Travelers have been drawn to visit Malaga and the Costa del Sol for decades, drawn in by warm sun and relaxing beaches. There are plenty of things do in Malaga Spain, though, that don’t involve the beach. Sure, we will share some tips on what to do in Malaga Spain that do involve the famous Mediterranean beach. There are, though, loads of other Malaga attractions for food and drink lovers as well as culture and history lovers.
In this post, we will share some of the top Malaga attractions to help your visit to Malaga. We will answer some frequently asked questions about travel to the area, and provide recommendations on Malaga accommodations.
Check out more tips in our Ultimate Spain Food Guide – How To Travel in Spain
Top Things To Do In Malaga Spain
I was pleasantly surprised by our stay in Malaga. To be honest, before traveling there, I assumed Malaga was very Brit-focused. I know it’s a big destination for Brits and Irish looking to escape the sun. I expected loads of Irish pubs and chip shops. To be fair, there is quite a concentration of Irish pubs in the heart of the city center, the area around, and just north of, Calle Marques de Larios, the main shopping street. This also might be the case at some of the Malaga beaches that are heavily touristed by Northern European tourists. This area is also filled with many tourist-focused restaurants that might not be serving the most typical and traditional Andalusian dishes.
In the center of Malaga City Spain, though, we found some absolutely great restaurants and tapas bars and were astonished by how pretty the city is. This is definitely a city that it helps to have some good food recommendations to avoid being caught at some of the more tourist-focused restaurants. I could spend an entire day just exploring the local food markets. But there are so many other things to do in the city as well, besides just eat and drink.
*This post contains compensated links. Find more info in my DISCLAIMER.
Included below are recommended sites to visit, either independently or as part of a private or small group tour. We recommend Viator when looking at tours or tickets to many of the Malaga sights. We’ve used Viator to book tours all over the world. We like them because you can confirm immediately and book the tour before even leaving home. This saves the hassle of trying to organize your schedule during your trip. It’s also important to book activities ahead of time during the high season. Most of the Viator activities can also be canceled if your plans change.
Where To Stay In Malaga
We stayed at the Petit Palace Plaza Malaga during our stay in Malaga. It is part of a small collection of hotels in Spain called Petit Palace. It was contemporary and comfortable and had one of the best buffet breakfasts of any hotel during our trip through Andalucia. It’s steps from the center of Malaga and our room offered the most amazing views of the Cathedral. I would definitely recommend them. Check the best rates for Petite Palace here.
Another option, closer to the beach, is the Gran Hotel Miramar Malaga, a luxury property with views of the water. This area of Malaga is a little too quiet for me during the winter months, but it is still only about 10-15 minutes away from the center of town. Check the best rates for Gran Hotel Miramar Malaga.
Get more recommendations for the best hotels in Malaga Spain with Tripadvisor Malaga Hotels or check out the best prices for Malaga Accommodations on Booking.com. For resorts near Malaga, check out these hotels along the Costa del Sol. Outside of the city center, along the beachfront, most of the accommodations focus on apartments. This is a great place to use Airbnb. If you’ve never used Airbnb before, get a discount on your first stay here.
The Malaga Spain Beaches and The Costa Del Sol
The Costa del Sol, or the sun coast, is one of the most famous stretches of coastline in Spain, and perhaps the Mediterranean. The Costa del Sol runs from south of Malaga city, past Marbella, and ends around the town of San Diego. There is a little something for everyone from chill beachside grills to the glam and bling of Marbella. To determine the “best” beaches in Malaga really, it really depends on what you are looking for. At some of the beaches, the focus is clearly on partying, like Benidorm and Fuengirola. Many of these Malaga beaches focus on all-inclusive resorts. Some, like Marbella, focus on Michelin-Star dining and high-end shopping.
Malaga city beaches include Playa Malagueta, which starts within the city at the edge of the port. It’s about half a mile long and includes soft sand beaches, with plenty of food and drink options. The Playa Malagueta offers the best of both worlds. It’s part of the city, so there are plenty of Malaga places to visit and places to eat. But, it’s a great spot for sunbathing and beach activities too. Just a little farther along heading north from Malaga is Playa Caleta, which tends to be a little less crowded during the high season than Playa Malagueta. For something less touristy, check out the Almuñécar beaches just 90 minutes north from Malaga.
One of the main reasons why Malaga is a must-see destination is because of the Malaga Spain weather. The Malaga weather is temperate year round. During the winter, it might not be an ideal destination if the goal is to sunbathe in a bikini, but there are plenty of other Malaga beach activities that allow travelers to enjoy the beach and Malaga city. In the winter, temperatures range in the 50’s and 60’s. In the summer, Malaga temperatures peak in the high 80’s or 90’s, but with a breeze.
