If you’re looking for reliable sunshine, golden beaches, and food that will have you planning your next meal before you’ve even finished chewing, Malaga is the place to be.
The seaside city on the Costa del Sol has historically attracted tourists from all over Europe, who come to sunbathe and party. While some places have a “Brits abroad” feel to them, the majority of the city is absolutely gorgeous and well worth taking the time to explore.
For the active traveler who likes full itineraries, you’ll be pleased to know that there is no shortage of things to do in Malaga. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to fit them all in a week and still have time to chill on the beach. And you are definitely going to want to spend some time at the beach.
Of course, not all of us want to spend every second of the day traipsing from monument to monument in the heat. Some of us would prefer spreading out on a sarong in the sunshine with our holiday playlist drowning out the sound of shrieking children. If this is you then have no fear – Malaga is as lazy as we are. The pace of the city is slow and you won’t see people rushing around – it’s just not the Spanish way.
If the aim of your game is to do nothing while you’re on holiday then I salute you. However, there are a few things you can do in Malaga that will break up your endless chilling for the sake of diversity. Even if it’s just meandering through the city until you find somewhere to eat.
Whichever kind of traveler you are, the following is a list of things you can use to fill your days when you visit Malaga.
- Things to do in Malaga
- Visit the cathedral
- Go back in time at the Roman Theater
- Wander around the Alcazaba and the Castillo de Gibralfaro
- Grab a bite at the Mercado Atarazanas
- Go on a food tour
- Check out the street art in SoHo
- Eat all the tapas
- Walk along the Pier One Port
- Spend an afternoon at Playa de la Malagueta
- Stroll along the Paseo de España
- Take a taxi to the botanical garden
- Wander around the old fishing district of El Palo
- Get your art on at a museum
- Go shopping
- Enjoy the sunset at one of Malaga's many rooftop bars
- Attend a flamenco show
- Go hiking at the Montes de Malaga Natural Park
- Tours in Malaga
- Malaga Tourist Map
- Plan your trip to Malaga
- Don't forget travel insurance
Things to do in Malaga
Visit the cathedral
You don’t need to be religious to be able to appreciate an impressive cathedral and the Malaga Cathedral is the very definition of impressive. Building commenced in 1528 but it wasn’t completed until 1782 due to issues with funding. In the end, the construction team only completed one of the two towers that were in the original blueprint. This has led the Cathedral to be affectionately referred to as La Manquita, which translates to “the one-armed woman”.
The Cathedral fuses a mixture of renaissance and baroque styles. The facade is flanked by palm trees, creating an interesting juxtaposition between man-made wonders and natural beauty. You don’t need to go inside the cathedral to be wowed by it, but if you do, you’re in for a real treat. Entrance is just 2 EUR.
Tucked away in one corner is the easily missed cathedral museum, which will clue you up on the history of the cathedral. But, the real pièce de résistance is the view from the top. You can climb up one of the towers and get an incredible panoramic view of the city.
If you do this at the beginning of your trip, you can try and map out the city from up there to get your bearings for when you’re back on the ground.
You should note that it is around 200 steps to the top of the tower, so if you have any mobility problems, this might not be for you. As an alternative, the Cathedral gardens are free to visit and are colorful and beautiful.
Go back in time at the Roman Theater
History buffs get ready to be thrilled at the Roman Theater. Sitting at the bottom of the hill, outside the walls of the Alcazaba, which I will talk about in a second, is the ancient Roman Theater. Of all the things to do in Malaga, this monument is widely considered the best.
The Theater was built in the first century BC under the supervision of Emperor Augustus. They got good use out of it for about 400 years until it was abandoned and started to decline into ruins. In the 700s, the Moors moved in and began using it as a quarry to assist in the building of the Alcazaba.
It wasn’t until 1951 that the Theater was rediscovered. It was then excavated and restored and in 2011 it was reopened to the public.
If you time your visit well and go during the summer months, you can watch an open-air performance in this ancient theater. That is a truly magical experience, which will transport you back in time and leave you feeling immersed in the historical and cultural significance of the place.
Best of all, the Roman Theater is free to look around, making it one of the places to visit in Malaga for those traveling on a budget.
Wander around the Alcazaba and the Castillo de Gibralfaro
I said I would talk about the Alcazaba so here we go! The Alcazaba in Malaga is comparable to the Alcazar in Seville and the Alhambra in Granada – although not quite as spectacular as either of them, but much better preserved.
The main purpose of the Alcazaba was defense from possible invasions from other cities and tribes. It dates back to the Muslim period and is believed to have been constructed in the early 1000s.
