For any traveler planning to visit Malaga Spain, food should be an important part of your research. More than some of our other favorite cities in Spain and in Andalusia, there are a lot of Malaga restaurants that are touristy, and might not provide the best Malaga food experiences. That’s why we want to share our recommendations on where to eat in Malaga Spain and how to find the best restaurants in Malaga city.
Malaga Food Guide
In this Malaga Food Blog, we will be sharing tips on how to find the best Malaga restaurants, but we want to offer more advice than that. As food and travel bloggers who actually live in Spain, we want to provide tips on what to eat and drink in Malaga. We also share tips on how to interpret a Malaga restaurant menu and how to order tapas and other dishes in the region. We share advice on how to find the best typical Spanish food and local specialties from Malaga and Andalusia.
Malaga Hotel Recommendations
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. They are walking distance to some of the best restaurants in Malaga Spain. 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, one of the top Malaga luxury hotels 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. In the summer, there are loads of beach bars and chirinquitos near the Gran Hotel Miramar. 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, on 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.
*This post contains compensated links. Find more info in my DISCLAIMER.
Eating Out in Malaga
Before getting into our recommended list of Malaga tapas restaurants, it’s helpful to understand some of the culture and the customs that surround eating in Spain. These Malaga restaurant tips focus on when to eat, how to read a menu and the cost of eating in Malaga. These are our top Malaga restaurant tips.
When To Eat in Malaga
I’ve always struggled with when to eat in Spain. Even living here, we still are not entirely accustomed to the eating schedule. People in Spain often eat 4 or 5 times a day (This is a custom I am down with). They will eat a small breakfast of coffee and a pastry. Normally during the late morning, around 11 am, they will have another cup of coffee, or even a beer or vermouth, along with a small sandwich or tapa. In between lunch and dinner, there is another snack time.
Restaurants normally open for lunch in Malaga around 1 or 1:30 pm, although most people won’t sit down for lunch until 2 pm at the earliest. This is the same for weekdays and weekends, although lunch start times might be a little later on the weekends and on holidays. Dinner in Malaga is later, with restaurants often opening around 8 pm. The dinner rush often won’t start until 9 pm or later (This is the part of the Spanish dining customs I still struggle with). Most restaurants are closed in the afternoon. I included below some recommendations for tapas bars in Malaga that are open all day, which is often needed for travelers.
Traditionally, lunch is the big meal of the day in Spain. The good thing about traveling and eating in Andalusia is that it is a tapa-focused culture. That means there is no expectation to have a huge meal so late at night. Enjoy a leisurely lunch and snack on some tapas in the evening.
Malaga Food Prices
Lunch in Spain often includes special deals called a “menu del dia,” normally a three-course meal, with wine or beer, for between €10-15 per person. Lunch in Malaga, though, is more likely from the same menu as dinner and focused on the typical food of the region. It’s quite common to eat tapas in Malaga for lunch. A Malaga dinner menu will more likely include raciones, or full-sized dishes. But, it’s common to start with one or two tapas before moving on to the larger sizes. Raciones may range from €10-20 a plate depending on what the dish is, with some seafood being more expensive. A Malaga restaurant menu will often be the same for both lunch and dinner.
The great thing about eating at tapas bars and restaurants in Malaga is that tapas are generally not that expensive. At a traditional tapas bar, a tapa-sized plate will cost between €2-4. A larger portion, or a racion, might cost between €7-10 a plate. Some restaurants will offer an in-between option, called a 1/2 racion or media racion priced between €4-7. The sizes are clearly marked on most Malaga tapas menus. This means that the cost of eating out in Malaga can be pretty reasonable.
For two people a full meal would include five or six tapas. For us, we like to visit more than one restaurant for lunch and more than one restaurant for dinner, allowing us to try as many different places as possible. We might only order two or three tapas at each location. We rarely order raciones, unless that is the only size for a dish we want to try.
