For many people, Málaga is the starting point for a vacation in Andalusia. The city itself is also very beautiful! These are the best things to do in Málaga.
Málaga is located on the Costa del Sol in southern Spain. The city belongs to the province of Andalusia and is the second-largest city in this region (the largest being Seville). The city has a long history. They found remains of the first settlement dating back to the 11th century BC.
Over the years, the city has seen many innovations, and you can see this very well in the buildings and landmarks. Thus, there are both ancient and ultramodern buildings. It’s an interesting mix!
Is visiting Málaga a good idea? Absolutely! This city has something for everyone; history, art, beach, and delicous food.
Things to do in Málaga
What to do in Málaga? These are the best things to do in Málaga.
The most impressive structure in the center is undoubtedly the enormous Málaga Cathedral. It is also called “La Manquita” (one-armed or limping lady) because only one of the two towers is finished.
For a fee, you can visit the cathedral, and for a small extra charge, you can also go up to the roof. Which is an amazing experience because you have a great view of the city from the roof.
The famous Spanish painter Pablo Picasso was born in Málaga, and that’s why the city has a Picasso Museum. In the museum, you can see about 200 paintings by the artist.
Plaza de la Merced
Plaza de la Merced is one of the most beautiful squares in the city and is located in the Málaga city center. On the corner is one of the city’s most famous houses: the one where Pablo Picasso was born. His birthplace is now a museum you can visit. You can also find a statue of the world-famous painter in the square.
Street art in Soho
Are you a fan of artistic murals and street art? Make sure to explore the Soho neighborhood, which you can find southwest of downtown. In the Soho neighborhood, you can admire several large colorful, and unusual murals, especially near the CAC (Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga), the museum of modern art.
Mercado Central de Atarazanas
Do you like food markets? Then you should definitely check out Mercado Central de Atarazanas. This is a large covered market in the center with a beautiful large stained glass window. At the market, you can buy fresh food such as meat, fish, vegetables, and bread. The market is open Monday through Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Museo Carmen Thyssen Málaga
The Museo Carmen Thyssen Málaga is one of the younger museums in the city (it opened in 2011) and it is definitely worth checking out. It is housed in an old Moorish palace and it’s absolutely gorgeous.
In the museum, you can see various paintings in which you can really taste the atmosphere of old Andalusia.
On the east side of the center is Gibralfaro Mountain, and on it are two castles. The castle on the hillside is the Alcazaba and this was a Moorish fortress. Now it is largely a ruin, but you can still see occasional Moorish influences in the columns and gates. It’s a very impressive sight and a must-see during your Málaga vacation! In some places in the Alcazaba, you also have a beautiful view of the city and the sea.
Right next to the Alcazaba is another extraordinary structure: the Teatro Romana, or Roman theater. It dates as far back as the last century BC and is still used for performances today. There’s a nice viewpoint in front of the Teatro Romano right next to the entrance of the Alcazaba.
Parque de Málaga
The Parque de Málaga is a large city park between the city center and the port. The substantial vegetation and many palm trees make it truly feel like a tropical oasis. The park is no less than 800 meters long and is full of benches where you can sit and relax for a while.
Jardines de Pedro Luis Alonso
The Jardines de Pedro Luis Alonso are part of the Parque de Málaga, but they are just outside it. That’s why I would like to mention them separately in this article with the best things to do in Málaga. In fact, it is a beautiful rose garden with several water fountains and ponds. Near the ponds, you will also see artworks with the famous colorful Spanish tiles. It’s really beautiful!
Castillo de Gibralfaro
At the top of Gibralfaro Mountain stands the Castillo de Gibralfaro. It’s quite a climb to get to the top (although you can also take the bus or cab), but it’s absolutely worth it. Walk around the old castle walls and enjoy amazing views of Malaga.
Hammam Al Ándalus Baños Árabes
Do you feel like a really unwinding experience during your weekend in Málaga? Then you really need to go to Hammam Al Ándalus Baños Árabes. This is an Arab-style bathhouse. Besides taking wonderful baths, you can also book massages and other relaxation treatments here.
Muelle Uno is a large boulevard along the harbor where you can stroll. There is a mall, lots of small pop-up shops (a good place to buy souvenirs), and lots of restaurants with terraces. A wonderful place to eat, shop and just relax.
Tip! Would you like to go on a run in Malaga? Then Muello Uno is the best place to do so. Especially in the morning just after sunrise, it is still wonderfully fresh and you have a wonderful view of the waking city.
Centre Pompidou Málaga
On the Muelle Uno, you will also find one of the city’s most famous museums: Centre Pompidou Málaga. Does this name sound familiar? Yes, it’s a dependency of the world-famous Centre Pompidou in Paris. . It immediately stands out because of its colorful glass cube.
At the museum, you can see artworks from the 20th and 21st centuries.
Playa la Malagueta
Located on the Costa del Sol, Málaga has lots of sunshine. And yes, it is a fantastic beach destination. The largest and longest beach in Málaga is Playa la Malagueta. Here you can lay down your own towel or rent one of the many beach beds for an afternoon in the sun.
In addition, the beach is also full of fun beach bars (these are called chrininguitos) where you can have some delicious fresh grilled seafood.
Plaza de Toros
Although I wouldn’t visit any fights myself, it is still very interesting to see the Plaza de Toros (the bullfighting arena). The building called La Malagueta dates back to 1876 and nowadays, it’s only used for fighting on holidays.
The arena is beautiful to see and is also home to a (small) museum. It’s a very interesting place to check out if you are interested in this part of Spanish culture.
Jardín Botánico Histórico – La Concepción
If you have a car during your stay in Málaga, going to the Jardín Botánico Histórico is highly recommended. These botanical gardens are about five kilometers out of town and it is an oasis of tranquility.
The gardens have many height differences and different types of trees and plants. It’s a lovely place to unwind.
Discover Malaga with a bike tour
Do you have limited time to explore Málaga and still want to see as many of the above attractions as possible? Then book a fun guided bike tour. In three hours you will cycle along the highlights of Malaga under the guidance of a local guide.
Fun day trips from Malaga
Now you know what to do in Málaga, but just outside the city, there’s also a lot to see! In fact, Málaga is very centrally located in Andalusia and is the perfect base for a longer vacation in Spain. Nearby are several beautiful places you can visit on a day trip from Málaga.
It takes some time to get there, as Seville is over 200 kilometers from Málaga, but then you’ll find yourself in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Seville is the capital of Andalusia and bursting with beautiful sights. Places you absolutely must visit in Seville are the Plaza de España, Real Alcázar de Sevilla (the royal palace), and the gigantic Catedral de Sevilla.
Read more: 16 great things to do in Seville
Nerja is a seaside resort about 60 kilometers from Málaga. The town itself is cozy (and a bit touristy), with many restaurants and beautiful beaches. Be sure to take a look at the Balcón de Europa for a fantastic view of the rocks, blue sea, and beaches.
And another attraction lies just outside Nerja, the Cueva de Nerja (Caves of Nerja). This is an incredibly underground complex of caves with large halls full of stalactites and stalagmites.
Ronda is one of the most picturesque places in Andalusia and is about 100 kilometers from Málaga. Ronda is full of historic landmarks, but the most extraordinary thing to see are the huge bridges across the gorge that connect the different parts of the city.
Tip: You can visit Ronda with a guided tour from Málaga.
Granada is one of the main reasons many people visit Andalusia and this city is located about 125 kilometers northeast of Málaga. Why is Granada such a popular destination? It has an incredibly cozy and beautiful old town, and it is, of course, world-famous because of Alhambra.
The Alhambra is a palace complex built between the eighth and 14th centuries and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s easy to spot the Moorish influences through the many unusual gates and mosaics. A must-see if you are in Granada (and in Málaga).
Tip! For the best experience, you can also visit Alhambra and Granada with a private tour from Málaga.
Read more: What to do in Granada? 16 tips!
