Wondering what the best things to do in Malaga, Spain are? Here are our picks for the top things to do when visiting this magical seaside city!
We spent a month living in Malaga and absolutely loved spending time in the city. It is the perfect balance of beach and city life and is close to a lot of other places, making it the perfect base for day trips around the Costa del Sol Area.
Sitting in the heart of Costa del Sol, Málaga seeps Andalusian culture and charm at every turn.
If you’re unfamiliar with the region, Costa del Sol literally translates to “sun coast” and is composed of a long stretch of Mediterranean coastline in Southern Spain.
Malga is home to some of the most important historic monuments in Europe, sparkling beaches stretching out to the glittering sea, and a spicy Spanish flare, there are countless awesome things to do in Málaga.
In this guide on the best things to do in Malaga, we will add a lot of insider tips, information on top attractions, things to do, where to eat, and more.
- Malaga Things to Do Highlights
- How to Get to Malaga, Spain?
- Best Time of the Year to Go to Malaga
- Things to Do in Malaga
- 1. Explore the Alcazaba
- 2. Step Back in Time at the Roman Theatre
- 3. Take in Panoramic Views from Castillo de Gibralfaro
- 4. Learn About History at the Málaga Cathedral
- 5. Gaze at Masterpieces at Museo Picasso (Picasso Museum)
- 6. Enjoy Art in a Cube at Centre Pompidou Málaga
- 7. Time Travel at the Automobile and Fashion Museum
- 8. Find Yummy Bites at Mercado Atarazanas
- 9. Take a Wine & Tapas Tour
- 10. Brave the Caminito del Rey
- 11. Go on a Quad Bike Tour
- 12. Kick Back at Malagueta Beach
- 13. Relax at a Hammam
- 14. Enjoy Málaga on a Bike Tour
- 15. Visit a Winery
- 16. Spend an Adventurous Day Out
- 17. View the Malaga Christmas Lights
- 18. Enjoy the Food in Malaga
- Best Day Trips from Málaga
- Where to Stay in Malaga
Malaga Things to Do Highlights
Malaga is a pretty popular tourist destination in Spain so I highly recommend you book things in advance! I included a few must-do tours while in the area, as well as local Airbnb tours which offer more unique experiences.
- Best of Malaga Tour: Discover the best of Malaga in this full-day tour showing you around Malaga’s highlights like the Málaga Cathedral, Alcazaba, and more.
- Caminito Del Rey: Go on a stunning day tour with a local, hiking the famous Caminito Del Rey Gorges that Malaga is known for.
- Malaga Traditional Wine and Tapas Tour: Discover the best eats around Malaga as you go on this top rated local wine and tapas tour around the city!
- The Secret Treasure of Malaga: Sightseeing Treasure Hunt: This tour is very unique and would be a great change of pace from many common tourist activities.
- Go Local For a Day!: Uncover the best of Malaga through the eyes of a local as she takes you around for the day, allowing you to “live as the locals do!”
- Hiking Torcal de Antequera: Join a guided nature hike with a local, walking through the UNESCO Heritage site in the Natural Park of Torcal de Antequera.
- Historical Centre and Cathedral of Malaga: For those who would like to learn about the history and culture of Malaga, this tour is a must!
How to Get to Malaga, Spain?
Known as the birthplace of Pablo, Picasso, Malaga is located on the Mediterranean coastline in the southern part of Spain.
The best way to get to Málaga is to fly into its airport, Malaga Airport or Málaga–Costa del Sol Airport (AGP). From Spain, there are multiple direct flights to this airport.
Malaga airport is located just 10km away from the city center, making it very convenient as you can easily take a bus, taxi, or train in as soon as your flight lands. There are multiple train stations within Malaga city, making it an easy option to get to your hotel.
Alternatively, you can also travel to Malaga via high speed train from cities like Madrid, Valencia, and more. For example, Madrid to Malaga is a mere 2:30 train ride.
From other main hotspot destinations, here are rough distances to give you an idea of how accessible Malaga is.
- Malaga to Granada: 83 miles or 133 km
- Malaga to Madrid: 334 miles or 538 km
- Malaga to Sevilla: 133 miles or 214 km
- Malaga to Cordoba: 105 miles or 169 km
- Malaga to Valencia: 408 miles or 656 km
Best Time of the Year to Go to Malaga
If you’re heading to Malaga to enjoy the sun and the sea, the best time to visit is between the months of June- September. The hottest time of the year is July and August and is the busiest.
