If you’re wondering what the best things to do in Málaga Spain are, this article will break down the best things to see, do, eat, and the best places to relax on your trip to Málaga.
Málaga is located in the south of Spain in the autonomous community of Andalucia and is the capital city of the province of Malaga.
Málaga is at the center of the Costa del Sol, the coast of the sun. So you can imagine what makes this place so special.
It’s a haven for people from all over the world who want to enjoy amazing beaches and almost year-round sunshine.
While you’re in Málaga, you may want to consider a visit to the stunning beaches in Cabo de Gata or head west to the luxurious Marbella.
I’ll also mention some of my favorite trips that are easy to do from Málaga in one day.
How to Get to Málaga
Málaga is one of the easiest places to reach in southern Spain.
The best way to easily reach Málaga is to fly into Málaga Airport or Málaga–Costa del Sol Airport, airport code: AGP.
You can fly directly here from just about any airport around Europe including London, Manchester, Paris, Dublin, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Munich, and Madrid.
There are no direct flights from the US at the time of writing, but you can very easily connect through any of the above airports.
If you are traveling from within Spain, the Spanish rail network, Renfe, can connect you to all over the country. You can take a high-speed AVE train from Madrid to Málaga and be there in two and a half hours.
To pre-book Spanish trains, I book directly with Renfe, the national train network.
If you aren’t fussy about specific times or you are traveling during non-peak times, then you can go to the train station and book your ticket for the same day.
Getting Around Málaga Spain
Málaga is a pretty small city and very easy to navigate on foot.
If you stay at a hotel or apartment in the city center, you will be able to walk pretty much everywhere.
If you want to get to some of the beaches in other parts of the city, the bus network is very easy to use.
I simply put the location of where I want to go into Google Maps and then choose the public transportation option.
This will tell you exactly where the bus stop is, what time the bus is due to arrive, which stop to get off at, and then where to walk to get exactly where you want to be from the bus stop.
A single journey on the bus in Málaga costs €1.40 and you can pay the driver on the bus, but it must be in cash and it should be paid with small notes or coins whenever possible. If you decide to hire a car in Malaga, you will have a little bit more flexibility and freedom to enjoy some day trips from Malaga as well.
Where to Stay in Málaga
There are so many amazing hotels and apartments to stay in while visiting Málaga. I personally recommend staying in the downtown area of the city unless you are only coming so that you can go to the beach. Most of the best things to do in Málaga are located in the old town of the city and it is also packed with plenty of great tapas bars and restaurants, so you won’t have to travel very far to enjoy the best of Málaga. If you want to stay in a hotel in Málaga, these are the best at every price point:
- Picnic Dreams Boutique Hostel is the best option for those traveling on a budget but that still want to have a nice, clean, and comfortable place to stay. You can get a single bed in a dormitory for about $25 (depending on the number of beds per room) or get your own double room with a friend or partner for $65 per night. Book a stay at Picnic Dreams Boutique Hostel here.
- Dulces Dreams Boutique Hotel is a great mid-range option for where to stay in Málaga. Rooms start at $65 a night and the hotel itself is absolutely gorgeous and very nicely decorated. It’s located right in the center of the city making it easy to walk everywhere. Book a stay at the Dulces Dream Boutique Hotel here.
- Soho Boutique Castillo de Santa Catalina is a great splurge if you want to stay in some luxury while you are visiting Málaga. It is located in the Soho neighborhood, which is still relatively central and about a 15-minute walk to the museums and sites around the city center. Rooms start at $259 per night. Book a stay at Soho Boutique Castillo de Santa Catalina here.
If you would prefer an apartment, I love using Plum Guide and Booking.com to find the best there is in any given city. These are my top picks for the best places apartments in Málaga.
- By the Citrus Tree is a stunning two-bedroom, two-bath duplex that’s only a 5-minute walk to the center of Málaga. It has a perfect rooftop with dining table so you can self-cater and then enjoy dinner overlooking the city. Depending on the time of year, you can snag this place for as little as $200 per night. Book a stay at By the Citrus Tree here.