Book One of These Malaga Culinary Tours:
10 Things To See In Malaga
Now, let’s get to the heart of our Malaga sightseeing advice. Of course, because we can’t help ourselves, we have to recommend some activities that involve food and drink. After all, this is a food travel blog. But, we also have some recommendations for culture and history lovers and offer some suggested day trips from Malaga too.
1. Explore The Malaga Beaches
I’ve already talked about the Malaga beaches, but this is a huge draw to Malaga. I loved our time visiting Seville, the largest city in Andalusia, but if it had a beach, well, we’d be moving there! Being close to the water made Malaga feel a little more special. We visited Malaga during the fall, and the weather was lovely. The beach was quiet, but it was the perfect place to go for a morning run or walk. There is a long promenade that connects the main Malaga city beaches.
Even if you don’t plan on throwing down a towel to soak in the sun, try visiting the beach for a sundowner cocktail at one of the many beachfront cocktail bars. Or, enjoy a grilled lunch at one of the chiringuitos, or beach-side barbecue spots. A word of caution. If visiting Malaga during July or August, prepare for heat and crowds. I recommend visiting during the spring or fall to avoid the rush.
2. Shopping In Malaga Spain
The main shopping street in Malaga is Calle Marques de Larios. It’s filled with international and Spanish chains. On the roads leading away from this street, there are more boutique options. I just enjoyed window shopping as we took our evening stroll along the wide, pedestrian boulevard. There are plenty of shops focusing on typical Spanish and Andalusian souvenirs. Many of these souvenirs focus on food as well, spice packets and Moorish-inspired cooking vessels, for example. If looking for culinary souvenirs, like olives or olive oil, check out one of the local food markets to buy direct and local.
3. Cathedral Malaga
The Cathedral of Malaga is unique for a few different reasons. First, it took about 200 years to build on the site of a former mosque. Second, the original plan called for two symmetrical towers. Money ran out and one tower was never complete. At a distance, like in this view from our hotel room at the Petit Palace Plaza Hotel, you almost can’t tell. But, when standing at the base you can see unfinished columns on one of the “towers.” There are a lot of rumors as to why this happened. Most obvious, they ran out of money, but there are legends told as to why they ran out of money.
Although the gardens are free to visit, admission to the cathedral is €5. Or, book this Cathedral Tour and learn the history of the cathedral, the city, and get a rooftop tour too. The Cathedral is closed on Sunday and holidays.
Book this small group Malaga Cathedral and Food Tasting Tour with Viator – From €90 – The tour is hosted by two guides, a historian and a foodie, meaning it’s the best of both worlds
4. Malaga Museum Hopping
There are plenty of Malaga museums & attractions, which are not only perfect for culture hounds but also provides something to do in Malaga on one of the rare rainy days. Some of the best museums in Malaga include an Andalusian art museum called the Museum Carmen Thyssen and the CAC or the Centro de Arte Contemporaneo. There are also two unique private museums in town, the Automobile Museum, and a Glass and Crystal Museum.
5. Picasso Museum
One of the Malaga museums, though, requires its own mention. Picasso is the most famous son of Malaga city (other than, perhaps, Antonio Banderas, depending on who you ask). The museum is located in the center of the city, in a restored palace. The birthplace of Picasso is not far away too, in the Plaza de la Merced. For Picasso aficionados, visit both spots in one day.
The Museum Picasso Malaga is open seven days a week, from 10 am to 7 pm. Admission is only €7.50. They are closed on major holidays. To skip the lines and receive a small group guided tour, book this Picasso Tour, which includes the museum and the Casa Natal, or Picasso birthplace.
Malaga Activities and Sightseeing Pro Tip: While visiting the Picasso Museum, stop in for some tapas at Bodeguita El Gallo Restaurant, just across the alleyway from the museum. Try their homemade croquetas and vermouth. They are closed Monday. Open during lunch and dinner, after museum hours.
6. Alcazaba In Malaga
The Alcazaba is a large 11th Century fort that sits on top of a hill in the center of Malaga. It’s impossible to miss. Alcazaba is from an Arabic word that means citadel. At the edge of the fort remains are the ruins of a Roman amphitheater, It’s a great way to see the Morrish and Arabic influences in Spain, right alongside the Roman and Christian elements. The amphitheater dates to the 1st century BC, and some of the stones from the theater were used to construct the Alcazaba. Just behind the Alcazaba is the Castillo Gibralfaro, higher in the hills. They can be visited together under a joint ticket.
