The Best Things to Do in Nerja and Frigiliana; Andalusia's Gems on the Costa del Sol

If you know anything about me, you'll know how much I love the sea, especially with the sunshine beating down on azure waters of every shade of blue and turquoise with not a single cloud in the sky. 

Enter Nerja.

NERJA

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Nerja is a small beach town on the coast of Costa del Sol, a 50 minute drive away from the city of Málaga, easily done as a day trip not just from Málaga, but 1 hour away from Granada, 2 hours from Ronda and 2.5 hours from Seville. 

Nerja used to be a sleepy town, but not anymore.

With a sizeable foreign population now residing in the coastal gem, I was surrounded by just as much English as I was Spanish, especially close to the observatory deck that is Balcón de Europa and the city centre, where the streets come alive and shops dishing out gelato are packed.

If there was any town that embodied the attitudes and views of Costa del Sol, Nerja is it.

I had plenty of things I loved about the town, from the food to the views.

VISIT THE FAMOUS BALCÓN DE EUROPA

Balcón de Europa is a large observatory deck looking over the rocks and umbrellas of Playa de Calahonda, with the mountain range of the Sierras in the background and the town sitting on the edge of the cliff.

It’s Nerja’s jewel and one of the most photographed views of the coast.

In the height of the summer afternoon heat, it was still plenty crowded with many tourists.

Parking here is easy enough, as there is a basement carpark that is also very crowded, so expect to wait for a lot. Parking here isn’t cheap given its prime location, and spend a couple of hours here and you’d easily rack up a parking bill.

GET SOME SUN AT PLAYA BURRIANA AND CALAHONDA

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Nerja being a beach town means its sands are chock full of umbrellas, sun loungers, and beach towels in the height of summer, and by lunch time, all the umbrellas and loungers for rent at Playa Burriana were fully occupied.

For €20, Balinese style beach beds with draw curtains can also be reserved and rented, but likewise, all beds were occupied by lunch time, so you might have to reserve one in advance to avoid disappointment.

The great thing though, is that Playa Burriana is a long, golden wide stretch of sand, so if you’d like to head away from the crowds, just walk further out down the coastline away from the hotspot of restaurants and shops to find yourself a spot on the beach.

ENJOY PAELLA AT THE FAMOUS CHIRINGUITO DE AYO

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‘Ayo’, or Francisco Ortega Olalla, owner of the Chiringuito, played himself in the iconic 1980s Spanish tv show Verano Azul (‘Blue Summer’), which in turn led to visitors pouring in to Chiringuito de Ayo, a beachside shack on Playa Burriana serving up some of the best plates of paella around.

Cooked fresh on a huge pan above an open fire daily, a plate of this will set you back a mere €7.50 and you can help yourself to seconds (or thirds if your stomach is up for it).

If you’re lucky enough, you might be served by the famous ‘Ayo’ himself, and some visitors pop in to grab a photo with the local hero.

If all of this sounds a little too kitsch and touristy, fret not, as Chiringuito Ayo still looks like every other humble Spanish establishment doling out seafood on the beach and functions like clockwork, handling the massive crowds daily without much fault.

If paella isn’t quite your thing, it being a chiringuito means you can select plenty of other seafood options off the menu.

It’s excellent value for money, and you get to watch the paella being cooked on the beach.

All in, a pretty cool experience, especially for a first-timer to Nerja.

GO CAVE HUNTING

The Caves of Nerja are some of the most popular attractions to tick off the list, with the origins of the caves dating back millions of years.

Stretching into several kilometres, the Caves are divided into galleries, and each gallery is made up of a number of halls.

Mind, flip flops aren’t permitted in here for obvious reasons, so come prepared (especially if you’re around in the summer).

Open year round, a ticket in will set you back €10 and comes with an audioguide.

FRIGILIANA

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A short drive away from the coast and up into the hills brings you to Frigiliana, where you can easily find parking on the street at the foot of the town, and make your way up into the town centre on foot.

Frigiliana is one of the most beautiful pueblos blancos around, and absolutely gleamed in the sunshine.

EXPLORE THE STREETS

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Like many other white villages in Andalusia, there isn’t a ton of stuff to do in the way of conventional tourist attractions bar a line of shops here, a small church there, but that’s not the point of the pueblos blancos.

Every corner, every street with blooming bougainvillaea, every door is begging to be photographed, and you’d be forgiven for going a little too trigger-happy with the camera.

