The best things to do in Málaga, Spain offers something for everyone, whether you’re a history buff, a sun seeker, or an art enthusiast.
This enchanting coastal city, the birthplace of the illustrious artist Pablo Picasso, offers a captivating tapestry of experiences.
Whether you are visiting for a day, a weekend, or longer, this Málaga travel guide has exactly what to do in Málaga to make the most of your time, including the top Málaga day trips, the best places to stay, and most delicious restaurants.
So let’s jump right in so you can discover why Málaga is considered one of the most captivating destinations in Andalucía.
This post contains affiliate links. If you book or buy something through one of these links, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. You can read our full disclosure here.
Planning your trip to Málaga last minute? Here are the tours and hotels we recommend. Málaga is ideal for a Spain Weekend Break with dreamy Boutique Hotels and amazing Málaga Day Trips including the famous Caminito Del Rey.
- TOP EXPERIENCES & TOURS IN MALAGA
- BEST HOTELS IN MALAGA
- PRACTICAL INFORMATION FOR MALAGA
Where is Málaga, Spain?
Málaga is a city located in the southern region of Andalusia, Spain, situated along the Costa del Sol.
This bustling port city is known for its rich history, cultural attractions, and beautiful beaches along a popular part of the Mediterranean coastline.
One of the most interesting things about Málaga is that it is the birthplace of the famous painter and sculptor Pablo Picasso.
In addition to the Picasso Museum dedicated to his works and artistic development there, you will find many impressive museums in this artistic city.
With its proximity to Africa, like other cities in Andalusia, Málaga has significant historical sights, with Moorish influences, that showcase its rich past.
Whether you’re exploring its historic sites, visiting art museums, or admiring architectural landmarks, this city offers an unforgettable experience for everyone.
Best Things to Do in Málaga Spain
1. Alcazaba Fortress
The Alcazaba is an ancient Moorish fortress built in the 11th century on the ruins of a Roman bastion. It has a rich history, dating back to the 8th century when it was constructed by the Moors.
It was once the stronghold of the historic Kingdom of Granada and served as the governing center for the town’s Muslim rulers for several centuries.
During that time, it underwent various expansions and renovations, resulting in an intricate blend of architectural styles, including Moorish and Renaissance influences.
You’ll walk through the prettiest entrance to the fortress with intricate detail on the walls, arches, walkways, and fountains.
The Nasrid Palaces within the Alcazaba complex were our favorite. The stunning Islamic architecture has intricately carved stucco, arches, decorative tiles, pools, and amazing views.
Pro Tip: We went to the in the afternoon and it was filled with people. Get your Alcazaba tickets for when it first opens and you’ll have fortified walls, beautiful gardens, courtyards, and fountains to yourself.
2. Gibralfaro Castle
Perched on Gibralfaro Hill, the Gibralfaro Castle is another famous monument in Málaga. Built in the 14th century by Yusuf I of Granada, this castle was originally designed to defend the Alcazaba fortress.
In the interior, you can check out the castle remains. But the best part is walking around the castle walls and ramparts to see a 360-degree view of the city.
There are a few ways to get to Gibralfaro Castle. We walked up and back on the tree-lined Paseo de Don Juan Temboury from the Alcabaza.
While it is a lot of incline, there are great views of the sea, the arena, and the city along the way.
If you don’t want to hoof it up to the top, you can take the 35 bus. There is also a joint ticket that includes Gibralfaro Castle and the Alcazaba. Buying the bus ride and the entry fees together is a little cheaper.
3. Roman Theatre
Málaga’s Roman Theatre is a well-preserved ancient monument that dates back to the 1st century BC. It was discovered in 1951 during construction works in the area.
The Roman Theatre is situated at the foot of the Alcazaba hill. You can see it from the outside but you should walk down into it. Entry is free and you’ll see the old Roman ruins underneath.
This is also the site of performances and events during the summer months.
4. Málaga Cathedral
The Málaga Cathedral, also known as Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación, was built over a period of about 250 years, beginning in 1528 on the site of an old Arab mosque.
Due to the length of time for the construction, the cathedral is a stunning example of Renaissance, Baroque, and Gothic architecture. The south tower was never finished, explaining the nickname La Manquita (the one-armed one).
