Sunshine, mid to high temperatures year round, and the innate relaxed lifestyle that characterises Spain, is imprinted in every fabric of their rich culture and environment.
While the Costa del Sol is widely recognised as a beach and summer holiday haven, the region of Andalucía has such a diverse landscape and is so culturally unique that in many ways, its true colours shine when the summer season is over. Between October and February, temperatures on the Costa del Sol typically lie between 13 and 20 degrees and there is such an array of ways to occupy your time that a list of 7 things can hardly begin to do justice to - but here are some of our top picks.
Steeped in history and coloured by world-renowned famous locals such as artists Velazquez and Picasso, Andalusia is home to a huge number of museums and galleries.
Largely housed in buildings that are architectural feats in their own right, the substantial quantity of institutions is a testament to the regions colourful cultural legacy. Whether you are interested in archaeology, wine, flamenco or automobiles, or have a penchant for contemporary art and 19th century painting, you will be sure to find a beautifully curated museum to suit you.
In Málaga, we recommend The Picasso Museum, which brings together the revolutionary innovations of Picasso (born in Málaga, 1881) and the wide variety of styles and techniques that dominated his use of materials in a large permanent exhibit of two hundred and thirty works.
The Pompidou Centre in Málaga opened in March 2015 and is the first pop-up Pompidou outside of France, exhibiting 80 works by influential masters such as Frida Kahlo, Francis Bacon and Rene Magritte. The centre received 76 thousand visitors in the first 3 months of opening and is expected to draw large numbers until it closes its doors in 5 years.
In Fuengirola, The Sohail Castle originally built by the Moors in the 11th century stands proudly as a treasured relic, evidencing the diverse history of the popular coastal town. The Fuengirola History Museum located nearby exhibits a number of preserved artefacts and Roman remains from the period year round.
Estepona is home to the 18th century Church of Virgen de los Remedios, with its beautiful rococo façade, the San Luis Castle, as well as the Museum of Archaeology and the Museum of Palaeontology.
Click here for a comprehensive list of galleries and museums.
Mealtimes are incredibly important in the regions of Southern Spain. The Spanish take pride in cooking and serving the finest quality fresh seafood, locally grown fruit and vegetables and the most exquisitely cured hams and cheeses. While the rest of northern Europe pay premium prices for ‘organic’ produce, in Andalucía organic produce that is available in your local supermarket at affordable prices is the norm!
The tastes, textures and fragrances of traditional Andalucían cuisine can be experienced in such a variety of forms and contexts along the Costa del Sol. Tapas are served in a variety of small bars and restaurants in every town and small 'ventas', road side cafes or bars, are often family run and therefore very individual and worth exploring. Many coveted sea front restaurants or 'chiringuitos' also stay open during the winter months and serve the very best in traditional Andalucían meat and seafood dishes at reasonable prices.
The first luxury food market to open on the Costa del Sol opened in July of this year. The Ambrosia Mercado Gourmet Marbella is free to enter and plays host to numerous small stalls offering a selection of gourmet food produce ranging from artisan condiments and fancy confections to local cheeses, cured meats and homemade baked goods.
With mild and dry weather conditions practically all year round, the Costa del Sol is lovingly known by many as the Costa del Golf and draws thousands of enthusiasts of the game to the region every year. There are over 90 golf courses on the Costa del Sol and golfing resorts located in Andalucia, of which around 60 are located on the Costa del Sol, four of which are ranked in the top 10 in Europe. Some of the most prestigious courses located along this famous stretch of coastline include the highly rated Valderrama Golf Club, the San Roque Golf Club, La Reserva and Los Naranjos. A large quantity of properties along the Costa del Sol are located in prime positions alongside beautifully maintained golf courses.
4) Sierra Nevada
By the end of November, a nearby snowy mountaintop will indicate the beginning of the skiing season for the Costa del Sol. Located just 2-3 hours drive away from Marbella, the peaks of Sierra Nevada (Spanish for snowy mountain) in Granada are an amazing contrast to the famous sunny coastline, with a capacity for over 30,000 skiers per hour and the greatest skiable vertical slope in the country. Sierra Nevada is Europe's most southern ski resort and has 105km (70 mi) of alpine skiing runs, a total of 115 - 16 Green, 40 Blue, 50 Red, and 9 Black that can be reached by the various chairlifts, cable cars or t-bar lifts.
For adrenaline junkies, Andalucía also offers an array of other options as diverse as hiking to mountain biking and white-water rafting.
The Costa del Sol has more than 30 shopping centres, business parks and department stores and a score of independent shops selling products from locally produced arts & crafts to luxury couture fashion and exclusive items.
The Marina in Puerto Banús is home to the worlds most glamorous designer boutiques, including Gucci, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana and Bvlgari and also one of the largest El Corte Inglés Department stores in Spain, which is increasingly becoming a one-stop shop for every established high street and luxury brand imaginable.
6) Wildlife and Marine Life
Mild climates ensure outdoor activities such as visiting zoos and wildlife parks are also year-round and the Costa del Sol is home to many opportunities to visit a whole range of fascinating animals and creatures.
In Benalmádena The Selwo Marina Delfinarium features shows with dolphins, sea lions, penguins and exotic birds, plus guided tours & feeding sessions in the penguinarium. The Sea Life Aquarium for children located in Puerto Marina, the stunning port of Benalmádena, provides an in-depth exploration of the magical world of the ocean from sea turtles, to sharks and sea otters.
Selwo Adventure is a unique animal, nature and adventure park, located in Estepona. The park covers an area of 1,000,000m2 and is home to 2,000 animals from all five continents. Animals such as elephants, Bengal tigers, giraffes, white rhinoceros, lions and Kanvar, the only Asian elephant to be born in Spain, live in conditions similar to those of their natural habitat. Visitors are invited to tour the terrain by foot, or lorry and participate in adventure activities such as the longest zipwire in Europe, camel rides or the Path of the Hanging Bridges. The Biopark in Fuengirola also prides itself in striving to create an environment that allows the animals to roam as free as possible.
7) Sit Back & Relax
Last but not least, sometimes during the winter you might want to forget the contents of this list entirely.
The Spanish, along with other Mediterranean countries enjoy the longest life expectancy in Europe, and only the second longest in the world. This comes down to a combination of a balanced diet of locally sourced produce, a more active lifestyle - and perhaps most of all, the custom and the ability of the Spanish, to sit back, relax, and take it all in.