30/05/2024

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16 Best Things To Do In Málaga, Spain (+ Map & Tips)

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16 Best Things To Do In Málaga, Spain (+ Map & Tips)

On the shores of the Mediterranean with year-round sun, Málaga has tempted everyone from Roman emperors to sun-loving Brits. Enjoy urban beaches, charming streets, and local vermouth with our guide to the best things to do in Malaga Spain.

LAST UPDATE: 15 Jan 2024

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Recently reinvented with fresh urban spaces, Málaga has emerged from its reputation as a jumping-off point for some of Spain’s best beaches, to become a cultural destination in its own right.

With a captivating mix of Roman, Arab, and Christian influences, Málaga’s rich history unfolds in a host of enticing activities.

Explore defensive forts, inspect Roman Ruins, marvel at Christian architecture, and enjoy this important contributor to Spain’s Moorish past.

Málaga is an excellent destination if you want to combine sunny beaches, captivating art, cheap tapas, fascinating history, and the charm of old-town laneways.

1. ALCAZABA OF MÁLAGA

The Alcazaba of Málaga is a defensive fortress built by the Moors in the 11th century as one of the most important defenses in the area.

Inside, lush gardens and opulent Moorish-style courtyards surround a series of residential palaces known as Cuartos de Granada. These were lavish homes to kings and governors and most impressive is the Nasrid Palace.

Throughout the Alcazaba, you’ll find horseshoe arches and architectural details common to the area including the Alcázar of Seville, the Mosque of Córdoba, and the Alhambra in Granada.

TIPS FOR VISITING THE ALCAZABA

  • It’s a steep climb to the Alcazaba, but there is a lift to take you to the main section (see the location on our map below).
  • There’s a free audioguide to use on your smartphone, so bring headphones with you.
  • If you intend to visit the Castillo de Gibralfaro (see below), purchase a combined ticket for both at the entrance to the Alcazaba. This will allow you to skip the queue at the Castillo.
  • Although the Castillo is located above the Alcazaba, there is no access between the two. You need to exit the Alcazaba and then proceed up to the castle.

2. CASTILLO DE GIBRALFARO

Located high above the city, Castillo de Gibralfaro is a fortress situated on the crest of Gibralfaro Mountain, 132 metres above sea level.

The castle was built in 929 AD by emir Abd-al-Rahmann of Córdoba when Málaga was the main port for nearby Granada (see our guide – things to do in Granada). It was a key defensive fortification in the Siege of Málaga when the Catholic Monarchs took the city from the Moors.

The castle is just a shell, but the ramparts provide an interesting walk up and the walls offer excellent views over Málaga.

How to get there? — The walk up to the Castillo is very steep but you can save your legs by getting a taxi, the hop-on-hop-off tourist bus, or the 35 local bus from el Parque de Málaga to Camino de Gibralfaro.

Is the Castillo de Gibralfaro worth visiting? — There is little to see of the actual castle except for the walls, which have been heavily restored. While the views of Málaga are excellent, the walk up is very steep and there is no shade. If you’re pressed for time, we would suggest skipping the castle and making sure you leave enough time for the Alcazaba. For an alternative view of Málaga, take the Cathedral roof tour instead (see below).

Skip the Queue — Purchase your ticket for the Castillo from the Alcazaba which allows you to skip the queue.

Sunset Photography — You can walk to the viewpoint at the top of the castle, even outside opening hours, for excellent sunrise or sunset photography over Málaga.

3. ROMAN THEATRE

Built during the reign of Emperor Augustus in the 1st century BCE, the Málaga Roman Theatre is one of the only remaining Roman ruins in Andalucía. It was in use as a theatre until the 3rd century and later as a quarry and burial ground by the Moors.

The theatre was rediscovered in 1951 and, following a large-scale restoration project, eventually opened 27 years later. Today the theatre is used for summer open-air performances where 220 spectators can be entertained Roman style.

Roman Theatre Visitor Centre — The modern visitor centre (Centro de Interpretación) provides free access to the site as well as information about the archaeological finds.

4. CATHEDRAL OF MÁLAGA

Malaga’s Cathedral rises imperiously over the old town. Built on the site of a former mosque after the city was conquered by the Christian Monarchs, construction began in 1500 but halted several times until it was finally completed in 1588.

Work resumed in the 18th century to build two imposing bell towers. However, money was diverted to support America’s War of Independence and only one was built. This earnt the cathedral nickname of La Manquita, one-armed woman.

Inside, the Gothic altarpiece of the Chapel of Santa Barbara dominates the space, with the 17th-century mahogany choir stalls set below two organs with 4,000 pipes.

