An Essential guide to Malaga, Spain

Malaga is a vibrant city acted in the South of Spain in the province of Andalucia. The birthplace of Pablo Picasso, you can enjoy culture, vibrant cafes and restaurants, and lush beaches. The city is an excellent base to travel to smaller towns in the Region. Over the past few years, the city has been becoming more hip and modern and is now home to lots of expats.

I have to be honest when I first visited Malaga, I wasn’t that impressed but the more time I have spent there, the more I have grown quite fond of it.

So I would love to share with you some of the best things to do there in this essential guide:

How to get there

Fly into Malaga airport, a busy airport that connects the south of Spain to most of Europe and a couple of locations in North America.

From the airport, the fastest way to reach the city centre is to take the train which takes approximately 9 minutes and costs as little as 1.20€.

You could also take a bus to the city centre which departs frequently and costs around 3€ but takes around 30 minutes.

If you are not staying in Malaga there are buses departing from the airport to cities such as Granada, Seville and Almeria.

You can connect to other major Spanish Cities from Maria Zambrano Train Station which will take you to other cities like Cordoba, Madrid and Barcelona. There are even a few international departures from here too.

Things to do

There are lots of different things to do in Malaga, a bit of everything for everyone.

Explore the life of Picasso- Probably one of the most famous artists in the world was born in Malaga. Visit the Picasso Museum (most visited museum in Andalucia) and his birthplace to discover some of his life and art.

Malaga Cathedral- Standing tall right in the centre of the old town stands a spectacular cathedral that captures the stares of passers-by. Built on a former mosque between 1528 and 1782, the cathedral is worth a visit for its awe-inspiring interiors. There are some beautiful gardens to enjoy for free and a rooftop but not after a gruelling steep 200 steps to the top.

Alcazaba/ Castillo de Gibralfaro – Towering over the city the ancient Castle of Gibralfaro which was built in the 18th century offers some spectacular discoveries, views and peaceful walk through colourful gardens that have been maintained over the years. The walk up is quite steep so take some water, If you aren’t feeling the trek then there is a small shuttle bus from the bottom up.

Explore the Old Town- It’s almost impossible to get bored in the Old Town or basically Malaga Centre. Spend the day exploring the thin alleyways, shopping and drinking coffee or gin in the vibrant cafes and watch the world pass by. Don’t forget to look up and admire the colourful, old buildings with ornate balconies.

Roman Theatre- Located at the entrance of the Alcazaba, this second century ancient Roman Theatre is Malagas oldest monument. There is a visitors centre that opened in 2010 that provides information about the site and showcases some archaeological discoveries. Entry is free.

Malaga Port- A newly developed area of Malaga offers modern shops, restaurants and bars. Otherwise known as Pier 1. A great place to relax on a hot afternoon and soak up the modern living that Malaga offers. Along the port is the Promenade or The Palm Grove of Surprises is surrounded by a green park and offers the perfect place to enjoy the sunset.

Paseo de España- A long palm tree park that lies between the old and new port. Perfect for a Sunday stroll after a big lunch. Don’t forget to look up into the trees and try and spot some of the local wildlife singing in the blazing afternoon sun.

Relax on one of the many Beaches- The city is set on kilometres of beautiful sandy beaches, the perfect scenery to escape hustle and bustle of the city life.

Pompidou Centre- as you walk along the new port, it is hard to miss this colourful cuboid glass building. It is the only Pompidou centre outside of Paris.

Soak up the atmosphere at Plaza de la Merced- Lined with restaurants that could be called ‘tourist traps’ is this lively square with lots going on, from local families enjoying socialising and their children playing. Local artists and buskers or the artisan markets on a Sunday selling their handcrafted goods. There is a lot to see here and it’s the heart of Malaga.

Where to stay-

Luxury- Gran Hotel Miramar– This XX century building is just 10m from the beach and offers a spa & pool. A fantastic restaurant (Principe de Asturias) which offers international cuisine. There is also a rooftop terrace where you can enjoy miles of views.

Mid- Range- Atarazanas Malaga Hotel– This attractive historic building is in a great location. It offers Stylish Modern rooms with WIFI and Aircon and a small balcony. There is also a cafe that offers gluten-free options.

Budget- Feel Hostels- Right in the heart of the old town, a 2-minute walk from the cathedral and perhaps and 8-minute walk to the nearest beach. This hip hostel is surrounded by bars and restaurants. It has a relaxed and social atmosphere. It is very affordable and has lots on offer such as a bar where it is very easy to meet fellow travellers and lots of tours.

Where to eat-

Malaga is not short of some fantastic restaurants, you can pretty much find whatever you want here. There are always new places popping up offering a wide variety of food.