The cathedral features ornate detailing, majestic towers, and exquisite interior and exterior elements. Walk around the full exterior before heading inside.
Inside the cathedral is an impressive art collection, statues, intricate wood carvings, and a towering altarpiece. Head to the rooftop to see more details of the construction and enjoy views of the whole city and harbor.
It’s worth stopping by at night when the cathedral is beautifully lit. You’ll also see it from any rooftop in the city.
5. Picasso Museum
The Picasso Museum is among the top attractions in Malaga. Dedicated to the world-famous artist born in the city, this museum showcases an extensive collection of his works spanning various times of his career.
Visitors can explore the stunning pieces of art, get a glimpse into the life of Picasso, and even participate in workshops and other engaging activities.
We truly enjoyed this museum. It’s an interesting walk through the different periods of his career.
If you are a Picasso lover, you should also check out Casa Natal Picasso, or the museum at Picasso’s Birth House at 15 Plaza de la Merced. Arrive there early because it gets crowded.
If you walk into the Plaza, you’ll notice a statue of Picasso. It’s said that if you rub his head, you’ll get a some of his creativity.
6. Caminito del Rey
The reason we went to Málaga was to hike the Caminito del Rey. It’s not only the best Malaga day trip, but it’s also the best thing to do in Málaga.
It is known as one of the most spectacular and dangerous hiking trails in the world but the dangerous part was fixed long ago. Now it is just a thrilling adventure and one of the best hikes in Spain.
The trail follows a narrow path that clings to the walls of the Gaitanes Gorge, then crosses a suspended bridge, offering stunning views of the Gorge and Guadalhorce River.
The best way to visit this amazing place is to do an organized Caminito del Rey Day Trip. They handle your transportation, and entry fees and have a professional guide.
The hike covers around 7.7 kilometers (4.8 miles) and takes approximately 3 to 4 hours to complete. It’s a unique and unforgettable experience.
If you prefer to do the trip on your own, we wrote a full post to help you with all the details.
RELATED POST: THE CAMINITO DEL REY HIKE FROM MALAGA
7. Mercado Atarazanas is One of the Best Places to Eat in Málaga
The local cuisine of Málaga offers a delicious fusion of Mediterranean and Andalusian flavors. Fresh seafood, vegetables, and fruits are some of the staples in the dishes of this region.
Visitors can find an abundance of restaurants specializing in traditional specialties, such as pescaíto frito (fried fish), Salmorejo (cold tomato soup), and Ajoblanco (cold almond soup).
Some recommended restaurants for local cuisine include:
- El Pimpi: A huge historic establishment known for its authentic ambiance and delicious regional dishes.
- Los Patios de Beatas: A charming eatery that uses local and seasonal ingredients to create contemporary Andalusian dishes.
8. Tapas Bars
Málaga is famous for its lively and diverse tapas bars. In the city, visitors can find a wide array of bars, ranging from traditional establishments serving classic Spanish tapas to modern venues with innovative and experimental dishes.
The atmosphere is casual, making it easy for diners to mingle and enjoy a variety of small bites with friends and family.
A few recommended bars to try are Carrteria 111, La Tranca, and Colmado 93.
Some popular Spanish tapas to try include:
- Boquerones en vinagre: fresh anchovies marinated in vinegar
- Albondigas: meatballs in tomato sauce
- Patatas bravas: fried potatoes in a spicy sauce
- Croquetas: typically balls of meat and vegetables mixed in a Bechamel sauce and fried
For a great wine bar, try the oldest and most popular Antigua Casa de Guardia, or La Madriguera if you prefer craft beer.
9. Centre Pompidou Málaga
The Centre Pompidou Málaga is an offshoot of its famous Parisian counterpart, carrying the same spirit of contemporary art and creativity.
This dynamic museum hosts a diverse array of exhibitions, installations, and performances, making it a captivating place for modern art enthusiasts.
With ever-changing temporary exhibits and a striking glass cube facade, the Centre Pompidou Málaga is worth a visit for anyone looking to explore Malaga’s vibrant art scene.
10. Malagueta Beach
Malagueta Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Málaga. It is conveniently located near the city center for a quick dip but also perfect for an entire day spent sunbathing or playing volleyball.