We personally lived in Malaga during the month of December and found the weather to be pleasant. We also got to enjoy the stunning light shows that Malaga is known for during the Christmas season!
The coldest month of the entire year is January so plan your trip accordingly. However, having said that, Spain’s Costa del Sol is known to have some of the mildest winters in Europe and is often sunny for most of the year.
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Things to Do in Malaga
1. Explore the Alcazaba
First constructed during the 8th century, Málaga’s Alcazaba underwent more than 500 years of expansion until it took the form of the towering fortress it is today. The structure is one of the most important examples of Moorish architecture standing today — a miracle after undergoing captures and sieges throughout its long, turbulent history.
Like most fortresses, the Alcazaba sits strategically atop a hill. It’s surrounded by walls guarding dual citadels, lavish gardens, Arab arches, and Roman columns, making it one of Málaga’s most important monuments and a stunning place to visit.
The Alcazaba is a super popular tourist attraction in the Costa del Sol Region so expect to see some crowds.
In order to really understand the meaning of the place, we recommend taking a guided tour of the Alcazaba to learn all about its winding history, or simply grab a ticket and explore it on your own (P.S. entry is free on Sunday afternoons!)
Either way, be prepared to be amazed by the Islamic architecture and gorgeous views of Málaga!
2. Step Back in Time at the Roman Theatre
Sitting just at the base of the Alcazaba you’ll find the Roman Theatre — or rather what remains of it.
This is the oldest site in all of Málaga; it dates back to the 1st century but it wasn’t discovered until the 1950s — how wild is that!? You can see the strong Roman influence in Malaga in this theater, which stood tall and strong before being broken down and used for building materials under Arab rule.
Today, you can still see the different layers of seating and the grand entrance, remnants from ancient times. Hit the Visitor’s Center to learn more about the site and take a closer look at the different artifacts that were unearthed from the theatre, like vessels and tools.
For the full rundown on the Roman Theater, consider taking a guided tour which also includes a tour of the Alcazaba, letting you in on the secrets of Málaga’s past.
3. Take in Panoramic Views from Castillo de Gibralfaro
Another one of Málaga’s most impressive things to do is a visit to Castillo de Gibralfaro, an 8th century castle sitting on a steep hillside.
Like most ancient monuments, Castillo de Gibralfaro was rebuilt during the 14th century and used as a place to house troops and protect the Alcazaba. On a visit here, wander through the lookout towers and along the towering ramparts that are easy to imagine as Málaga’s defensive line.
The best part about this fortress is it offers visitors sprawling views of Málaga below. Take in the sights of the entire town with the low-hanging buildings, lush rolling hills, and of course the ocean in the distance.
To get to Castillo de Gibralfaro, you can take a bus to the top of the hill, but it’s much better to walk so you can take in the endless panoramas of Málaga along the way.
4. Learn About History at the Málaga Cathedral
A mishmash of Renaissance and Baroque architecture, the Málaga Cathedral stands tall in the center of the city, with a facade constructed of grand arches, towering columns, and intricate images of saints carved into stone.
The Cathedral took more than 150 years to complete which is why there are so many different styles in its architecture. Today, it remains one of the city’s main landmarks and one of the top things to see in Málaga.
The Málaga Cathedral is unique as there’s only a single tower in the north standing at 84 meters tall, making it the second-largest tower in Andalusia, following closely behind Seville’s belltower. The Cathedral was meant to have a south tower, but instead, the money was used to assist America with gaining their independence from England — interesting, right?
You can learn about this and more on a visit to the Cathedral which is certainly one of the best things to do in Málaga, Spain!
5. Gaze at Masterpieces at Museo Picasso (Picasso Museum)
One of Málaga’s claims to fame is that it’s the birthplace of the famed Pablo Picasso, and as such, much of the city is dedicated to the late and great artist.
In fact, right by Plaza de la Merced, you can see a statue of Pablo Picasso built by built by Francisco López Hernández.
No trip to Málaga is complete without a visit to the Picasso Museum where many of his paintings are on display, making up a gorgeous collection of his early works. It’s also a great place to learn about the fascinating history of his life.
The Picasso museum sits right in the heart of Old Town and has more than 230 works on display. For true insider access to Picasso’s life in Málaga and his early career as a painter, we recommend taking a guided tour of the museum.
If you’re interested in learning more about Picasso’s influence in Málaga, you can also visit his place of birth and Casa Natal, an apartment rented by his parents in the 1880s where the artist was raised.
