Things to do in Malaga
Malaga is a city with a little bit of everything. The old town is the heart and soul with its labyrinth of cobblestone streets. There’s a modern shopping center, wide boulevards, green parks, and a city beach.
Never far away are the looming mountains, home to the white villages of Andalusia, which make the perfect place for a day trip or a stopover on your Andalusia road trip. We recommend staying 3 nights to enjoy all the top things to do in Malaga or a bit longer if you want to explore the surrounding areas.
1. Alcazaba de Málaga
The Alcazaba is the top thing to do in Malaga and one of the most popular sites. Similar to the Alhambra in Granada (although on a much smaller scale!), this impressive fortress sits on the hill overlooking the city. It was built as part of the Nasrid Kingdom in the 11th century—a period of Islamic rule in Spain.
The architecture is beautiful, with the typical Moorish archways, tilework, and gardens filled with fountains, orange trees, palms, and the smell of jasmine. Best of all, you’ll find some spectacular views over the city; it’s a beautiful place to spend a few hours away from the hustle and bustle.
If you want to learn more about the Moorish period, we recommend taking a tour of Alcazaba, where you’ll get to know more details about its long and fascinating history.
Entry Fee and Opening Times
The Alcazaba de Malaga is open during the Summer (April to October) from 9 AM – 8 PM and in Winter (November to March) from 9 AM – 6 PM. The last entry is always 45 minutes before closing, so make sure to leave plenty of time.
A ticket is 3.50 EUR (3.50 USD), or you can do a combined entry with the Castillo de Gibralfaro for 5.50 EUR (5.50 USD). Tickets are not available online; you must buy them in person at the entrance. Please note that there may be a queue on weekends and in the high season.
On Sunday, after 2 PM, you can enter the site for free!
2. Castillo de Gibralfaro
The Castillo de Gibralfaro (built in the 8th century) is even higher than the Alcazaba and was used to house troops and protect the Alcazaba fortress. As you can imagine, the view up here is even better! What’s left of the castle are the ancient walls (you can walk on top of them in a circular loop). As you go, you’ll get a birdseye view of the bull arena and a few other important monuments in Malaga.
Once you’re done, there’s even a cafe where you can get a refreshing drink or coffee before making your way down to the city.
How to get to the Castillo de Gibralfaro
Even though you can see the Castillo from the Alcazaba, there is no direct path. You’ll have to leave the Alcazaba first and follow the road outside that goes uphill alongside the fort walls. It’s a 25-minute walk which has beautiful views all the way up. However, as it’s pretty steep, it’s maybe not a walk you’ll want to do in the hot summer months. You can take a bus or a rental car, as there is parking at the top.
Entry Fee and Opening Times: 3.50 EUR (3.50 USD) or a combined ticket with the Alcazaba for 5.50 EUR (5.50 USD). In the summer months, the Castillo is open 9 AM – 8 PM, and in the winter months until 6 PM.
3. Colomares Monument
Take a half-day trip to the Colomares Monument, an unusual castle dedicated to Christopher Columbus and his discovery of America. The building tells the story of Columbus’ discovery, represented by a building that looks like a ship.
Although it was only finished in the 90s, you would think it had been built much earlier from the design and the intricate constructional details. It also contains the smallest church in the world!
After you’ve looked around every picturesque corner, wander outside in the beautiful gardens, and enjoy the incredible views from up here on the hill.
Tip: It’s best to visit in the late afternoon when it’s cooler as there’s no shade in the monument. You have to walk a hill back to the old town, so it’s best to drive if you’re visiting during the summer.
To get to Benalmádena, it’s around 40 minutes by car from Malaga. You can take bus M-110 (40 MINS), which picks you up from the train station in Malaga. Or train C1 (towards Fuengirola) to station Benalmadena-Arroyo de la Miel). The trains leave roughly every 20 minutes.
4. Malaga Museum (Museo de Malaga)
Another top thing to do in Malaga is to visit the Malaga Museum, a former art museum that has now been combined with an archeological exhibit. The fine art collection is really well displayed with a vibrant colored background.
Most of the art is displayed without a glass front protection, so you can really admire the stunning colors! Find 2000 pieces in the fine arts collection, and discover the archeology section with over 15,000 pieces.
Make sure to take some time to admire the building itself; from the outside, the entrance is surrounded by palm trees (it reminded us of being on a palm-tree-lined beach in Sri Lanka!).
