10 best things to do in Malaga, Spain

by Jan

Are you wondering what the best things to do in Malaga are? 

You will be pleasantly surprised.  Although it’s sometimes seen as a gateway to other popular resorts on the Costa del Sol, Malaga is a brilliant holiday destination in its own right.  I went for a girls’ weekend getaway and loved it.  In this guide to a weekend in Malaga I’ll share all the very best things to do and see in Malaga, Spain.  You really are in for a treat, as there are so many cool things to do.

So what makes Malaga such a fantastic holiday destination? 

To start, Malaga is one of the oldest cities in the world and has a rich cultural history.   The legacy of this fascinating past is an abundance of historic attractions, including a castle, a cathedral, a fortress, and even a Roman amphitheatre.

Plus, it is jam-packed with galleries and museums for art enthusiasts.  This is not so surprising, as Malaga is the birthplace of artist, Pablo Picasso.

However, if history and art are not your thing, Malaga has a beach, parks, shops, and endless enticing tapas bars.  There really is something for everyone.  You can see why it was one of my favourite European city breaks!

In our travel guide I’ll share everything you need to know for a city break to Malaga, including the top attractions, useful information, and travel advice.  I’ll give you suggestions on where to stay, where to eat and best places to visit in Malaga.

So, what are you waiting for?  Come with me to discover the very best things to do in Malaga.

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Why is Malaga perfect for a weekend city break?

Views of Malaga Harbour, Malaga, Spain

Malaga has all the ingredients for the perfect weekend city break.

Firstly, it is extremely accessible.  In fact, travelling to Malaga was totally stress-free.  It’s simple to fly to Malaga, quick to get into the city and easy to get around.  Plus, Malaga is so compact, that all the top attractions are within walking distance.  It’s ideal for a weekend getaway.

On top of that Malaga is vibrant and beautiful and offers plenty of things for visitors to do.

And have I mentioned the food?  It’s amazing!  You can see why it’s time to book your weekend in Malaga straight away!

So, before you book, let me tell you Malaga’s top 10 attractions.

10 best things to do in Malaga

Enjoy the views from Gibralfaro Castle

Walk up to Gilbralfaro Castle

As you wander around Malaga, you will discover a treasure trove of historic sites and attractions.  The city has a rich history, which dates back 2,800 years and there are many historical attractions dotted around the city centre.  First on our list of things to do in Malaga is visit Gibralfaro Castle.

Gibralfaro Castle sits atop a hill overlooking Malaga.  The current Gibralfaro Castle was predominantly built in the 14th century, to provide protection for Malaga.  After an attack in 1487, it became a residence for Fernando the Catholic.

Start your ascent to the castle on Paseo de Don Juan Temboury, by the entrance to Alcazaba in Malaga’s historic centre.

There’s no denying, it’s a steep climb to the entrance.  However, it’s not far and you can stop at the Mirador de Gibralfaro (viewpoint) on the way up.  From here,  you’ll get a panoramic views of the old bullring (La Malagueta), the city of Malaga and the port.

Views over La Malagueta (the-bullring) in Malaga

Once you’re inside, take a walk around the ramparts to admire the Moorish architecture.  You can also have a look in the small military museum or have a break at the café.  Plus, remember to keep a look out for the black squirrels, which are native to the area.

If you want to know more about the history of Gibralfaro Castle, book a guided tour.

If you can’t walk up the steep path, there is a tourist hop-on-hop-off bus or local bus 34.  Alternatively, you could book a segway tour of the castle.

*You can buy tickets for Gibralfaro Castle at an automated machine by the entrance.  Admission is only 3 Euros 50, but it’s better to buy a combined ticket to visit the Alcazaba too.  The combined ticket for two attractions is  €5,50, which is really good value.

Explore Alcazaba

Courtyard at Alcazaba, Malaga

Afterwards, I’d recommend a visit to the Alcazaba.  This medieval fortress is another of the best places to visit in Malaga and one you mustn’t miss.

As I mentioned earlier, you can buy a ticket which allows access to Alcazaba and the castle.

Alcazaba (meaning urban fortress in Arabic) was the palace and residential area of the Governor of Malaga.  Built in the 11th century his fortified palace held a strategic defence position on the slopes of Mount Gibralfaro.  Its location just below the castle was perfect for defending Malaga.

