Are you planning a visit to Southern Spain? Maybe you are looking for great views, a beautiful Mediterranean breeze, and amazing food? Malaga is the place for you!
Malaga, in the South of Spain (Costa del Sol), known for being the birthplace of Pablo Picasso and Antonio Banderas and filled with many museums, lots of sunshine and so much more. I am a Canadian who has been living in Malaga for almost a year and I like to spend time on the weekends exploring this stunning city and getting to know it like a local.
If you are going to Malaga, here’s a list of the top 10 things you need to do.
1. VISIT THE HISTORIC SITES
Malaga, a historic city with a Roman Theater that will transport you back to Roman times. You can walk over to the Alcazaba where you will see the Muslim influence in the city.
The Malaga Cathedral will blow you away with its beauty and gardens. If you want to learn about the city’s history take a walking tour, or tour Malaga on the hop on hop off bus, for a great way to see the whole city, especially if you have a short timeframe.
Here are some historic sites in Malaga you can’t miss:
- The Alcazaba: A fortress built between 1057 and 1063 by the Muslims, one of the most visited and iconic monuments in Malaga.
- Malaga Cathedral: Built between 1528 and 1782. Nicknamed La Manquita which means “one-armed lady”. The name comes from the fact that to this day it is still unfinished. The south tower has never been completed. It’s still incredible and a must-see in Malaga.
- Gibralfaro Castle: Built-in the 14th century, this is a great spot to see breathtaking views of the city. It’s located up on a hill built to protect the Alcazaba and to keep an eye on the city.
- Roman Theater: It’s the oldest monument in Malaga, located at the foot of the Alcazaba. Discovered in 1951 after being buried for many centuries.
Malaga is a city full of museums. If you love museums you will love Malaga even more. If you decide to visit any of them – check the times, you will get free entry on certain days.
Here are some of Malaga’s most popular museums.
- Picasso Museum: In Buenavista Palace. You will see over 200 pieces of Picasso’s work. The permanent exhibition is a private collection that belonged to two family members.
- Malaga Museum: Open since 2016 in the impressive Palacio de la Aduana, holds more than 15,000 references of archeology and a wide paintings collection of more than 2,000 pieces.
- Carmen Thyssen Museum: Enjoy Carmen Thyssen-Bornemiszas’s collection of Andalusian art of the 19th century. Located in the “Palacio de Villalon” a building from the 16th century, it holds 230 individual pieces.
- CAC Museum: Located in the Soho area. You will find around 400 contemporary pieces from the 1950s to today with an emphasis on North American artists of the 1960s. Known around the world because of the quality of the exhibition.
- The Pompidou Museum: A colourful cube that houses 90 pieces from the collection of the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, it takes you through the 20th and 221st-century art. Showcases painting from Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo, and many others.
There are over 25 museums in Malaga, depending on what you enjoy I am sure you will find a museum you will love exploring.
3. RENT A BIKE – HEAD TO PEDREGALEJO AND EL PALO
Pedregalejo is a fishing village only 5 km from downtown Malaga. There are several places downtown Malaga where you can rent a bike for the day for an affordable price. Pedregalejo and El Palo are great spots to head to if you are looking to get away from the crowds.
The beaches in both villages are warmer and less crowded. Some great restaurants worth checking out are:
- Pez Tomillo
- La Machina
- El Cabra
- El Zagal
4. GO ON A ROAD TRIP
Malaga is a great city to have as a home base if you want to explore more of Andalusia. Southern Spain is known for its culture, whitewashed villages, seafood, and Mediterranean coastline.
Here’s a list of incredible cities near Malaga worth checking out:
Located East of Malaga less than 2 hours away, Cordoba is a unique city filled with history and stunning architecture.
A must do in Cordoba is to visit the iconic Mosque-Cathedral, where you will see the famous white and red striped arches. As you explore you see the architecture and details from different eras.
Besides the Mosque-Cathedral, another must visit is The Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs. It was both a palace and a fortress, with stunning courtyards and gardens.
If you are a Game of Thrones fan don’t forget to visit the Roman Bridge, you might recognize it from season 5. Or for true Game of Thrones fanatics, you can venture out and find San Juan De Gaztelugatxe, otherwise known as Dragonstone!
Granada is a city known for its Arab influence. It is home to the popular Alhambra, one of the main reasons people visit Granada. Get tickets in advance and be aware it’s a huge site and it will take you about 3-4 hours to visit.
Don’t forget to see Plaza Nueva and take a stroll along Carrera del Darro. A great restaurant in Granada is Rosario Varela, lots of yummy tapas for an affordable price.