- Chinitas Urban Estudios is a great option for a single traveler or a couple who are staying for a short period of time. The apartments are all studios but have fully-stocked kitchens so that you can self-cater. They are all located right in the center of Málaga city center and are a 5-minute walk to the central beach. Apartments start at a very reasonable $120 per night. Book a stay at Chinitas Urban Estudios here.
What to Do in Málaga Spain
There are so many awesome things to do in Málaga. Whether you love history, culture, food, or great beaches, you can awesome places to visit in Málaga to suit your style. I’ve spent two separate trips exploring this awesome city and I can’t wait to return again for a third time. It’s a great base for exploring the Costa del Sol if it’s your first time in the region and if you’ve visited before, it’s a great airport for accessing the rest of the region like Almería, Granada, Seville, and even small towns like Ronda.
1. Visit the Alcazaba
The number one Málaga attraction I was looking forward to exploring was the Alcazaba. Andalucia is full of history from the times of the Moors and the Alcazaba is one of the best examples of their architecture that was left behind.
Built originally in the 11th century, Alcazaba comes from the Arabic word for citadel. Built on a hill and using some of the surrounding Roman ruins (look for the marble pillars as you walk up to the top!), this is one of the most extraordinary tourist attractions in Málaga.
Be sure to bring your phone with you so that you can scan the QR code at the entrance and listen to the audio guide as you explore. The audioguide corresponds to numbers that have been left all over the citadel and you can listen to stories and learn about each part and what role it played in history.
It really adds a lot to your visit and doesn’t cost anything extra. Tickets to the Alcazaba are €3.50 per person, however, if you plan to also visit the Gibralfaro castle nearby, you would be better off purchasing the €5.50 combo ticket.
The ticket is valid for 48 hours, so you don’t have to visit both on the same day. If you visit on Sunday after 2 pm, entrance is free. This means of course, that it will also be very busy at this time.
However, it is a nice way to save some money if traveling on a budget. Tickets cannot be pre-purchased. You can simply buy them on the day you visit from the machine. Save the location of the Alcazaba on Google Maps.
2. See the Roman Theater
Just below the Alcazaba and an easy Málaga attraction to visit while you are nearby is the Roman Theater. You can see the entire theater from the plaza that sits in front of it and you don’t need to enter unless you want to walk amongst the amphitheater stairs and take a seat.
However, entry is free, so if you have time it is well worth walking through. The theater was built in the first century AD and it remained a theater until the third century. When Málaga became part of Al-Andalus and was ruled by the Moors, the theater became a stone quarry.
Málaga’s Roman theater wasn’t actually discovered until 1951 and it wasn’t completely uncovered until 1995! It’s also said that Antonio Banderas, who grew up in Málaga, performed in shows at this theater when he was a child.
The even more fascinating thing about this is that the shows would have been banned under Franco’s rule at the time, so he was performing in secret!
3. Climb to the top of the Cathedral
The Catedral de la Encarnación de Málaga or the Cathedral of the Incarnation of Málaga is located in the Centro neighborhood in the center of the city.
Climbing to the top of the cathedral is one of the top activities in Málaga and well worth it not only for the views, but to learn more about the history of the city. Just like with the Alcazaba, the cathedral has a free audioguide that you can listen to as you explore the different parts of the church.
Through the narrow streets of the center of Málaga, you will find the entrance to the cathedral which was built between 1528 and 1782 on the site of a former Moorish Mosque.
It is a combination of Baroque and Renaissance styles with the facade being almost completely Baroque and the interior following the original plans to remain in the Renaissance style.
General admission to visit only the inside of the cathedral costs €8 per person. General admission just to climb to the roof of the cathedral also costs €8. If you want to do both, then you can purchase a combined ticket which costs €12. You can pre-purchase your tickets here (the website is in Spanish).