Visit the Malaga Markets
One of the best ways to learn about Malaga cuisine is to explore some of the food markets in Malaga. Malaga market stalls are really something to be seen, with some of the food displays seeming to be a little more like artwork, with carefully stacked produce and beautifully merchandised meats. Even the displays of local Malaga fish and seafood that comes from farther afield are lovely.
There are two main Malaga food market destinations to visit, each entirely different from the other. We recommend the Mercado Central de Atarazanas and the Mercado de la Merced Gastromarket. There are two other traditional, local markets. Mercado del Carmen and Mercado de Salamanca that are also worth a visit but are a little farther out from the city center. The Malaga markets opening hours generally start from 7 or 8 am until around 2 or 3 pm. Most markets are open six days a week. They are closed on Sunday and most holidays.
Mercado Central de Atarazanas
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.
When the Moors controlled Malaga, the building where the market now stands faced onto the sea. At the time, military ships were repaired there. The name of the Malaga market, atarazanas, means arsenal. In the late 1800s, the city converted the building into the local market after the sea was reclaimed. The stained glass in the back of the market shows scenes from Malaga history.
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 Atarazanas for boquerones (fried fish) and berenjenas con miel (fried eggplant with honey).
Mercado de la Merced Malaga
La Merced Gastro Market 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 food stalls selling all sorts of cuisine, both local and international. It’s like a large Spanish food court. La Merced is also closed on Sunday. Although Google and websites say that the Merced Malaga is open starting at 8 am the food stalls with prepared food don’t really get going until after 1 pm. You can find the Mercado Merced Malaga near Plaza de la Merced, just a few minutes walk from the city center. It’s sort of “behind” the Castillo de Gibralfaro, up on the hill.
Malaga Food Market Sightseeing Pro Tip: I like to provide this advice in any city, not just in Malaga. Remember that most local markets in Europe are both places of business and where the locals shop. Try not to disrupt the course of business. Be careful of your surroundings and be sure to let the little old ladies with their carts pass by. If taking photos, try to ask permission. Even better, buy something to support the local businesses.
Where to Eat in Malaga Spain
Now, let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of our Malaga Food Guide. Some of these Malaga bars and restaurants will offer very traditional and typical food. Others offer more contemporary versions of typical Malaga cuisine. Where I can, I will suggest one or two specific Malaga dishes to eat at each restaurant to help guide you when reviewing the menu. If you ever get stuck, order a drink at the bar, hang back for a minute and see what others are eating. If you don’t speak Spanish, just politely point at a dish that looks yummy and say “un por favor.” It’s that simple. In addition to the printed menus, look behind the bar or elsewhere on the walls for a chalkboard listing any seasonal specials. The great thing about tapas is that they are small, so take a risk and eat something you might not normally order.
A note on restaurant opening times in Malaga, and really anywhere else in Spain. The days and hours listed below are accurate as of the time of publication. But, restaurant and bar owners don’t necessarily adhere to these hours. They may open later than planned. They may close for international and Spanish holidays. They may close for holidays, most notably in August or around the Christmas holidays. Just be patient!
Malaga Tapas Bars and Mesones
There is not necessarily a difference between a Malaga tapas bar and a Malaga restaurant. Tapas bars, also known as mesones, are more casual. They have space at the bar to eat, along with some high top tables. They may have some sit-down tables as well. It’s perfectly acceptable to pop in for a drink, a tapa or two, and move on. If sitting at a table in the dining room, they probably assume you will be ordering a full meal, perhaps a few tapas and a few raciones as well.
Bar Mercado Atarazanas Malaga
A great place to stop for a mid-morning snack when visiting the Malaga Central Market, along with a cold beer or a glass of wine. Very traditional menu, but with an obvious focus on the freshest ingredients. Try the fried boquerones or fried eggplant with honey (berenejnas con miel).
Bar Mercado Atarazanas Malaga at the Central Market, open from 8 am – 3 pm Monday through Saturday.
La Martina Gastrotienda
Another great option just outside of the Central Market, La Martina started as a shop in the market. Then, they opened a butcher shop outside fo the market focusing on local ingredients. They have a handful of tables and are a perfect place to try local jamon and sherry. It’s also something to people watch the locals to see what they are ordering to take home. They also have some prepared foods as well.
La Martina Gastrotienda on Plaza Arriola, which is open all day seven days a week.
Las Merchanas Malaga
In cities and towns in Southern Spain, Catholic tradition runs strong. This can particularly be seen around Easter Week or Semana Santa. There are bars near almost every church that act almost as patrons of that church. They help to support the church and the Semana Santa festivities, which include some of the largest, most intense processions. Processions include marchers carrying saints through the city. Las Merchanas is one such bar. Not only are the walls covered in religious artifacts, but while we visited they even played procession music. A must-visit experience in Malaga. They also have a very large sit-down restaurant in the back. Order the montadito pringa, a traditional Andalusian pork sandwich.
Las Merchanas Malaga on Calle Mosquera, which is open all day seven days a week
Bodequita El Gallo
We walked past several examples of the more touristy restaurants in Malaga before walking into Bodequita El Gallo. We knew this because it was a little after 8pm and the other restaurants had lots of people (i.e. tourists) outside eating. Walking into El Gallo, I had to confirm that they were even open. We were the first to arrive. Around 9 pm, suddenly, like a wave, a dozen or more people came in. That’s how you know you are eating local. A great tapas menu focused on their croquetas caseras, or house-made croquetas. The owners are a young husband and wife team, with the wife doing the cooking. Perfect place for a wine or vermouth and a few tapas.
Bodequita El Gallo on Calle Dan Agustin, across from the Picasso Museum. Open for lunch and dinner. They are closed Monday and Sunday night.
Restaurants in Malaga Spain for Traditional Dishes
Again, it’s a little hard to draw a distinct line between “restaurant” and “bar” in Malaga. Each of these recommendations I would say is a little more like a sit-down restaurant, but most also have a bar perfect for a drink and tapas.
El Tapeo de Cervantes Málaga
Asking around before arriving in Malaga, El Tapeo de Cervantes Málaga was the restaurant that most often received rave reviews. It’s a long-standing restaurant that underwent a recent renovation. It’s small, with only about a dozen high-top tables, that generally fill up. Get there early. Unlike our other recommendations, they really don’t have a bar to sit at. They focus on traditional Malagan cuisine, sometimes with unique or contemporary twists. But, the feal of El Tapeo de Cervantes Málaga is still very traditional. They have specials on chalkboards that rotate with the seasons.
El Tapeo de Cervantes Málaga on Calle Carcer. Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday, dinner on Sunday, and closed on Monday. One note. For two people, they suggest five or six tapas. We tried to order four, but were coaxed into 5, and were stuffed! If you only want four tapas, stake your ground! I will say, though, that the food is so good this would be one time where you probably don’t want to tapa hop. Their fresh boquerones were amazing along with pig cheeks with white beans.
Restaurant Meson Mariano
In the heart of the city center, but down a little side street, they are known for “down-home” cooking. There is a small bar, with a few cocktail tables, but the rest is more for sit-down dining. They are really known for artichokes, in every variety, when in season in the fall. In particular, try the alcachofas confitadas, or confit artichokes if they have them.
Restaurant Meson Mariano on Calle Granados. Open for lunch and dinner. Closed on Sunday and Monday night.
Other Recommendations for Malaga Restaurants
Try Bar El Pimpi for outdoor dining overlooking the big square near the Roman amphitheater on Plaza de la Juderia. They also have a large indoor space, and a long tapas bar too. Supposedly, Antonio Banderas, Malaga’s native son, is a part-owner of the restaurant. He goes there often. Bar El Pimpi on Calle Granada is open all day seven days a week. A more traditional option is Cortijo de Pepe on Plaza de la Merced is open all day, seven days a week. They operate a pretty robust indoor grill that is rocking during lunch. They have a long bar and several dining rooms.