Tickets to visit the Alcazaba cost only €3.50. Or, book a combination cultural tour with Viator that offers a guided tour of the Malaga Cathedral and the Alcazaba.
7. Go On a Tapas Crawl
Enough Malaga history and culture! Let’s talk food. For me, some of the best places to visit in Malaga has to be the many traditional tapas bars and restaurants. As I mentioned above, I was, in part, expecting nothing more than chip shops and pizzerias in Malaga, made for the tourists. Yes, there are some very tourist-centric bars, but they are not that hard to avoid. Try to avoid the restaurants with pictures of paella out front. Paella isn’t an Andalusian dish. And, when there are sandwich boards outside with pictures of paella, it means frozen products!
Instead, look for the local tapas restaurants. Stand at the bar and order a tapa or two before moving onto the next spot. Order meatballs with almond sauce (albondigas almendras) or pil-pil prawns, prawns in a spicy olive oil sauce. So tasty.
8. Take a Malaga Food Tour
To learn about Malaga cuisine and history on a Malaga walking tour try taking a Malaga food tour. I like to think I know a good deal about Spanish cuisine, now that we live in Spain. But our Malaga food tour with Spain Food Sherpas taught me so much about the uniqueness of Malagan cuisine. Many travelers think all there is to Spanish food is sangria, paella, and churros. Spanish cuisine, though, varies from region to region. Even within Andalusia, some of the most well-known dishes in Malaga are totally different from dishes found elsewhere in Andalusia, like food from Seville or Granada. On our food tour, we learned about some truly unique dishes, including zurrapa, which includes a different variety of lard-covered meats. Not for the faint of heart.
Our food tour included an extensive tour of the Mercado Central de Atarazanas, along with several tapas tastings. We tried some of the most traditional tapas and visited some more contemporary tapas restaurants as well. I would definitely recommend a food tour as one of the best things to do in Malaga.
Check out Spain Food Sherpas and their Malaga food tours and cooking classes
9. Tour The Malaga Markets
Even if you are not interested in an organized food tour, definitely check out one of the Malaga city markets. There are a few sprinkled throughout the city. They are generally open in the mornings to early afternoon and are closed on Sunday. I do advise travelers to remember that food markets are a place to do business and shop. Please be mindful of being a tourist in the space. Always ask permission to take photos of people working the stalls. Even better, buy something!
Although the Mercado Central de Atarazanas is definitely on many lists of top Malaga tourist attractions, it’s also a very local market. There are a few market bars, filled with locals, grabbing a morning beer and a tapa or two. There are grandmothers pulling their wheeled shopping carts behind them, visiting their favorite butchers or vegetable dealers. The market is separated into three main areas, the butchers, the fish market, and the fruits and vegetables.
What to See in Malaga – Sightseeing Pro Tips
The Mercado Central de Atarazanas is open six days a week from 8 am to 3 pm. It is closed on Sunday. There are a few market bars, including a bunch of outdoor tables for alfresco tapa eating. Check out the Bar Mercado Atarazana for boquerones (fried fish) and berenjenas con miel (fried eggplant with honey).
La Merced Gourmet Marketplace is another take on the local market, with a handful of traditional market stalls. From 1 pm until late there are a variety of gourmet stalls selling all sorts of food, both local and international. It’s like a large Spanish food court. La Merced is also closed on Sunday.
10. Visit The Malaga Wine Museum
Not your typical museum, and not your typical must-see Malaga attraction. The local Malaga wine consortium created this quaint Malaga Wine Museum on the first two floors of its headquarters. This is a museum really for die-hard wine aficionados and wine travelers. It’s for people who know a good amount about wine already and really want to learn about the local wine history. It might not be one of the hippest places in Malaga, but it has its charm.
The first floor includes displays focusing on Malaga’s wine marketing history, about the various wine labels and advertisements over the centuries. The most interesting being the “wine for children” display. Yes, they once marketed wine for children for medicinal reasons. The second floor includes specifics about the history of the Malaga wine regions as well as specifics on the varietals used. This includes an interesting display on the various aromas of local wine. All displays are in Spanish, but there are translations in English, French, and German as well. The end of the tour includes a tasting!
Musel Del Vino Malaga: The museum is open from 10-5. It is closed on Sunday and closes at 2 pm on Saturday. Admission is €5 and comes with two tastings at the end. A third tasting can be purchased for an additional Euro. The museum is simple. It’s definitely something to kill a half hour or an hour, plus it comes with wine, so it’s worth the investment. If you are curious about the local sweet wines and sherry wine, it’s worth a visit.
Malaga Nightlife and The Malaga Bars
Regular readers of the blog know we are not big into nightlife, per se. We enjoy our drink but prefer to drink early and go to bed early. As mentioned above, there is no shortage of Irish pubs to while away the hours after dark. There are also a few discotheques in the city center. But, there are a handful of cocktail and gin and tonic bars I would recommend for a night out on the town in Malaga.
The aptly named Gin Tonic Bar on Calle Sancha de Lara offers dozens of different gins, including many from Spain, from Andalusia, and even from Malaga. We had a few gin tonics there over our stay in Malaga. The bartenders are knowledgeable and make a good gin tonic. Moonlight Bar de Copas on Calle Torre de Sandoval is also in the city center. They offer dozens of different gins and many other kinds of cocktails. Their gin selection was a little more generic but still extensive. If you want to try the local gin, check out the Gin Tonic Bar first.
Things To Do Near Malaga
If you are visiting Malaga for more than a few days, there are plenty of unique options for Malaga day trips. In order to make the most of your time, and to avoid having to plan everything yourself, this might be the perfect time to book a group tour or a private tour, which provides transportation too. We recommend booking through Viator. Some of the places to visit near Malaga include Granada, the Alhambra, Gibraltar, and even Africa! That’s how close this part of Spain is to Africa.
Here are our 4 recommended Malaga day trips:
Visit Nearby Ronda With Wine Tasting
Ronda is a small town in the mountains of Andalusia and makes a great excursion from Malaga, particularly for nature lovers. It’s a beautiful little town, with a picturesque old stone bridge that traverses a super-deep gorge. And, a day trip to Ronda from Malaga also includes a visit to a local winery. It’s a way to experience culture, nature, and wine all in one trip.
Book a Day Trip From Malaga to Ronda – From €45
Visit Granada and The Alhambra
We spent a weekend eating loads of tapas in Granada, but you can also visit Granada on a day trip from Malaga. It’s a full day tour, which involves the round trip drive between the two cities. Importantly, a day trip also includes a visit to Granada’s famous Alhambra, with a guide and a skip-the-line ticket (definitely worth it!). Our recommended tour doesn’t include lunch, but check out Restaurante Los Manueles on Calle Reyes Católicos, which is open all day and is not far from the end of the road that leads to the Alhambra. Or, take a Granada food tour to eat well in a short amount of time.
Currently, there are almost no trains arriving in Granada from Malaga and elsewhere in Andalusia because of work on the tracks. Even if you book a train ticket, it involves a train and bus combination and it’s a bit of a pain. I would recommend driving yourself or taking a day tour that totally takes care of all the transport.
If you want to escape Spain in search of wee Britain, how about a day trip to Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory. This is a full day tour as the drive to Gibraltar from Malaga takes about two hours. But a tour provides transport as well as the history of Gibraltar. Plus, it’s a bucket list destination to take a photo of the famous Rock of Gibraltar.
Book a Day Trip From Malaga to Gibraltar – From €50
Visit Tangier, Morroco
This is the longest of the day trip options, with a tour that takes about 15 hours. But, that’s what happens when you jet set off to an entirely different continent. Well, not quite jet set, but “sail” set. The tour starts with a sailing across the Strait of Gibraltar, followed by a tour of Tangier. Take a walking tour of the old Medina and shop for souvenirs at the local souk. Enjoy a traditional lunch of couscous or tagine too.
Book a Day Trip From Malaga to Morroco – From €88
FAQs – How To Visit Malaga Spain
- Where is Malaga Spain? The Malaga Spain map shows a city right on the coast of Spain, at the northern tip of the Costa Del Sol. It’s the fifth largest city in Spain and the second largest in Andalusia, in Southern Spain.
- How far is it from Malaga to Granada? It takes about 90 minutes to drive between Malaga and Granada. It looks closer on a map as the crow flies, but it’s not a straight shot.
- How do you get to Malaga? We traveled around Andalusia for two weeks using a RENFE Spain Pass. The RENFE Spain Pass allows travelers to book a train pass for 4, 6, 8, or 10 journeys for a set price, starting at €250. You can book the rail pass before leaving home and then make reservations for seats online, or at the train station, for each journey. The pass is valid for one month from the date of the first journey. Learn more about the RENFE Spain Pass here.
- Where can I get more information about Malaga Tourism? The Malaga Tourist Office is located just between the port and Calle Marques de Larios, on Plaza de la Marina. The Malaga Spain Tourism office has all sorts of free Malaga tourist information including a Malaga tourist map.
*This post contains compensated links. Find more info in my DISCLAIMER. We were supported by the Malaga Tourism office during our stay in Malaga.
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Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new Food and Drink Destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together over the last 20 years, they have traveled to over 70 countries. Amber is the author of the Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna.