The New Malaga: A Cultural Guide to the Costa del Sol’s Creative Hub

The New Malaga: A Cultural Guide to the Costa del Sol’s Creative Hub

While art lovers have had their gazes fixed upon

, Berlin and
Malaga has quietly emerged as a cultural hub on the Costa del Sol.
Navigating the streets of Soho neighbourhood, we found the best
places to stay, play and admire art.

A multicoloured cube-shaped structure made of steel and glass,
sits on a pier overlooking a port full of yachts. I’m in the Costa
de Sol, standing in front of El Cubo, a satellite of the Paris’
famed Pompidou Centre which opened in 2015.

Malaga may not seem like an obvious choice for the Pompidou’s
first outpost outside France, but sure enough – while many had
their eyes fixed on Copenhagen, Berlin and Barcelona – Malaga
quietly emerged as a hub for contemporary art and culture on the
Mediterranean coast. In recent years, increased investment has
breathed new life into the city, and it’s beginning to attract a
different crowd to that usually associated with the resorts and
nightclubs of the Costa del Sol.

New arts institutions have opened all over the city, bringing an
unprecedented level of global culture to the area. In this
ever-evolving urban landscape, the city’s creative scene is finding
new ground. One neighbourhood in particular has attracted and
transformed Malaga’s cultural gaze: Soho.

The emergence of Soho

Until just a few years ago, one might have consciously avoided
the area between the Alameda Principal and the Muelle de Heredia
Bus station – unless in search of porn shops, sex workers and
illicit substances. Yet in a relatively short time, this
neighbourhood (now dubbed “Soho”) has transformed into one of the
most vibrant, fashionable and forward-looking parts of town, full
of quirky cafés, trendy bars, innovative eateries, boutique shops
and a wealth of street art to admire as you wander around.

The revamp of the area has largely been a citizen-led
initiative, with backing secured from Malaga city council. While
most tourists traipse up and down Calle Larios and Calle Granada,
and flood the Plaza de la Merced and the Plaza de la Constitución,
Soho has become an off-beat alternative for malagueños to enjoy a
meal, a drink and a stroll. Described as Malaga’s barrios de las
artes (arts neighbourhood), it is also an important focus for the
city’s cultural and creative community.

A new cultural scene

The art story of Soho begins with the Centro de Arte
, which sits at the south-west corner of the
neighbourhood. On the building directly behind this museum, you
find two enormous murals, just a couple of the many works of street
art that characterise Soho.

The initiative MAUS (Malaga Arte Urbano Soho) was
set up with the mission of redefining the public sphere through

street art
. Artists, both Spanish and international, have been
invited to use the streets of Soho as a canvas to display
site-specific visual creations. Artists include ROA (Belgium),
DALeast (China), OBEY (USA) and Okuda San Miguel (Spain). The
initiative has gradually sealed Soho’s position as the place to be
for emerging artists.

The rapid blossoming of Soho as an arts and culture hub has
attracted further desire for investment and development, with the
Teatro del Soho CaixaBank raising its curtain for the
first time this October.
The new theatre is backed by Malaga’s golden boy Antonio Banderas,
who – despite having achieved worldwide fame over the decades – has
never forgotten his hometown.

For half an hour of family-friendly fun, pop into the Museo de la Imaginación,
which opened last year – expect optical illusions, interactive
installations and endless photo opportunities. For those with an
eye for the art market, small independent galleries such as Galería
JM, El Estudio de Ignacio del Río and Sala de Exposiciones Manuel
Barbadillo operate in the neighbourhood.

Where to stay

Sitting at the border of the newly developed Soho neighbourhood
and the historic centre of town is the Room Mate Valeria hotel. Since
2016, this hotel has been attracting a young, affluent and
culturally curious clientele. The interiors, which have a
contemporary aquamarine flavour, were designed by local studio
Melián Randolph. The rooftop bar, complete with a swimming pool,
draws local crowds as well as the hotel’s guests to sip cocktails
while overlooking the sea.