You can rent a sunbed and umbrella for 7€. If you are visiting during a busy season, arrive early to get your chair. Then, grab a drink at one of the many beach bars and enjoy!
There is also a nice grassy area with palm trees if you prefer not to sit on the sand. Overall, it’s a delightful atmosphere for locals and visitors to relax and have fun.
11. Enjoy Espetos – The Local Specialty
Espetos are one of Málaga’s most famous culinary treats. They are skewers of fresh sardines, seasoned with salt and cooked on a wooden boat-shaped barbecue called an “espeto”.
I’ll be honest, sardines aren’t my thing but if you like them, these are a must-try in Málaga.
Espetos can be found at chiringuitos (beachside restaurants) all along the Costa del Sol, particularly in the summer months. The best place to go is in the Pedregalejo neighborhood.
Make a reservation for El Caleño. It’s practically an institution after 30 years in business.
12. Malaga Catamaran Sailing Trip with Sunset Option
Take advantage of the opportunity to get out on the water and see the beautiful Costa Del Sol on a Málaga Catamaran trip. They offer 3 different sailing options.
The first is a one hour day cruise that’s perfect for a quick trip. If you prefer more of a party atmosphere, there is a 1.5 hour cruise with a DJ and glass of cava. Or enjoy a 1.5 hour sunset cruise before you head out for the night.
Make sure to book early to get the date you want. The cruises sell out (we speak from experience) and this is one of the most popular things to do in Málaga.
13. See a Flamenco Show
The city boasts a rich history of flamenco, the passionate and rhythmic dance that originated in Andalusian culture.
One of the best things to do in Málaga at night is to see the Alegría Flamenco Show. The hour-long show is located in a beautiful venue by the port.
Eat traditional tapas, enjoy a glass of wine, and be dazzled by talented dancers and their mesmerizing performances. It’s an immersive cultural experience that will be one of the highlights of your trip.
14. Plaza del Obispo
Plaza del Obispo is a charming square located in the heart of Malaga, Spain. It is named after the nearby Bishop’s Palace and serves as a lively gathering place for locals and visitors alike.
The square is surrounded by historic buildings, including the impressive Malaga Cathedral, which adds to its architectural beauty.
Plaza del Obispo is adorned with beautiful fountains, vibrant flowerbeds, and cozy cafes with outdoor seating. It is a popular spot to relax, people-watch, and soak up the vibrant energy of the city.
15. Episcopal Palace
The Episcopal Palace in Malaga, also known as the Palacio Episcopal, is a historic building located at Plaza del Obispo. It serves as the residence of the Bishop of Malaga and is also used for various ecclesiastical and cultural events.
The palace was constructed in the 18th century, with its design influenced by Baroque and Neoclassical architectural styles. It is situated next to the Cathedral of Malaga, creating a prominent religious complex in the city.
The exterior of the Episcopal Palace features a grand façade with ornate details, including intricate carvings and decorative elements. The entrance is adorned with a beautiful portal, adding to the overall grandeur of the building.
The Episcopal Palace is not only a residence for the bishop but also serves as a cultural center. It often hosts art exhibitions, concerts, and other cultural events.
Visitors to Malaga can admire the exterior of the Episcopal Palace as they explore the city center. However, it is important to note that the interior is not typically open to the public, as it is primarily used for official functions and private events.
16. Malaga Hammam Al Ándalus
Visiting Hammam Al Ándalus in Malaga is a chance to journey into the heart of relaxation and Spanish tradition.
Step into this enchanting Arabic-style spa, where the soothing scent of essential oils fills the air.
After you have been welcomed with a mint tea, indulge in a 15 or 30-minute massage that will melt away any travel tension.
Then, visit the traditional baths surrounded by exquisite architecture adorned with intricate tiles and arches. Move through a mixture of the hot, warm, and cold baths and the steam room.
It’s an authentic and revitalizing experience that will leave you feeling rejuvenated and connected to the heritage of Málaga.
17. Málaga’s Fashionable Automobile Museum
The Museo Automovilistico in Málaga is a must-visit attraction for car enthusiasts, history buffs, and anyone who enjoys glamourous cars.
