Last updated on 15-Jul-2023
Come with me to Malaga, a vibrant city located on the Costa del Sol, in the southern part of Spain!
We visited this beautiful gem for the first time during a road trip in Spain (from Lisbon) and loved it! Since then, we have been back a few times and would go again in a heartbeat, but with so many interesting destinations to visit in Europe and beyond, we try to restrain ourselves and explore new places. 😉
Sitting as the capital of the homonymous province of Malaga, which is part of the Andalusia community, this city of around 580,000 people attracts tourists from all over the world for its nice beaches, delicious food, excellent museums and galleries, mild climate, numerous tourist attractions and historic landmarks. It’s the sixth-largest city in Spain, with a rich culture and heritage dating back to the Phoenician times, later marked by different rulers including the Romans, Moors, and Christians.
Here is an overview of some of the top attractions in Malaga along with other favourites:
- Gibralfaro Castle – Built in the 14th century, this castle is located on a prominent hill overlooking Malaga and offers spectacular views of the city, the rugged mountain ranges to the north/ west and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. The castle, accessible by foot, bus or car, is a great place to enjoy the scenery and learn about the city’s past. For a day of sightseeing, a good option would be to go to the castle first (about 35 min walk uphill from the centre or take a bus or taxi/Uber to save some energy), then proceed downhill to visit other attractions. A scenic path downhill links the castle to the Alcazaba and then continues towards the Malaga Museum, which is just a few steps from the Roman Theatre.
Bus to the Castle: Line number 35. Check the EMT website for the stops and schedule. The bus ticket is €1,40 (one way, at the time of posting)
- Alcazaba – Impressive Moorish fortress that dates back to the 11th century. It is one of the best-preserved examples of Islamic architecture in Spain and is one of the most popular attractions in Malaga. It’s strategically located near the heart of the city and also offers stunning views. The Citadel complex has a fascinating history and is filled with beautiful architecture and gardens.=> Ticket information here
PRO TIP: If heading to the Alcazaba from the lower areas of the city centre, there’s an elevator (Ascensor a la Alcazaba) behind the Malaga City Hall building (Ayuntamiento de Málaga) that takes visitors up to the fortress.
- Roman Theatre – This ancient theatre was built in the 1st century AD and was only discovered in the 20th century (1951). It’s located in the city center and is a fascinating example of Roman architecture. Visitors can explore the theatre’s ruins and learn more about its history at the onsite museum.
- Picasso Museum – Malaga is the birthplace of the famous artist Pablo Picasso, and the city houses a museum in his honour, providing visitors with an insight into the artist’s life and work. The museum is located in the Palacio de Buenavista, a beautiful 16th-century palace. It contains over 200 works by Picasso, including paintings, sculptures and drawings, as well as a shop selling prints, collectibles, books and souvenirs.
Note: Many souvenir vendors around the city also offer Picasso-imprinted items.
- Malaga Cathedral – A stunning example of Renaissance architecture from the 16th century known for its elaborate stained-glass windows and ornate ceiling, the church is also known as “La Manquita“, which means “one-armed lady” because one of its towers was never completed. The cathedral is located in the city center and is a must-visit to enjoy its architecture and history.
- Plaza de la Constitución – A historic public square, one of the city’s most iconic landmarks and a popular gathering spot for locals and tourists alike. The square is surrounded by beautifully-restored buildings and is known for its lively atmosphere, with street performers, vendors, restaurants and cafes. The plaza has been the site of many historic events throughout Malaga’s history, including the proclamation of the Spanish Constitution in 1812. Today, it is a popular spot for shopping, dining, and people-watching, and it is especially beautiful at night when the square is lit up with colourful lights.
- Calle Larios – Lovely and wide pedestrian street and main shopping area that links the Plaza de la Constituicion to the Marques de Larios monument. When it was built at the end of the 19th century, it was the most elegant street in Spain and is still considered one of the most beautiful in the country. It looks especially dashing when decorated for the holidays.
- Mercado Central de Atarazanas – Spanish markets are amazing! The lively Malaga central market is not just a place to buy food, but also a cultural and social space where locals and visitors alike can gather to shop, eat, and socialize. It’s housed in a stunning building that dates back to the 14th century, which was originally a shipyard (atarazanas in Spanish) during the Nasrid dynasty of Granada. The market building underwent a major renovation in the 19th century, and it was converted into a public market in 1879. One of the most striking features of the market is the stunning stained glass window that dominates the entrance. The central courtyard is often used for public events and concerts.
Open from Monday to Saturday, 8 AM to 3 PM
- Malaga Park – This beautiful urban park is located between the city center and the waterfront along the Paseo del Parque. It runs from the Plaza de la Marina to the Fuente de las Tres Gracias (square and beautiful fountain) offering a peaceful oasis in the middle of the bustling city. It’s filled with beautiful trees, fountains, and sculptures. The park is a great place to take a stroll or have a picnic.