It is an iconic example of Moorish architecture and is filled with secret courtyards and gorgeous gardens that exude tranquility.
To make the most of your experience as you wander through the structures, you may want to consider getting a tour guide to help you out. This will help you make sense of what you’re seeing. Otherwise, you can stroll through solo and take it all in at face value.
Make sure you take a minute to go to the edge of the fortress and soak up the wonderful views of the city.
There are few places in the world where you can experience so many time periods in one go. The fortress dates from the 11th century; and just below is the Roman Theater, which goes back to the 1st century BC; and in the distance is modern Malaga. In just one glance, you can see how far this city has come and yet how much antiquity still remains here.
Grab a bite at the Mercado Atarazanas
The Spanish get a lot of things right when it comes to the quality of life. But, perhaps the thing they have truly nailed above all other things is markets.
Every big city in Spain has a huge market right in its center that acts as the city’s beating heart. It is not just a place to buy food, it is a social hub, tourist destination, and historical monument all rolled into one.
Malaga is no different. The Mercado Atarazanas pulses with energy and is brimming with people shopping for fresh produce that will make you drool on sight.
The prices are slightly higher than your average supermarket, but the quality is higher and the shopping experience is better. Even if you don’t buy anything, the market is still fun to explore and one of the better-known things to see in Malaga. However, I defy anyone to walk through it without purchasing a single thing!
If you are lucky enough to have a kitchen in your accommodation, I recommend stocking up on fresh fish, meat, and veggies here. You’ll thank yourself later when you’re able to whip up something more interesting than pasta (again). If you don’t have a kitchen then you’ll just have to eat something at the market!
There are loads of stall selling mouth-watering tapas, charcuterie, cheese and other snacks that you can either grab and go or sit and enjoy. Wash it all down with a glass of Cruzcampo, the local beer, and you’ve got the perfect midday snack.
Go on a food tour
Like much of the rest of the south of Spain, Malaga is known for its tapas culture. While you can easily get them yourself, you'll only truly learn about the various tapas and other delicacies on a guided food tour.
I've looked up which ones come recommended and found quite a few that have something different to offer.
This evening tapas and wine tour takes you to various bars when Malaga's nightlife awakens.
This guided bike tour combines sightseeing with history and tapas tastings.
If you prefer combining the cultural with the culinary on foot, check out this tapas and walking tour.
Check out the street art in SoHo
Every city worth its salt has a SoHo (hello London and New York) and Malaga falls into this category. And, just like London and New York, SoHo in Malaga is an area you won’t want to miss – especially if you’re the creative type. Adorning the walls of the area’s buildings are incredible pieces of street art, some several meters high!
Historically, this part of the city has been one in which you wouldn’t necessarily want to find yourself. It was run-down, degraded and generally unpleasant. However, recent years have seen a spectacular rejuvenation of SoHo and this once battered and bruised area has had new life breathed into it, making it one of Malaga’s trendiest, up and coming neighborhoods.
Wander through the streets and keep your eyes cast upwards to spot some of the neighborhood’s finest street art. After an hour or two of meandering head to one of the area’s numerous cafés or bars and quench your thirst with a Cruzcampo or coffee.
Even if you’re not into street art, SoHo is a cool place to check out. The citizen-led rehabilitation of the neighborhood has resulted in a notable camaraderie and sense of community that you won’t necessarily find in other parts of the city.
Eat all the tapas
You absolutely cannot visit Spain without eating your bodyweight in tapas at least once. I mentioned it before, but tapas are one of the best-loved and most internationally recognized Spanish traditions.
For those unfamiliar with tapas, it is the art of sharing several small dishes of food among friends. The premise is that you order lots of small plates for the table and everyone helps themselves to everything. You should also note that the Spanish eat dinner really late. It is not uncommon for people to start eating as late as 10 p.m.
Typical tapas platters include patatas bravas (fried potatoes with tomato sauce and aioli); fried fish, cheese with honey, chorizo in wine – just to name a few! Every region in Spain has its own delicacies so take your time perusing the menu before ordering. The best thing about tapas is that it is really cheap so it is easy to fill up without breaking the bank.
Tapas is ubiquitous in Spain so you won’t need to walk far to find a place offering an array of delicious dishes. Once you’ve sat down, be prepared to spend hours sitting and chatting while small plates arrive one by one. It is the ultimate way to socialize and experience Spanish culture like a local.
Walk along the Pier One Port
If you’re tired of ancient history and you want to be transported to the modern day, head over to the Pier One Port. This new space is one of the most modern things to do in Malaga. The project aimed to revamp the formerly unattractive Malaga port and give people something to look at as they passed to port or had to stopover there.
