It's fiesta time in beautiful Malaga, writes LOUISA GREGSON
THE Spanish city of Malaga is about to erupt in a nineday fiesta of food, flamenco and fun.
Visitors to the Feria de Malaga are invited to party alongside the locals in a celebration of Andalucian traditions.
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Starting this Friday, the city will become a full-on party zone packed with dancing, horse-riding, wine-tasting and live music events into the night.
Dating back more than 400 years, the annual festival now attracts more than a million people.
New for this year will be a chill-out area by the quayside, which is due to feature live music acts from flamenco to soul.
The annual fiesta may be Malaga's biggest event but the city is a year-round sunshine destination offering the cool combination of a beach break with the buzz of a vibrant city. Famous as the birthplace of Pablo Picasso, it has a rich history and boasts many cultural attractions.
These nestle among contemporary hotels, bars and restaurants in a city that is becoming increasingly renowned for its gastronomy and vibrant social scene.
It is also a place to relax, soak up the laid-back vibe and enjoy the scenery.
Striking This summer I will hold dear a magical memory of riding a bicycle along the Malaga coastline, a warm breeze in my hair and the soothing sound of rolling waves as a backdrop.
I was transported back to being a kid in the sunsoaked school holidays that seemed to last for ever, when a bike and a warm day was all I needed to feel carefree and alive.
Swapping my wheels for high heels as the sun went down, I headed out in search of refreshment.
Malaga supposedly has more bars than anywhere else in Spain. And boy do they like a late night. Most locals don't even venture out until 1am when the squares and side-streets start to come alive.
When party time is over, there is a wealth of history and culture to enjoy.
The Museo Picasso Malaga is a must, even for those not particularly interested in art.
It celebrates the painter, who was born in the city in 1881, and boasts an extensive selection of his work. Close by is Malaga Cathedral, combining striking Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture.
This majestic building is aptly nicknamed "La Manquita", or the one-armed lady, because only one of its towers is finished.
Just a five-minute stroll from the cathedral is the Alcazaba, a Moorish fortress built in the 11th Century on top of the old Roman city.
Inside are pretty pools and gardens. Underneath are the stunning remains of an old Roman theatre.
If all that culture leaves you peckish, the El Pimpi bar - behind the Picasso Museum - is a great place to enjoy a glass or two of vino tinto and authentic Andalucian tapas.
Couples may also wish to enjoy the magic and romance of Los Jardines de la Concepcion.
These lush botanical gardens offer space, stillness and tranquillity with more than 50,000 different plants.
Glitzy They could be the perfect place to propose - and weddings are held there too. If you're more interested in motors than marriage take a trip to the Malaga car museum.
Museo Automovilistico de Malaga is located in a former tobacco factory built in 1927 and houses one of the best vintage and classic car collections in the world.
Here you can see wartime vehicles with bullet-damaged seats next to glitzy Hollywood-style Cadillacs.
Before you head back to Blighty, don't forget to fit in a bit of shopping in the impeccably maintained Calle Marques de Larios.
This wide, pedestrianised and pretty street is made of marble so shiny you can see your reflection in it. It also features an array of designer shops and boutiques. Malaga is far less commercialised than many other Spanish destinations and offers spectacular architecture, fascinating culture and authenticity alongside fine food and a great night out.
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It's also a beautiful haven to relax, unwind and sample Spain at its best.
GETTING there: bmibaby is flying to 29 destinations in Europe from East Midlands Airport and Birmingham Airport until September 9.
For details of routes and to make a booking visit bmibaby.com Where to stay: Rooms at the centrally located four-star NH Malaga start from £67. To book visit the website at nh-hoteles.es For bike hire visit malagabiketours.eu
Rates start from £4 for five hours.
For more information on Malaga and the Feria de Malaga visit malagaturismo.com For more information on the region of Andalucia visit andalucia.com