4. Take in the views at the Gibralfaro
Another of the top Málaga attractions not to miss is the Gibralfaro. If you previously visited the Alcazaba, hopefully, you got the combo ticket. If this is the first stop on your tour of Málaga (great choice, the views are the best!), then you can purchase the combo ticket here as well.
Just like with the Alcazaba, the individual ticket costs €3.50, but if you purchase the combo with the Alcazaba, it only costs €5.50. As a word of warning, if you are visiting Málaga without a car, you will have quite a walk to the top.
From the base you have a lot of stairs to contend with, so I highly recommend visiting as early as possible before it gets too hot. You will also want to wear sturdy walking shoes.
The path up to the top is quite steep in some places and is made of stone that can sometimes get slippery. There are water fountains at the top (and at the bottom), so be sure to pack your reusable water bottle. The Gibralfaro is what remains of a 10th-century Moorish castle fortress that sits at the highest point in the downtown area.
You can actually just walk to the top near the entrance to enjoy the views if you aren’t interested in the history of the castle. There is also a wonderful audioguide available if you bring your phone with you to the castle.
5. Picasso Museum
The Picasso Museum might just be the most popular tourist attraction in Málaga. On October 25, 1881, Pablo Ruiz was born in the city of Málaga.
He would later take his mother’s last name, Picasso. Málaga is very proud to be the birthplace of one of the world’s most influential artists and you can visit the museum for €9 per person every day of the week.
The museum has a large collection of Picasso’s work (perhaps not as many as they have in Cologne!) and it is displayed in a way that is both chronological and thematic so that you really see the changes in Picasso’s work across his lifetime.
Málaga obviously really loves an audioguide, because you get one here too. You can choose which language you’d like to listen to and you can explore the museum at your own pace while learning about the life of a controversial but no doubt talented man.
If you are visiting during the peak summer season, it is recommended that you pre-book your tickets online so that you can skip the line. You can purchase your tickets here. Save the location of the Picasso Museum on Google Maps.
6. Málaga Museum
The Museo de Málaga or Málaga Museum is housed in the Palacio de Aduana, or the Customs Palace. The Palacio de Aduana was the original customs house for the Málaga port and was built in 1791 (although it wasn’t completed until 1829).
Opened in 2016 as a museum, the Málaga Museum is both an archeological and fine arts museum. The museum is of particular interest to history lovers as it retraces the story of the city, which is packed with a history dating back to Roman times.
With over 17,000 artifacts and pieces, this is the largest museum in Andalucia and the fifth largest in all of Spain. The best part is that it is only €1.50 and if you are an EU citizen it’s completely free. Save the location of the museum on Google Maps.
7. Palmeral de Las Sorpresas
A very fancy name for the city’s main portside promenade. The Palmeral de Las Sorpresas means the palm grove of surprises.
Above all else, it’s a wonderful place to head for a walk around sunset. There are indeed plenty of palm trees that line the boardwalk (nearly 400 of them in fact!). There are bars and small restaurants that lead all the way out to a lighthouse with the port opposite.
It’s a popular spot for families thanks to a nice playground and it’s also a fantastic place to go for a run. Save the location of the Palm Grove of Surprises here.
8. Museo Carmen Thyssen Málaga
The Carmen Thyssen Museum is a great option if you enjoy art and have visited the other wonderful art museums around Málaga.
The museum is made up mostly of the private collection of the museum’s namesake, Carmen Cervera, the fifth wife of Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza (also famous for his private art collection).
The main focus of the collection is 19th-century Spanish painters with a large collection of Andalucian artists. Entry to the museum is €10 per person. Tickets can be purchased online here.
9. Mercado Central de Atarazanas
The central market of Málaga is a wonderful place to head if you are self-catering while you’re here. They have everything from locally grown fruit to freshly caught fish.
Andalucia is one of the largest producers of fruit in the entire EU, so don’t miss out on some fantastically fresh produce.
In addition to being a great place to do some grocery shopping, Mercado Central de Atarazanas is known as one of the best places in Málaga to go for a seafood lunch.
There are a few options for food in the market, but I personally love Bar Mercado Atarazanas which is right by the main entrance on the corner of C. Atarazanas and Pl. Arriola. The beer is cold, the staff are friendly, and the seafood is excellent (especially the pinchos!).
10. Eat at a Local Chiringuito
Chiringuitos are a staple of Málaga beach life. Some are little stands right on the beach with plastic tables and chairs in the sand. Others are full-on restaurants with seating both inside and outside that also happen to have a little shack to make it feel more legit.
All are serving up seriously good seafood. The most popular dish to try that is local to Málaga is the espetos. Espetos are locally caught sardines that are skewered on what looks like a sword and then cooked over an open fire pit until perfectly grilled.
Crispy and salty on the outside, meaty and delicious on the inside. Add a squeeze of lemon and enjoy it with some bread. Most chiringuitos have tons of grilled seafood options that they’ll cook over the same open fire (it usually looks like it’s an old boat full of sand). A few fantastic chiringuitos to check out while you’re in Málaga include:
12. Explore the Soho Neighborhood
Soho has recently become the new cool neighborhood in town. If you’re looking for craft beer, craft cocktails, boutique hotels, and new-wave coffee shops, this is the neighborhood where you’ll find them all.
That being said, the neighborhood is really all about supporting local businesses. This is where you will find the locally owned bars, the small artist-owned galleries, and other artisan shops that support local creatives.
The neighborhood revitalization started with locals. You will notice on your walk around the neighborhood the huge murals that cover many of the buildings here. Projects to support the neighborhood are now also being funded by the local government. This is the location of Soho on Google Maps.
13. Check out the Beaches
The beaches in Malaga are some of the best in Spain in my humble opinion. There are several really great beaches within a short walk or bus journey from the center of Málaga. Playa La Malagueta is the downtown beach.
This makes it the busiest. But it is also easy to get to and very long, so there’s plenty of space to grab some sand for your towel and the water is lovely for swimming. La Malagueta also has volleyball courts, a small outdoor gym, and a playground for kids.
If you want to get further afield to somewhere a little bit quieter, my personal favorite Málaga beach is Playa Pedregalejo. It’s much smaller and can fill up quickly on weekends, but if you are visiting during the week you can have it almost to yourself. Other beaches worth visiting that are easy to reach are Playas del Palo and Playa de los Álamos.
14. Take a Boat Trip around the Bay (at sunset!)
When someone recommended taking a boat trip around Málaga to me on my first trip my initial reaction was, “Do you think I’m made of money?”
But actually, a boat tour around Málaga is a very affordable thing to do. For as little as €12 you can head out on a catamaran around the bay. For a few more euros you can add snorkeling to the itinerary. They offer them at midday and at sunset. Fly Blue is the main provider of these trips around the bay.
15. Hike the Caminito del Rey
While this isn’t exactly one of the top things to do in Málaga, it is one of the best things to do while you are visiting Málaga.
If you rent a car, it’s very easy to visit on your own. However, if you don’t have a car, you’ll need to visit the canyon with a tour. I highly recommend this tour which costs $60 per person.
It picks you up and drops you back off in Málaga and includes your entry ticket, a bilingual guide, and all transportation. You can book that tour here. The Caminito del Rey was once known as one of the most dangerous hikes in the world.
After several deaths in the park, the government shut it down and put into place a plan to revamp the trail and make it safe for all visitors. Now you have to pre-book your tickets online and only a certain number of visitors are allowed per day.
You have to wear a hard hat and the trail itself is completely new and although it feels gravity-defying in some places, is incredibly safe to walk. As you hike along the trail, you can actually see some of the old trails and I shivered to think that people would ever consider walking along such a dangerous path.
If you aren’t too afraid of heights, this is actually a very flat and relatively easy walk to do. You don’t need to be particularly fit to hike it.