Among the attractions that have popped up here are a leisure center and shopping mall. If you’re looking to kit out your wardrobe while you’re in Malaga, this is a great place to do it and you’ll have a sweet view of the water and cruise ships while you’re at it.
The Pier is not exactly what you would call historic Malaga and it might be considered a little sterile for those looking for something more authentic. However, it is nice and busy and has a good energy about it.
Spend an afternoon at Playa de la Malagueta
I said you’re going to want to spend some time at the beach and this is the place to do it. The beach runs for over a kilometer along the coast and has soft dark sand and gentle water. City beaches get a bad rap for being dirty and overcrowded, but this beach disproves those stereotypes.
When the sun is shining, the people of Malaga take to the beach and soak up the endless sunshine. Grab a drink and your favorite book and take to the sand for a day of unmitigated chilling. The beach is just a 10-minute walk from the city center so it’s easy to access wherever you are in the city.
Once you’re at the beach, when hunger strikes, there are plenty of restaurants around where you can re-energize. Honestly, there are few things better than spending three hours lying in the blissful sunshine and then stuffing yourself with gourmet tapas and Cruzcampo. That is truly living the high life. Then, once you’re full of food, head back to the beach and lie in the sun while you digest like a snake.
There are other beaches in Malaga, so if you want a change of scenery from Playa de la Malagueta check out nearby Playa Caleta, another favorite with locals and visitors alike.
Stroll along the Paseo de España
If you want to escape the bustle of the city, the Paseo de España is the perfect place to take refuge. When the sun is shining, which is basically always, it is a great place to take a stroll or even go for a run if you’re the kind of person who likes to work out on vacation.
The Paseo consists of a long straight stretch, lined with palm trees and other exotic plants and flowers. It is delightfully green and is great for the ‘gram if nothing else. If you head over there on a Sunday you will see buskers and entertainers jamming out at the edge of the path. Sometimes, the perfect Sunday is spent sitting in the warm glow of the morning sun, listening to local talent rock out.
Even if you visit Malaga in its cooler months, the Paseo still buzzes with activity. Locals love this place and you’ll always find people slowly meandering along it. Like I said before, people don’t rush here so if your pace is quicker than a leisurely amble then you’ll look out of place.
<3>Try sweet Malaga wine
Andalucia is known for its sweet wine that you sip alongside your dessert and Malaga has its very own variant of this, known as Malaga wine. This sweet wine is usually made from either Pedro Jimenez or Moscatel grapes, which are also used to make sherry. The grapes are picked late in the harvest when they have maximum sugar.
There is a hierarchy within the Malaga wine world as well, which will tell you how long that particular bottle has been aged for. The youngest wines, which have only been aged for 6 months to 2 years are just known as Malaga wine. Next is Malaga Noble, which is 2-3 years; Malaga Anejo, for 3-5 years; and Malaga Transanejo for 5+ years.
Maybe try one of each for the full Malaga wine experience? It gives you an excuse to drink lots of wine at the very least.
Malaga wine is hard to find outside of the Malaga region so you should take advantage of being there to drink as much as you can. It pairs perfectly with virtually any dessert or sweet thing. Or you can have it instead of a dessert if you don’t have much of a sweet tooth. You’ll find bars serving this stuff all over the city so you’ll never need to go far to find your next glass.
Take a taxi to the botanical garden
La Concepión Botanical Gardens will satisfy both nature lovers and history buffs in one fell swoop and for that reason alone it is worth checking out. The gardens and house that sits on the land were first brought into existence in 1855 when two members of the ruling elite got married and decided to fill their new garden with exotic plants from all over the world.
Fast forward over 150 years and their treasured garden is now open to the public. It is an enormous patch of land – 49 hectares altogether and 23 hectares that are open to the public – so make sure you grab a map when you enter – that way you can stake out some of the highlights. The black bamboo forest is one of these highlights and it is the largest of its kind in the world.
Make sure you head up to the mirador (lookout point) as well for stunning vistas over the city of Malaga, the Cathedral, and the sea. There are also some pretty impressive palm trees within the gardens that you’ll want to seek out.
The gardens are about 5km outside the city center so the best way to get there is by taxi. Due to the size of the gardens and the fact that you need to leave the city to visit them, you should allocate a decent amount of time to this activity. I recommend anything up to about five hours.
