Sun, sea and something cultured ............

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The south coast of Spain has more to offer than Brits abroad and booze on the beach

Ah, the south coast of Spain, hey? UK on sea. Sun(burn), sand and San Miguel. English breakfasts and fish and chip suppers. This time next year, Rodney, we’ll be living here.

costaram'The majestic cathedral in central Malaga

costaram'The majestic cathedral in central Malaga

We all know your typical holiday there, don’t we? Dad reading yesterday’s Sun, mum dozing on a lounger and Uncle Reggie calling the UK to find out if the Old Bill knows he was involved in that Post Office heist yet. Right? Wrong.

Malaga – a charming city on the Andalusia coast – could not be more different from such Brit-based stereotypes. And, consequently, as I found out during a busy Jet2Holidays there, it’s worth a week of any British holiday-maker’s leave.

Culture, cuisine and – but of course – a stunning beach are the hallmarks of the sixth biggest city in Spain. There’s Roman architecture, Arabic baths and a Renaissance cathedral, as well as a very 21st century shopping scene.

The headline grabber, though, is that Pablo Picasso was born here. So too was Antonio Banderas but there are no museums dedicated to The Mask Of Zorro. Yet.

MS Maestranza Hotel, Malaga

MS Maestranza Hotel, Malaga

Not so with Picasso’s work. Although the 20th century’s most gifted artist left when he was a teenager, his presence still dominates Malaga. Visitors can walk around his birthplace, have their picture taken with his statue and explore the Museo Picasso, which exhibits more than 100 examples of his astonishing work.

Spending time in an art gallery when the thermometer is pushing 30 might not be everyone’s ideal holiday activity but to overlook this trio of attractions is to do yourself an injustice. Picasso’s work and life is captured and explained here magnificently. Worth missing an hour on the beach for – if only to hear how he told one muse who he saw on the street ‘I’m Pablo Picasso and I want you to model for me’, before taking her to bed. Smooth.

From art to The Automobile Museum of Malaga. Sounds like it might be dull if your name’s not Jeremy Clarkson? Think again. This is one of the finest museums this writer has had the pleasure of visiting, a treasure box of 96 gleaming cars stretching from the early 20th century to models of motors so advanced they’ve not actually been invented.

The entire collection belongs to one (seriously rich) bloke. And petrol-heads will be left open mouthed by all the gleaming chrome. As a bonus, there’s a collection of vintage hats and dresses to keep the, er, ladies from asking ‘are you done?’ No! I’ve not even got to the Model T Ford yet.

Delightful. As are the beaches. We’ll not go into them. They’re Spanish. Ipso facto: they’re stunning.

So too many of the restaurants. The Mediterranean way is to spend hours over a meal, taking small courses and savouring the flavours. Which makes for good eating.

Try Kaleido, located on the city’s new picturesque waterfront promenade, or Mar De Pedregalejo, an amazing beachfront fish restaurant serving seafood like you’ve never tasted before. It knocks your average Codfather into a cocked seashell, anyway.

And with all that you’ll need somewhere nice to stay. The MS Maestranza Hotel – available as part of Jet2’s package – goes beyond nice. The rooms are large, the location is central, and the sun terrace, on top of the 12-storey building, is a perfect place to catch some rays before sitting in the outdoor jacuzzi. Amazing.

All of which means, when it comes to the south of Spain, you should forget the TOWIE-types visiting Marbella and the crooks making a getaway for the Costa del Crime, and instead head to Malaga.

Think sun, sand and something a little different.

Three things to do in Malaga

1. Do some art. The Museo Picasso Málaga is a sensational introduction to perhaps the 20th century’s most influential artist but equally magnificent is the Carmen Thyssen Museum, housed in a 16th century town palace and home to a permanent collection of 232 outstanding 19th century paintings.

2. Take in La Conception Botanical Garden – a city jewel dating back more than 150 years and noted for being Spain’s most varied and important tropical garden.

3. Visit Malaga’s most historic sights – and there are plenty of them. Perhaps most impressive is the Roman amphitheatre (last used in the 3rd century AD) and the 11th century fortress but the 17th century (though still unfinished) cathedral, and the 19th century market – a place absolutely buzzing with all Spanish life and foodstuffs – are well worth enjoying.

Travel facts:

GET THERE: Jet2 flies to Malaga from Manchester Airport and Leeds Bradford Airport seven days a week throughout the year from £35 one way including taxes. To book flights visit Jet2 or call 0800 4085599. First Trans Pennine Express run hourly trains from Sheffield to Manchester Airport from £28.10 return Transpennine Express CrossCountry run hourly trains from Sheffield to Leeds Train Station from £4 each way advance Cross Countru Trains

STAY: Jet2Holidays offer package trips to Malaga staying at the MS Maestranza Hotel and the Barcelo Malaga Hotel. Three nights bed and breakfast at the four star MS Maestranza departing Manchester or Leeds Bradford start from £199 per person. Three nights’ bed and breakfast at the four star Barcelo Malaga Hotel departing Manchester or Leeds Bradford start from £239 per person . To book visit Jet2 Holidays or call free 0800 4085599.

MORE: Malaga City Tourism Board on 0034 630554996.