FOR years Brits have landed on the sun-bleached runways of Malaga airport and immediately headed west for the seaside resorts of the Costa del Sol, neglecting the Andalusian gem that sits to the east.

The city of Malaga, in particular its old town, is brimming with charm – tightknit, pastel-painted alleyways that blur into one another as mesmerised visitors stroll its pedestrianised centre, the enticing whiff of local cuisines and the backdrop of buskers strumming guitars and flamenco dancers tip-tapping to the delight of diners.

City-breakers may be surprised to learn Malaga boasts a history bold enough to rival its more well-known compatriots, while its coastal location offers marina-side dining and a string of beaches to explore.

Sitting in the centre of the old town, overlooking on one side the many nods to Pablo Picasso, whose birthplace is now open for visitors on Plaza de la Merced, and staring down to the Alboran Sea on the other, is the Alcazaba.

The Moorish fortress is well worth a visit and, with a Roman amphitheatre and Renaissance-style cathedral as its neighbours, provides the perfect illustration of Malaga’s diverse cultural influences.

It is a city packed with viewpoints, from enjoying a cocktail in one of its many sky bars, to watching the sunset from the cathedral roof, to making the half-hour hike and wandering the walls of the hilltop Gibralfaro Castle to enjoy a panoramic scan of the region.

Yet it all comes back to food.

Along the beach, restaurants grill sardines on barbecues constructed from old rowing boats, while in the city locals rustle up tapas and churros to be washed down by the region’s finest coffee and wine.

To really embrace the city’s culinary scene, we jumped on a Malaga Wine and Tapas Evening Tour with Spain Food Sherpas.

For three mouth-watering hours our guide, foodie enthusiast Simone, took us off the beaten path to discover the roots of Malaga’s bustling dining scene on a gastronomic journey tailored to the wishes of our eight-strong party.

The oldest tavern in town, the delis passed down from generation to generation, the many markets that still sell fresh produce – our minds, like our bellies, came away brimming with a new-found love for Andalusian cuisine.

Simone introduced us to local sweet wines, such as Perdro Ximen and Vermouth, and indulged us with local delicacies from the region such as sherry-soaked Manchego cheese, hams and olive oils.

As the wine flowed from place to place, so did the food. We enjoyed platefuls of traditional tapas at Restaurente El Chinitas to a more modern twist on local dishes at Mainake Casual Gastro.

Then, perhaps best of all, Simone took the time to talk us through the perfect places to visit to meet our Malaga cravings.

And so, after sleeping off our well-earned food comas, we did it all again at our own pace, taking Simone’s recommendations and spending the day sipping coffee at Café Central, chowing down churros at Casa Aranda and slurping ice cream at Casa Mira, before devouring yet more delicious tapas at Ovedoble Taberna.

Muy bien, Malaga. Muy bien.

The wine and tapas evening tour is 65 Euros per person and starts at 6.30pm Tuesday to Saturdays. 

Find more details here