SevilleSeville is a doorway to the past
Some cities have looks, other cities have personality. The sevillanos – lucky devils – get both, courtesy of their flamboyant, charismatic, ever-evolving Andalucian metropolis founded, according to myth, 3000 years ago by the Greek god Hercules. Drenched for most of the year in spirit-enriching sunlight, this is a city of feelings as much as sights, with different seasons prompting vastly contrasting moods: solemn for Semana Santa, flirtatious for the spring fiesta and soporific for the gasping heat of summer.
Like all great cities, Seville has historical layers. Roman ruins testify the settlement’s earliest face, memories of the Moorish era flicker like medieval engravings in the Santa Cruz quarter, while the riverside Arenal reeks of lost colonial glory. Yet, one of the most remarkable things about modern Seville is its ability to adapt and etch fresh new brushstrokes onto an ancient canvas.
Costa Del SolWhile the Costa del Sol has long attracted both foreign residents and tourists to its shores, it has also attracted a fair amount of negative press over the years, mainly related to mass development and the spiralling cost of a pint. The truth is that, while there has been unsightly overbuilding here, there are still places that are genuinely picturesque and traditional, and a world away from the soulless urbanisations and Sid-and-Dot-style pubs.
In the resorts of the Costa del Sol, you’ll find an abundance of hotels with an international flavour and bilingual staff. These will include some of the more well-known chains. Torremolinos alone sports more than 75 accommodation options.
The coast east of Málaga, sometimes described as the Costa del Sol Oriental, is less developed than the coast to the west. The suburban sprawl of Málaga extends east into a series of unmemorable and unremarkable seaside towns – Rincón de la Victoria, Torre del Mar, Torrox Costa – which pass in a concrete high-rise blur, before culminating in more attractive Nerja, which has a large population of Brits and Scandinavians.
MarbellaMarbella is the Costa del Sol’s classiest (and most expensive) resort. This wealth glitters most brightly along the Golden Mile, a tiara of star-studded clubs, restaurants and hotels stretching from Marbella to Puerto Banús, the flashiest marina on the Costa del Sol, where black-tinted Mercs slide along a quayside of luxury yachts. Marbella has a magnificent natural setting, sheltered by the beautiful Sierra Blanca mountains, as well as a surprisingly attractive casco antiguo (old town) replete with narrow lanes and well-tended flower boxes.
Marbella has a long history and has been home to Phoenicians, Visigoths and Romans, as well as being the most important town on the coast during Moorish times. Arab kings still own homes here, as do plenty of rich and famous people, such as native malagueño Antonio Banderas.
MalagaMálaga is a world apart from the adjoining Costa del Sol: a historic and culturally rich provincial capital which has long lived in the shadow of the iconic Andalucian cities of Granada, Córdoba and Seville. Yet, it has rapidly emerged as the province’s city of culture with its so-called ‘mile of art’ being compared to Madrid, and its dynamism and fine dining to Barcelona.
The tastefully restored historic centre is a delight: its Gothic cathedral is surrounded by narrow pedestrian streets flanked by traditional and modern bars, and shops that range from idiosyncratic and family owned, to urban-chic and contemporary. Cast your eyes up to enjoy a skyline that reflects the city’s eclectic character; church spires jostle for space with russet-red tiled roofs and lofty apartment buildings while, like a grand old dame, the 11th-century Gibralfaro castle sits grandly aloft and provides the best view of all.
The former rundown port has also been grandly rebuilt and cruise-line passengers are now boosting the city’s coffers and contributing to the overall increase in tourism to the city.
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