Málaga Cathedral Rooftop Tour — The best way to see the cathedral is on the rooftop tour where English and Spanish guides point out interesting features while you take in sweeping views of the city. Roof tours take place hourly, except 3 pm and must be booked on the cathedral website.

5. MÁLAGA OLD TOWN

As the capital of the Costa del Sol, Málaga is a sun-drenched city that has been coveted by ancient civilizations since 770 BCE. The urban heart of the city was defined by the Romans and later amended by everyone from the Byzantines to the Islamic caliphates.

Today, Málaga Old Town is a beautiful network of marbled pedestrian streets, Moorish-inspired laneways and hidden squares dappled with the shadows of orange trees.  

The best area to explore is around the church of Iglesia de San Juan Bautista with its baroque tower and stunning vaulted ceiling. Make an improvised path towards the Picasso Museum and you’ll discover some of the most atmospheric corners of the old town.

LOCAL DISCOVERY | SPANISH VERMOUT & TAPAS

Tapas La Recova is a small, very traditional bar which will give you an authentic taste of the region. Order a vermouth, a slightly sweet aperitif, and you’ll be enjoying one of the best things to do in Málaga.

6. MERCADO CENTRAL DE ATARAZANAS

The Mercado de Atarazanas is a bustling market in the centre of Málaga that dates back to the 14th century. It was used as a Moorish shipyard and later renovated in the 19th century using the existing monumental archway entrance.  

Bursting with fresh produce and the typical vibrant character of Spanish markets, Mercado de Atarazanas is where locals do their shopping and tourists come to savour the environment. In addition to piles of fruit and vegetables, the market displays its Moorish roots with dried fruits, spices, jellies, and salted fish.

Eat like a local – The best way to experience the market is by grabbing lunch at the tables that line the exterior edge of the market. Fried fish is the regional specialty.  

7. MÁLAGA MUSEUMS

Málaga is renowned for its art scene with several local galleries as well as satellite locations from other prestigious collections. There’s a lot of art to explore in Málaga which can be a great way to escape the heat of the day.

PICASSO MUSEUM

The Picasso Museum Málaga is located in a beautiful 16th-century Renaissance building and contains over 200 works donated by the Picasso family. It has a semi-chronological layout so you can track the development of his career through paintings, sculptures, ceramics, and drawings. Book your entry ticket + audioguide.

GLASS & CRYSTAL MUSEUM

The Crystal and Glass Museum in Malaga is a unique museum that showcases an impressive collection of objects from various periods and styles. Located in the heart of the city, the museum is housed in a beautiful 18th-century building.

picasso museum malaga spain
PICASSO MUSEUM

MUSEO CARMEN THYSSEN

As an outpost to the Madrid gallery (see our guide: things to do in Madrid), 19th-century Andalusian paintings dominate the Carmen Thyssen Museum. The collection includes masters such as Zurbarán as well as modern temporary collections in a renovated mansion of the nobility. Book skip-the-line entry ticket.

CENTRE POMPIDOU

Pompidou Centre Malaga is a modern art gallery at the Port of Málaga with a permanent collection and rotating temporary exhibitions. They have a regular program of modern installations as well as a few masterpieces, borrowed from their Paris gallery (read our guide: things to do in Paris). Book your skip-the-line entry.

MUSEO DE MÁLAGA (NEW)

The Museum of Malaga was originally formed in 1973 and brings together the Museum of Fine Arts and the Archaeological Museum in one palatial building. The art collection focuses on 19th and 20th-century local artists.

There’s also a small collection of grand masters with paintings by Jose de Ribera and Murillo.

Entry is an incredible €1.50 to see this amazing collection. It’s free for EU citizens.

8. HAMMAM AL ÁNDALUS

The recently renovated Hammam Al Ándalus is the finest Arab bath in Málaga.

Rejuvenate with the cold, then warm, then hot thermal baths, and finish with an invigorating scrub. It’s an invigorating thing to do in Malaga and a great way to experience the city’s Moorish connections. Book your entry ticket + massage.

After your hammam visit, stop at La Teteria and try one of their 150 artisanal teas. Tucked into a quiet backstreet, enjoy your brew under the backdrop of the San Agustín’s church or in their charming teahouse.

malaga streets

9. EAT ON CALLE STRACHAN

Calle Strachan is a bustling street in Málaga, just off the main thoroughfare, Calle Larios. It’s packed with fine restaurants spilling onto the street and it’s a great destination for a night out.

Blossom // Blossom is a smart restaurant with a contemporary tasting menu of exquisitely presented regional delights with thoughtful and innovative vegetarian options. It’s a wonderful dining experience for a special occasion and a nice diversion from traditional tapas.

