Málaga is the type of destination I would have never considered visiting had things not “just worked out” that way. To me, the seaside Spanish city is known as the gateway to the Costa del Sol. Basically, the home away from home for thousands of Brits, each descending on the south of Spain to enjoy the guaranteed scorching sunny weather with all the food (and language) comforts of home. Basically, not my idea of a good time. I had absolutely no idea that all the top things to do in Málaga are either super cultural or incredibly tasty. Málaga is a surprising, laid back and very livable city.
I’ve created this list of what to do in Málaga with an emphasis on eating and drinking. Because Málaga isn’t a party city, where you’re on it all night and nurse a delicate head by the pool all day. And it’s not somewhere that benefits from a jam-packed itinerary. Rather, break up strolling around the attractions in Málaga with periodic sustenance breaks. It’s a more meaningful way to sink into the natural, relaxed rhythm of this beautiful Andalucían city.
Best Things to do in Málaga, Spain
Top Things to See in Málaga: Best Attractions
1. Picasso Museum Málaga
Even if you don’t consider yourself an arty person, you’ll have heard of this dude. Yup, the cubist cat himself Pablo Picasso might be known for his wild exploits in Paris but he was born in Málaga. the Picasso Museum Málaga is well worth your time as it displays a timeline of his work from early sketches and figurative drawings to proper out-there sculptures and self-portraits.
Opening times: 10:00-18:00 Everyday Entrance fee: €9 for adults
If you are a big Picasso fangirl, you might also want to check out Picasso’s Birthplace which is now the HQ of the Picasso Foundation. Here, you can also find some of his super early works and a recreation of what the house may have looked like at the turn of the 20th century. Not one of the absolute top things to see in Málaga but, you know, if you’re a fan you’ll appreciate it and I enjoyed it anyway.
Opening times: 9:30-20:00 Everyday Entrance fee: €6 for adults
2. Playa de la Malagueta/Port of Málaga
Cities with beaches are usually so much better than cities without beaches, am I right? You don’t need to restrict yourself to two weeks in a resort just to have easy access to stretches of white sands. Málaga’s Playa de la Malagueta is often quieter and more laid back, anyway. There’s a promenade you can stroll down too with some shopping stalls and, of course, it’s totally free so visiting the beach has to be on your list of things to do when you visit Málaga!
3. Centre Pompidou Málaga Art Gallery
If visiting the Picasso Museum and Picasso Birthplace Foundation isn’t quite enough art for you, you can check out Centre Pompidou’s Málaga branch just off Playa de la Malagueta. The main contemporary art museum is in Paris but Málaga is the first to open outside of France and has a worthy collection of works by Frida Kahlo, Francis Bacon, René Magritte plus many others. The entrance is the rather striking glass-panelled cube you see below.
Might not be worth it if you’re not super into art and museums, but Málaga has so many fantastic museums and galleries! They’re absolutely some of the best places to visit in Málaga.
Opening times: 9:30-20:00 Everyday Entrance fee: €9 for adults for all exhibitions
4. Catedral de la Encarnación de Málaga
Everywhere in Spain from the biggest cities to the tiniest powder-coloured villages has an incredibly ornate and detailed Cathedral or church, it seems. Catedral de la Encarnación de Málaga is no exception, it’s absolutely gorgeous both inside and out. Completed in 1782, part of the cathedral is in the Baroque style while the majority is a classical renaissance design. You can also climb the narrow church steps to check out the views at the top for a small extra fee.
Opening times: 8:30-21:00 Everyday Entrance fee: €5 for adults
5. Alcazaba of Málaga
We’re keeping it cultural on the next stop of our Málaga sightseeing tour! Constructed in the 11th century when this part of Spain was still under Muslim rule, Málaga’s Alcazaba is a former fort that is actually the best-preserved Alcazaba in Spain. Not only is it a huge structure that will take you approx. one hour to walk around, it’s built on a hill so it offers cracking views of the city and harbour. Also, it sits directly above the next landmark on this list and you can purchase a combi ticket with N.7…
Opening times: 9:00-18:00, sometimes until 20:00 Everyday Entrance fee: €3.50 for adults combi ticket
6. Roman Theatre
Yup, the Teatro Romano (or Roman Theatre) is located on the same hill as the Alcazaba so you can see two Málaga landmarks in one go! You can actually see the Roman Theatre from the street.
Dating back aaaall the way to the 1st century BC when Augustus was Emperor, this amphitheatre was used for about 200 years before being abandoned. Honestly, I wouldn’t recommend including the theatre on your Málaga hit-list if you had to pay an entrance fee. Sure, it’s pretty well preserved, but there are so many other amazing amphitheatres across Europe, much grander and less neglected. But since it’s so close to the Alcazaba, you may as well have a walk around.
Opening times: 10:00-18:00 Tuesday-Saturday 10:00-16:00 Sunday Entrance fee: Free!
