The south of Spain is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, thanks to vast sandy beaches and endless sunny days. Malaga lies at the center of the southern Spanish coast, one of the most popular cities in Costa del Sol. The best thing about Malaga is that it offers something to everyone, whether they’re interested in history or parties. From tours of Moorish castles to day trips to Marbella for its fabulous nightclubs, the best things to do in Malaga can appeal to anyone.
Apart from the beaches and the parties, the Spanish city is also famous for its impeccable art scene. It is the birthplace of Pablo Picasso, and it’s got a couple of museums to prove it.
Whether you want to sip cocktails on the beach or explore all the Moorish castles in Andalusia, Malaga is a destination worth considering. And this guide to the best things to do in Malaga will help you plan the perfect itinerary!
Excellent hiking trails, a rich history, and delicious tapas are some highlights of a trip to Malaga. The Spanish city is as diverse as it is stunning, and it’s impossible not to enjoy your stay here.
Malaga doesn’t care what you expect from it because it provides everything. From fabulous art museums to monoliths from the Copper Age – there’s something for everyone in this city and I’m about to tell you all about it!
Best Of Malaga Quick Guide
- Must See: Picasso Museum, Alcazaba, Castillo de Gibralfaro, Roman Theatre
- Where To Stay: Ibis budget Málaga Centro, Palacio Solecio, Only YOU Hotel Málaga
- Fun To Do: Caminito del Rey, Caves of Nerja, Playa de la Malagueta, Museo Automovilístico de Málaga
- Day Trips: Granada, Marbella, Montes de Malaga Natural Park
- Must Try Foods: Tapas, Jamon Iberico, Gazpacho, Paella
Best Things To Do In Malaga
Malaga lies at the center of Costa del Sol, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. With countless miles of sandy beaches, incredible medieval architecture, and spectacular art museums, Malaga is a destination anyone can enjoy.
It’s an equally great place for a relaxed beach vacation as well as a multi-day hiking adventure. The mild climate makes a trip to Malaga worthwhile any time of the year, but it’s the excellent food that will make you want to visit again soon.
1. Visit The Picasso Museum Malaga
Set in a restored palace from the 16th century, the Picasso Museum is one of the best in Malaga. Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga and spent many childhood years here. The museum celebrates the artist’s connection to the city and showcases 200 of his incredible artworks.
If you’re not already a fan of art and Picasso, this museum might not be for you. But if you’re even a little bit interested in the works of the artist who co-founded the Cubist movement, this museum needs to be one of your first stops in Malaga.
Insider Tip: If you can’t get enough of Picasso in Málaga City, head to Museo Casa Natal de Picasso next. It’s the artist’s former home on Plaza de la Merced and features even more stunning artworks as well as period furnishings.
Practical Information: The Picasso Museum is open from 10 AM until 6 PM. Tickets are 12€. Book yours here before you go.
2. Walking Tour of Malaga Old Town
The best way to get acquainted with a new city is to do a detailed tour of its old town. Guided tours of Malaga’s old town are available for tourists who want to learn everything about the city’s history and culture. And self-guided tours are possible for budget-conscious travelers who prefer to discover the sights on their own.
Roam around the narrow alleys to discover the 3,000-year history of this Spanish city. See the Malaga Cathedral, the Roman Theater, Plaza de la Constitución, and Alcazaba. Then head down to the port for the best views of the Málaga Lighthouse and the sea beyond it.
A street art tour of Malaga is an alternative way of discovering the city. It focuses on the Soho and Lagunillas neighborhoods, where the bulk of the city’s graffiti and street art is found. Stunning murals and captivating paintings adorn the streets of Malaga’s buildings in these areas, making this tour a top choice for all art lovers in Malaga.
Practical Information: Malaga’s old town is walkable and self-guided tours are easily arranged.
3. Discover 3,000 Years of History at Alcazaba
The Spanish region of Andalusia is famous for Moorish architecture, with the Alhambra as the most famous example. But you don’t have to travel to Granada to admire a Moorish fortress because Malaga also features some stunning examples of medieval architecture.
Alcazaba is a medieval fortress in Malaga’s historic center. It’s surrounded by lush gardens and offers some of the best panoramic views in the Spanish city. The construction of the palace began in the 11th century, but it wasn’t completed until the 15th century.
