¡Hola Málaga! For most people, the first stop on their journey through the south of Spain happens to be the second largest city in Andalusia. This is because the most popular airport in Andalusia is located in Málaga. Despite being a port city, Málaga also has a really beautiful and historic Old Town, which means you can look forward to the chill Mediterranean vibes.
In this blog article, we will share with you what to expect when visiting Málaga and all the beautiful things it has to offer. We will share with you the most beautiful sights and lookout points in the city, as well as our recommendations for cafes, restaurants and accommodation. Ready to get into vacation mode? Here are our tips for Málaga.
1. Málaga: What to Expect?
Málaga is located on the Costa del Sol, a stretch of coast on the Spanish Mediterranean. The name says it all – this region is spoiled with sunny days along the Costa del Sol and in Málaga. Thanks to the mountain ranges nearby, the coast is nicely protected from the wind making it feel warmer and sunnier.
What makes Málaga so special? We would have to say that it’s the combination and contrast of the seaside with its historic Old Town. In the mornings, you can stroll around the labyrinth maze of the city streets, getting lost and discovering secret places. In the afternoon, you can spend a few hours relaxing on the beach or down by the harbour. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?
In terms of tourism, Málaga has long been overlooked in favour of other nearby regional destinations. But in recent times, that has changed completely. Nowadays, Málaga is one of the most popular destinations in Andalusia. A few years ago, the city had many of their streets renovated and the port was also converted into a modern promenade.
How much time should I plan for a trip to Málaga?
Although different personal preferences will result in very individual answers, we will still share with you our thoughts on a recommended period of time. Since the centre of Málaga is relatively easy to get around, you can expect to see and do quite a lot in just one day. If you are planning a round trip through Andalusia and don’t have much time, then we would recommend that you spend about 2 nights in Málaga, which will give you enough time to visit all the most important sights.
If you prefer a more relaxed experience, then it’s better to stay 3 nights. If Málaga is your only travel destination in Andalusia and you are only planning to do one or two small trips, then you could easily spend 4 nights or more.
2. Highlights in Málaga: Top Things to do
In this section, we will share with you the top locations for sightseeing in Málaga. Since they are all relatively close together, you can easily reach them all by foot. We personally didn’t use the bus once, but if you wanted to, it should be relatively easy to get around by bus also.
Old Town of Málaga
Let’s start in the heart of Málaga: the historic Old Town, which is also known as the Centro Histórico. This almost car-free centre is like a maze. It’s easy to lose your orientation within this charming labyrinth of narrow streets, but that is exactly what makes the Old Town of Málaga so attractive. The Old Town is home to some of the most significant sights in city, including the impressive Cathedral and the Mercado Central. We will tell you more about these and other highlights in the Old Town of Málaga in separate sections below.
One of the most beautiful streets in the centre of Málaga (if not, the most beautiful) is the palm-fringed Calle Puerta del Mar. It is much shorter than you would expect, but highly worth a stopover. Not far from there, you can reach the most famous shopping street in Málaga, Calle Marqués de Larios – which leads you past the Plaza de la Constitución. Surrounded by vibrant-colourful buildings and a fountain, it is one of the most beautiful squares in Málaga.
Also worth seeing is the Teatro Romano, the historic Roman amphitheater. This is where our accommodation was located – we will tell you more about where we stayed at the end of the blog article. Our tip for the Old Town: allow yourself to get lost and enjoy the Mediterranean flair.
Cathedral of Málaga
The gigantic cathedral of Málaga is enthroned in the middle of the Old Town near the harbour and is hard to miss. Its official name is: Santa Iglesia Catedral Basílica de la Encarnación. But it’s more commonly known as “La Manquita”, which means “the one-armed woman”.
There is actually a reason behind its nickname. This particular Cathedral in Málaga only has one church tower and you’ll find a few pillars erected in place of the South Tower. Due to lack of funds, the south tower was never completed.
It’s almost customary in Spain, to pay an entrance fee when visiting cathedrals – in this case, it cost 6 Euros. Since it was one of the first churches we saw in Andalusia, we were quite impressed. The audio guide, included in the admission price, is also typical here in Spain. As a bonus, we can highly recommend you make your way up to the roof of the cathedral. We share more information about this in the third section regarding the “Most Beautiful Lookout Points in Málaga”.
Information about visiting the Cathedral of Málaga
Admission: 6 Euros (discount on combined tickets with the rooftop tour: 10 Euros)
Opening times: You can find it on the official website of the Málaga Cathedral
Alcazaba de Málaga
From the outside, this former Moorish fortress complex reminds us somewhat of the Alhambra in Granada. Although it is much smaller and less impressive, the Alcazaba is still very worth seeing.
The tour of the Alcazaba starts in the city centre near the Teatro Romano. From the entrance, you then head a little uphill and stroll through several gardens and courtyards, whilst also getting the opportunity to walk along the former fortress walls. All in all, it should take about one hour to visit.