5. Lagunillas Art Neighbourhood and Soho
Continue the art theme by heading for the creative neighborhoods of Lagunillas and Soho—one of the top things to do in Malaga! In these neighborhoods, you’ll find murals and graffiti ornamenting the walls, giving it a wonderful colorful atmosphere.
This initiative was developed as part of a city project, where the local government funded the creation of artwork to modernize the area and increase tourism. This area’s young and fun vibe has also brought with it lots of new and trendy cafes and bars, for example, this great cafe Byoko.
Join a tour or follow a map of all the best murals (you can find many online).
6. Málaga Cathedral
Malaga Cathedral has to be one of the city’s most unique and beautiful buildings. This enormous cathedral is more reminiscent of a palace than a religious building, with soft domed shapes, dusky pink stone, and surrounding palm trees.
The Cathedral took 150 years to complete, meaning there are a lot of different architectural styles on show, from Baroque to Renaissance. Inside, you can discover its beauty, lit by hundreds of candles.
Most unusual is that the Cathedral only has one bell tower (most have two), as the second one was never built. This has led locals to refer to the building fondly as ‘La Manquita’, meaning ‘the one-armed lady’. The bell tower itself is 84 meters high, making it the second tallest bell tower in Spain (after Seville)!
Entry Fee: 8 EUR (7.91 USD) for a general ticket or 12 EUR (11.87 USD), including a rooftop tour. You will receive a free sound guide, and there’s also a kid’s version too if you’re traveling as a family. Skip the line and book your guided tour to Malaga Cathedral.
Malaga is a coastal city, meaning there are plenty of wonderful beaches dotted along the coastline. One of the best things to do in Malaga if you’ve got some downtime is to visit one of the local beaches, relax on a sunbed and enjoy a refreshing dip in the ocean after a hot day of sightseeing.
You’ll also find plenty of Chiringuitos (beach bars) along the sand, where you can enjoy some drinks as the sun goes down. Some of the best beaches in Malaga are:
- Playa de la Misericordia (please note that this is a city beach and looks onto a lot of industry)
- Playa de La Malagueta (the nicest beach of them all)
- Playa la Malagueta (long beach with city and mountain views)
8. Mercado de Atarazanas
Is there anything better than enjoying the delights of a Spanish food market? The Mercado de Atarazanas in Malaga is no exception! Discover many stalls selling local fruits, veggies, spices, fish, meat, bread, and olives.
It’s a great place to eat and get among the hustle and bustle of the vendors. Like many places in Spain, the market closes at 2 PM (and is closed on Sundays), so make sure to visit in the morning (from 8 AM) to avoid disappointment.
Not only is it a great place to eat, but the building itself is also beautiful. It’s a stunning iron and glass structure with colorful stained glass that covers a large portion of one side.
9. Málaga Park and Jardines de Puerta Oscura
There are many lovely parks in the city, and one of the top things to do in Malaga is to spend a few hours enjoying the beautiful plants, water features, and flowers. Among the trees, you’ll also see colorful birds, including bright green Parakeets. It’s the perfect place for a stroll and to enjoy the shade of the trees as you escape the heat on a hot day in the city. The two most famous parks in Malaga are Malaga Park and Jardines de Puerta Oscura.
If you want the ultimate relaxation on your trip, head for the Hammam Al Ándalus Baños Árabes, a traditional Arab bathhouse in the heart of Malaga. Inside, discover beautiful rooms with baths and traditional Arab tilework and stonework. You can dip in different baths, enjoy the steam room, drink traditional tea, and even have a relaxing massage. The entry includes 90-minute access and includes a massage.
11. Picasso Museum
No visit to Malaga would be complete without a visit to the Picasso Museum. The famous artist was born in Malaga, and this fascinating museum is dedicated to him and his work. As it’s located right next to the Cathedral, the museum it’s very convenient to visit, and there are nearly 150 different artworks of his on show. You can also visit the house where Picasso was born (now transformed into another museum called Museo Casa Natal de Picasso), which is just a 5-minute walk away.
12. Teatro Romano
Welcome to the oldest place in all of Malaga: the remarkable Teatro Romano! This ancient Roman theatre dates all the way back to the 1st century and can be visited inside or viewed from above. If you visit the viewing area (and the adjacent museum), you can see the old Amphitheater for free. You can find the remains of the Teatro Romano at the foot of the Alcazaba.
