Malaga is a magnificent city draped in history and oozing with culture. It’s everywhere you look, from the dominating architecture and museums to the fabulous food and people.
After spending 3 months here, I can not recommend this alluring city enough. But since you’re already here reading this, I’m guessing you’re past the stage of needing convincing and instead just want to get to the good stuff.
So, what are the best things to do in Malaga, Spain?
In this blog post, I am going to give you all the information you need to be able to plan the perfect trip to Malaga, Spain. Everything from the best things to do, the best time of year to go, and all of the must-see attractions and points of interest that deserve to make it onto your Malaga trip itinerary.
Let’s get to it.
Best Things to Do In Malaga, Spain – The Ultimate Guide
1. The Alcazaba of Malaga
The Alcazaba is a magnificent 11th-century Moorish fortress located in the heart of Malaga. It’s an iconic landmark in the city and one of the most popular things to do in Malaga.
It is a fantastic place to explore, with its beautiful gardens, secret courtyards, and stunning views of the city. You can easily spend a couple of hours here wandering around and taking in the sights.
The Alcazaba was built on a hill overlooking the city and has three levels, each with its own patio and gardens. The views from the top are breathtaking, making it well worth the climb.
You’ll also find a little archaeological museum inside housing Moorish pottery and ceramics to explore whilst you’re inside too
If you’re interested in learning more about the history of the Alcazaba, there are English-speaking guided tours that run every day at 5 pm between April and October and at 4 pm between November and March.
Pro-Tip – Pick up a combined ticket for Alcazaba and Gibralfaro Castle for a reduced price of €5.50
Opening Hours: April to October – 9:00 to 20:00 every day / November to March – 9:00 – 18:00 every day.
Entrance Fee: Adults €3.50 / Students and Seniors €1.50 / Children (under 18) free
2. Gibralfaro Castle
The Gibralfaro Castle is another must-see when visiting Malaga. It’s located on top of Gibralfaro hill and was built in the 14th century as a lookout point and defensive fortress.
A word of warning now – it’s a long and steep climb to the top and will take you around 20 minutes if you’re heading here from The Alcazaba. If you’re not feeling up to the challenge in the heat of the summer, you can also take the number 35 bus from Avenida de Cervantes which will drop you off at the top.
The castle has some incredible views over the city, the port, and even out to sea. It’s definitely worth making the climb up to enjoy them.
There is a small museum inside with exhibits on the history of the castle and its role in the city’s defences if you’re not too busy admiring the view.
There is also a water fountain at the top so you can refill your bottle, plus a little cafe selling coffee, chilled drinks and ice cream – a well-deserved treat for making the climb to the top I’d say.
But seriously, these views though….no wonder it’s one of the best things to see in Malaga.
Opening Hours: April to October – 09:00 to 20:00 / November to March – 09:00 to 18:00.
Entrance Fee: Adults €2.20 / Students and Seniors €0.60 / Children (under 18) free.
3. The Malaga Cathedral
The Malaga Cathedral is a beautiful 16th-century Renaissance cathedral located in the centre of the city and stands as one of the tallest in the whole of Andalusia. It’s one of the most important things to see in Malaga, not only for its architecture but also because it houses the remains of Pablo Picasso.
That’s right, world-famous artist Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga and you can see his tomb inside the cathedral, making this cathedral one of the best things to do in Malaga during your visit.
The build of this cathedral didn’t come without its issues though. With a lack of funding, it took almost 200 years to completely finish and instead of having two bell towers as planned, to this day, it still only has one.
If you’re not too tired from climbing Gibralfaro Castle, you have another 200 steps here that will take you 87 meters high into the tower for breathtaking, panoramic views across the whole city.
The cathedral is open to the public every day except Sunday morning when there is a mass at 11 am. If you’re visiting on a Sunday morning, you’ll still be able to see the exterior of the building and admire its beautiful facade, but just not able to enter.
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday – 10:00 to 19:00 / Saturday – 10:00 to 18:00 / Sunday – 14:00 to 18:00.
Entrance Fee: Cathedral – €6 Adults / €3 – €5.50 Everyone else / Free for children. Tickets and full prices are available here.
4. Malaga Roman Theatre
The Malaga Roman Theatre is one of the best places to visit in Malaga if you’re interested in learning about the city’s rich history. This well-preserved theatre was built during the first century AD and is believed to have been used for gladiator fights, plays, and public speeches.
And the most fascinating thing is this incredible structure wasn’t even discovered until 1951 after the building that had been sitting on top for so many years was finally knocked down and destroyed.
Today, the theatre is still used for public performances and events. You can often find things like concerts, theatre productions, and even the odd film screening taking place here throughout the year.
If you’re visiting in July, don’t miss the International Music and Dance Festival which is held in the theatre every year. This festival sees a range of different performers take to the stage over
Opening Hours: Monday – Closed / Tuesday to Saturday – 10:00 – 18:00 / Sunday 10:00 – 16:00
Entrance Fee: Free
5. Enjoy The City Beaches
So you arrive in Malaga looking for things to do and before you know it, it’s 30 degrees and all you can think about is cooling off in the sea. Fear not, there are plenty of beaches dotted around Malaga that make for a perfect day chilling by the sea.
If you’re prepared to head a little further out from the city, you will find slightly better beaches than the city ones. My personal favourite? Podregalejo. You can even hire a scooter such as Tier or Lime and scoot the whole way there on the cycle lanes in under 10 minutes.
Closest to centre – Malagueta or La Caleta Beach (15 minutes walk)
Nicest walkable beach in Malaga – Podregalejo (50-minute walk or a short bus)
Best by taking the bus – Penon del Cuervo Beach (N350 bus gets you there in 35-minutes)
Best beach down south – La Carihuela, Torremolinos (Bus or train. Both approx 45-minutes to get you to the beach)
You can also read my best Malaga beaches guide here
6. Plaza de la Merced
Plaza de la Merced is a buzzing square, located in the heart of the city and its one of my favourite places to go in Malaga on a sunny afternoon. This large plaza is home to a number of important landmarks such as the birthplace of Pablo Picasso and a beautiful fountain where people come to sit around throughout the day.
The hustle and bustle of the plaza also makes for great people watching. Grab a coffee (or jug of sangria – which you prefer) at one of the local restaurants and you can stay seated for hours watching people passing you by.
The square itself gets its name from the former convent of Nuestra Senora de la Merced, which was located here until it was destroyed in 1868. The convent’s church still stands today and is now used as a performance space for things like the Flamenco Festival
The plaza is most popular for the restaurants and cafes though, making it the perfect place to stop for a bite to eat or drink after exploring the nearby Picasso Museum or to rest those little legs after a few hours of exploring the epicentre of this incredible city.
7. Culture Your Bones in Malaga’s Many Museums
There are 36 museums in this city alone, so plenty to keep all you culture vultures out there busy for a while! If you’re looking for the best things to do in Malaga during your stay, then you’ll likely be hitting up a least a few more popular ones.
Museums in Malaga cover topics such as art, archaeology, cars, wine, glassmaking – you name it, there’s probably a museum for it. And the best thing is that many of them are free.
Below is my list of top 10 museums in Malaga that are well worth a visit
Top 10 Malaga Museums
- Museo Picasso – over 200 pieces of Picasso artwork on display.
- Carmen Thyssen Museum – private art workpieces from Carmen, including Andalusian paintings from the 19th century.
- Centre Pompidou – modern and contemporary artworks on rotation.
- Museo de Malaga – archaeological and history museum housing over 17,000 exhibits
- Museum Revello de Toro – a collection of over 100 paintings from both Rovello de Toro and Pedro de Mena.
- Russian Museum – European branch of the State Russian Museum with over 100 different pieces on display.
- Wine Museum – learn all about the grapes, the production and the manufacturing techniques.
- Automobile and Fashion Museum – houses over 90 exclusive car exhibits from the 20th century.
- CAC (Contemporary Art Centre) – Vast interior showcasing paintings, sculptures, photography and videography.
- Museo del Patrimonio Municipal – a local 400 piece collection taking you through the evolution of the city over the last 500 years.
It’s also with mentioning that a lot of the popular museums offer free entry on Sundays, so if you’re lucky enough to be visiting on this day you can save yourself a few quid. Below is a list of the Malaga museums with free entry.
Free Entry On Sundays – Malaga Museums and Attractions
- Alcazaba of Malaga: free all day
- Picasso museum: free entrance for the last two hours
- Russian Museum: free entrance from 4.00 pm
- Centre Pompidou: free entrance from 4.00 pm
- Thyssen Museum: free entrance from 5.00 pm
- Museum of Malaga: free all-day
- Revello de Toro Museum: free entrance between 10.00 am and 12.00 pm
- CAC (Contemporary Art Centre): free all-day
- Cathedral of Malaga: free Sunday morning
8. Jardín Botánico Histórico – La Concepción
This incredible garden is often referred to as ‘the jewel in the crown of Malaga’. And it’s easy to see why. It’s the largest tropical and subtropical in the whole of Spain and one of the largest in Europe, sprawling over 250,000m², making it the perfect getaway to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.
The gardens were created over 150 years ago by a wealthy woman named Marquesa de Larios and since then, it has been maintained and looked after by her descendants.
The gardens are made up of over 500 different species of plants, trees and flowers. And it’s not just the plants that are beautiful here. The gardens themselves are stunning with pretty bridges, streams and waterfalls, and you will want to allow at least 2-3 hours here, if not the whole day.
If you’re looking for things to do in Malaga that are a little more off the beaten track, then this is definitely worth a visit.
The botanical garden is 6km north of the city. You can take the number 2 bus there from the centre of Malaga and you will ride the bus for 18 minutes followed by a 15-minute walk once you get off at the last stop. Or of course, you can just hop in a taxi which will cost around €10.
Its one of the more popular places to see in Malaga and can get busy during high season, but its well worth the trip to get out of the bustling city.
April to October – Tuesday to Sunday – 9:30 – 19:30 / Monday – Closed
November to March – Tuesday to Sunday – 9:30 – 16:30 / Monday – Closed
Entrance Fee: Adults €5.20 / Reduced €3.10 (students, pensioners, children up to 16) / kids go free
9. Shopping at The Atarazanas Market
The Atarazanas market is like the beat heart of Malaga. The place is bustling with life and packed full of colours everywhere you look and if the best place in the city to pick up your locally produced products.
This huge covered market housed in a vast 19th-century building is where locals come to do their daily shopping and it’s a great place to stock up on fresh produce, meats, cheeses, and seafood.
There are also plenty of stalls selling things like clothes, shoes, and souvenirs.
The market is located in the El Palo district of Malaga, about a 20-minute drive from the centre of town.
If you’re staying in central Malaga, then you can take the number 11 bus which will drop you off right outside the market.
You will know once you’ve found it, with its imposing entrance and loud Spanish exchanges. Oh, and don’t forget to try some of the locally cured meats here – it’s some of the best around.
Opening Hours: Monday – Saturday 8:00 – 14:00 (some stalls close at 15:00) / Closed Sundays
10. Explore The Art District – Soho
Soho is a neighbourhood in Malaga that has literally been saved from decay by art. The well known ‘art district’ is home to creatives and alternative cultures. The area is full of trendy streets to explore, whilst also enjoying the many cafes, galleries and wide range of varied art spaces that regularly put on events and different activities.
You’ll find Soho next to the Guadalmedina river close to the Contemporary Arts Centre, where you can expect to find many different buildings and facades completely covered with graffiti and artwork, along with some ginormous pieces scaling the face of multistorey buildings.
It’s a very ‘instagramable’ neighbourhood if that’s your vibe. You won’t be the first to bring this artwork to social media though, Instagram and other networks are already brimming with arty posts from this trendy little corner of Malaga.
11. Montes de Malaga Natural Park
This is definitely one for nature lovers. Montes de Malaga Natural Park, also known as ‘Malaga’s green lung’, is a protected area of around 22,000 hectares and it’s just a short drive from the centre of the city around 25km to the north.
The park has some stunning scenery with mountains, forests and rivers, and it’s a great place to go hiking or cycling. There are also some great picnic spots if you want to enjoy a packed lunch surrounded by nature and away from the crowds of the city. Just remember to take your rubbish with you when you leave and help keep this natural paradise clean.
You can also hire mountain bikes and hit up the two different mountain bike trails on offer. These always seem popular with the thrill-seekers, but for those who would rather stick to two feet firmly on the ground, there are ample different hiking routes to suit all levels around here to enjoy the finest of Malaga’s fresh air. If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can even camp overnight here in the park, but you’ll need to get a permit from Malaga city first
There are a few restaurants dotted around as well if you haven’t prepared food beforehand.
Don’t forget to check out the visitors centre here as well where you can explore the little ecomuseum there, where you will learn how the local wine, bread and olive oil is made.
The official site will tell you more about all of the hiking routes and services etc
How to get there: You can hire a car or take a taxi and make the 35-minute drive north from the centre of Malaga.
Best Things To Do Around Malaga – Best Day Trips
12. Nerja Caves
These caves are considered to be some of the most beautiful in all of Europe and they are definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area. The caves were discovered by a group of local boys in 1959 and they have been open to the public since.
The Nerja Caves are located just outside of the town of Nerja, about an hour’s drive from Malaga city centre, making this one of the best things to do around Malaga.
There are a number of different ways to explore the caves, including a self-guided tour which you’ll need to download an app for (download before you go in – there is zero reception inside these caves). The app will talk you around the main areas and tell you all about the history and formation of the caves and stalagmites and stalactites.
There are also a number of guided tours available in both English and Spanish, but these do need to be booked in advance. The guided tour is the only way to see the famous ‘Sala de la Catarsis’ or the Hall of Tears, which was used as a location for the filming of several well-known movies
If you want to see the caves in all their glory, there is also an auditorium inside where you can watch concerts and shows set against the stunning backdrop of the cave walls lit up.
After your visit to the caves, get yourselves down to Playa de Burriana and enjoy the afternoon relaxing on this wonderful beach.
The Nerja Caves are located around 60km east of the centre of Malaga and you can reach them by car within 45 minutes.
Entrance Fee: Adults €14 / Children €12 / Children under 6 go free
13. Caminito del Rey
This is definitely one for the adventurous types. The Caminito del Rey is a narrow walkway that has been carved into the side of a mountain, around 100m above the ground. It was even once considered the most dangerous in the world, but that’s not the case anymore now it’s been fully secured and made safe for those outdoor enthusiasts out there.
It’s located in El Chorro, which is around an hour’s drive northwest of Malaga city centre.
The walkway was originally built in the early 20th century as a means of access for workers who were building a hydroelectric power plant in the area. It was closed in 2000 after several accidents and fatalities, but it reopened again in 2015 after undergoing a €23 million safety refurbishment.
Nowadays, this Malaga day trip is a popular tourist attraction and it’s definitely not for the faint-hearted. It’s around three kilometres long and it’s recommended that you allow around four hours to complete the walk.
There are a number of different routes that you can take, but we recommend starting at the north end so that you can finish with the stunning views of El Chorro gorge.
You need to book before your visit as there is only a limited number of people allowed on the walkway each day. Sometimes you’ll have to wait over a week, so plan your trip ahead and get those tickets booked early to avoid disappointment.
Entrance Fee: You need to book your tickets in advance on the official website. General tickets cost €10 or the official guided tour tickets cost €18. Kids under 6 can not access the trail. You can also book very reasonably priced group tours with pick up and drop off included which is great if you don’t have access to a car.
14. Day Trip To Marbella
Marbella is one of the most popular tourist destinations on the Costa del Sol and it’s only around an hour’s drive southwest of Malaga city centre. It’s easiest if you rent a car for the day but if that’s not possible, you can book a direct bus that will get you from Malaga bus station to Marbella in 45 minutes.
There are a number of different things to do in Marbella, but some of my favourites include taking a walk along the famous Golden Mile, browsing the many designer shops in Puerto Banus or simply relaxing on one of the many beautiful beaches.
You can check out the world-renowned Nikki Beach and hang out with celebrities for a day, or chill around the more family-friendly Puerto Banus Beach.
Marbella old town is also beautiful to walk around and stop for a few drinks as the day starts to get cooler. With traditional terracotta flower pots hanging over the white washed walls sprawled across the area, its a super photogenic town where you can easily pass a few hours letting the day pass you by in a charming setting
If you’re feeling a bit more active, there are also a number of water sports on offer such as jet-skiing, parasailing and banana boat rides.
In the evening, there are plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from, or if you want to experience some traditional Spanish culture, there are also a number of Flamenco shows taking place in the old town.
Marbella is a great Malaga day trip destination – there’s something for everyone to enjoy and its a one of the best place to go around Malaga.
Entrance Fee: Free, unless you want to do some of the paid activities like water sports or Flamenco shows.
15. Day Trip To Granada
Granada is a beautiful city located in Andalusia and my favourite on this whole list. Before visiting, I was not expecting anything special, but it really captured my heart with its incredible history, architecture, attractions and Morrocan-inspired food!
It will take around 1 hour and 30 minutes to drive the 127 km from Malaga, or you can book a bus again that takes just 1 hour and 45 minutes to get you there and is one of my favourite places to see that’s close to Malaga.
It’s famous for its stunning architecture, including the world-renowned Alhambra Palace – once a Moorish fortress built in the 13th-century, but now one of the most popular tourist attractions in Spain.
I could easily write a full blog post on this one attraction alone, it’s that vast. Everything from the magnificent palace gardens, the Nasrid Palace and the panoramic views across the snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountain range and glistening city…everything about this spot is just fantastic.
I would recommend getting your tickets as soon as you know your dates as they do sell out fast, sometimes weeks beforehand. You can either book them online or buy them when you arrive, but if you want to be safe, I would book in advance.
Pro-Tip – you might be able to find tickets on sale right up to the last minute, but make sure these include the entrance to Nasrid Palace and the gardens. A lot of the time they won’t, and you don’t want to miss out on these!
Other activities and places worth visiting in Granada include:
- The Albaicin neighbourhood
- The Sacromonte
- Granada miradors
- Granada cathedral
- The Basilica of San Juan de Dios
- Attend a flamenco show in one of the caves
- La Cartuja monastery
- Granada’s ancient Arab baths
- Carmen de los Martires garden
- Bib-Rambla square and the Alcaiceria market
- Cartuja monastery
Give yourself at least one full day, but to experience Granada in all its glory, I would recommend an overnight stay there so you have the chance to see everything this charming city has on offer.
16. Day Trip To Ronda
Ronda is a small town located around 100 km from the city centre making it the perfect Malaga day trip destination. It takes just under an hour and a half to drive there so you’ll need to rent a car for this one.
The main attraction in Ronda is the famous Puente Nuevo bridge which is situated in the El Tajo gorge. The best views of the bridge and gorge are from the Mirador Puente Nuevo – a viewing platform located on the other side of the canyon.
If you’re feeling adventurous, there are a number of hiking trails that lead down into the canyon where you can get up close to the river and Puente Nuevo bridge.
There are also a number of museums, churches and other historical buildings worth visiting such as the Iglesia de Santa Maria la Mayor, Palacio Mondragon and Casa del Rey Moro.
Ronda is a great day trip destination for those who enjoy hiking, history and stunning views.
You can also find some great fully guided package tours including your transportation which can make the whole experience stress-free and start at around €45 per person from Malaga.
17. Day Trip To Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory located on the southern coast of Spain. It’s just a short drive from Malaga, taking around an hour and a half to get there.
Once you arrive in Gibraltar, the first thing you’ll notice is the Rock of Gibraltar – a huge limestone rock that dominates the skyline. There are a number of things to do on the Rock, including visiting the Upper Rock Nature Reserve, taking a cable car ride to the top of the rock or visiting St. Michael’s Cave.
Other attractions in Gibraltar include the Moorish Castle, Alameda Gardens and the Great Siege Tunnels.
If you’re a fan of shopping, Gibraltar is also a great place to pick up some duty-free goods.
To this day I still find it incredibly surreal how the buildings and city, in general, look so typical English, yet it’s located at the southernmost tip of Spain with year-round sunshine!
Gibraltar is a great day trip destination for those who want to combine history, nature and shopping, so hop in your car and go explore.
How many days to visit Malaga?
I would recommend spending at least a few days in Malaga to see all the sights, but if you’re short on time, even a single day trip is possible. This should give you enough time to get around a lot of the attractions on my list of best things to do in Malaga, but 2 days would be the sweet spot with enough time to see everything.
Itinerary for 1 day in Malaga
Assuming you’re only spending one day in Malaga, I would recommend the below itinerary;
- Hike up Gibralfaro Castle
- Explore the Alcazaba
- Explore the Roman Theatre
- Squeeze in the Picasso Museum
- Lunch on La Malagueta beach and taking a walk along the Paseo del Parque
- See Malaga Cathedral
- Traditional Spanish dinner and a flamenco show in the evening
Itinerary for 2 days in Malaga
With the addition of an overnight stay and the extra second day, you can add the below to the itinerary above;
- Explore the Atarazanas market and try some local cured meats and seasonal fruits
- Carmen Thyssen museum
- Stop for lunch and people watching at Plaza de la Merced and enjoy some tapas and sangria
- Walk over to the art district in Soho and explore the street art and trendy cafes and shops.
- Check out the Contemporary Arts Centre (CAC) that’s close by
- Head up to La Concepción – Jardín Botánico Histórico to the north of the city and watch the sunset
- More traditional Spanish cuisine for diner
Itinerary for 3 days in Malaga
Awesome – so you don’t have to rush around so much! In addition to the above, I would substitute La Malagueta beach for Podegralejo and spend the whole afternoon on this wonderful beach and enjoy a traditional skewed seafood lunch grilled over hot coals.
You can also add in a trip to Montes de Malaga Natural Park for some hiking or if you’re not quite done culturing your bones, you can get around a few more of the best museums in Malaga.
Itinerary for 4 days in Malaga (or more)
Now we’re talking! With 4 days in Malaga or more, you can add on some day trips outside of the city. You can rent a car and drive to Nerja caves in the morning, and then spend the afternoon relaxing on Playa de Burriana and enjoy one of the best oven-baked Paella’s known throughout all of Spain.
I would also get a day trip to Granada if you have more time on your hands, and enjoy the famous Alhambra and the other magnificent sites of this wonderful city draped in history and culture.
Where is the best place to stay in Malaga?
There is no shortage of great places to stay in Malaga, but if you want to be in the heart of the city, then you’ll need to narrow your search down to the old town and close-by areas. Here you will have most of the big attractions right on your doorstep, as well as all the restaurants and bars you could wish for.
What is there to do in Malaga?
There are plenty of things to do and see in Malaga! Some highlights include visiting the Alcazaba fortress, taking a cable car ride to the top of Montes de Malaga park, exploring the Picasso museum and walking around the beautiful old town.
Is Malaga worth visiting?
Absolutely! Malaga is a great city with plenty to see and do. It’s also very well-connected, making it easy to get around and explore other parts of Andalusia. Whether you’re interested in history, art, nature or just want to relax by the beach, Malaga has something for everyone.
When is the best time to visit Malaga?
The best time to visit Malaga depends on what you’re looking for. If you want to avoid the crowds, I would recommend visiting in spring or autumn. The weather is still nice at this time of year but you’ll avoid the peak tourist season. If you’re looking to enjoy the beach, then summer is the best time to visit.