Wander around the old fishing district of El Palo
El Palo is a coastal neighborhood and wandering around here will give you a taste of the old fishing traditions of the city. It is definitely one of the more authentic things to do in Malaga. Although the city has been rejuvenated and modernized, it is still very much in touch with its humble beginnings and you can feel that just by walking around. The blend of old and new in El Palo is enchanting.
Along the boardwalk, you’ll find one of El Palo’s must-haves: grilled sardines, known as ‘espetos’ in Spanish. The sardines are served on skewers and for just 2 EUR a pop, it’s hard not to go back for seconds.
If that’s not enough to quell your appetite, there are plenty of restaurants around selling everything from sandwiches to seafood. There’s even a place that does Hawaiin poke if you’re after something a bit more international.
If you get tired of walking around, El Palo has a lovely beach stretching along its edge. Chill out here for a bit before you carry on exploring. You can even take a dip in the warm water that characterizes this patch of coastline.
The neighborhood of El Palo sits to the East of Malaga’s city center and is easily accessible by bus. You don’t need to spend an entire day (although you easily could) to get a feel for the place, but I would still allocate at least half a day to it so you don’t feel rushed.
Get your art on at a museum
While you’re in Spain, why not get clued up on the nation’s most beloved painter: Picasso. The Picasso Museum in Malaga is a great place to spend a few hours admiring the works of one of the world’s most fascinating artists. It is 12 EUR for access to all areas of the museum (or 7 EUR if you’re under 26).
As you walk through the collections, you will travel through time alongside Pablo Picasso. Works from each of his creative periods are displayed on the walls so you can watch how his style evolved over time. By the time you’ve finished, you’ll be an expert on all things Picasso.
Don't feel like standing in line? With this skip-the-line ticket, you won't have to.
Once you’ve had your fill of Picasso, the Centre Pompidou is another fabulous gallery to explore. There are exhibitions on display here from a huge number of artists, comprising a range of themes, including Modern Utopias, the Golden Age, and the Radiant City. They also have a busy schedule of temporary exhibitions, which are always exciting and often interactive.
Just like for the Picasso Museum, you can get a skip-the-line ticket for the Centre Pompidou to beat the crowds.
If they aren’t enough for you, you can also visit the Center of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, or the Carmen Thyssen Museum to name just a few of the city’s numerous art museums. Malaga certainly has no shortage of wonderful art to admire – you could even fill your entire vacation just with gallery-hopping!
One of the more expensive things to do in Malaga is hit the copious stores that line the streets and malls throughout the city. Your first stop should be the elegant Calle Larios, which is packed with well-known high-street brands, such as Massimo Dutti, Mango, and Victoria’s Secret.
Running parallel to Calle Larios is Calle Nueva, which is packed with yet more stores, including some one-off boutiques. These streets are located in the beautiful Old Town, also referred to as the Historic Center and are pedestrianized so you can shop ‘til you drop without the need to look before you cross the road.
If malls are more your thing, there are several shopping malls dotted around the city that you visit. Corte Ingles is one of the best-known department stores in Spain and Malaga has a huge one about 10 minutes’ walk from Calle Larios. Centro Larios is also a good shout and is one of the most popular malls with the locals.
If you’re looking for something unique, there is an artisans market in SoHo on the first Saturday of every month. There’s also a market in the Plaza de la Merced on the fourth Sunday of every month. You can usually find cute knick-knacks around these markets and the vibe is great fun.
If you’ve got a bigger budget than usual or you really want to treat yourself, you’ll find the top luxury brands in the town of Marbella. Check out Puerto Banus and Avenida Ricardo Soriano.
Enjoy the sunset at one of Malaga's many rooftop bars
Watching a sunset is a delight under almost any circumstances, but watching it from a rooftop bar in Malaga with a cold beer in front of you is utterly magical. Fortunately, this experience is very easily achievable in Malaga because there is an abundance of rooftop bars across the city. Some of the bars even come with DJs or live music to complete the ambiance.
Prices at the rooftop bars range from wallet-friendly to lavish, so be sure to check prices before you head up so you don’t get stung when the bill arrives. La Alcazaba is well-priced and has a lively energy about it, and because of these things, it is fast becoming one of Malaga’s premier rooftop destinations.
The Molina Lario, Salles, and Room Mate Larios hotels have excellent rooftops that are a little pricier, but very cool. But, with or without the price tag, the sunset is the same wherever you see it from. So, if you can’t afford the cocktails, don’t worry – the sunset will still be spectacular. And, once it’s finished you can grab a bottle of beer from the nearest shop to quench your thirst.
Attend a flamenco show
Flamenco is one of Spain’s best-loved styles of dance and Malaga is a great place to catch a show. Originating in the region of Andalucia, this traditional style of dance is better known in Seville and Jerez, but Malaga still has a lively scene.