An important note: there is no direct connection between the Alcazaba and the even higher Castillo de Gibralfaro (as of December 2019). So you have to leave the Alcazaba via the same entrance that you came in from and then follow the track outside and along the fortress walls up to the Castillo.
Information about visiting the Alcazaba de Málaga
Admission: 3.50 Euros (discounted combined ticket for Alcazaba + Castillo Gibralfaro: 5.50 Euros)
Opening times: April to October from 9 am to 8 pm, November to March from 9 am to 6 pm (last entry 45 minutes before close)
Castillo de Gibralfaro
The Castillo de Gibralfaro is located above the Alcazaba and is one of the highlights of Málaga. As the name suggests, this used to be a castle complex and was built in the 14th century to protect the Alcazaba.
During a tour of the Castillo de Gibralfaro, you get the chance to walk along the defensive walls in a circular loop, while you enjoy the magnificent views of Málaga. There are also exhibition rooms where you can read some background information, but the view from the wall is definitely the main attraction.
There are two ways to get to the entrance of Castillo de Gibralfaro. Option 1 (our recommendation): You tackle the approx. 25-minute walk along the wall. The path starts at the Alcazaba in the Old Town at Paseo Don Juan Temboury (on the side towards the sea). The path is sometimes very steep, which is why the walk can get a little sweaty, especially during the middle of summer. Option 2: You go by bus (No. 35) or taxi to the entrance.
Information about visiting the Castillo de Gibralfaro
Admission: 3.50 Euros (reduced combined ticket for Castillo Gibralfaro and Alcazaba 5.50 Euros)
Opening times: 9 am to 8 pm (summer) or 6 pm (winter)
Mercado Central de Atarazanas
The Mercado Central is the most important and largest food market in Málaga. It takes place in a historic market hall from the 19th century, which is located in the middle of the Old Town of Málaga.
Every day, except Sundays, you can immerse yourself in the hustle and bustle of the market. They sell mainly fresh food such as fruit, vegetables, cheese, fish and meat. (Good to know: The fish stalls are usually closed on Mondays because there is no fishing on Sundays.)
Although the market does attract a number of tourists, we felt like the market was very local and authentic. Treat yourself to a fresh smoothie and enjoy the market atmosphere.
Opening times: Monday to Saturday from 8 am to 2 pm
To go or not to go to the Picasso Museum? Well, where else if not right here in Málaga – the birthplace of Pablo Picasso? The museum is located right in the city centre, within a gloriously renovated historic building from the 16th century.
The museum stretches over two floors and displays a total of around 200 works by Pablo Picasso – primarily paintings, but also a number of sculptures. Before you start the tour, you will receive an audio guide that will talk you through the exhibition (included in the price). In addition to the permanent exhibition, they also showcase works in the temporary exhibition, which get turned over every few months or so.
We took advantage of a rainy day as our excuse to visit the museum. And the verdict? Well, it’s probably more worthwhile if you actually take an interest to (contemporary) art. However, it was pretty busy even in November – which means that it’s probably crazy busy during actual high season. In which case, it may be worth buying the ticket in advance. You can find more information on the official website here: Picasso Museum Málaga.
Important to know: Photography is strictly forbidden in the exhibition area!
Málaga Harbour Promenade (Muelle Uno)
Continuing on towards the harbour, which is only about a 10-minute walk from the Old Town, you will come to the port promenade of Málaga. If there was one word to describe this place, it would be: futuristic! The port of Málaga was previously shut off to the public, but a few years ago the port area was completely redesigned and reopened under the name Muelle Uno.
Technically speaking, Muelle Uno is actually divided into two areas: On the one hand there is the promenade called: Muelle 1 and leads out towards the lighthouse. You walk past some cafes, restaurants and boutiques here. After about 10 minutes you will reach the La Farola lighthouse. From this promenade you have a really nice view back towards the centre of Málaga.
And the second area (on your way back towards the city centre) is called: Muelle 2. This promenade runs under the white roof structure called Palmeral de las Sorpresas. The curved architecture is quite the eye-catcher and makes for an iconic photo spot. The Centre Pompidou Málaga is located at the point where Muelle 1 and Muelle 2 meet. It is actually the small counterpart to the Paris Centre Pompidou.
Málaga city beach: Playa de la Malagueta
Playa de la Malagueta is the beach closest to the centre of Malaga. Located right at the gates of the Old Town, this beach is a very nice place to visit.
Since we were in Málaga during the off-season (November), it wasn’t exactly swimming season anymore and so when we visited the beach, it was almost empty. But of course, you can expect it to be very busy during summer. Ideal for a short break but we would probably prefer to spend a multi-day beach vacation elsewhere.
Soho artists’ district: Málaga’s street art
Would you like to see a different side to Málaga that doesn’t fall into the category of classic sights? If so, then we can recommend the Soho district. Soho is mostly mentioned in the same breath as Málaga street art. In this quarter to the west of the port there are innumerable, sometimes really remarkable murals and graffiti.