7. Castillo De Gibralfaro
If you like, you can choose a combi ticket for the Alcazaba of Málaga and Castillo De Gibralfaro slightly further up the hill (Mount Gibralfaro). Its humble beginnings are similar to the Alcazaba in that it’s a Moorish fortress dating back to roughly the same time period. It’s more of an open-air castle than an actual building you walk inside, which shouldn’t be too much of an issue considering the glorious weather in Spain.
Personally, I didn’t visit the castle because I was short on time. Cost-wise, it’s extremely cheap and the views are incredible but the vistas and history available at the Alcazaba were more than adequate for me. Though I bet the sunsets from this height are breathtaking!
Opening times: 9:00-18:00, sometimes until 20:00 Everyday Entrance fee: €3.50 for adults combi ticket
8. Málaga Street Art
Who knew that Málaga had an urban art scene that is alive and kicking?! A relatively new addition to the coastal city, Málaga’s street art is largely concentrated to it’s Soho district, though there are one or two pieces found outside this neighbourhood. MAUS (or Urban Art in Soho Málaga) is an ongoing project to revamp this area of the city which is fairly industrial and built-up, nothing like the historic centre.
There are currently over 50 murals and pieces that adorn structures as grand as tower blocks, bridges and tunnels as well as doorways and windows created by a selection of international and Spanish artists. Check out this blog post for a list of all the top murals in Málaga. Some of my favourites include the ‘Málaga Loves Art’ murals on Calle Vendeja by Italian artist TV Boy and the ones on El Perchel Bridge.
9. Shopping in Málaga
Of course, there are the usual chain and high street shops that you find in cities across the continent, but Málaga offers lots of quirky boutiques and independent stores too. I love buying small souvenirs that are locally made when I travel, especially Christmas ornaments and jewellery.
If you are looking for high street shopping, head to Calle Larios. It’s definitely one of the prettiest main streets I’ve seen with its marble pavings and 19th-century buildings. Tourists should head to Calle Granada for a mix of souvenir and independent stores and click here for more information on shopping in Málaga.
10. Cine Albéniz
As a huge film fan, I had to recommend watching a movie at Málaga’s best arthouse and independent cinema! This would absolutely be one of my top things to do in Málaga even if it’s not yours. When I first visited the city, I was fortunate to be there at the same time as a film festival.
Cine Albéniz was the main cinema hosting the film festival and it’s a beautiful little place not far from the Alcazaba. They screen plenty of non-dubbed English language films so if you’re also a film fan, do check it out! Relaxing in a comfy cinema, with air conditioning, could be the perfect evening activity if you’re feeling a bit tired after a long day of sightseeing.
11. Attend a Festival
If film festivals aren’t your thing, take your pick! Málaga has a cornucopia of art, culture and religious festivals throughout the year. It seems more difficult to plan a trip to Málaga at a time where there isn’t a festival planned!
In February and March, before lent begins, there is Málaga Carnival. There are usually a few parades and lots of street performers. Even the locals get dressed in costume! And of course, La Semana Santa is celebrated across Spain in April for Easter and Holy Week. The tronos or thrones of religious figures (usually of the main man, Jesus Christ or Mary Magdalene) are carried in a parade as an act of penitence and it’s truly a sight to behold.
If you prefer art festivals, head to Málaga in October where the whole month is dedicated to the birth of Pablo Picasso. In his honour, there are several art exhibitions, conferences, competitions and concerts planned across the city. Check out an up-to-date calendar of festivals in Málaga here.
12. Málaga Tours: Walking, Cycling and Food Tours
Since I’m usually a solo budget traveller, I can feel a little isolated on my trips and find it difficult to make connections. That’s why I love tours! And not only are they great for meeting new people when you travel, but they’re also fantastic for gaining a local insight into a new city.
Málaga is the perfect city to explore by walking, by cycling or through your tastebuds. I love using Get Your Guide for tours and I always check their site when I travel somewhere new.
This two-hour walking tour around the historical centre looks perfect for hitting all the top spots, and this day tour around the city on e-bikes is incredibly well priced and ideal for exploring as much as possible in a short time-frame. The Atarazanas Market is a Málaga institution (more on it later!) so if you’re a foodie you’re going to want to spend a lot of your trip eating there. This two-hour small-group food tour around the market can help you with that.
13. Day trips from Málaga: Ronda, Granada and Seville
Málaga is a fantastic base for the wider Andalucía region, especially since it’s got one of the biggest international airports. From Málaga, you can easily explore other cities and towns in the area on day trips.
If you follow as many travel accounts on Instagram as I do, you can’t go two days without seeing Ronda and its jaw-dropping stone bridge over a gorge that connects two parts of this charming town together. This one day trip to Ronda from Málaga will allow you to escape the metropolitan city and drive through the olive-lined Spanish countryside. And if you love visiting cities, you can’t go wrong with a day trip to either Granada or Seville. Both offer UNESCO World Heritage Sites, plenty of bars, restaurants and shaded, winding streets to stroll along.