Since the Picasso Museum is a popular attraction, we recommend reserving tickets / booking ahead of time. Click the button below for more details. A visit to Museo Picasso Málaga is one of my favorite things to do in Malaga, City.
6. Enjoy Art in a Cube at Centre Pompidou Málaga
To break away from the ancient history and tradition of Málaga, pay a visit to Centre Pompidou for a hefty dose of contemporary art in a captivating setting.
An offshoot of the extremely famous Pompidou Centre in Paris, this modern art gallery is housed in a giant, multicolored glass cube full of offbeat exhibits by famous Spanish artists. This can be found in city centre close to the main promenade.
Seek works by the likes of Damien Hirst, Frida Kahlo, Antoni Tapies and more, alongside more present-day Spanish artists in a mixture of mediums.
While the Contemporary Art center is meant to be temporary, it will continue to be a vibrant part of Málaga’s port area until 2025. It offers free admission on Sunday afternoons and is the perfect place to cool off after a long morning in the sunshine!
7. Time Travel at the Automobile and Fashion Museum
A final museum worth a visit in Málaga is the Automobile and Fashion Museum, home to something for everyone.
Here you’ll find an out-of-this-world collection of more than 100 classic cars, ranging from Aston Martins, Cadillacs, Bugattis and more! Besides just cars, the museum is home to seven galleries dedicated to fashion, where you can find displays made up of more than 200 pieces of haute couture. How dreamy is that?
To visit somewhere that will appease nearly every guy and girl visiting Málaga, make a beeline for this unique museum!
8. Find Yummy Bites at Mercado Atarazanas
It wouldn’t be a trip to Spain without eating and drinking your way through Málaga. One of the best places to grab something fresh to eat in the city is Mercado Ataranzas, the central marketplace filled with a maze of stalls and frequented by locals and tourists alike.
The building that houses Ataranzas is simply stunning, crafted from iron and glass, with an outstanding stained glass window depicting scenes of Málaga and boats in the port. The market itself is also one of the best examples of 19th century architecture in the city!
While wandering around, you’ll find everything from fresh fruits and veggies to just-caught fish, butcher stalls, home-baked bread, and melty cheeses. Spanish food is a favorite of ours and there is a reason why!
Visit the market early as it closes at 2 pm and keep in mind that it’s closed on Sundays, as well. The market is only a 10 minute walk from Palacio de Buenavista and other main areas.
9. Take a Wine & Tapas Tour
Another fantastic way to experience Málaga’s dining scene is to take a wine and tapas tour through the city.
This evening tour stops at four different tapas bars and consists of a total of eight food tastings and five different wine varieties – yum!
It’s a small group, so you’ll have the chance to get to know other travelers and have an intimate experience. Plus your local guide will share information on the history of Málaga’s food scene, local specialties, and so much more!
10. Brave the Caminito del Rey
A walk along the Caminito del Rey is without a doubt the most adventurous thing you can do in Málaga. It is one of the best natural attractions in Costa del Sol and is considered a must-do!
But what is the Caminito del Rey? Well, once considered the world’s most dangerous hike, the Caminito is a trail that lines rocky mountains and crosses deep gorges, with views over turquoise reservoirs and Spanish wildlife.
While it was once quite precarious as it was built 100 years ago, the trail was renovated and improved for safety and then reopened in 2015 — so no need to worry, it’s perfectly safe. Read our article on the hike to find out exactly how awesome it is!
The best way to visit Caminito del Rey is to take a guided tour. If you don’t want to worry about getting yourself to the trail, this local tour includes round-trip transportation from Málaga and is extremely highly rated.
11. Go on a Quad Bike Tour
Looking for adventure in Málaga? Take a quad bike tour along the dirt roads on the outskirts of the city.
You’ll pass through crop fields, ride along the coast, and cross the Guadalhorce River where you’ll get to take a quick afternoon dip before continuing on with your ride. This is the ultimate way to get out of the city for an afternoon and have some wild fun with gorgeous scenery!
Note: To book this activity, participants must be 18 years or older and have a valid driver’s license.
12. Kick Back at Malagueta Beach
It wouldn’t be a list of things to do in Málaga without the beach. Málaga is home to some fantastic sandy stretches, the most famous being La Malagueta with its giant sign, lines of beach bars, and brightly colored umbrellas.
In fact, people flock to Malaga from different parts of Costa del Sol just to enjoy some sun and sand!
The beach at Málaga stretches along the coastline and you’re able to find some other great spots to kick back and tan for the day.
Other beaches to enjoy in Malaga is Playa de la Caleta which is located between Baños del Carmen and La Malagueta beach. One of the things I love the most about Málaga City is the fact that there are so many accessible beaches nearby.
If you’re hoping to have a sunny and sandy holiday season, Malaga is also one of the best places to spend Christmas in Europe.
Head east to Playa de las Acacias or pop over to Torremolinos, a quick 20-minute drive down the coast. If you don’t mind a little bit of a ride, most of Costa del Sol’s best beaches are easy to reach within an hour from Málaga!
13. Relax at a Hammam
To unwind on your vacation in Málaga, the best thing to do is visit a traditional hammam, or Arab bathhouse.
With this pass, you get a 90-minute session at Hammam Al-Andalus in Málaga. Let the stress just melt away — take a dip in different temperature baths, sweat out toxins in the steam room, and drink traditional tea in the lounge.
You can also relax with a massage at the hammam, complete with essential oils of your choosing. Now that’s what I’m talking about!
14. Enjoy Málaga on a Bike Tour
One of the most fantastic ways to see Málaga is by bike, cycling between historic monuments and stopping for sweet drinks to cool off.
On this bike tour, you’ll visit the Roman Theater, Gibralfaro Castle, and ride along the oceanfront promenade. You’ll also get to visit the Semana Santa Museum as well as the maze-like Moorish Quarter.
Along the way, your guide will point out sites of interest and give you the opportunity to snap show-stopping pictures, all while educating you on the history of the city.
This is the best way to see many of Málaga’s sights at one go and should definitely be on your list of things to do while visiting!
15. Visit a Winery
When we were in Malaga, one of the things we didn’t get to do was visit a winery! This local tour takes you from Malaga city center to a vineyard, 30 mins away in the heart of Costa del Sol where you can sample different wines and eat some tapas.
This tour is highly rated and is one of the best things to do while in Malaga.
16. Spend an Adventurous Day Out
If you love adventure, this fun local tour takes you to the Natural Park of Sierra Alhama where you can hike to Saltillo Gorge. During the summer months, you can also swim in the river which is absolutely fantastic.
17. View the Malaga Christmas Lights
The Christmas Lights in Malaga is the star of Costa del Sol and is frequented by many. We have to admit, prior to arriving in Malaga, we had to idea that Christmas was so popular here.
We were pleasantly surprised by the lights and went to see the show multiple times during our month long stay!
The main decorations can be seen in Calle Larios and the show itself is complete with 3D Video mapping as well as a light and sound show. It is truly a spectacular sight!
18. Enjoy the Food in Malaga
Like all of Spain, mMalagueños (local people from Malaga) take their food very seriously. There is an abundance of good food all over Malaga.
From local fares to Michelin star meals in Malaga, you are spoilt for choice. If you’re wondering what to eat in Spain, check out our full guide here.
When we were there, we enjoyed local dishes like Huevos Rotos, tapas, and more. For local eats, we suggest checking out Casa Lola or Gorki.
Best Day Trips from Málaga
Due to its strategic location in the heart of Costa del Sol, there are loads of day trip options around Málaga.
For starters, you can spend the day in Gibraltar where you are literally on the tip of Europe, or head up the coast to Nerja to explore caves and lounge on the beach.
From Málaga, you can also take a day trip to Marbella, one of the most popular destinations in Costa del Sol for a day full of drinking, fine dining, and exploring the narrow streets filled with colorful houses.
Finally, you can also take a day trip to the villages nearby to admire whitewashed houses in Frigiliana, Antequera, and Casares, all great places to have an authentic, local meal as well.
Another popular day trip from Malaga is Ronda where you can see the stunning bridge that highlights the city.
It’s most convenient to take day trips from Málaga if you’ve rented a car, which gives you the freedom to travel around the region at your own pace, stopping when you feel like it. Click the button below to compare the price of cars!
Where to Stay in Malaga
As Malaga is a huge city, there are tons of options when it comes to finding a place to stay. Here are some of our recommendations.
- Budget Hotel in Malaga: Alcazaba Premium Hostel
- Midrange Hotel in Malaga: Hotel Barceló Malaga
- Luxury Hotel in Malaga: Hotel Soho Bahia
Málaga, Spain truly has something for everyone: plenty to keep the history buff occupied, miles of beach for the tanning enthusiast, and a strong Spanish identity that shines through for anyone seeking true culture.
From the monuments to the museums, the castles to the hidden tapas bars, Málaga is bound to offer you plenty of things to do on your visit.
For more information on Spain, check out our full guide: Spain Travel Tips