Nerja and Frigiliana
Less than 1 hour from Malaga you can get to Frigiliana, which is a beautiful town surrounded by incredible views, colourful doors, and windows. This town is all about walking around, exploring and getting lost.
Nerja is a city located 15 min away from Frigiliana. The big landmark to see is “El Balcon de Europa”. An incredible place to take in the stunning coastline while enjoying a meal or a drink.
For more information, read our guide to visiting Frigiliana.
About a 30-45 mins drive from Malaga along the Costa del Sol, known for the luxury cars, yachts and wealth. The old town of Marbella is charming, with chic boutiques and local coffee shops.
If you are wanting to see the beach make your way to Puerto Banus, where you will find the marina. This is where you will see the luxury, surrounded by huge yachts, many restaurants, bars and high-end stores like Gucci and Louis Vuitton. A much more expensive city but worth checking out for the day.
When visiting Southern Spain this is where most people go. SEville is a well-known city that tends to be busy depending what time of year you go.
The architecture and monuments in Seville are one of the most stunning in Spain. Filled with lots to see and do from Plaza de Espana to The Cathedral. Seville is also a perfect city to attend a flamenco show.
A unique and charming city. Located above El Tajo Gorge. Only located 1 ½ hr from Malaga.
Ronda is home to some great attractions, including the towering “New Bridge” which extends over the El Tajo Gorge, the Arabic baths, and the Moorish palace.
Southern Spain is filled with history and incredible architecture. I urge you to not only check out the well-known cities like Granada, Cordoba, and Seville but head to smaller towns like Frigiliana. Don’t get me wrong, they are definitely worth checking out but there are other cities just as amazing.
For ideas of more cities close to Malaga, check out our complete Costa Del Sol guide!
5. VISIT MALAGA’S BOTANICAL GARDEN
The Botanical Garden “La Conception” located outside of the downtown area, you can get there by taking a city bus.
This Botanical Garden is a big part of Malaga’s history. An influential couple in Malaga built it back in 1855 when they decided to bring plants from all over the world to decorate around this massive property.
It has defined areas such as the historic gardens, the Around the World in 80 trees section, the forest pathway. It is also like the western section with the mirador (viewpoint).
The Botanical Gardens are well worth a visit and if you go on Sunday you get free entry. Also, there’s a lovely coffee shop with yummy sandwiches and salads.
6. ROOFTOP HOPPING
On a nice sunny day rooftop, hopping is a great idea. Malaga has several rooftop restaurants/bars where you can take in the amazing views. For an added bonus book a stay at one of these hotels!
Here are some great hotel rooftop bars to check out:
7. VISIT MALAGUETA BEACH
Malagueta Beach is the nearest beach to the downtown area which makes it busy at times, which is a great beach to check out if you don’t want to venture far. You will find everything you need from food to small convenience stores. Also, umbrella and chair rentals are affordable. Don’t forget to take a picture with the popular Malagueta sign.
8. GO TO A FLAMENCO SHOW
If you visit Southern Spain – you must attend a flamenco show. If you are not familiar with it, Flamenco is an art/dance typical of Andalusia. But it’s much more than dancing it is a mix of dancing, clapping, singing and Spanish guitars. The dancers are passionate and expressive, it’s an amazing show to see.
In Malaga check out any of these locations:
9. VISIT THE MERCADO DE ATARAZANAS
It’s an experience going through the Atarazanas Market, I can guarantee all your senses will be heightened. Located in the center of the historic downtown, it is a great place to pick fresh produce, meats, fish, cheese, spices, and many more yummy items.
TIP: Go to the market early, don’t wait until noon to visit. It tends to get busy with all the other tourists visiting and taking pictures. Locals tend to go early before 10 am. Also, check the prices some stalls are cheaper than others.
Another great way to visit and learn at the same time by taking a walking tour which will show you around and includes some food to try.
10. TAPA HOPPING
I am sure one of the things you look forward to the most before your visit to Spain is all the yummy tapas. Well…what better way to try different tapas than by taking an afternoon to do tapa hopping.
Many restaurants serve different ones worth checking out. Don’t forget to try espetos which are popular in Malaga. Seafood is fresh in Malaga so take advantage of it and try different ones like Pulpo a la Gallega or Gambas al Ajillo.
MALAGA ACTIVITIES WRAP UP
Malaga is a city full of culture, history and lots of sunshine, it’s the city I am happy to now call home. Locals are friendly and welcoming and I am sure you will fall in love with what Malaga has to offer. I invite you to venture to this part of Spain, which I am sure you will love and I hope this guide helps you have the most incredible time in Malaga!
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