Located in a former tobacco factory, this impressive museum showcases a wide range of vintage and modern automobiles, spanning over a century of automotive history.
The museum’s collection includes more than 90 vehicles, including classic cars, luxury models, and iconic sports cars.
Visitors can admire the craftsmanship and design of renowned brands such as Rolls-Royce, Ferrari, and Bugatti, among others.
The exhibits are artistic and thoughtfully curated, providing detailed information about each vehicle’s history, technological advancements, and cultural significance.
Where to Stay in Málaga
Málaga has great hotels catering to all budgets and preferences. Here are a few great choices at different price points.
- Luxury: Soho Boutique Castillo de Santa Catalina – A historic castle hotel with amazing ocean views and exceptional service. The peaceful setting has lovely outdoor spaces. The hotel is recommended for adults only.
- Mid-Range: We stayed at the H10 Croma Málaga. The rooms are spacious and beautifully designed, with cool black and white patios. On the rooftop, there are lounge chairs, a pool, a bar, and a restaurant, all with incredible views. The location is within walking distance of everything.
- Budget: Casual del Mar Málaga – Great location in the center of Málaga with spacious rooms that have bright, fun decor.
- For more recommendations, we have a full post dedicated to the Best Boutique Hotels in Málaga.
Many hotels offer easy access to major attractions such as the Málaga Cathedral, the bullring, and numerous museums.
Málaga Tourist Information
- Currency: Spain uses the Euro for currency. To avoid hefty fees, we use Wise to be able to withdraw money from local ATMs. It’s easy to set up and transfer money from your home account.
- Phone Service: For cell phone service in Málaga, you can add an E-SIM for all of Europe to your existing phone. You can choose coverage from 7-180 days and 1-100 GB of data. It’s easy to add to your phone and use.
- Power Adapter: We use this European adapter for Spain and most countries. It has 2 plugs, 3 USBs, and a USB-C port.
- Internet Safety: Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to protect your data when accessing public WiFi systems from hotels and airports is essential. We use NORDVPN. Easy to use, it’s inexpensive and worth every penny.
- Flights: To find great deals on flights to Málaga, check Skyscanner. It’s convenient to check different airlines and travel dates to find the most affordable and convenient option.
- Travel Insurance: We use Safety Wing travel insurance for unexpected events such as flight cancellations and medical emergencies. Make sure you’re covered for active excursions in Málaga.
Getting Around in Málaga
Málaga is a very walkable city and a great place to get your daily steps. The downtown area with all the tourist sites is pretty small. We got around on foot in the city center and used a car for day trips.
Here are your options to get around Málaga and from Málaga Airport to the city center.
- Hop On Hop Off Bus: Take the Blue, Green, or Red lines to the most popular attractions. Sit on the open upper level of the bus and get to know the city through the audio commentary. Entrance to some attractions is included.
- Tuk Tuk City Tour: A 1-2 hour electric tuk tuk tour of the city sights for up to 4 people, perfect for families or small groups.
- Málaga Car Rental: Renting a car in Málaga is a good idea if you are doing day trips or a road trip. We use Discover Cars for all of our car rentals in Europe and find they have the best prices.
- Taxi or Uber: Taxis are affordable and the easiest way to get from the airport to the city center. They are located outside of Terminal 3 Arrivals. The cost is approximately 20-25€. Uber can be cheaper during non-peak hours.
- Public Bus: The public bus system is extensive. One ticket costs 1.40€ or buy 10 tickets for 8.40€. The Linea Express Auropuerto bus from the airport is 4€ per person.
Final Thoughts About the Best Things to Do in Málaga
From exploring the ancient Alcazaba fortress to admiring art in Picasso’s birthplace, the best things to do in Málaga Spain showcase its rich history and vibrant culture.
And when it comes to relaxing, Málaga offers countless opportunities to unwind, from a day at the beach to the unique experience of Arab baths.
Finally, the best day trips from Málaga will allow you to experience the white villages of Andalucia, the Caminito del Rey hike, and even a tour of the Alhambra in Granada.
All in all, Málaga offers a truly memorable trip, perfect for a long weekend getaway in Spain or a stop on an Andalucia road trip.