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Why Málaga Is One Of Europe’s Most Enchanting Cultural Hubs

Málaga Is One Of Europe’s Most Enchanting Cultural Hubs

Málaga is one of Europe’s most enchanting cultural hubs and this region of Spain is popular with foreign visitors as well as those looking for a new life in the sun.

Annie Button sets out some of the attractions of the area, with its rich culture, culinary tradition and lifestyle.

Written exclusively for Expat Network by Annie Button

Every year a global survey is held to compile a ranking of countries’ cultural influence. In 2019 the BAV Group and the Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania surveyed more than 20,000 people to determine their perception of 80 countries’ cultural aspects and their impact on the wider world.

The study was based on several national attributes, with the participants evaluating if a country was perceived as happy, trendy, prestigious, modern and culturally significant when it came to entertainment. Europe dominated the podium, with Italy leading the way, followed by France and Spain.

Suitably intrigued, we decided to conduct our own mini-case study, heading to bronze-medallist Spain. For more specific and localised global insight, we opted to visit an area that is home to a significant international community of expat residents.

So, what makes Málaga-Costa del Sol such a popular home away from home for foreigners when it comes to cultural appeal and influence? Here are just five of the countless reasons…


From Picasso to Banderas

Born in Málaga in 1881, Pablo Picasso only spent the first 10 years of his life in the city, but his legacy has been revitalised in the 21st century. The Málaga Picasso Museum was created in response to his own desire for his work to be exhibited in the city.

Donations by Christine and Bernard Ruiz-Picasso, the artist’s daughter-in-law and grandson, constitute the core of the collection, which includes more than 200 works on permanent display.

Dozens of major exhibitions have been held since the museum was inaugurated in 2003, and it has been visited by millions of people of many different nationalities.

Born not far away from Picasso, but 79 years later, Antonio Banderas also left the city to further his artistic ambitions, becoming Hollywood’s most famous “Latin Lover”. Like the artist, he was also keen to leave his mark locally, and that dream came to fruition in 2019 with a grand red-carpet inauguration of his Soho Theatre. He also starred in its premiere production of “A Chorus Line”.


Culinary Culture

Visitors can combine visits to museums and art galleries with another cornerstone of the Costa del Sol’s “lifestyle culture”: gastronomy. From classic tapas bars to Michelin-star restaurants, the Coast offers a diverse array of places to eat.

Ideal for taking a lunch break in between museums and gallery visits – or ending a day of cultural enrichment with a memorable culinary experience beside the Mediterranean Sea…

Located in Málaga’s revitalised Muelle Uno quayside area (also home to the Pompidou Centre) is the José Carlos García Restaurant, one of six on the Costa del Sol with a Michelin star.


Natural Bliss

The Costa del Sol might be best known for its 150 kilometres of beaches, but its coastline is within convenient reach of verdant mountain ranges, protected nature parks, biosphere reserves and designated heritage sites.

Although, you don’t need to travel too far to immerse yourself in a magical flora setting. The Jardín Botánico-Histórico de La Concepción has collections of aquatic and prehistoric plants, a rockery highlighting biodiversity, a greenhouse of insectivorous plants, bromeliads and orchids, and African plants and bamboo.

There are also “Around the World in 80 Trees” and “Plants of Our Region” sections, as well as a garden full of cacti, succulents and subtropical fruit trees – plus a historical lemon grove.


Popular Entertainment

When it comes to musical entertainment, the spotlight shines brightly on the Costa del Sol every summer.

Described as “the most important boutique festival in Europe”,  Starlite Marbella brings together legendary performers and up-and-coming stars every July and August. The music, fashion, gastronomy and art festival is held in a specially staged setting in the Nagüeles Quarry. An open-air space surrounded by nature and about 15 minutes from Puerto Banús.

In the past the star-studded performers’ list has included Lenny Kravitz, Elton John, Lionel Richie, Tom Jones, Andrea Bocelli, The Beach Boys, Kool & The Gang, Pet Shop Boys, Anastacia, Jamie Cullum, El Divo and Diana Krall.

In Fuengirola, the Sohail castle and its immediate surroundings are transformed in summer into the Marenostrum Festival, with past performers including Santana, Bob Dylan, Jennifer López, Simply Red, Rod Stewart and Sting.


Religious Traditions

The cosmopolitan nature of Málaga province’s population has encouraged integration on many different cultural levels – including religion.

Although a significant majority of Spaniards are Catholic, tolerance is part of the locals’ DNA. International residents and visitors have access to their own diverse places of worship: mosques, synagogues, orthodox churches, evangelical centres, etc.

The most grand temple of them all, however, is the Enlightenment Stupa of Benalmádena.

Inaugurated in 2003, it is the largest Buddhist stupa in the western world (and apparently visible from space). Stupas are normally closed, but the Benalmádena monolith is one of the few exceptions, with a meditation hall incorporated into its inner structure for visitors.