A taste of authentic Andalusian customs and traditions

The ambience in La Alternativa is created by its dedication to the art of bullfighting.
The ambience in La Alternativa is created by its dedication to the art of bullfighting. / TONY BRYANT
  • The traditional taverns and tapas bars of Benalmádena offer visitors a glimpse into a time gone by

Benalmádena Pueblo is one of the most attractive towns on the Costa del Sol, famed for whitewashed cobbled streets adorned with displays of colourful flowers spilling out of wall-mounted plant pots. Although the 21st century has made its mark on the town, Benalmádena still offers a side that many tourists fail to discover: namely its traditional taverns and tapas bars that offer a glimpse into a time gone by.

One of the most nostalgic eateries is La Fuente, which is located in a charming old farmhouse in Plaza de España. Renowned for its rustic interior, this delightful tavern boasts an extensive wine list that offers premium wines from regions such as Rioja, Ribera de Duero and La Mancha. The wine racks line the walls and form part of the decoration, which is complemented with old agricultural tools and paintings highlighting local customs and traditions.

The menu offers an extensive fish and seafood selection, although one of the house specialties is the hearty seafood chowder.

Those looking for an even more traditional Andalusian bodega should head into Arroyo de la Miel, the heart of Benalmádena.

La Alternativa is one of the bars that is popular with selfie-taking visitors as this bar's ambience is created by its dedication to the bullfight. The bar area is designed like a burladero (the wooden shield behind which a matador seeks protection from the bull), while the walls are covered with photographs and memorabilia of local bullfighters.

This bar is particularly popular during the local fair and is a place where aficionados of the art of the corrida (bullfight fans) congregate over a glass of sherry, or Cartojal, a popular sweet white wine made from the muscatel grape variety and produced by the Málaga Virgen Bodega.

Another hidden gem, located just a short stroll away in Calle Poleo, is the Mesón Tío Blas, a bar that is more popular with locals as it is tucked away from the main drag and virtually unknown to many visitors.

The bar's theme is based on the local fishing tradition of Benalmádena and the menu also highlights this, tempting diners with fresh mussels, prawns and grilled octopus, along with the local speciality of the mixed, fried fish platter. The tapas menu presents a mixture of classical Andalusian dishes such as Russian salad, tortilla, gambas pil pil, Serrano ham and Iberian pork products.

The bar also adheres to the age-old custom of offering a free tapa with each drink purchased, a tradition that has sadly disappeared from almost all of the beach side bars and franchised restaurants.

This family-run establishment offers an excellent selection of local sherry and sweet dessert wines, but one of its most popular is Barbadillo, a crisp white wine from Cadiz that is the perfect accompaniment to fish and seafood.