Imagine yourself in Marbella, one of the most popular tourist destinations on the Costa del Sol in Spain. Offering Mediterranean sunshine, sandy beaches and many excellent restaurants, Marbella is a great place to try out some traditional Spanish cooking. If you’re planning a holiday in the sun, here are some of the most popular dishes you’ll find on the menus of the restaurants and hotels in Marbella.
Gazpacho is a cold soup that’s popular in Marbella and all over Spain, in fact all over the world! Not surprising because on a hot summer’s day it makes a wonderfully refreshing lunchtime dish.
Gazpacho is great for vegetarians and includes tomatoes, garlic, cucumber, onion and green pepper, blended together in a dressing of olive oil, vinegar and salt. If you like it a little more spicy, just add ground black pepper and cumin.
Ajoblanco is another cold soup that is very popular in Malaga and the Andalusia area of Spain. Ajoblanco is made from green apples, garlic, green seedless grapes, milk, salt, black pepper, wine vinegar, blanched almonds and cubes of white bread. It can be served topped with toasted almonds.
Many Spanish resorts, including Marbella, are on the coast so fish dishes are very popular and can include locally caught fish and seafood. Pescaito Frito is to be found on many menus and meaning simply “Fried Fish” – it’s actually a corruption of “Pescadito Frito” but the name has stuck.
There are many sorts of fish that are served this way and the meal could be enjoyed with salad. “A La Plancha,” meaning grilled, is another popular way of serving fish in Spain.
Espetos de Sardinas
Sardines are a very popular small fish served in restaurants in Spain and the Mediterranean region. Espetos de Sardinas means grilled sardines and this is one of the main ways the fish are prepared in Marbella and on the Costa del Sol.
An “espeto” is usually made up of six sardines on a wooden spit. The fish are grilled over open wood fires in the traditional way using olive wood for the fire. Sprigs of aromatic culinary herbs, such as rosemary, bay and thyme are placed on the embers to add flavour to the cooked fish. Enjoy your grilled sardines at one of the many Chiringuito or beach restaurants along the coast where you can sit with the sand under your toes with a view of the sea.
“Ensalada malagueña” means Malaga Salad and is a speciality of the region around Marbella. This salad combines the contrasting flavour of oranges with cod and potatoes, olives and onions, and a dressing of olive oil. The combination of sweet and savoury is just right!
I hope your mouth will be watering at this taste of Marbella and the south of Spain. Do you have any favourite dishes from your holidays in Spain?
Read more about the south of Spain
Photo Credits in order of appearance: A Bowl of Gazpacho by Javier Lastras, Ajoblanco Soup by Miss Alix, Pescaito Frito for lunch by Dorte, Grilled Sardines by Daniel Sancho, and Malaga Salad by Jose Antonio Galiano.
This article was brought to you based on information from Venere.com
I might have realised that the Alhambra in Granada is one of the foremost tourist attractions of Spain when we arrived late morning to be told that all tickets for the palace were sold out. What a disappointment! Apparently you need to book online for the Alhambra, sometimes many days ahead, or arrive early when it opens to buy one of the few tickets that they sell on the day.
If you don’t get a ticket for the palace, you should still do as we did and take the ticket to look around the gardens and grounds, including the courtyard of the Genaralife and the walk along the battlements with a commanding view over the city. If ever you felt the power of the rulers of the Alhambra, it would be up there at the top of the tower, with the plains stretching before you and the palace behind you, with the flags flying in the breeze. No wonder they named it the Torre del Homenaje or the Tower of Homage.
We nearly didn’t come to Granada, as the day before we’d visited El Chorro in the pouring rain and we couldn’t face another day of damp sightseeing. But luckily the sky was blue as we left Malaga, although as we got nearer the Sierra Nevada, the clouds were gathering again. There were a few light showers, but nothing to slow us down and later the sky brightened and we sat in the courtyard under the battlements in the sunshine, sipping a beer (Brian) a coffee (Ana) and a Magnum ice cream (Marilyn and me).
First we visited the Genaralife, a moorish villa with courtyard surrounded by gardens that overlooks the main Nasrid Palaces. We passed through the huge, sculpted hedges, next to the area where they have a stage and seating for concerts in summer and climbed the water stairway, where channels of water cascade down on each side of the steps punctuated by small fountains. In the gardens of the Generalife in particular, the sound of running water was everywhere in jets, fountains, pools and water channels. In the heat of the Spanish summer, this was the place where the Moorish kings came to relax and feel the cooler mountain air, serenaded by the music of running water.
The Alhambra complex was begun in the 13th century by the Moorish rulers of Granada, starting with Muhammad I who brought his court here and followed by Muhammad V who constructed the Palace of the Lions. In 1492, however, the Moorish rulers surrendered the palace to the forces of the Catholic monarchs, King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castille and in the 16th Century King Charles V constructed his palace alongside the older Moorish ones.
As we didn’t get into the palace, we missed out on the beautiful tiled interiors, elegant courtyards and ornate Arabic style carved stonework, although we got a taste of it in the Generalife. In early summer it would be perfect, to feel the heat of the sun tempered by the shady walkways and topiary and the sound of running water everywhere.