Nowadays, visitors can wander around the fortress at leisure.  You can enjoy stunning Moorish architecture with intriguing doorways, archways, and towers.   Then throw into the mix several courtyards, with water features, statues, and gardens.

There are plenty of bars near the Alcazaba, so you could stop for a drink or food between visiting the two attractions.

Visit the Roman Ampitheatre

Roman Ampitheatre, Malaga

Another of Malaga’s best historic attractions is Malaga’s Roman Amphitheatre.  The theatre was built in the 1st century but was left in ruins after a couple of centuries.  It was later rediscovered and excavated to provide stone for the construction of the Alcazaba.

You can’t miss the Roman Theatre as it’s next to the entrance to the Alcazaba.  (You’ll probably walk past it when you’re in town!)  Next to the site is a visitor centre with archaeological findings from the excavation.

Check out the Picasso Museum

Malaga was the birthplace of famous artist Pablo Picasso, so it’s no surprise that the Picasso Museum is one of the city’s top attractions.  The museum is open every day until 7pm.  It’s a small museum which showcases a collection of works by Picasso throughout his career.  The museum is in the historical centre of Malaga.

It’s best to buy your tickets online in advance to reduce the queues on arrival.

If Picasso is not to your taste, there are about 30 other museums and galleries in Malaga, so plenty to choose from.

Take a tour of Malaga Cathedral

One of the most famous landmarks in Malaga is its cathedral (Santa Iglesia Catedral Basílica de la Encarnación), which dominates the city centre.

Built on the site of a former mosque between 1528 and 1782, Malaga Cathedral is built in both Baroque and Renaissance style.

Malaga Cathedral by night

With its North Tower reaching 87 metres, it is a magnificent building, and the tallest cathedral in Andalucia.  However, the second bell tower was never finished, due to lack of funds.

Inside Malaga Cathedral the architecture is equally elaborate.  It has many notable features, including the stained-glass windows in the apse

The entrance fee includes an audio guide, but if you want more information, you could book a 2 hour tour of the cathedral and historic centre.  Alternatively, you could do a guided tour of the cathedral rooftop terrace.

You should visit the cathedral in the evening too, as it looks stunning when it’s lit up.

Take a stroll along Palmeral de las Sorpresas

Palmeral de las Sorpresas, Malaga, Spain

Much as you’ll love exploring Malaga’s historic old city, don’t forget to visit the redeveloped area by the port.  Follow the palm-lined walkway, El Palmeral de las Sorpresas, to the seafront.

This is a modern area with bars, restaurants, shops, and a Pompidou Centre.  It is also the terminal for the enormous cruise ships which dock in Malaga.

Take a leisurely stroll along the promenade or stop and watch the world go by.  We stopped for cocktails after the beach and watched the sun go down.

Visit the Centre Pompidou Malaga

Brightly coloured glass cube at the Centre Pompidou. Malaga, Spain

If you like art, a visit to the Centre Pompidou should be high on your list of things to do in Malaga.

The Centre Pompidou Malaga exhibits contemporary art from around the world, which it borrows from its Parisian counterpart.  The gallery is near the port in a building known as the Cube (Cubo!). You can’t miss it, as the gallery is in a huge Rubik’s cube.

Relax on the Playa de la Malagueta (beach!)

Playade la Malagueta, Malaga

One of the things we loved about our city break in Malaga is that it’s so close to the beach.  You really do get the best of both worlds.

Playa de la Malagueta is an enormous city beach within 10 minutes’ walk of Malaga’s historic centre.  You can hire loungers and parasols, but these are expensive and in short supply.  Most people just use a towel on the beach.

To be honest it’s not the prettiest beach, as the sand is dark brown.  However, a dip in the sea is a welcome relief at the end of a hot day’s sightseeing in Malaga.

Parque de Malaga

The Parque de Malaga provides a haven away from the hustle of the city.  The city park was created at the end of the 19th century using reclaimed land from the sea.  It runs along the Paseo del Parque, so you can walk through it on your way to the port and beach.

Malaga’s city park is a peaceful area with landscaped gardens, palm trees and exotic shrubs. It has several shady spots, so is a good place to hide from the sun on a hot day.

If you are visiting Malaga with kids, you’ll find several children’s playgrounds.  They will also like spotting the green parakeets which nest in the trees.  If you don’t see them, you will certainly hear them!

Check out Malaga's food scene

Visit the Market

A fun way to start your day is with an early morning visit to the market (mercado Central de Atarazanas), where the locals come to shop.  Here you can see fishermen preparing their morning catch, and a mouth-watering display of local fresh produce.

Whilst you’re there, take a moment to admire the architecture of the building, especially the stunning stained-glass window.  The market dates to the fourteenth century, when it was originally used as a boatyard and warehouse.  It was later developed into a food market, but the original gateway was saved and is now holds its place as one of Malaga’s architectural gems.

Try the Tapas

Tapas Food, Malaga, Spain

Of course, no city break in Spain would be complete without some tapas.  And in Malaga, you’ll have plenty of choice.  You’ll find a plethora of restaurants and cafés and the tapas is totally scrumptious.  Another bonus is that the food is all pleasantly affordable.

Later in this post, we’ll share our recommendations of the best places to eat in Malaga.

Sample the local wine

Antigua Casa de Guardia, sherry bar in Malaga

You must also take time out of your weekend break to sample the local wines.  (What a chore!) One of the most authentic bars in Malaga is Antigua Casa de Guardia (Old Guard House), a charming sherry bar on the Alameda Principal.

In this iconic tavern, you can choose a selection of wine from the oak casks.  The bartenders tot up the bill in chalk on the counter.   It’s not too expensive and has a great atmosphere.  We paid about €5 for 3 small taster drinks.

We stumbled upon this bar by chance, but there were several groups of people on a food and drink tour of Malaga.

Hit the town at night

One of the  best reasons to visit Malaga is for its vibrant nightlife.  In the evenings, Malaga city centre is buzzing.  You’ll find plenty of bars and restaurants in the historic centre, as well as several clubs.

Alternatively, head to a Flamenco show to get a authentic Andalusian experience.  As well as an evening of music and dancing, the show includes traditional tapas and drinks.

Travel information for your visit to Malaga

Accommodation in Malaga

We stayed in the most amazing  accommodation, Apartamento Mar de Korus, near to Malaga Cathedral.  It is an incredibly large, stylish apartment with 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms.  It was good value accommodation in the best location for visiting all the top attractions in Malaga.

If you are looking for luxury accommodation, try the Palacio Solecio or the Gran Hotel Miramar.

For budget accommodation, apartamento Pena Malaga Centro has an excellent location and reviews.

Best places to eat in Malaga

Casa Lola Tapas restaurant, Malaga

You’ll find plenty of places to eat in Malaga but expect to queue at some of the most popular venues.

Our favourite place to eat in Malaga was Illari Vinos Y Tapas, which is near the cathedral.  You can book this restaurant in advance.  The staff were accommodating and great with their recommendations and the food was outstanding.

Another great option for restaurants in Malaga is El Pimpi.

Casa Lola is part of a chain of restaurants in Malaga, where we enjoyed a tasty lunch.  We couldn’t book, but added our name to the waiting list and soon got in.

Getting to Malaga

Malaga has its own international airport, which makes it a popular destination for the Costa del Sol.  You can fly to Malaga from the UK in under 3 hours.

From the airport it only 15 minutes to the city centre.  You can take the bus, which is really easy and only costs €4.  There is a pick-up point in front of the airport.

Alternatively, take an uber or taxi, which costs about €20.

Getting about in Malaga

Malaga is very compact and it is very easy to walk everywhere.  The city centre is a pedestrian zone, so walking about is easy and safe.

If you want to go further afield, you could take the local bus on the tourist hop-on-hop-off bus.  You can also hire bikes in Malaga or do a two hour Segway tour.

Places to visit near Malaga

Caminito del Ray

If I were going for longer than a weekend, I would add Caminito del Rey to our itinerary.

This unique walkway is 8km long and hugs the walls of a sheer cliff face. Although it was once one of the most dangerous footpaths in the world, it has been restored and is now safe.  It looks like an awesome experience and definitely one for the bucket list!

The Caminito del Ray is 58 km outside of Malaga.  You can buy tickets at the visitor centre, but it is advisable to book in advance or do a guided tour.

Book the top days out and attractions in Malaga

We'd love to hear from you!

Are you planning a weekend city break in Malaga?  We’d love to hear your questions or comments below.

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