MALAGA (Costa del Sol)
Many tourists ignore the capital of the Costa del Sol entirely, heading straight for the beaches west of the city instead, although cruise-ship tourism now brings plenty of visitors to the city. Approaching Málaga from the airport, you'll be greeted by huge 1970s high-rises that march determinedly toward Torremolinos. But don’t give up so soon: in its center and eastern suburbs, this city of about 550,000 people is a pleasant port, with ancient streets and lovely villas amid exotic foliage. Blessed with a subtropical climate, it's covered in lush vegetation and averages some 324 days of sunshine a year. Málaga has been spruced up with restored historic buildings and some great shops, bars, and restaurants. A new cruise-ship terminal and the opening of the prestigious Museo Carmen Thyssen in March 2011 have also boosted tourism, although there are still far fewer visitors here than in Seville, Córdoba, and Granada. Arriving from Nerja, you'll enter Málaga through the suburbs of El Palo and
Pedregalejo, once traditional fishing villages. Here you can eat fresh fish in the numerous chiringuitos and stroll Pedregalejos's seafront promenade or the tree-lined streets of El Limonar. At sunset, walk along the Paseo Marítimo and watch the lighthouse start its nightly vigil. A few blocks inland is Málaga's bullring, La Malagueta, built in 1874. Continuing west, stroll through the Muelle Uno (port-front commercial center). It's great for a drink and for soaking up views of the old quarter. From here, stroll along the Palmeral (Palm Walk), and you'll soon reach the city center and the inviting Plaza de la Marina. From here, walk through the shady, palm-lined gardens of the Paseo del Parque or browse on Calle Marqués de Larios, the elegant pedestrian-only main shopping street.