Costa del Sol’s artistic renaissance

Graffiti as art has cemented Malaga’s reputation as Spain’s most exciting cultural city. Creating a powerful drawcard for tourists looking for something more than cobblestone alleys and tapas bars, the streets of Costa del Sol have become one of the top places to soak up some culture on a Spanish escape…

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street art mural in Costa Del Sol, Spain
This once shabby area is undergoing a renaissance

If you take your tapas with a side of art you’ll love wandering the streets of SOHO, a hip district in Picasso’s hometown of Malaga, where the buildings have become a canvas for emerging and established artists. This Andalusian city, situated on the Costa del Sol, is a must-see on your Spanish travel itinerary, not only for its dazzling museums and art galleries but also for its beaches, restaurants and charming historic centre.

History-buffs will be enthralled by the Roman Theatre ruins, the impressive Cathedral, the Castillo de Gibralfaro and the neighbouring Alcazabar, a palace-fortress built in the 11th century sited 130 metres high atop Monte Gibralfaro. From up here, you have a birds-eye view of the graceful city below, with its beautiful gardens and bustling port where cruise ships dock on their way around the Mediterranean. It’s a long hike up but worth the climb.

Street art mural on walls in Malaga's Contemporary Arts Centre
Malaga’s Contemporary Arts Centre has turned street art into a vibrant tourist attraction

For art-lovers, there are world-class art galleries such as the Malaga Museum of Fine Art, Picasso Museum and the Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Gallery amongst others to visit, but probably the city’s most exciting gallery is the open-air, free-to-view street art of SOHO.

This once shabby area located near the port is now undergoing a renaissance. Driven by the MAUS initiative (Málaga Arte Urbano SOHO), derelict buildings, apartment blocks and metal roller doors are adorned with graffiti art created by leading local and world-renowned street artists such as Obey from the US, Belgium’s ROA and China’s DALeast, who were invited to the city to help in its revitalisation.

Look out for street artists such as Obey from the US, Belgium’s ROA and China’s DALeast
Look out for street artists such as Obey from the US, Belgium’s ROA and China’s DALeast

To think that the vandalism of graffiti could help turn a decaying area, untouched by redevelopment, into a modern cosmopolitan hub would have been unthinkable 15 years ago, but thankfully Malaga’s Contemporary Arts Centre thought outside the square and turned street art into a vibrant tourist attraction for people of any age to enjoy. Picasso would approve!

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Images by Dan Bannister

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