Flamenco is characterized by the colorful dresses, with ruffles at the bottom, for women and the sleek waistcoats and tight trousers for men. It is a dance for one person and when done properly, it is truly captivating. The dance consists of one person making small dance movements, stamping, and clapping in time to the music while the other person sits and plays the guitar.
If you want to experience authentic flamenco, there are a few places you should hit up. The Tipi Tapa restaurant is known for its excellent selection of tapas dishes and has flamenco performances several times a week (but check the schedule online first). Tablao los Amayos, Sala el Embrujo, and Flamenco Amargo Tavern are also great venues to see flamenco.
However, if you ask any Malaga local where you should go, the vast majority will tell you to head over to the Peña Juan Breva club, which even has a flamenco museum on-site.
If you'd like to wine and dine before the show, check out this tapas, wine, and flamenco tour. On this tour, a guide will take you to three different taverns or wine cellars where you'll try different wines and tapas. While walking from one tavern to the next, your guide will tell you about the history of Malaga. You'll end the night with a great flamenco show.
Go hiking at the Montes de Malaga Natural Park
For the active travelers among us, a trip to the Montes de Malaga Natural Park is a must. This gorgeous oasis of calm and natural beauty is just 5km out of the city center, but it feels like a different world. Experience serenity and tranquility as you hike through the jagged mountains and take in the views of the sea glimmering in the distance.
As you might imagine, the main activity in the Montes de Malaga Natural Park is hiking. There are five walking trails that run through the park. They are clearly signposted and range in length, with the shortest being a 2.5km jaunt and the longest being a more arduous 7km from start to finish.
If you take the Picapedros route, you’ll have the chance to see the Picapedros waterfall. This is the longest trail, but if you have the time and the energy you’ll be rewarded for your efforts. The scenery is stunning and you’ll wind up at the La Concepciòn Botanical Gardens.
Tours in Malaga
If you prefer to get some historical information and fun facts about Malaga while you visit the most important sights, consider taking a guided tour. A guide is usually able to tell you more than what you can find in books thanks to their local experience.
I've looked up some Malaga tours for you that come recommended:
- https://www.getyourguide.com/mlaga-l402/segway-mlaga-tours-t37003/?partner_id=WVZ0LUW&utm_medium=online_publisher&utm_source=wonderful_wanderings&placement=content-end&cmp=ttdiMalaga>Malaga by Segway
- Malaga bike tour from the Old Town to the Marina and the beach
- 2-hour historical center and cathedral tour
- Malaga Hop-on Hop-off bus tour
- 2.5-hour private walking tour
And that's it for my list of fun things to do in Malaga! If you also want to know where you can find them all, check out the Malaga city map I created below.
Malaga Tourist Map
Plan your trip to Malaga
I travel a lot and I have built up a selection of sites that I always use when I book my trips. These are reliable websites with good prices and a wide range of options. I've listed them for you below to help you book your trip to Malaga.
Where to stay in Malaga
- Booking.com is where I book my hotels because it has a wide range of filtering options. Its Genius program also entitles you to special discounts after you’ve made a few bookings.
- Airbnb is my preferred site for booking apartments. In a similar way to Booking, it has several filtering options and I find the reviews helpful for choosing the right place.
Book your flight to Malaga
Skyscanner offers a comparison of flight prices across many different airlines. It also has a useful price alert feature.
Taking the train to Malaga
I often use Omio to buy my train tickets abroad. It does charge a small fee but I find it very user-friendly, it's available in English, and the app is great too.
Renting a car in Malaga
You won't need a car in the city but if you plan on making some trips around the south of Spain,
Rentalcars.com is a good place to look. This site compares hundreds of rental car companies in order to find the best deal based on your personal search criteria.
Taxi2Airport is a useful tool for booking airport transfers. They operate worldwide with strict quality criteria and also have a handy online booking tool and messaging platform.
Tours, tickets, and activities in Malaga
GetYourGuide is easy-to-use and offers everything from day trips to skip-the-line tickets.
Don't forget travel insurance
No matter how well you plan your getaway to Malaga, something can always happen. A reservation gets canceled, you get sick, or you drop and break that new camera. When something like that happens, travel insurance has you covered.
I've had ongoing travel insurance ever since I started traveling to make sure I'm covered for every trip I go on but if you travel just a few times a year, you can get insured for each trip separately as well.
Don't have travel insurance yet? Check out World Nomads. They cover a wide range of activities for people from 140 countries.
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