Best Tapas Bars in Malaga for Contemporary Tapas
We love to focus on traditional cuisine when traveling, but also enjoy seeing what chefs are doing to take traditional dishes and local ingredients to create something contemporary. The great thing about tapas is they are small. Try at least one or two contemporary tapas during a stay in Malaga, you won’t regret it.
La Cosmopolita Malaguena
From the outside, La Cosmopolita looks a little more traditional, but on the inside, it’s bright and contemporary, unlike most traditional Malaga restaurants. The menu is also modern, heavily focused on seafood dishes. It is a Michelin Guide recommended restaurant and there are rumors that it could be receiving a Michelin Star in the future. Try the bacalao buñuelos, fried pastry balls filled with salted cod. And, they have an award-winning Ensaladilla Rusa. La Cosmopolita also has a great local wine list too.
La Cosmopolita Malaguena on Calle Jose Denis Belgrano is open all day, six days a week. They are closed on Sunday. They offer more limited menus between typical lunch and dinner times.
Uvedoble Tapas Malaga
This was another Malaga restaurant I heard about and couldn’t wait to try. My only disappointment, I wanted about a dozen more of their special gambas pil pil tapa. That plus we went here towards the end of our stay in Malaga and didn’t have time to return. The gambas pil pil were slightly spicy, soft and creamy, and rolled into a thin pita-style bread. So so good.
Uvedoble Tapas Malaga on Calle Cister is open for lunch and dinner six days a week. They are closed on Sunday.
Malaga Bars – Where To Drink in Malaga
There is more to eating out in Malaga than the food, although that is obviously an important part of a visit. For us, it’s also about the drink. We are not particularly night owls and don’t end up hitting the discotheques, but we enjoy our beer, wine, and other drinks, often right alongside all the great Malaga food. Here, we recommend some of the best bars in Malaga, from traditional sherry bars to cocktail bars.
First, a note about Malaga drink prices. One of the reasons why so many Northern Europeans, particularly travelers from the UK and Ireland, love Spain for their holidays is that drink prices in Malaga, and in Spain, are comparatively low. Malaga beer prices are about €2-3 a glass for mass-produced local beer. A craft beer is around €4-5 a glass. Local wine ranges between €2-4 a glass, and normally a vermouth goes for around €2 as well. Cocktails can be a little more, with a properly made gin and tonic, with premium gin and premium tonic, costing between €7-10 (but they are big and they are tasty).
Traditional Malaga Bars for Wine and Vermouth
It’s not hard to find wine in Malaga, with almost every tapas bar carrying a mix of traditional Spanish wines from Rioja or Ribera del Duero, along with some local wines as well. Malaga is most known for its sweet wines, as well as for sherry, which is from nearby Jerez. There are also a few local Malaga varietals as well. If you want to try something local, ask for a Malaga wine. For sweet ask for “vino dolce,” for dry white or dry red as for “vino blanco seco” or “vino tinto seco.”
For a truly local Malaga wine experience, check out Antigua Casa de Guardia, near the Central Market. It’s not a modern wine tasting bar. Instead, you are meant to stop in for a sherry or Malaga wine, that comes in a small glass. Stand at the bar, enjoy your little drink and move on. It’s a unique experience. Antigua Casa de Guardia is also the oldest bar in Malaga.
Another unique drink experience can be found at La Tranca, just a few minutes walk out of Old Town. They are known for their vermouth and empanadas. Go for a vermouth before dinner, which is a tradition in Spain. The mix of herbs in the bitter and sweet fortified wine helps to open up the digestive system before a meal. It’s one of our favorite drinking traditions in Spain.