Stroll along the walls of the palace, admiring the views and learning about its fascinating history. You can enter as many palace rooms as you like; many have small exhibits inside, which offer even more information about the rich history of the place.
Practical Information: Tickets for just Alcazaba are 3.5€. Purchase a combo ticket for 5.5€ if you want to visit both the Alcazaba and Castillo de Gibralfaro. Alcazaba is open from 9 AM until 8 PM.
4. Admire the Views From Castillo de Gibralfaro
Situated just 20 minutes outside the historic city center of Malaga, Castillo de Gibralfaro is another medieval landmark worth visiting in southern Spain. The castle ruins atop Mount Gibralfaro offer spectacular views of downtown Malaga and its ports.
This historic castle is best known for the irregular layout of its walls. The lengthy perimeter features only a few bastions, the most prominent of which is the White Tower above its northwestern walls.
Walking along the castle walls is a great experience, but don’t forget to go inside the different castle rooms. Many feature exhibits on the building’s history, including miniature replicas of Malaga’s topography and weapons uncovered at the castle site.
Practical Information: Castillo de Gibralfaro is accessible for a fee of 3.5€. Combo tickets are available for 5.5€ and grant access to both this castle and the Alcazaba. The castle is open every day from 9 AM to 8 PM.
5. Buy Souvenirs at Mercado Central de Atarazanas
Mercado Central de Atarazanas is a covered market on the western edge of the city’s old town. It’s famous for the paintings that adorn its roof and the best place in the city to shop for souvenirs. As long as your idea of souvenirs from Spain is mostly olive oil, wine, and Jamón ibérico.
With the best fresh produce and meats, the covered market is the best destination for stocking a fridge in Malaga. And even if you don’t want to bring home a pound of Spanish ham (please reconsider), you can grab a bite to eat at one of the many Tapas Bars under the roof of the Mercado.
Practical Information: Mercado Central de Atarazanas is open from Monday to Saturday, from 8 AM until 3 PM. Entrance to the market is free.
6. See the Málaga Roman Theatre
The Roman Theater in Malaga is right next to the Alcazaba, allowing you to visit two of the most iconic landmarks in the city in a single afternoon. The theater dates back to the 1st century AD, and it’s a fascinating sight for anyone interested in history and Roman ruins.
A glass pyramid is situated in front of the Roman Theater, and it allows visitors to look down into the ruins. It’s cool, and I couldn’t help but be reminded of its much larger sister in front of the Louvre. This is appropriate because the Roman Theater in Malaga doubles as a contemporary museum, with an exhibit of statues and miniatures scattered around the ancient ruins.
Practical Information: The Roman Theater is open from 10 AM until 6 PM (4 PM on Sundays). Entrance to the site is free, and tips are appreciated.
7. Day Trip to Marbella
Marbella is a resort city southwest of Malaga. It’s only 45 minutes by bus or car, and if you’re looking for a quick day trip in southern Spain, this is one of the best options.
Known for its spectacular resort hotels, vast sandy beaches, and excellent nightlife, Marbella is a destination that can offer something to anyone. It’s particularly a good place for travelers who just want to relax for a while – lounge on the beach with a cocktail in hand and jump in the sea whenever it gets too hot. Then dine at a top-notch restaurant in the evening, followed by a wild night out in one of Marbella’s best clubs.
On the other hand, Marbella is also a great destination if you’re primarily interested in history and archeology. With medieval ruins, excellent museums, and an old town encircled by Moorish Walls, Marbella is a fascinating town on Costa del Sol.
Practical Information: Buses from Malaga to Marbella depart from the main bus station every 20 minutes, with 20 daily departures. Tickets are $8.
8. Sunbathing at Playa de la Malagueta
La Malagueta Beach is one of the best in Spain’s Costa del Sol. The vast stretch of sand is constantly inviting tourists to come and relax for a few hours, and it wouldn’t be a proper trip to Malaga if you didn’t “waste” at least one day lounging on the beach.
On a warm, sunny day, there is no better place to be in Malaga. Rent a lounger with an umbrella and spend as much time here as you like, preferably with a good book in hand. The beach is lined with seafood shacks, so you don’t even have to leave for lunch, and vendors with ice-cold beverages are constantly walking up and down the beach.