Alternatively, for more detailed information about the Teatro, book a guided tour and discover more about its history and role in Malaga.
Day Trips from Malaga
13. Half-Day Trip to Iznajar
If you’ve got a bit of extra time in Malaga, take a half-day trip to the beautiful village of Iznajar! This authentic Spanish village is one of the famous ‘White Villages of Andalusia’ (Pueblos Blancos). It sits high up on the mountain overlooking the beautiful valley and lake below.
Spend a few hours enjoying the peace of the village and admiring the traditional Andalusian patios (courtyards). For example, ‘Patio de las Comedias’, where you’ll find hundreds of different colored geranium flowers in vibrant blue pots. It’s a must-see on your Andalusia road trip and only a 1-hour drive from Malaga!
Enjoy exploring Alhambra, and its many beautiful corners, wander the maze of narrow streets in the old town of Granada, enjoy free tapas (yes, free!) from a local bar, and dip your toes in the cooling mountain river.
How to get there: It’s straightforward to reach Granada from Malaga. If you have a car, the journey time takes approximately 1.5 hours. Alternatively, you can take the train (1 hour 15 minutes), which costs around 40 EUR (39.59 USD) for a round trip. If you want your Alhambra ticket and tour included, it might be worth booking a tour from Malaga, which will consist of all your entry fees and transport.
We recommend joining a morning walk and enjoying the view of the canyon, lakes, and surrounding Andalusian landscapes. It’s one of the top things to do in Malaga, and because of this popularity, there are plenty of organized tours leaving from the city that include your ticket and transportation.
These two charming towns sit very close to each other on the beautiful coastline outside Malaga. If you have a car, they’re the perfect destinations to add to your Andalusia road trip.
Nerja is known for its lovely beaches and many seafood restaurants, most of which have excellent views across the clifftops.
Drive 10 minutes up into the surrounding mountains to discover the cute white village of Frigiliana. This lovely village is home to beautiful houses and charming shops selling ceramics, art, and clothing. There aren’t as many places to eat here as in Nerja, but the (sunset) views from the restaurant terraces are spectacular!
Where to Stay in Malaga
The best place to stay in Malaga is the Old Town, where you’ll be among the most authentic buildings in the city. It’s also only a few minutes’ walk from the main historical sites. There are plenty of options to choose from for every budget, from fun hostels to boutique and 5-star hotels. See all hotels in Malaga, Spain.
Best Cafes and Restaurants in Malaga
Malaga is one of the biggest cities you’ll visit on your Andalusia road trip itinerary and, therefore, has many great restaurants, bars, and cafes. You’ll find typical Spanish delicacies, but plenty of other cuisines are on offer. Some of our favorites include:
- Casa Lola (great for tapas)
- El Pimpi (a lovely tapas bar where you can also enjoy wine tasting)
- Fonzo (Cosy restaurant with sharing plates)
- Next Level (specialty coffee)
- Pizzamore (delicious Italian!)
- Restaurante Alyamal (Moroccan food)
Please note: In many parts of Spain, tap water is drinkable, so there is no need to buy plastic bottles from the shop. Instead, bring your own reusable bottle and travel plastic-free!
The city is relatively big, so you might need to use the metro system to transfer between neighborhoods or to reach the beaches. There are taxis like Uber, Cabify, or Bolt. We found Uber and Bolt the cheapest, but there was more availability through Cabify.
Alternatively, there are many bike rental shops in Malaga where you can hire a bike for the day and enjoy the many cycling routes throughout the city and coastline.
How Much Does Malaga Cost?
Just like many other cities in Spain, Malaga is pretty cheap! Try to avoid the touristy spots as places to eat, as the restaurants will be more expensive. For example, you’ll find pricier restaurants in the Old Town or near the port. However, it can still be worth it for the lovely sea views!
- Hotel: 80 – 200 USD / night
- Hostel: 10 – 40 USD / night
- Price per meal: 10 – 30 USD
- Entrances: 10 – 30 USD
- Transport: 5 – 10 USD / day
Best Time to Visit
Malaga boasts 320 days of sunshine a year! However, be aware that it’s scorching in the summer, although there are many beaches to enjoy and this is the most popular time to do so. This is also the busiest time, particularly in August when the Spanish take their holidays.
The rest of the year is also beautiful; even in the winter, you’ll find blue skies, and many people still brave the water for a swim. It’s also a great time to hike and explore the surrounding area.