By the time we had walked everywhere, seen practically every bit of the garden, climbed every stairway and taken in every view, it was mid afternoon and we decided to go down into Granada to get something to eat. The guides advised us not to drive down into the city, but instead to either walk down the pathway that leads to the old town or to take one of the small buses that go up and down the hill (€1.20 each way). As the bus was just leaving we took that and ended up wandering around a while in the alleyways of Granada trying to decide which of the many Tapas bars to choose. We ended up in one called Tabernas Salinas which was large and packed, but we stood at the bar, hanging our bags and coats on to one of the many hooks that lined the walls, and were treated to some free tapas with our drinks as we waited for a table to become free.
Eventually we were seated around 4pm (when the kitchen is normally closing in Spain) and chose from the many delicious dishes – mine was Pimentos del Piquillio relianos de Bacalao or stuffed red peppers filled with a paste of salt cod with a seafood sauce. The others had grilled octopus and stuffed aubergines, washed down with the local red wine. We didn’t have much time to see anything else of the city, but returned back up the hill to our parked car on the same mini bus – they need to be small to turn the corners in the narrow streets.
I had previously visited Alhambra with the family over 10 years ago when we stayed in a campsite just up the valley looking towards the Sierra Nevada, and I have a picture of us all in front of one of those fountains in the courtyard of the palace. Next time I visit it will be in the early summer to stay in the luxurious Parador hotel in the Alhambra grounds and to wander around in the warm evening air, to the music of fountains, as if I owned the place – I wish!
Visitor information for the Alhambra in Granada, Spain
Book tickets in advance for the Alhambra – highly recommended, especially in high season, or alternatively arrive at opening time and hope for the best. If you don’t get a ticket for the palace, you should still take the ticket to see the gardens, including the Generalife and the towers.
Plan your visit on the official Granada tourism website for Alhambra
The Tapas bar where we ate was Tabernas Salinas in Granada. I recommend it for the lively atmosphere, tapas at the bar and the delicious light dishes of the restaurant
If you’d like to stay in luxury in the Parador, set in a former convent in the grounds of Alhambra, you can compare prices and book the Parador de Granada Hotel on Hotels Combined.
You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey
We drove inland from Malaga towards El Chorro, a steep canyon set in a Natural Reserve, about an hour’s drive from the coast. As we got closer, orange and lemon groves gave way to rocky outcrops, dotted with yellow gorse and groves of stunted pines. I’d hoped for a sunny spring break, but today it was pouring with rain and we had to rub the condensation from the windows to get anything of a view.
As we turned off into the National Park area we drove alongside the huge reservoir, one of several connected reservoirs in the area, it’s blue-green waters turned muddy brown from the constant downpour. It looked as if the water was high and the bushes along the shoreline were starting to get submerged. We turned off the road with the view of the reservoir on winding roads through a landscape of smooth rocks and boulders where my Spanish friend Ana told us that you might find a pleasant spot to stop for a picnic in the springtime.
Before long we were all starting to feel a little queazy as the car wound it’s way round the curving route and finally we ascended to a resevoir, set high up with a sheer drop on one side down to the valley. There was a path all around the resevoir where you might walk around on a sunny day, although on this windswept day it only got out of the car to take a brief photo.
We reached the place where the gorge narrows into a steep canyon where the only way to pass is on a precipitous broken path known as El Caminito del Rey, that we could trace high up along the wall. As parts of it are completely broken away, you’d be foolhardy to attempt it without the security of climbing ropes but we saw a group of climbers down below preparing to climb up to it. The path was originally constructed in 1905 to enable hydro-electric workers to access different parts of the gorge, but in recent years the local government has closed it following several deaths, and plans to repair the path.
At the side of the canyon there’s a train tunnel bored through the mountain with a green metal gantry bridge that was used as a film location in the second world war movie, Von Ryan’s Express, in which Frank Sinatra is shot running across the bridge trying to jump on the train and escape into Switzerland.
Further on we reached another viewpoint where you could look in both directions down the valley, to the open plains in one direction and down to another resevoir at the bottom of the valley. Apparently they pump water up from one resevoir at night time when the electricity is cheap and then use it to generate hydro-electric power in the daytime. As we stood there, we spotted five eagles drifting on the up currents from the valley and then they soared past us, one by one with just an occasional sweep of their feather fronded wings. With the rain continiuing to lash down, we didn’t linger there but drove down to the resevoir at the bottom of the valley where there are several hotels and cafes.
My friend Ana passed by the cafes with the coaches outside and drove on to an unassuming small hotel where she had eaten before. I’ve learned that in Spain you can’t judge a restaurant by the outside, and the patron moved a table into the bar area in front of the open fire, where traditional legs of cured ham were hanging.
The patron brought us a few different dishes to try, including a gratin of spinach topped with egg and cheese and wild boar cooked slowly in red wine, which Ana drank with a small glass of Anis liquer that she said was good to keep out the cold. Outside the hotel, the reservoir had elegant wrought iron railings and the last time my friend had been there in the summer, she said that children had been jumping into the water for a swim.
It was unfortunate that with the pouring rain, we hadn’t been able to appreciate the views and mountain scenery or enjoy some of the hiking and adventure activities that are to be found in this area. The reserve which is well known in Spain and Europe as a playground for rock climbers, as well as being a centre for many other outdoor activities, such as mountain biking and paragliding.
You can reach the area by bus or train from the coast, but it’s difficult to get there and back in a day without a car, so if you’re relying on public transport you may need to find local accommodation for a couple of nights. If you’re looking for accommodation, you might try this campsite at El Chorro, that also has a bunkhouse and cottages, or there are a number of guest houses, lodges and small hotels in the area if you search online.
You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey