Nerja, Spain has long been a favourite holiday destination with tourists, and after spending 2 months here, I can most definitely see why. Located on the eastern edge of the province of Málaga in the south of Spain, Nerja captured my heart from day one with its traditional white-washed buildings, colourful terracotta plant pots hanging from walls, and its serving of magnificent beaches, crystal clear waters and secluded hideaways.
This charming town is situated around 50 kilometres from the city of Málaga, making it the perfect destination for a weekend getaway or a longer holiday with the family. With its own microclimate, Nerja enjoys more sunny days than anywhere else on the Costa del Sol, where you can almost guarantee there will be sunshine every day.
On top of the glorious weather, Nerja Spain just happens to be blessed with some of the most stunning natural scenery I have ever seen. Wild beaches, sumptuous turquoise waters, colossal caves, and fantastic views from Nerja’s favourite look-out points along the coast.
There are so many places and things to see in Nerja so I have put together this “best things to do in Nerja, Spain” guide so you know exactly what to do during your visit here, and exactly where to go. At the end of this post, I have also included some of the best hotels in Nerja, Spain, to suit all budgets along with some common questions I here like how to get to Nerja from Malaga.
Nerja certainly has a lot going for it and is a great place to spend some time. With all of this appeal comes a lot of tourists though, so if you prefer to explore the region with fewer people, I would recommend you to consider coming on either side of July and August.
So, without keeping you from the good stuff, let’s get straight to the unmissable things to do and see in Nerja, Spain.
Best Things To Do In Nerja, Spain
1. Nerja Caves
The Nerja Caves (also called the Cuevas de Nerja) are one of Spain’s most famous tourist attractions and for good reason. This spectacular system of caverns is located just a few kilometres from the centre of Nerja and is made up of a series of large chambers, each containing mesmerising stalactites and stalagmites bigger than you’ll ever believe.
The caves were discovered by a group of local boys in 1959 and have since been open to the public, with a small portion of the caves set up as an auditorium where you can watch live music and dance performances.
When I first entered the caves, I’m not going to lie, I was a little disappointed. That disappointment was quickly replaced with anticipation as I approached the first chamber and got a sense of its scale and entirety. Honestly, these caves really are as magnificent as the stories you read about them. There is a very good reason these caves are recognised as some of the best in Europe, I can not recommend them enough.
The Caves of Nerja at 9.30, and if you’re visiting during high season, you want to get here as early as possible to avoid the crowds. You can buy your tickets in advance from the official website to book your time slot. Since only a certain number of visitors are allowed in the caves at any given time, if you try and buy the tickets on the day at the ticket office, you might not be able to get them for the times that you want.
Pro-Tip: Before you arrive, download the ‘Cueva de Nerja’ app on your phone. This will be your free audio guide throughout the caves, so remember to bring your own headphones as well to learn more about everything inside the caves.
Opening Hours: April to October – 9:30 – 18:00 / November to March – 9.30 – 15:30
Entrance Fee: Adults €14 / Children €12 / Children under 6 go free
How to get there: You can take a 10-minute taxi from the centre of Nerja or drive yourself if you are renting a car. You can also take the ‘Cueva-Train’ – a big, red motorised train that runs every half an hour fro. Nerja > Maro > Cueva de Nerja. You can buy the ticket for this combined with your Nerja Cave ticket.
Address & Map: Carr. de Bajada a Playa de Maro, 29787, Malaga, Spain
2. Visit Nerja Town Centre
Nerja’s town centre is the beating heart of this small Andalusian town. The streets are bustling with locals and tourists alike, all enjoying a stroll in the sunshine, some shopping or perhaps a spot of lunch at one of Nerja’s many outdoor cafes and restaurants.
There is plenty to see and do in Nerja’s town centre. If you’re a fan of architecture, you’ll love strolling around the Plaza de Espana, Nerja’s main square which is home to the beautiful Church of El Salvador. This church is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Nerja Spain and definitely worth a visit.
For those who enjoy shopping, there are plenty of cute boutique shops dotted around the streets selling handmade ceramic and leather products. You’ll also find a few different high-street stores if you’re looking for a bit of retail therapy.
3. Nerja Museum
Nerja Museum is located in the Plaza de Espana and is definitely worth a visit. The museum comes with an audioguide again and you’ll use the same app that you had for the Nerja Caves.
The museum covers the history of Nerja, from its prehistoric beginnings to its more recent past as a tourist destination. You’ll learn about the town’s Moorish heritage, as well as its more recent history as a fishing village.
The museum is small but it packs a punch for its size. It’s definitely worth a visit if you want to learn more about Nerja’s history and you’ll want to give yourself around an hour (maybe more) to get around the museum.
Pro-Tip: Purchase your museum ticket with your Nerja Caves ticket and you will receive a discount of €2
Entrance Fee: General admission €6 per person / €4 for groups / Free for under 18s. Buy your tickets online here.
Opening Hours: October to July – Monday – Sunday: 10:00 – 14:00 / 16:00 – 18:30. August and September – Monday – Sunday: 10:00 – 14:00 / 16:00 – 22:00
Address & Map: Plaza de España, 4, 29780 Nerja, Málaga, Spain
4. Balcón de Europa
Situated in the very centre is the Balcón de Europa (the Balcony of Europe) – a large viewing platform and is one of the most popular things to see in Nerja. From here you’ll enjoy the gentle turquoise waves of the Mediterranean lapping against the beach and the incredible panoramic views over the town and even across to Africa on a clear day.
The Balcón de Europa was originally built in 1884 but was later destroyed in a landslide. It was rebuilt and reopened to the public in 1971 and has since become one of Nerja’s most iconic landmarks.
If you’re visiting Nerja with young children, they’ll love the small playground situated on the Balcón de Europa. There are also plenty of cafes nearby to rest your legs and grab a drink (and people watch, if you’re anything like me).
Try a catch a sunset from the Balcon de Europa if you’re around later in the day…you won’t regret it.
Address & Map: Balcon de Europa, Nerja
5. Playa el Salón
Nerja in Spain is home to some of the most beautiful beaches on the Costa del Sol and Playa el Salón is no exception. This stunning golden sand beach is situated just a few minute’s walk from Nerja’s town centre and a few steps down on the right from the Balcon de Europa.
As you can imagine, in the summer months this small beach gets really busy. Being just over 200m long and 20m deep, it most definitely isn’t the largest beach in Nerja but it certainly is the most central, hence its popularity
Playa el Salón is perfect for families with little ones as the water here is really shallow, making it perfect for young children to paddle in. You’ll find a small number of umbrellas and sunbeds to rent on one side of the beach, and you also won’t find any ‘chiringuitos’ (beach bars) perched along the rear, leaving this urban beach with a bit more of a wild and natural feel to it.
If you’re looking for a more secluded beach experience, Nerja has plenty of other ones on offer to escape the crowds, so keep reading on.
How To Get There: Walk to the Balcon de Europa in the city centre of Nerja and turn right down some steps.
Address & Map: Playa el Salon
6. Tapa Hopping Around The Best Tapas Bar
Spain is renowned for its delicious tapas and Nerja is no exception. One of the best things to do in Nerja, Spain is to go tapas hopping. The idea behind Tapas hopping is to head to a tapas bar and enjoy a tapas dish with each round of drinks you buy.
There are plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from but I have a few favourites here which I can’t rate enough for their local tapas. Each one of these bars will bring you out a free plate of tapas with every round of drinks you buy so get ready to drink a fair amount while eating for free!
- La Tasquita Del Sevillano
Address & map: C. de la Gloria, 15, 29780 Nerja, Málaga – Although not an extensive menu of tapas like in some restaurants, the food here is incredibly delicious. It’s such an authentic bar set in a typical traditional setting. Give the artichoke with ham a go, you won’t be disappointed.
- Bar Redondo
Address & map: C. de la Gloria, 10, 29780 Nerja, Málaga – One of my favs in town with a menu the size of my arm! The chorizo meatballs (Chorizo en Fuego and Albóndigas) are simply to die for and washed down with a nice glass of red wine.
- Bar el Pulguilla
Address & map: C. Almte. Ferrándiz, 26, 29780 Nerja, Málaga – You have to try the seafood in this tapas bar which you’ll find just a few minutes’ walk from the previous two. There’s a grill on the go out back cooking up everything fresh as the orders come in.
7. Chanquete’s Boat from the Verano Azul TV Series
If you’re a fan of the Spanish TV series, Verano Azul, you’ll recognise this little boat as Chanquete’s from the show. The series was filmed in Nerja back in 1981 and made this humble fishing boat an icon.
Initially, it was only aired in Spain, but it quickly grew in popularity and started to air in places like Portugal, South America and France. It’s not just local tourists that come here for the photo opportunity, but international tourists too.
You’ll find Chanquete’s boat moored up at Punta Lara on Nerja’s seafront promenade and is definitely worth a visit, even if you’re not a fan of the show!
How To Get There: Punta Lara is located just behind Nerja town centre.
Address & Map: C. Antonio Ferrandis Chanquete, s/n, 29780 Nerja, Málaga, Spain
8. Playa Burriana
This is Nerja’s largest and most popular beach which stretches for over a kilometre. It’s easily accessible being just a 15-minute walk from the town centre and its one of the best things to see in Nerja and pass a day here.
The golden sand and crystal clear water here make it the perfect place to relax and soak up the sun. If you’re feeling a bit more energetic, there are plenty of water sports on offer such as jet-skiing, banana boats and parasailing.
If you get peckish, you have loads of choices along the promenade where you’ll find beach bars and restaurants all the way along the seafront to keep you going. And if you fancy something a bit more substantial, why not head to one of the ‘chiringuitos’ (beach bars) that serve up the local speciality of skewed fresh sardines – ‘espetada’ – over the grill.
You’ll find plenty of sun loungers and parasols to rent along the beach so you can really make a day of it. with the whole family
How To Get There: Playa Burriana is located just to the east of the town centre in Nerja.
Address & Map: Playa Burriana
9. Feast On The Famous Paella at Ayo Restaurant
Ayo restaurant located on Playa Burriana pulls in crowds from all over the country. Its famous open fire-cooked paella is some of the best traditional paella you are likely to ever try.
The restaurant overlooks the sea with outdoor terraces for you to enjoy the stunning views. If you don’t fancy paella, there’s plenty more on offer including fresh fish, meat and vegetarian dishes.
If you’re visiting Nerja for a day, weekend, or for the week…make sure you get round to this Paella joint on the beach or regret trying the best for the rest of your life. You have been warned.
How To Get There: Ayo Restaurant is located on Playa Burriana in Nerja, Spain.
Address & Map: Paseo Burriana, 15, 29780 Nerja, Málaga, Spain
10. Spend The Day At Playa de Maro
Quite possible my favourite beach along the Costa Del Sol…that’s how nice the beach is, and most definitely on of the best beaches in Nerja.
Set in a stunning cove draped in vegetation and rocky cliffs, the water is crystal clear with a turquoise hue. The golden sand and rocky coastline make it one of the most picturesque beaches I’ve ever been to. Not forgetting the incredible waterfall coming down into the sea which you can explore by swimming or kayaking.
If you did want to rent a kayak, you might want to get there early – they are really popular with the locals and often get fully booked for the day.
Unlike some of the other beaches along this stretch of coastline, Playa de Maro is relatively unknown so you won’t find it as crowded as some of the others, but that will most likely change soon so get here soon!
It’s a bit of a hidden gem, but definitely worth seeking out if you’re looking for a quiet spot to relax for the day.
How To Get There: Playa de Maro is located just to the north of Nerja town centre and takes just under 15 minutes to drive there.
Address & Map: Playa de Maro
11. Eagle Aqueduct
The Aqueduct of El Aguila is one of the most emblematic monuments in Nerja. It was built in the 18th century to bring water from the mountains to Nerja and it’s a real work of art.
The aqueduct has a series of arches over 4 levels high which are supported by pillars, some of which are up to 12 meters high. It’s a beautiful sight, especially when it’s lit up at night.
Although it isn’t used like it once was to supply water to a local sugar factory, it is still partially used for local irrigation. But recently, it has proved to be a popular spot amongst photographers, and they all flock here to grab a photo of the commanding arches.
How To Get There: Take exit 295 on the Autovía del Mediterráneo (A-7) heading towards Almeria. It’s the same route as to “Las Cuevas de Nerja”, the aqueduct is signed from the road.
You can also walk from Maro village, where there are actually a number of beautiful walks and hikes around the area.
Address & Map: Barranco de la Coladilla, s/n, 29787 Nerja, Málaga, Spain
12. Río Chillar
The Río Chillar is a river that runs through Nerja and the beautiful gorge that it flows through is super popular with locals and tourists alike. It’s one of the most popular walks in Nerja and takes around an hour to complete.
You’ll want to bring suitable footwear since your feet are going to be getting wet. There are also parts of the river with waterfalls and it’s a fantastic place to cool off under the heat of the summer sun.
Just don’t forget to bring sun cream, snacks, water and a hat, and remember to bring all of your rubbish back with you to keep the area clean and tidy.
The best time to walk the Rio Chillar is in springtime when the flowers are blooming and the water is flowing. It’s a really easy walk and suitable for all ages and fitness levels as there are no steep sections. The scenery along the way is stunning with plenty of photo opportunities in between the gorge and alongside small waterfalls
If you fancy something a bit more challenging, you can continue walking up to the village of Frigiliana which takes an extra hour or so
How To Get There: You can park in a couple of free parking lots along the road C.Mirto. Do not park on the asphalt road that leads up from C.Mirto to the start of the river walk because it is illegal and you will get fined.
Address & Map: Starting point – Rio Chillar, 29780, Nerja, Spain
13. Hike Pico del Ciela
Pico del Cielo is one of the most popular hikes in Nerja and for good reason. The views from the top are absolutely incredible, you can see for miles! On a clear day, you can even see Africa. If you love to hike in the great outdoors and you have the time for it, then this is definitely one of the best things to do in Nerja Spain during your time here.
It’s quite a tough hike to the summit, sitting at 1,508m high, and there are parts where it is quite a steep climb. The hike is 20 km long and should take you around 6-7 hours to reach the summit and get back. It’s a linear route, so you’ll be coming back the same way once you make it to the top
Make sure you bring plenty of water and sunscreen with you and wear proper footwear as there are quite a lot of loose rocks along the hike, particularly as you climb the last bit to the summit.
Lastly, it isn’t recommended to attempt to submit Pico del Ciela during the summer months because of the heat of the sun. It’s just too hot, and there is no water along the trail. It can be quite a relentless hike.
How To Get There: The hike starts by Nerja Caves, so you can park your car at the car park there. You can also take a bus from the town centre.
Address & Map: Start at the Cueva Caves – Carr. de Bajada a Playa de Maro, 29787, Malaga, Spain
How To Get To Nerja From Malaga
The easiest way to get to Nerja from Malaga is by car. The drive should take you around 45 minutes, depending on traffic. Just follow the signs for Nerja once you get onto the A-7 motorway heading towards Almeria. You will want to take Salida (exit) 292 for Nerja.
Another option is to take a bus from Malaga to Nerja. The journey takes around an hour and 20 and there are several buses per day. The bus company that operates this route is called Alsa and you can find the timetable and purchase your tickets on their official website.
You can also get a taxi from Malaga to Nerja. This will take around 45 minutes again and will cost around €60. It’s worth checking with the driver first and asking for an estimate since prices are changing quickly at the minute with the rising costs of fuel.
Where To Stay In Nerja, Spain
There are plenty of accommodation options in Nerja to suit all budgets. Whether you’re looking for top-end luxury or a bunk bed in a mixed dorm, Nerja has got you covered.
Luxury Accommodation In Nerja
- Hotel Riu Monica (Adults Only) – On the beach, with a fantastic pool, restaurants and gym.
- Marinas De Nerja Beach & Spa – Impressive sea views and great on-site restaurants. 1-minute walk to the beach.
- Hotel Balcon De Europa – 1-minute walk to the beach and built into the Balcon de Europa rock face – cant get better than that!
Mid-Range Accomodation In Nerja
- MB Boutique Hotel (Adults Only) – 4-minute walk to Terrecilla beach with rooftop chill-out terrace and in a popular location
- Hotel Paraiso Del Mar – Direct access to Burriana Beach, with a swimming pool, hot tubs and sauna. Great for couples.
- La Puerta De Nerja Hostal Boutique (Adults Recommended) – Boutique hotel in the heart of Nerja, 4 minutes from the beach and super popular with guests.
Budget Accomodation In Nerja
- Apartamentos Almoraide Suites (Adults Only) – Fantastic location 100 yards from Burriana Beach and a short walk to the city centre. Great pool and well-maintained gardens.
- Hostal Casa Mercedes – 5-minute walk to the Burriana Beach with charming rooms and a free buffet breakfast.
- El Capistrano – 12 minute walk to the beach with typical Andalusian decor and pretty gardens.
1 Day Itinerary in Nerja, Spain
You won’t have the chance to see everything but you will get to see some of the highlights this beautiful town has on offer.
- Visit the Nerja Caves when they open at 10 am
- Take a taxi to Playa de Burriana for paella lunch at Ayo and spend an hour or two soaking up the sun on the beach
- Walk back into the city centre and visit the Nerja Museum and walk around the Plaza de Espana where you can visit the Church of El Salvador
- Walk over to the Balcon de Europa for a late afternoon stroll to enjoy the views
- Go for a tapas and drink at Bar Redonodo to bring the evening to an end
2 Day Intinerary in Nerja, Spain
Better, you’ll be able to squeeze most of the sights and best things to do in Nerja during your 2 days, but it’s still going to be 2 busy days!
- Everything that is in the 1-day itinerary
- On the second day, grab breakfast and coffee in the town centre
- Visit the Eagle Aqueduct
- Arrive at Rio Chillar and spend a couple of hours enjoying the river walk through the jorge and small waterfalls
- Spend the afternoon at Playa de Maro with a picnic and enjoy the crystal clear waters and kayaking round to the waterfalls
3 Day Itinerary in Nerja, Spain
That’s more like it! You’ll get the chance to slow things down and really spend the time getting to know each place. You can spend a full day on the beach instead of just afternoons.
- Everything in the 1 and 2-day itinerary
- Spend a full day at any beach instead of an afternoon. Choose either the more wild ‘Playa de Maro’ or the touristic ‘Burriana’ with all of its restaurants and kids play area.
- Check out Playa el Salon to the right of Balcon de Europa
- Visit Chanquete’s Boat if you are familiar with the TV show
- More tapas hopping and generally slow down the pace for 3 days
How Far Away Is Malaga Airport To Nerja?
The closest airport to Nerja, Spain, is Malaga Airport. It is around 70 km from Nerja and takes around 50 minutes to drive there. It’s a scenic route along the coastline that takes you over several bridges and through even more tunnels. It’s a very enjoyable drive, whether you’re driving yourself or taking a taxi