Top Things to Eat in Málaga: Best Restaurants & Food
14. Mercado Central de Atarazanas
A landmark as well as a market, visiting the Mercado Central de Atarazanas is definitely one of the best things to do in Málaga. It’s the best place in the city to sample a wide range of local delicacies. We’re talking oysters, ibérico ham, anchovies, manchego cheese, local wine… There’s an abundance of fresh veggies, dairy products and meat to choose from!
Not only is the choice of food fantastic, but the building alone is worth a look in. It dates back to the 14th century and was completely refurbished in the 1970s to reflect the original design. And the stain glass window on the back wall deserves to be in a gallery.
Málaga’s tapas culture might not be quite so generous and inexpensive as Granada’s, but it’s still superb. Some bars instinctively offer small plates of food with every drink (such as olives or bruschetta) however it’s more likely that you’ll find tapas restaurants with deals like three small plates for €10. In particular, look out for espetos. It’s basically sardines on a stick, but it’s a local Málagan delicacy. These are a selection of the best tapas restaurants in Málaga.
You can’t go to Spain without eating churros, surely! They’re basically just fried pastry, dusted with sugar and/or cinnamon and eaten with melted hot chocolate, and you can find them everywhere now. Usually, they’re a snack, but you can eat them for breakfast too. If you fancy sampling the churros in Málaga, head to these cafes…
I know I’ve put ‘tea’ in the food section and not the drinks section of this list because, as you and I both know, by ‘drinks’ I mean alcoholic beverages. And tea houses normally offer a decent food menu. They are a remnant from Andalucían’s Moorish heritage that has survived all these centuries later and have a distinctly Moroccan feel. Tea houses usually offer different herbal teas (shocking, I know) as well as Middle Eastern dishes with hummus, falafel, pitta, etc. which is perfect for a light lunch.
18. Ice Cream
Sampling the local gelato is one of my favourite things to do when I travel. But not just in Italy! I’ll eat delicious gelato and ice cream anywhere. If you also have a sweet tooth or consider yourself a gelato aficionado (AKA a gluttonous hog) you might want to check out these fantastic ice cream joints in Málaga.
Top Things to Drink in Málaga: Best Bars & Beverages
19. Cocktail Bars (Tinto de Verano)
Everyone’s heard of Sangria. It’s a classic Spanish cocktail that mixes red wine, lemonade, spices and fruit. But what about Tinto de Verano? Literally translating to ‘summer red wine’, this cocktail is simpler than sangria (just red wine and lemonade) but it’s local to Málaga and is damn refreshing. If you want to taste it for yourself, this list includes all the best restaurants and cocktail bars in Málaga that also serve Tinto de Verano.
20. Craft Beer Pubs
Like ice cream, Spain isn’t especially known for its local beer, let alone craft beer. But I love it, and no matter where you go every single city has its own little craft beer scene and I love seeking them out. And if you’re the same, here are Málaga’s best craft beer bars, brewpubs and microbreweries.
21. Spanish Wine Bars
And the final point on my list of top things to do in Málaga, drink lots of Spanish wine. Strike that, responsibly drink lots of Spanish wine. Here are some fantastic wine bars in Málaga with a sizeable selection of local Spanish wines. Salud!
Accommodation in Málaga: Where to Stay
I stayed at Feel Hostels City Centre Málaga when I visited the city in September 2017. And while I loved the location, I probably wouldn’t pick it again. So, I’ve chosen a selection of Málaga accommodation options (a hostel, hotel and Aparthotel) where I would stay should I ever return to the city!
- Urban Jungle Hostel – This hostel looks amazing. I’ve never even heard of a 5-star hostel before! The minimalist, plant-heavy decor looks like an Instagrammer’s wet dream and the rooftop bar (not to mention the view from the rooftop bar) looks incredible. It’s definitely a more upscale hostel and I’m sure the cost reflects this I’d absolutely pay a few extra € a night to stay here if I was travelling by myself. Plus, it has everything you’d want in a decent hostel too: lockers, curtains, personal plug sockets, etc.
- Anahita Boutique Hotel – If I was travelling with a partner or close friend, I’d opt to stay in one of the many boutique hotels in Málaga and this one looks centrally located but reasonably priced. And I love the traditional Spanish feel with the colourful tiles and cosy mood lighting.
- Coronado Apartments – I know some people prefer to stay in apartments when they travel, especially if you have a young family or you’re travelling longterm. Airbnb is the most obvious choice when looking for apartments in Málaga but I love the look of these ApartHotels in Málaga. They seem modern, minimalist and even offer parking and washing facilities.
And those are all the top things to do in Málaga, Spain including sightseeing, what to eat and drink and where to stay! Are you planning to visit Málaga? Let me know in the comments below!