- Palmeral de Las Sorpresas – A contemporary and architecturally-striking waterfront promenade located by the port of Malaga and divided into several sections, each with its own unique features. Its name translates to “Palm Grove of Surprises” for the palm trees that line the covered promenade and the views and experiences along the way. Visitors can enjoy sculptures, murals and other art installations, as well as walkways and water fountains, that are integrated into the landscape. Another highlight of the promenade is the variety of restaurants, cafes and performance spaces, all with dazzling views of the Mediterranean Sea.
- Paseo del Muelle Uno – Lively waterfront promenade lined with shops, from famous brands to artsy-crafty market stalls, and plenty of restaurants, from fine dining to fast food. A great area to find interesting buys, catch a boat tour, enjoy some live music or simply take a stroll. It runs along the waterfront and around the bend from the Palmeral to the Malaga Lighthouse (La farola de Malaga). A main feature of this stretch is the Centre Pompidou Malaga with its hard-to-miss colourful glass cube, a branch of the famous Paris contemporary art museum displaying works in temporary and permanent collections.
- Playa de la Malagueta – The most famous and one of the most popular beaches in the city with tourists and locals alike, La Malagueta is located just east of the city center and is easily accessible, just a short walk from many of the city’s top attractions, including the Alcazaba, the Roman Theatre, and the Cathedral. This makes it an ideal destination for visitors who want to combine a day at the beach with some sightseeing or shopping. The beach is relatively small and offers crystal-clear waters, fine sand, and a wide range of amenities, including beach bars, restaurants, and water sports. Plus, there’s the super photo-worthy Malagueta sign!
Malaga is also a foodie paradise with a wide range of delicious dishes, from traditional Spanish recipes to international fare, at numerous restaurants, bars, and cafes, with savoury and sweet options for all tastes and budgets. The local cuisine is influenced by the proximity to the sea, with fresh seafood being a highlight of many menus. Some of the most popular dishes in Malaga include paella (rice dish with seafood and/or meat), espetos (fresh sardines on a sword/skewer grilled over charcoal) and pescaíto frito, a platter of fried fish (usually small anchovies) that is often served as a tapa. Let’s not forget the great coffee, bread and other goodies available everywhere – pastry and dessert fans will have lots of delectable choices to try at the local panaderias and confiterias.
- The amazing cheesecakes (tartas de queso) at La Tarta de La Madre de Cris – the classic style is our favourite! (locations in Malaga, Granada and Seville)
- The great coffee and delicious variety of baked goods, light meals and snacks at Panaderia Confiteria Salvador. They have several locations in Malaga, but the one in Huelin was near our accomodations on a previous visit and became a top choice for the yummy selection, ambiance and friendly service.
- Mercado Central de Atarazanas, where visitors can explore the stalls and sample some of the freshest and most delicious food that Malaga has to offer. Some of the products available include fresh fish and seafood, olives, and local cheeses, as well as a variety of fruits and vegetables. Many stalls near the entrances also sell drinks and ready-to-eat dishes, often prepared to order, like fried seafood and tapas, which can be eaten by the counter or at the tables just outside. Very popular spot for lunch, and a must-visit for anyone who wants to experience the flavors and culture of Malaga. We LOVE markets and have been to a number of them around Spain and other countries, but this one still ranks quite high on our list.
How to get around: The historic centre, which sits on the left bank of the Guadalmedina River, is very walkable and it’s easy to get around without a car. For travelling longer distances, the city offers a fairly large public transit system that includes a metro system, buses and trains.
The metro system, known as the Malaga Metro, is a light railway network which is partially underground. It has two lines that reach the heart of the city (Atarazanas and Guadalmedina stations) and cover the areas to the west and south-west. The buses in Malaga are operated by the company EMT (Empresa Malagueña de Transportes) and cover the majority of the metropolitan area, with a wide range of routes and schedules, including an express line from the Malaga International Airport to the city centre. The train system in Malaga, operated by Renfe, offers local, regional, and long-distance services, connecting Malaga with other cities in Andalusia and Spain.
The public transit system in Malaga is generally considered to be affordable, efficient, and reliable. However, like any city, there may be some variations in service quality and availability depending on the time of day, location, and specific route. It is recommended to check schedules and plan routes ahead of time to ensure smooth travel.
How to get there: The city is easily accessible through an international airport, a large cargo and passenger port, a high-speed railway from Madrid, and well-kept roads/highways. It’s also a great starting point for exploring other Andalusian cities, and the surrounding countryside and mountains, with many hiking trails and outdoor activities available.
Overall, Malaga is a beautiful and vibrant city that offers something for everyone. Whether you are interested in history, culture, outdoor activities and nature, enjoying good food, or simply relaxing on the beach, Malaga has plenty to love! It is no wonder it has become one of Spain’s most popular tourist destinations and one of our favourites as well.
Have you been to Malaga and want to share your favourites? Are you planning a visit and have questions? Let us know in the comments! 🙂
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