Malaga Craft Beer Bars
Craft beer is increasingly more popular in Spain, particularly in Catalonia, where we live. In Andalusia, the trend is a little slower to take off. But, we found some interesting craft beer bars in Sevilla, and a few in Malaga as well. Neither is located in Old Town, but they are only a few blocks away. La Madriguera Craft Beer Malaga and Cervecería Arte y Sana Malaga both carry local and international craft beers, each with 6 or 8 beers on tap as well. Both also allow pours of different sizes, so you can try a few different craft beers during a visit.
Best Bars in Malaga for Gin and Tonics and Cocktails
The aptly named Gin Tonic Bar Malaga 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. They also have non-gin beverages as well.
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. They have a small outdoor space as well. If you want to try the local gin, though, check out the Gin Tonic Bar first.
La Terraza de San Juan offers a lovely view of the church nearby, a church so close you can practically reach out and touch it. La Terraza is a roof-top bar that feels more contemporary and a little posher.
Want to Learn More About Malaga Spain Food and Spanish Food Traditions?
While traveling in Andalusia, I relied on this book Grape, Olive, Pig: Deep Travels Through Spain’s Food Culture by Matt Goulding to learn not just about Andalusia but as I educate myself about Spanish foods. I think it’s important to learn about Spain foods because I now live in Spain. If you want to learn more, check out this book!
As soon as I returned home, I vowed to spend more time learning how to COOK Spanish food. So, I bought Claudia Roden’s the Food of Spain. The book includes the history of the regional cuisine of Spain as well as hundreds of traditional recipes from all over the country. The book is simply lovely too, with pretty photos and illustrations. I enjoy reading about food while sipping sherry, and yes, actually making some of the recipes too.
How To Book a Malaga Food Tour
One of the best ways to learn about what and where to eat in a new city is to book a food tour. We took a guided gourmet tapas tour in Malaga with Spain Food Sherpas. Even as someone who considers herself fairly knowledgeable about Spanish cuisine, I still learned so much about Andalusia and the culture of food in Malaga.
Our Malaga guide took us all over Malaga Centro, including the market. We tasted some traditional tapas and some contemporary versions of very typical dishes. Between the market and other local shops, our guide went above and beyond to educate us about the dishes and food products that are unique to Malaga. Spain Food Sherpas also end each of their Malaga tours with some advice on where to eat in Malaga. I always recommend taking a food tour like this as early in your stay as possible, so you can make the most of your food education during the rest of your stay.
Check out Spain Food Sherpas Malaga and their Malaga food tours and cooking classes
How to Travel 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. It’s a great way to explore different regions of Spain, to explore outside the big gateway cities like Madrid and Barcelona. And, it can save a lot of money, particularly on long train journeys. Learn more about the RENFE Spain Pass here.
FAQs – How to Visit Malaga For Food
- 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. It’s easy to book flights to Malaga from cities around Europe.
- Where can I find the best paella in Malaga Spain? The thing is that many travelers associate Spanish cuisine with paella, but Spanish cuisine is very regional. And, although it is possible to find paella in many touristy restaurants around the country, paella is really a Valencian dish. I can’t tell you where to eat paella in Malaga because I wouldn’t recommend it. If you must, ask at your hotel. And, above anything, don’t eat at the restaurants that have a sandwich board in front plastered with photos of paella. That is a corporate chain that sends out frozen paella around the country!
- Are there free tapas in Malaga? Generally, no. Although traditionally, tapas were something that came along with a drink order, that tradition is hard to find in large Spanish cities. The one exception is Granada, where this is still a thing. It is not uncommon, though, for drinks to come with olives or perhaps some potato chips.
- Is Malaga expensive? Like any touristy city, you can spend as much or as little as you want on a Malaga holiday. Malaga prices, particularly for accommodations, range throughout the year, with the highest prices found during the summer, Christmas, and Easter.
- 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.
Pin It! Top Restaurants in Malaga – Malaga Food Guide
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.