Gorki Selección // Gorki prepares traditional tapas with an innovative twist to provide some of the tastiest small bites in Málaga. They have excellent produce, some of which is sourced from the owner’s farm. The service can be a bit sketchy, but it’s worth it for their excellent dishes.

Another good option is to join a tour where a local takes you on an evening of tapas and wine tasting covering four different venues.

callee strachen malaga

10. ANTIGUA CASA DE GUARDIA

Antigua Casa de Guardia (the Old Guard House) is an old-school taverna offering a great selection of local Málaga wines, sherries, and vermouths.

With old sherry barrels stacked against the wall, orders scratched on the bar with chalk, and a regular vibrant hubbub, it’s an authentic experience and one of the best things to do in Málaga.

They have a small selection of tapas which you can order and eat standing at the bar, or at the old barrels with stools. Try a Pajarete, the sweet wine from Málaga which is now a protected term.

Antigua Casa du Guardia is very popular with both tourists and locals, so expect a bit of a crush.

11. MÁLAGA PORT

The Port of Málaga is a well-protected natural bay on the edge of the old town that serves cruise ships, ferries, and small tourist boats. It is also a bustling hub of activity, with numerous bars and shops lining the ten quays that make up the area.

Take a stroll from the Pompidou Centre along the Promenade Pablo Ruiz Picasso towards some of the city’s best beaches, and make sure to stop at the various market stalls, bars, and restaurants located under the fishbone-inspired canopy.

Catamaran Tours from Málaga — Watch the sun set over the Málaga skyline and surrounding mountains with a complimentary glass of cava on this Catamaran Tour from Málaga Port.

12. PLAYA DE LA MALAGUETA

The palm-lined promenade of Playa de la Malagueta is a beautiful urban beach, located just 10 minutes away from the city centre of Málaga. After a day exploring the historic side of the city, take a lazy afternoon to soak up the sun on this lovely beach.

The beach has plenty of facilities, including showers, toilets, and outdoor gym equipment. If you’re looking to relax, you can rent a sun lounger for around €7 for the day.

There are also several chiringuitos, or beach bars, where you can enjoy a beer with your feet in the sand. More restaurants are on Paseo de la Farola, which sits on a narrow strip of land between the port and the Pompidou Centre.

playa de la malagueta
PLAYA DE LA MALAGUETA

13. BEST BEACHES NEAR MÁLAGA

Playa de la Malagueta is a great city beach, but there are more options for chilling out near Malaga. Here are some great beaches in order of their proximity from Malaga.

  • La Caleta Beach – Just past Malagueta Beach, Caleta is an excellent city beach with wide stretches of sand and mountain views in the background. There are a few beach bars.
  • El Palo Beach – The next beach along past La Caleta, El Palao is a smaller family-friendly beach with calm water and great sand.
  • San Andrés Beach – A popular beach with restaurants, bars and cafes. There’s a children’s play area plus pedal boats and kitesurfing equipment to hire.
  • La Misericordia – The 2-kilometre stretch of sand at Playa La Misericordia is famed for waves caused by the high-speed ferry that arrives at Malaga port every night.
  • Playa Peñón del Cuervo – Peñón del Cuervo is a quiet beach with no bars or restaurants just a few tables and benches if you decide to build your own barbecue. It’s 7 miles from Malaga and has free parking.
best beaches close to malaga

14 – TAKE IN A FLAMENCO SHOW

The flamboyant, seductive art of flamenco has been practised in the Andalucía region for over 500 years. While Seville is considered the cradle of the flamenco, there’s a lively scene in Málaga, particularly throughout the summer months. 

  • Bienal de Flamenco // The month-long open-air festival, Bienal de Flamenco, attracts some of the biggest flamenco names in Spain.
  • Tablao Algería // Tablao Algeria has daily authentic flamenco performances with traditional Andalusian food and drinks in the Port of Málaga.
  • El Gallo Ronco // Catch a passionate performance at El Gallo Ronco, a charming traditional space in the centre of Málaga. The genuine old taverna feel is matched with traditional Andalucian-style food.
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15. ENJOY MÁLAGA’S CAFE SCENE

The coffee in Malaga is a beloved local tradition and is known for its strong, bold flavor, delivered in the classic café solo or the sweet frothy café con leche.

But, there’s also a growing demand for artisanal coffee, brewed to perfection and served with the increasingly rare partner, fresh milk. Here are some cafes in Málaga we love.

  • Mia Coffee – Recently relocated to a newer space in Soho, Mia Coffee is the best in Málaga with an excellent selection of delicious homemade cakes.
  • Next Level Specialty Coffee – A cool vibe and relaxed atmosphere is a great accompaniment to the great coffee served at Next Level.
  • Kima – Kima take their coffee very seriously, roasting their own sustainably sourced beans just on the edge of the old town.

16. TAKE A DAY TRIP FROM MÁLAGA

Málaga is perfectly located to enjoy some of the great attractions located in Andalucía. Here are some day trips we recommend from Málaga.

CAMINITO DEL REY

The Caminito del Rey is a 7-kilometre hike through a stunning gorge, suspended on an aerial path, 100 metres above the ground. The mostly flat trail can be completed by anyone with a reasonable level of fitness. All the details are on our guide to the Caminito del Rey walk.

WHITE VILLAGES

The White Villages of Andalucía make a great day from Málaga. Explore charming, white-washed villages perched on top of scenic hills. Ronda is one of the closest to Málaga but there are other smaller villages which you can read about in our Pueblos Blancos guide.

MARBELLA’S GOLDEN MILE

The Golden Mile is a seaside promenade stretching from the town centre of Marbella to Puerto Banús. It’s the most exclusive residential area on the coast, but it also has several great locations to enjoy a day on the beach. Buses run from Malaga town centre along the coast to Marbella.  

MONTES DE MÁLAGA NATURAL PARK

Just 5 kilometres north of the city centre, Montes de Málaga is a nature park with a jagged mountainous typography. Reforestation of the area has returned the native Aleppo pines as well as a mass of wildlife. It’s a great place for hiking and biking. Try this e-bike tour from Málaga.

CÓRDOBA

Córdoba was the capital of the only caliphate in Western Europe and today it’s a fascinating city to visit. The Mezquita-Catedral with a mix of Muslim and Christian influences is one of the most important buildings in the world. Read more in our guide to visiting Córdoba which is easily reached by train from Málaga.

GRANADA

Granada is a historic town at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, around 1.5 hours’ drive from Málaga. As an important centre during the Moorish occupation of Spain, Granada is known for the sprawling hilltop fortress, Alhambra. Read our guide to visiting Granada for all the details. It can easily be visited on a bus tour from Malaga.

GIBRALTAR

Gibraltar is a British territory around 1 hour, 45 minutes’ drive from Málaga. Dominated by the Rock of Gibraltar which can be seen from miles away, Gibraltar is a great day trip from Málaga with UNESCO World Heritage Sites and several museums and art galleries. Book a bus tour from Málaga to Gibraltar.  

WHERE TO STAY IN MÁLAGA?

Málaga is a popular spot for good reason, so it pays to book your accommodation well in advance. Here are some places we recommend.

SMART & MODERN

ICON MALABAR

This smart, contemporary property is well-appointed with clean bright rooms in an excellent location for exploring Málaga. Free bike hire makes it easy to get around.


BOUTIQUE APARTMENT

GR SUITES BOUTIQUE ALCAZABA

In an excellent location just 300 metres from Málaga Cathedral, Gr Suites is a 1-bedroom apartment with a dining area and kitchenette. It’s a great place to stay in Málaga for couples.


OUR PICK

GOOD VALUE

SOHO BOUTIQUE URBAN

This colourful modern property just a few minutes’ walk from the old town has well-equipped rooms and friendly helpful service. Some rooms have balconies with city views or inner courtyards.


MAP – THINGS TO DO IN MÁLAGA

All the Málaga attractions we listed in this guide are included on the below map so you can plot your plan of attack for conquering one of the best cities in Andalucía. 

How to use this map / Click on the top left of the map to display the list of locations, then click on the locations to display further information. Click on the top right corner of the map to open a larger version in a new tab or the star to save to your Google Maps.  


HOW MANY DAYS IN MÁLAGA?

Málaga is the perfect weekend break and in 2 days you’ll be able to visit all the main highlights and have some time to check out the bar scene and scoff plenty of tapas. If you have 3 days to spend in Málaga, you’ll also have time to laze on the beach or take a day trip into Andalucía.

However, there are plenty of nearby attractions that make it worth a longer trip. Add Seville to your Málaga trip (2 hour by train) or the historic capital of Córdoba (1 hour by train).

BEST TIME TO VISIT MÁLAGA

The best time to visit Málaga is April and May when the temperatures average a very pleasant 19°C to 24°C and the city is not yet busy with mid-summer travellers. However, sea temperatures are still on the chilly side.

The busiest period is between June and August when the city will be buzzing with tourists and the warm evening temperatures are ideal for a night out finding your favourite tapas bar. Expect days to average 31°C, the beaches to be busy and the water lovely and warm.

September and October are between mid and low season in Málaga when the temperatures are back to being more pleasant and the sea is still warm. It’s a lovely time to visit but don’t expect it to be especially quiet.

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