Practical Information: Playa de la Malagueta is accessible any time of the day for free.
9. Hike Caminito del Rey
This adventure is something only experienced hikers should attempt. It’s no longer as dangerous as it used to be, but it’s still a challenging hiking path that requires a lot of technical knowledge and experience.
Caminito del Rey is characterized by a steep walking path built into the cliffs. It offers spectacular views of the Desfiladero de los Gaitanes gorge, and it is undoubtedly one of the most rewarding hikes in southern Spain.
The entrance to Caminito del Rey is at the northern visitor’s center, approximately two hours outside Malaga. This day tour from Malaga is highly rated.
Practical Information: The trailhead for Caminito del Rey is 2 hours from Malaga by bus or an hour by car. Tickets are 10€ per person.
10. Tour Carmen Thyssen Museum Houses
Carmen Thyssen Museum is another fabulous art museum in Malaga. Set inside a 16th-century Renaissance palace, the museum is fascinating both for the architecture of its building and the spectacular artworks inside.
The collection of the Carmen Thyssen Museum includes masterpieces by renowned artists from all over the world. A large section of the museum is focused on artists from Spain, but there are also plenty of works by international artists.
Prominent artists featured at this Malaga museum include Niccolò Frangipane, Francisco de Zurbarán, Manuel García y Rodríguez, and Raimundo Madrazo, among others.
Practical Information: Carmen Thyssen Museum Malaga is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 AM until 8 PM. Tickets are 10€.
11. Stand on the Roof of Málaga Cathedral
My favorite thing to do in any new city I visit is find the tallest cathedral and climb its clock tower. I don’t care how many steps there are to climb, I will do it every time because I can’t resist a panoramic view. Málaga Cathedral offers one of the best scenic vistas of the city’s skyline, and it’s an absolute must for gorgeous landscape photographs.
The most important church in the city has a central location in the historic old town. The intricate carvings on the ceiling are stunning, so don’t forget to look up once you’re inside. Visitors can climb the tower of the Malaga Cathedral for sprawling panoramic views of the city’s rooftops.
Additionally, the Cathedral also has a small garden with a fountain and beautiful landscaping that’s worth checking out if you’re already in the area.
Practical Information: The Malaga Cathedral is usually open from 10 AM until 6 PM. Combo tickets for the Cathedral and roof are 12€. Individual tickets are also available.
12. Wander Around Jardín Botánico
Malaga’s botanical garden is truly a special place and, in my humble opinion, the best garden in the Costa del Sol region. With tropical plants from five different continents, a walk around this garden is an incredible experience.
The vast green space is almost like a forest in the city with artificial lakes, ponds, and too many plants to count. It is a bit far away from the Malaga city centre (45 minutes by bus), but it’s absolutely worth the longer trip.
This botanical garden in Malaga dates back to the mid-19th century and spans an area of 23 hectares. With cacti, countless palm trees, and beautifully landscaped walking paths, it’s a place where you can spend hours without getting bored. Well, I could and did, not in the least because the view of downtown Malaga is jaw-dropping.
Practical Information: Jardín Botánico is in the northern area of Malaga, 15 minutes from the city center by car or 40 minutes by bus. Entrance to the botanical garden is 5.20€.
13. Excursion to Archaeological Dolmens of Antequera
Some 55 kilometers north of Malaga lies the Archaeological Dolmens of Antequera, a UNESCO World Heritage Site estimated to be 6,500 years old. It’s one of the best destinations near Malaga for history buffs who enjoy touring relics from a different era.
What’s most impressive is that entrance to the site is entirely free of charge, and anyone can visit and walk around. But if you’re not that interested in history, you might want to skip this attraction because it’s essentially just a bunch of very large stones.
Dolmen de Menga is an ancient burial site and megalithic tomb. Dolmen de Viera was initially constructed in the Copper Age, but it had to be restored. The burial chamber is situated under a mound and accessible by visitors.
Practical Information: Dolmens of Antequera are accessible by bus (1-2 hours) or car (1 hour) from Malaga. Entrance to the site is free.
14. Be Amazed at Museo Automovilístico de Málaga
Museo Automovilístico de Málaga combines two of my great loves – haute fashion and cars. I had to pick up my jaw from the floor once I learned about the existence of this museum, and it immediately skyrocketed to the top of my list.