The arty Soho neighbourhood was a smart choice for this hotel
not least because the Room Mate group has its very own contemporary
art collection, which holds works by artists such as Daniel
Canogar, Julian Opie, Javier Vázquez, Abraham Gascón Lozano,
Alberto Gulías Sanmartin, Carlos Torreblanca and Carla Cid de

Turn right from the hotel’s front door to explore the streets of
Soho. Nearby lies the recently revamped port area, the Paseo del
Parque (a boulevard lined with trees and greenery) and Calle Larios
(the city’s main commercial, fully pedestrianised, street). The
hotel group has a second property in Malaga too, the Room Mate Larios, located on the
historic Plaza de la Constitución. Here, you’ll be closer to the
city’s other cultural attractions including the Museo Carmen Thyssen, the Picasso Museum, the Cathedral of Malaga and the
Castillo de Gibralfaro.

Eating and drinking

The streets of Soho present the modern face of Malaga. The
coffees and crêpes at Santa Canela or the plant-based
experience at Mimo Vegan Bistro could well be
plucked straight out of
or Brooklyn,
while the outdoor seating at trendy bars such as Madame
and Café de Estraperlo are ideal for
leisurely afternoon coffees and evening drinks. Taste a range of
craft beers at La Fábrica.

When peckish, set your eyes towards Calle Casas de Campos. Here,
Mamuchis serves a global selection of food, with flavours spanning
Asia and Latin America; unless your language skills are as worldly
as the menu here, the waiters will most likely have to explain what
most of the dishes are, but it’s well worth it once you tuck

Restaurante Casa de Botes has
been something of an establishment in Malaga for some time now,
serving a stellar selection of local delicacies and wines – but
last year, after almost 14 years in its previous location, it
uprooted and reopened in a new, modern incarnation in Soho, called
CB23. Other excellent dinner choices nearby are La Deriva
and El Imperdible.

If in search of a typically Spanish lunch experience, there is
the traditional Andalusian seafood at Casa
. Alternatively sample the cuisine from the northern
Spanish region of Asturias at nearby La Mensula. Expect both to be
bustling with lively local families.


Pop into

Imagine Interiorismo

for contemporary furniture and decoration, while The Old
Curiosity Shop is prime territory for lovers of antiques

Fans of Marvel, DC, manga and other comics, illustration and
graphic literature might poke around Comic Stores on Calle Trinidad
Grund. Over on Calle Córdoba, The Place is a go-to for skateboards,
graffiti culture or a new tattoo.

Beyond Soho – more art

Centre Pompidou Málaga – aptly nicknamed El Cubo – was
originally conceived as a temporary pilot project for the
institution to test the waters outside France. Thanks to its
success, Malaga renewed its deal with the French institution last
year, which means support and funding for the gallery in Spain will
continue until at least 2025. The gallery’s permanent collection
includes the likes of Vassily Kandinsky, Carlos Arroyo, Robert
Delaunay, Antoni Tàpies and Pierre Huyghe. The current exhibition
(on display until March 2020) looks at how the idea of utopia has
developed across the 20th and 21st centuries.

France is not the only one to have dropped anchor on the
Andalucian coast. In the same month as El Cubo’s opening back in
2015, the Saint Petersburg’s The State Russian Museum opened its
Malaga outpost, housed in a former 20s tobacco factory. Its current
programme delves into female identity in Russia: one exhibition,
(until 8 September) looks at avant-garde female Russian artists
from the early 20th century onwards; another (until February 2020)
looks at the depiction of women in Russian art across several time
periods, as saints, queens, workers and more.

The Museo Carmen Thyssen has been another crucial player in
bringing world-class art and culture to Malaga since opening to the
public in 2011. Running until 8 September, the Perversity
exhibition charts the figure of the femme fatale in modern art from
1880 to 1950. Paintings by artists including Gustav Klimt, Man Ray,
Suzanne Valadon and Maruja Mallo tell the story of the misogynistic
portrayal of women who sought freedom and power as demonic,
dangerous and sinful.

Down by the shores of Playa de la Misericordia, La Térmica is a
space that hosts exhibitions, screenings, workshops, talks and
performances. Past shows have focused on figures including the
likes of John Lennon, Madonna, David Bowie and Frida Kahlo. Catch
an exhibition about Banksy here until 15 September.