La Tranca- In my opinion, the best Tapas Tavern in Malaga with an Argentinian twist. The atmosphere is phenomenal especially when everyone is just crammed into all the corners of the bar. The food is homemade and offers everything from different types of Spanish Tortilla and Argentinian Empanadas, but if you do stumble across the place you absolutely must try the Albondigas (meatballs), I can officially say that no other place in the whole of Spain does it like this place.

Brunch it España- Modern and hipster, we were actually recommended this place by our Air BnB host. It has a very laid back cage style, you can eat in or take out. Perfect for brunch or a quiet sociable evening with friends. Try the homemade pizza or burger or if you prefer something sweet choose from their array of baked goods.

Cortijo de Pepe- This Andalucian style bar dating back to the ’70s is probably one of the most popular tapas bars in Malaga,  you would need to book a table if you are wanting a full meal but if tapas is all you want, go early and eat in their atmospheric bar

Have you been to Malaga? What do you think?

18 Comment

  1. I am happy I found your post. I am planning to visit Malaga in December and making a research now what to do and where to go. Photo of the beach makes me want to pack my bathing suit! 🙂

    1. Thank you very much, It can be quite cold in December so you would be brave to take a bathing suit, but I hope you enjoy it

  2. I would love to visit Málaga just because of Picasso. I’ve recently learned the meaning behind Picasso’s Guernica and I’ve become obsessed with him – an artist I never understood until now. So – thank you for reminding me I should start planning my trip there.

    1. It sounds like Malaga is the city for you. It’s great to walk in his footsteps

  3. This post brings back good memories. I spent two weeks in Malaga doing a Spanish language course 9 years ago and I really loved the city’s vibes. I travelled to other cities while I was there and got fascinated by their absolute beuty – Granada, Sevilla, Ronda – and I felt like Malaga somewhat did not possess the same stunning beauty. But I’m glad I got to live there, while all the others were daytrips, as it was through staying longer that I got to appreciate Malaga’s more hidden beauty.
    And I loved eating fried seafood at the chiringuitos on the beach!

    1. I agree with you completely, but the more time you spend there these days the more you find new and hidden spots that are beautiful. It sounds like you had quite the adventure.

  4. I did a bunch of Picasso hunting in Barcelona, I didn’t realise that he was born in Malaga though! Is the picture of food from Brunch It Espana? It looks soooo good!

    1. Yeah the house he was born in is situated in plaza de la merced. Worth seeing, there are some original work and history of is life.
      The photo of the food is from la tranca, thats the meatballs that are the best in spain aha

  5. Malaga has never been on my list due to it’s package holiday / party reputation. But your post really shows that there is so much more to this place. Would love to explore.

    1. I always thought that and the first time I visited 3 years ago, but I moved close to there after that and got to spend quite a bit of time there, and it grew on me, I have seen it develop away from the reputation that it has gained.

  6. I skipped Malaga when I drove around Spain—I was under the impression that it was ‘just another’ beach town (I’m not a beach person!). I really regret that decision now! The skyline is so beautiful, and I really had no idea there were so many cool cultural and historical attractions. I’ll definitely have to visit next time!!

    1. Theres so much more to see in Malaga, it really is an upcoming city. I see why people choose to skip it because it does have that reputation of beach/party town for hen/stag parties but there is a lot of culture to see too.

  7. How cool! I did not know that Picasso was born here. Do they celebrate his art here (I’m picturing Picasso type street art! haha) I also can’t believe there’s no one on the beach!

    1. I can’t remember to be honest, I don’t think there is a huge amount of street art in Malaga.
      Yes, that photo was taken in March, it’s still winter weather to the Spaniards, too cold for them so you will typically see the beaches empty until after easter, unless there’s tourists there.

  8. Eep. I am a bit embarrassed after reading this. I honestly thought Málaga is just a beach town, full of British tourists (and their lobster-style tans.) I didn’t even know about all the Picasso history.

    Well, I am glad to know more! I am sure we’ll head back to Spain, so I’ll try to remember to zoom over to Málaga too.

    p.s. I LOVE your panorama. You made the whole area look gorgeous.

    1. As a Brit when I first went there I thought the same and was embarrassed by the fact but I have spent quite a bit of time there over the past years and have seen it develop and try and break away from that reputation. Lots of restaurants from different cultures are popping up, hipster cafes, markets supporting local artists. I wouldn’t have recommended it 3 years ago but i do now

  9. Spain is my favourite country out of the 29 that I’ve visited so I’m always open to information about new Spanish cities! Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thank you very much, It’s worth to see, I wouldn’t have recommended it after the first time visiting there but now after spending more time there I do.

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