Situated in the southern part of the city close to Playa de Huelin, the museum features a unique collection of classic cars and fashion, and I can’t decide what I prefer. The cars exhibited range from Belle Epoque vehicles to Hot Rods, and they’re all in pristine condition.
On the fashion side of the museum, the exhibit explores the correlation (and collaborations) between high-end car manufacturers and haute couture brands. From Chanel to Versace, the outfits displayed at the museum are stunning.
Practical Information: The museum is open from 10 AM to 2:30 PM and from 4 AM to 7 PM. Tickets are 10€.
15. Discover Contemporary Art at Centre Pompidou Málaga
Centre Pompidou Málaga is a branch of the iconic Parisian museum. Set near the port of Malaga, the eye-catching museum building is impossible to miss on a tour of the city.
But it’s a standard contemporary art museum, which might not be everyone’s cup of tea. The exhibits are out of the ordinary and often bizarre but fascinating at the same time. It’s a must-visit destination for art lovers in Malaga, but otherwise, just seeing and admiring the extravagant building is enough.
Practical Information: Centre Pompidou Malaga is open from 9:30 AM until 8 PM every day except Tuesday. A combo ticket for the semi-permanent and temporary exhibit is 9€.
16. Gastro Tour of Malaga’s Tapas Bars
Some of the city’s best tapas bars are inside Malaga’s covered market. Walk for 10 minutes around the old town, and you’ll stumble upon at least 10 other tapas bars. The most popular ones in the city are Picasso Tapas Bar, Lechuga Tapas, Lo Güeno Mesón, and Bar La Tranca. All have excellent food, cocktails, and a quirky, inviting interior.
Practical Information: Most tapas bars in Malaga are open in two shifts, with an afternoon siesta from around 4 PM to 7 PM. Dinner is served late in Spain (8-10 PM), and reservations are recommended.
17. Roam Around Montes de Málaga Natural Park
Montes de Malaga Natural Park is another excellent destination for hikers in Costa del Sol. If the Caminito del Rey is a little bit out of your league, this stunning natural park is the best alternative. With too many miles of hiking trails to count, you could spend your entire trip to Malaga here, discovering spectacular landscapes.
The park is named after the mountain range that dominates the space and offers excellent hiking and climbing opportunities. The tallest summit rises to a height of 1,030 meters; that’s far from an intimidating hike, especially for someone who has conquered a summit in the Alps.
Come here for some casual hiking and a day out in nature. The park also features quite a few statues, landmarks, observation platforms, and loads of cycling and mountain biking trails.
Practical Information: Montes de Málaga Natural Park is accessible 24/7 and has free entrance. There’s no public transport connection so a guided excursion is the best option if you don’t have access to a car in Malaga.
18. Excursion to Granada (See the Alhambra)
The Alhambra is one of the most famous landmarks on the planet and it’s only 2 hours outside Malaga. Granada is an hour and 45 minutes if you have access to a car in southern Spain, and the best day trip you can do from this city.
The Moorish palace is one of the world’s best examples of Islamic architecture. As such, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Andalusia, and you can generally expect it to be crowded.
Multiple types of tickets are available for Alhambra, depending on which parts of the complex you want to access. I recommend going all out and getting the most expensive tickets that allow you to see everything. Plan to spend an entire day here, roaming around the palace complex, marveling at all the little details on the different palace structures, and entering as many rooms as possible.
Practical Information: Granada is 1-2 hours from Malaga, accessible by cars, buses, and trains. Tickets for the Alhambra are 7-18€, depending on how many areas you want to access.
19. See Neanderthal Paintings at the Caves of Nerja
The Caves of Nerja are a fascinating natural landmark near Malaga. Stretching for nearly 5 kilometers, the caverns are home to Neanderthal paintings estimated to be more than 42,000 years old. They’re the oldest cave paintings uncovered on our planet, which makes this a truly special attraction in Spain.
The system of caverns is split in two, and only one section is open to the public. Concerts are often held in one of the caves, as it serves as an excellent amphitheater. If you can manage to attend a performance in the Nerja Caves, it would be an epic experience.
Practical Information: The Caves of Nerja are an hour and a half by bus or 50 minutes by car from Malaga. Entrance to the caverns is 16€ for adults and includes an audioguide.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Not To Miss In Malaga Spain?
The Picasso Museum, Alcazaba, and Castillo de Gibralfaro are the most famous attractions in Malaga. Caminito del Rey is also world-famous, especially among hikers and outdoor lovers.
What Is Malaga Best Known For?
Malaga is best known for being the birthplace of Pablo Picasso. The city is home to a Pablo Picasso museum, which houses more than 200 artworks from the famous artist.
Is Malaga Worth Visiting?
Yes, Malaga is worth visiting. The stunning Spanish city boasts beautiful architecture, panoramic sea views, and excellent art museums. Whether you want to spend your time lounging on the beach, exploring the city’s culture, or traveling through Andalusia, Malaga doesn’t disappoint.
How Many Days Do I Need To Visit Malaga?
Two to three days is the perfect amount of time in Malaga to see all the top tourist attractions. But consider a trip of five to seven days, if you want to take some time to relax, unwind, and discover Malaga’s spectacular beaches.
Tips And Information For Visiting Malaga
Best Time To Visit
Summer is the best time to visit Malaga, especially if you love beaches and sunbathing. July and August are the warmest in the city, with temperatures consistently above 30° Celsius. May and October are also good times to be in the Spanish city because the crowds are smaller but the weather is still pleasant.
From November to April is the rainy season in Malaga. Although it doesn’t rain constantly, the humidity is high and the chance of rain is much higher than during the other months, which might put a damper on your plans. Because the rainy season sees fewer tourists, it’s not a bad time to be in Malaga if you’re primarily interested in landmarks and attractions instead of the beaches.
Malga is serviced by the Málaga-Costa del Sol Airport, which is just 15 minutes outside the city center by train. It’s also possible to take the bus from the airport to central Malaga and it’s only 10 minutes slower than the train. Both the train and bus stop at the main transit station in the city.
Malaga airport is the busiest in southern Spain, with plenty of connections to international destinations. The Madrid Airport is the largest in the country, and it might offer cheaper flights. It’s only three hours from Malaga by train, so a good alternative if you can’t find a direct flight to Malaga.
The public transport network in Malaga is well-developed and you can get around the city easily. Metro, buses, and trains are available to everyone, and they’re very affordable. Taxis are also an option that’s a little quicker but generally more expensive than public transport.
Travelers who prefer to stay active can cycle to most places in Malaga. Bicycle rental is available at multiple places in the city, and it’s very affordable. Additionally, Malaga’s city center is walkable, and you can visit many important destinations on foot.
How Much Time Do You Need
You could spend anywhere from 2-3 days up to 2 weeks in Malaga, depending on what you want to do and how you want to spend your time. The city is a great destination for a relaxed vacation, and if you want to take a week to sip cocktails on the beach, you can do so in Malaga.
On the other hand, it’s also got a lot to offer to anyone interested in history, art, architecture, and culture. With Moorish castles, Roman Ruins, and the actual home of Pablo Picasso, Malaga is a top destination for a city break.
It’s also centrally located on the southern coast of Spain, allowing for easy day trips to nearby destinations. Marbella and Granada are both close, as are stunning nature parks, archeological sites, and some of Spain’s best hiking trails.
Where To Stay In Malaga
The historic center of Malaga is the best place to stay, especially for first-time visitors. All the best attractions are within walking distance, and there are loads of shops and places to eat. The hotels in Malaga city center range from affordable to luxury, so there’s an option for everyone’s budget.
You could choose to stay in one of the suburbs, but I really don’t think it’s necessary. Also, the traffic in Malaga can be quite bad, and if you’re staying somewhere that requires you to take the bus into town, you’ll spend quite a bit of time on public transport. Here are some of the best hotels in Malaga for everyone’s budget:
Having a good time in Malaga is as easy as breathing. The city’s attractions are so diverse that anyone can have fun here, whether they’re primarily interested in archaeology or beaches. Stick to what you like, and you’ll enjoy every minute in the city.
I hope this itinerary helps you discover the best of Malaga, and find things to do that genuinely interest you for a great time in Spain.
Plan your trip to Spain with these Resources