Step away from the main street where vehicles drive by with barely enough space to spare on the sides, and get lost in the myriad of alleys and staircases up and down all around the town.

HEAD TO THE TERRACE WITH PANORAMIC VIEWS

This was a happy surprise— while walking the streets and taking stairs up away from the main street, I saw directions pointing toward a terrace of some sort.

I kept following it and eventually found myself at a spot with beautiful views of the town below, surrounding mountains and the sea out in the background.

DINE AT A RESTAURANT WITH PANORAMIC VIEWS (‘RESTAURANTE EL MIRADOR’)

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A couple of enterprising restauranteurs have set up establishments looking over the stunning panoramic views, not unique to this pueblo blanco, but if you’re looking for a good one in town, a short walk town from the terrace mentioned above brings you to Restaurante El Mirador, which is so busy on summer nights you need a reservation.

We arrived early, before opening in fact, and because of that we managed to get a table without reservations beforehand, which was apparently the last table available.

The reason for this is that Restaurante El Mirador opens up the top deck of the restaurant, which is open air, for dinner, and tables here are limited, making dining here an exclusive experience.

Expect prices to match the experience, but food here is quality and Restaurante El Mirador is also a fantastic place to grab drinks at sunset.


From my trip to Spain this summer, I've turned some of my photography into my brand of everyday products which you can check out below. Worldwide shipping is available so if you're looking for a tote bag or postcard to take home to remember your travels if you too have been to these parts of Spain, and if you'd like to support this passion project of mine, look no further!

View the full product catalogue at the shop here.

Flowers of Andalusia Tote Bag
24.90

The stereotypical view of the white villages of southern Spain (los pueblos blancos) includes white houses, narrow pebbled streets barely wide enough for vehicles to pass through, and the flowering bougainvillaea poking through the houses.

Frigiliana made all the pueblos blancos views I had in my mind manifest in real life.

It was stunning on every corner, but from where we parked at the foot of downtown, we had to scale a number of steps to get up to the town centre, and halfway up we saw these bougainvillaea growing out of the walls with the beautiful town in the background which was absolutely stunning and this is where I took this photograph.

View the rest of the collection here.

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Afternoons in Seville Tote Bag
24.90

When in Seville, we went on a walking tour to get ourselves familiarised with the city.

Read: The Ultimate Guide to Seville— What to Do & See in the Andalusian Capital

I've fallen hard for walking tours after this summer, and I'm so glad I went on 2 in Spain alone.

Across the Guadalquivir River lies the neighbourhood of Triana, so called the neighbourhood of gypsies and outcasts, where inhabitants used to identify as being from Triana before Seville. 

The draw of Triana though, apart from the flamenco flair, is Calle Betis, the riverfront promenade lined with restaurants and bars which turns into a hotspot in the evenings. 

Read: What to Eat in Seville— From Creative Tapas Restaurants to Traditional Spanish Taverns to Churros Bars

In the sleepy late afternoon though, the buildings shine in the sun as workers of each restaurant start slowly setting up for a busy evening ahead.

View the rest of the collection here.

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The Barcelona Coffeehouse Tote Bag
24.90

Barcelona wasn't on the itinerary this summer, but as you can imagine I have plenty photos from my stint 2 years ago. 

Read: What it Was Really Like Moving to Spain On My Own at 19

Read: What Moving Away From and Returning to Spain After 2 Years Felt Like

One of my favourite neighbourhoods in Barcelona is El Born, which is basically the Gothic Quarter except lined with local boutiques instead of kitsch tourist souvenir shops, which lends itself to a really nice bohemian atmosphere.

Read: Breaking Barcelona Down by Neighbourhood— The Best One For Your Needs

Not to mention some of the best tapas bars in the city can be found here, which is a major plus.

El Born's also where you get all the beauty of the Gothic Quarter, and I particularly like the doors and façade of shops and houses here. 

So here's a photograph of a coffeehouse in El Born, and I think this is quintessential Barcelona in a photograph.

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Vinyls in a Vintage Store Tote Bag
24.90

When I lived in Barcelona, there were quite a few vintage clothing stores around, and this in particular was a chain of them— Flamingos Vintage Kilo. I would always walk into these stores even if I wasn't looking for anything in particular for the vibe of them. Everything about them just felt so damn cool. In this shop, I stumbled onto an area where there was a collection of vinyls, and there really is something about vinyls for me and the way they are packaged. There was no way I was leaving this store without at least a snap on the camera.

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