Caminito del Rey
Caminito del Rey, one of the scariest hiking trails in the world, is located about 60 kilometers northeast of Málaga. The trail is about seven kilometers long and you walk on footbridges along the rock walls through a gorge, quite spectacular!
Due to crowds and limited capacity, it is wise to reserve the walk a few weeks before your visit. You can go there by your own transportation, but the easiest way is to book a day trip from Málaga.
Best travel time for Málaga
The best travel time for a trip to Málaga is from April to October. In the summer months (July/August) it can get very hot. If you prefer a more active vacation, then April through June and September and October are the best months.
Where to eat in Málaga
Did you know that you can eat incredibly good food in Málaga? I tried many different restaurants during my stay and these were my favorites:
- Casa Lola Strachan – Tasty tapas and delicious wines for a decent price. I saw a lot of locals sitting here, which is always a good sign. Is the restaurant fully booked? Casa Lola has three different restaurants in the city center of Málaga, so it’s easy to try another one.
- Al Ruedo – Right in the middle of the entertainment district with delicious tapas and good wines.
- Cafe Berlin – One of the best coffee shops in the city center.
- Casa de Vinos La Odisea – Cozy restaurant with a tiny courtyard. Good wines and tasty tapas.
- Chiringuito Mami Beach – The perfect place for lunch on the beach.
Tip! Try the best tapas in town with a fun Málaga Tapas Walking Tour.
Where to stay in Málaga
Are you looking forward to a long weekend in Málaga after reading this article? Then it makes sense to spend a few nights there. These are the best hotels in Málaga:
- Molina Lario (4⭐) – Nice hotel right next to the cathedral. It has a roof terrace with a pool and bar. A great place to drink a cocktail. Tip! Book a room including breakfast, the breakfast buffet is incredibly good and they make eggs every way you like.
- Room Mate Valeria (4⭐) – This is one of two Room Mate hotels in Málaga. This hotel is located in the Soho district virtually on the harbor. From the rooftop terrace (with pool) you have a fantastic view of Muelle Uno.
- Hotel Boutique Villa Lorena by Charming Stay – A unique place to stay. This is a villa in the quiet residential area of El Limonar. There are free bikes so you can be in the center in no time.
Check out Booking.com for more options, availability, and prices.
Book a trip to Málaga
Would you like to book a trip to Málaga? Then there are some helpful websites and additional tips for booking your trip:
- Arriving by plane – Málaga has an international airport and is therefore very easy to reach by airplane. Vueling is a good (and very affordable) airline with connections to other places in Spain and Europe. You can also check WayAway, this is a flight aggregator that provides travelers with the best rates on airline tickets.
- Traveling to Málaga by train – Do you prefer a more sustainable way of travel? You can also get to Málaga by train. Check Rail Europe for all options and prices.
- By bus – Within Andalusia, you can reach many places by bus. Check Busbud for all options and prices.
- Rental car – If you want to see more of Andalusia, it is easiest to travel by rental car. Check Rental Cars or Discover Cars to find the best deals.
- Parking – There are many parking garages in the center of Málaga, these usually cost between €2-€2.50 per hour (October 2022). If you sleep in a hotel in Málaga you usually get a discount, check with the front desk. The best parking garage for downtown is the Parking Plaza de la Marina.
- Tours & guided tours – In and around Malaga, there are many fun tours and activities to do. Check out Get Your Guide for complete offerings.
- Travel insurance – As for me, travel insurance is a necessary component of any trip, if you want to stay calm in every unexpected event during your journey. Check out Insubuy, this is currently the largest provider of visitor insurance. I’m sure you’ll find the best plan that fits your needs.
Read more about Spain
These were all my Málaga tips! Would you like to discover more beautiful places in Andalusia? These are some fine travel guides full of inspiration and tips:
In addition, you can also find more tips for a vacation in Spain on this website. For example, also read these articles:
- 20 Best things to do in Costa Brava Spain
- 19 fun things to do in San Sebastian
- What to do in Bilbao Spain? | 18 tips
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