, it is one of Europe’s most underrated city break destinations – especially for art lovers.
Malaga is more suited to exploring with two feet rather than four wheels. The city’s main market, the Mercado Central de Atarazanas is an excellent place to start a tour. It dates back to the 19th century, but has recently been given a glamorous makeover. A walk along here is a feast for the eyes and nose as well as the belly. Stalls are laden to seduce with succulent Ibérico ham, oven fresh loaves of crusty bread, vivid, shiny clementines, sweet and salty cheeses and gleaming chocolates, seemingly pleading ‘eat me!’. Who could resist?
With all of these magnificent colours and flavours going on, it’s not difficult to imagine a young artist finding inspiration, even all those years ago, especially when the artist in question was Pablo Picasso, Malaga’s pride and joy.
Born into a middle-class family in 1881, Picasso was the first child of Don José Ruiz y Blasco and Maria Picasso y López. Picasso’s father was a professor of art at the School of Crafts and the curator of a local museum. Picasso was blessed with his father’s artistic talents and showed an interest in painting and drawing from an early age. When he was just seven years old, his father formally taught him figure drawing and oil painting. From this point on, art became Picasso’s life.
The family moved from Malaga to A Coruna in 1891, but the city has never forgotten its most famous son. To see for yourself what life in Malaga was like for the young Pablo Picasso, a trip to Museo de Artes y Costumbres Populares is a must. It is housed in a 17th century mansion and showcases the historical, rural and urban lifestyles of the region. The collection includes a preserved blacksmith’s shop, an historically authentic kitchen and a display of clothing worn by the local bourgeoisie back in the day.
For dedicated Picasso fans, The Museo Picasso Málaga, is the place of pilgrimage however. When it first opened its doors in 2003, a couple of thousand people shuffled inside on its first day alone, all eager to have a look around the collection donated by Picasso’s family.
The museum is housed in the Buenavista Palace, a Renaissance building dating back to the 17th century. The collection includes a total of 155 works by the artist.
The museum also exhibits Phoenician remains which were uncovered during the renovation of the Palace. Alongside its permanent collection, the museum also organizes temporary exhibitions as well as workshops and courses.
The building is not hard to find, it is located in the heart of the city’s historic centre, close to the Alcazaba Fortress and the Gibralfaro Castle. Although not strictly related to Picasso, the Alcazaba definitely merits a visit. The hillside fort dates back to the eight century and offers a great view of the city. Just a short walk away, you’ll find the Fundación Picasso, situated in the building where Picasso was born and raised. Temporary exhibits are common, but there is a permanent display of Picasso-related objects including ceramics and childhood photos.
Finally, on the plaza outside sits the man himself. Obviously, not actually Pablo Picasso, seeing as he died in 1973, but a rather handsome bronze statue of the great man, now forever daydreaming on a bench.
Next time you visit the Costa del Sol, be sure to stay a while longer in the region’s capital. There’s a lot more to the city than you may think is even possible… take it from Picasso – who once famously said: “Everything you can imagine is real.”
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About the Author: Fiona Hilliard is a Dublin based travel writer/blogger who usually writes and blogs for ArgusCarHire.com