So that you can really find the most beautiful works, it is best to visit the website of the MAUS project (Málaga Arte Urbano Soho) in advance. There you will find a map that shows the most important works of art. (The map is also available in printed form at the tourist information.)
3. The Most Beautiful Lookout Points in Málaga
Málaga is quite hilly, which in turn, offers some spectacular viewpoints. In this section, we will share with you our favourite lookout points, which can be especially beautiful during the sunset hours.
Rooftop of the Cathedral in Málaga
Near the centre of the city, you can find a stunning view of Málaga from the roof of the cathedral. Unfortunately, you can only visit this as part of a guided tour. (Don’t expect a guided tour with lots of information – someone just accompanies you upstairs.)
You have to climb around 200 steps before you are rewarded with a magnificent view of Málaga at a height of around 50 meters. Once you’re at the top, there is a circular loop for you to walk around so that you get the opportunity to look out in all directions. In contrast to the other churches, you are not so much in a church tower up here, but rather on a roof structure.
Information about the tour to the Cathedral Rooftop
Price: 6 Euros (discounted combined ticket with tour of the church: 10 Euros)
Tour Times: You can find it on the official website of the Cathedral of Málaga
Duration: around 30 minutes
Lookout Points on the Gibralfaro Hill
Perhaps you’ve read about the well-known Mirador de Gibralfaro. The problem is that (fortunately) there is not just one Mirador on the Gibralfaro Hill, but several – which tends to confuse people a little.
On the way to Castillo de Gibralfaro, you will pass countless lookout points – both small and large. We would recommend you to take the path going uphill on the sea-side face. The route starts near the tourist information or in other words, the Alcazaba at Paseo Don Juan Temboury.
After about 2/3 of the way into the track (if coming from the centre), you will reach a very well-known viewpoint. Since the path is accessible to public at all times, you can visit the lookout point even in the dark (which we can also highly recommend).
A stunning sunset viewpoint can be found even higher at the Hotel Parador de Malaga Gibralfaro. We didn’t personally stay at this hotel, but we can definitely encourage a visit during sunset. If you walk a little stretch backwards from the Hotel Parador, then you will reach another very well-known viewpoint. From here you can see the famous bullring in Málaga, amongst many other places.
4. Tips for Coffee, Food and Drinks in Málaga
In all honesty, we are not the biggest fans when it comes to Spanish food. There tends to be very few vegetarian dishes, most of which are very unimaginative. But the good news? We enjoyed the best food here in Málaga, out of all the places we visited on our trip through Andalusia.
Fonzo (seen in the photos): Huge recommendation from us! This young, hip tapas bar is a gem. They serve delicious and very creative vegetarian dishes, but also include some dishes with meat on their menu. We even reordered certain dishes because they tasted so good. In addition, they also serve great craft beers from Spain and regional wines. As per usual in most tapas bar, space is limited – so you have to cross your fingers and hope for a free table! It’s worth waiting, I promise!
Mia Coffee Shop: What is probably the best espresso in Málaga, can be found in this small, secluded coffee shop. Perfect for a pick-me-up coffee!
Pizzamore: If you’ve had enough of tapas, then we can highly recommend a visit to this pizzeria. The ambience could do with some more character and charm (we found it just a little too sterile and too light for us), but the pizzas are delicious.
5. Accommodation: Our Tip for Staying in Málaga
We can highly recommend the accommodation we stayed at called: Suites Teatro. As the name suggests, this is not a classic hotel, but apartment suits that belong to a hotel. We spent three nights here and had a very comfortable stay.
The location could hardly be more central. We were able to look out directly from our room to the Teatro Romano (the Roman Theater). Most of the other significant sights were also just around the corner! For example: getting to the Cathedral is less than a 5 minute walk. However, due to its rather central location, it can get quite loud, especially in the evenings. (If you are a very light sleeper, then earplugs might be worth the investment, this generally applies to the centre of Málaga.)
Our room was very bright and rather large, so we were able to spread out nicely. All in all, very tasteful style with a great value for money. These apartments in the centre of Málaga has our approval and recommendation.
You can view and book the accommodation here: Suites Teatro
Extra Tip: Parking in Málaga
Are you travelling by car? If so, then you should definitely avoid the historic Old Town of Málaga with its countless pedestrian zones. Apart from the fact that a large number of roads are closed off to cars, you will also be hard pressed to find any parking spots.
It’s best to park your car in an underground garage on the outskirts of the Old Town. We chose the (very central) underground car park at the Alcazaba, as it was only a few minutes walk from our accommodation.
Unfortunately, parking in Málaga’s underground car parks can be quite expensive. We paid 22 Euros per day (during the weekdays) and 26 Euros per day (in the weekends). The further out from the city centre you park, the cheaper it gets.
Transparency: Affiliate Links
This blog article contains our personal recommendations in the form of affiliate links. If you book or buy something through these links, then we will receive a small commission. This does not change the price for you at all! A million thanks from the both of us!
Have you ever been to Málaga? What did you think of it and do you have any other tips to share from this lovely city? We look forward to reading your recommendations!