TOP THINGS
TO DO & SEE in Malaga, Spain

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What You Can’t Miss

As the capital of the Costa del Sol, many people just associate Malaga with beaches – which is true, there is a lot of sand and a lot of sun (around 320 sunny days per year to be exact). However, the city of Malaga and in particular its chic historic old town, oozes with charm and is always abuzz. Besides the old town, there are also Moorish and Roman ruins from the city’s ancient past. There is even a delightful port area full of shops and restaurants and to top it off, the city has beaches. Check out our top things to do list below and find out why we think Malaga is Andalusia’s most underrated city.

Top 5 Things to Do

1

OLD TOWN

Beautiful corner of Malaga's old town, Spain
Beautiful corner of Malaga's old town

Malaga’s old town is the heart of the city and where most shops, bars and restaurants are located. Wandering through the streets is a joy since it’s almost entirely a pedestrian zone. The streets themselves are a work of art – all paved with marble that sparkles in the sunlight (and even at night from the streetlights!). Take a closer look and you will discover that almost no street or alleyway is the same, each with their own unique colors of marble and special design.

The old down is a labyrinth of small streets full of palaces, churches, squares and chic buildings from the 19th century, a legacy to being the first city in Spain to jump into the industrial revolution.

Iconic calle Larios in Malaga's old town, Spain
Larios Street – Malaga

The iconic Calle Larios was constructed in this same time period, when the city was booming and a new bourgeois class was looking to show off. This pedestrian street is the main social and commercial artery of the city and is certainly one of Spain’s grandest promenades.

Since most of the old town is composed of narrow streets, Calle Larios was designed so that the fresh sea breeze would enter into it from the port and then flow into the rest of the alleyways. The circulation of the wind was facilitated by rounding off the corners of the buildings. This architectural feature has become one of the most typical characteristics of Malaga.

2

ALCAZABA & GIBRALFARO CASTLE

Beautiful gate in Malaga's Alcazaba fortress, Spain
Gate in Malaga's Alcazaba fortress

Malaga boasts two Moorish fortresses: the Alcazaba (“citadel” in Arabic) and the Gibralfaro Castle (5.5€ joint entrance fee), situated just above the first one. These fortresses were built by the Moors who inhabited Malaga for almost 8 centuries (711-1487 AD).

Malaga’s Alcazaba (3.5€ entrance fee) is a well-preserved Moorish fortress-palace originally built around 750-780. This mammoth fortification is well preserved and features 8 sequential fortified gates and watch towers that had to be crossed, just to enter the palace. Talk about security!

Once inside the palace you will find a few quaint patios with water features surrounded by some of the original palace rooms. Most of the palace treasures have been looted or simply lost to time so it doesn’t compare with Granada’s Alhambra or the Royal Alcazar in Seville. But it also lacks the crowds that the others have – which can make for a much more relaxing and enjoyable visit. In any case, if you are visiting Malaga, the Alcazaba is worth a look.

Alcazaba seen from the path to the Gibralfaro castle, Malaga – Spain
Views of the Alcazaba – Malaga

Situated atop the Alcazaba is Malaga’s second Moorish landmark, the Gibralfaro Castle (2.5€ entrance fee). It was built around 200 years after the Alcazaba and was an extension of the lower fortification. At one time, the two were even connected. Today, that is not the case. The path that leads to the Gibralfaro starts close to the entrance/exit of the Alcazaba and traverses the mountainside under the fortified walls. Once at the top, you can walk around the fortress walls and see all of Malaga, both the old town and the urban sprawl that surrounds it.

If you plan on walking up to the Gibralfaro, avoid doing it in the middle of a hot summer day. You will probably regret it. Also, don’t forget a bottle of water. The uphill walk takes about 20 minutes. If you don’t want to walk, you can always take part in a segway tour or take the city bus (lines 35 and 92 also stop at the Gibralfaro castle).

3

ROMAN AMPHITHEATER

Roman amphitheater in Malaga, Spain
Roman amphitheater – Malaga

Before the Moors, it was the Romans who ruled over Malaga. Today, at the foot of the Alcazaba we find the Roman amphitheater (free entrance) that was originally built in the 1st century. During Moorish times, a lot of the theater’s stones and columns were taken to build the Alcazaba and, with the pass of time, it was slowly buried underground. So much so, that it was actually hidden for almost 500 years! It was only re-discovered in 1951.

Since 2011, it is open to visitors all year around and is often used for concerts, theater, etc.

Next to the theater you will also find a few glass panels over the street that reveal some other roman ruins such as the vats used for making garum, a fermented fish sauce that was a staple throughout the Roman empire.

4

PORT & BEACHES

Famous Malagueta beach in Malaga, Spain
Famous Malagueta beach – Malaga

Malaga is the capital of the renowned Costa del Sol and home to 14 km (8.7 miles) of gorgeous sandy beaches. Although, truth being told, it is a very touristy area, Malaga’s fine sandy beaches are famous for a reason.

The city’s coastline is made up of a total of 15 beaches, but these are the most popular ones:

  • La Malagueta beach is the most well-known as it is still in the city and the closest to the center, stretching from the port to La Caleta beach. This 1.2 km wide sandy beach has a nice promenade with a large variety of bars and restaurants. As Malaga’s most popular beach, it is also the busiest. It has all basic facilities and amenities such as showers and toilets, lifeguard, parking, access for disabled, sun-beds and -shades for hire, etc.
  • La Caleta beach is located right after La Malagueta. This 1 km long sandy beach is still in the city (surrounded by skyscrapers). It also has all facilities and amenities.
  • Pedregalejo beach starts after La Caleta. The 1.2 km long beach is located next to the oldest fishing neighborhood in Malaga. As such, it is surrounded by small 2-story houses and has more of a village vibe – it doesn’t feel like a big city anymore. This family friendly beach is divided in smaller sandy bays. There is a nice promenade with plenty of bars and restaurants, some traditional and some more hip.

You will find a variety of beach bars, locally called “chiringuitos,” on most of Malaga’s beaches which usually offer local cuisine. A traditional speciality in the area are “espetos” (grilled sardines skewers), which are usually cooked right on the beach in front of you. Don’t leave without trying them!

Seaside path to Muelle Uno (Pier One) in Malaga's port, Spain
Seaside path to Pier One – Malaga

Even if you aren’t interested in Malaga’s beaches, its seafront and port area are definitely worth visiting. Opened in 2011, Muelle Uno (Pier One) is a contemporary water front open-air leisure complex full of shops, bars and restaurants. There is also a children’s play area, bike and segway rental services, boat trips and sunset cruises, etc.

The Pompidou Center is located on Muelle Uno as well. On the way back to the city center, make sure to enjoy a stroll through the lush palm garden, Parque de Malaga.

5

ATARAZANAS MARKET

Atarazanas market in Malaga's old town, Spain
Atarazanas market – Malaga

The Atarazanas market is probably the best market in all of Andalusia. On entrance, the impressive stained glass mural will definitely catch your eye as will a number of other architectural details. Inside, the variety of food on offer will not disappoint either. This traditional market has a great array of fish and seafood, meat, local and exotic fruits and vegetables, etc. There are also some bakeries and a couple of bars. While there are a lot of tourists that visit the market, it is balanced off by throngs of local patrons, allowing for Altarazanas to retain its authentic charm.

The name “Atarazanas” comes from Andalusian Arabic and means “shipyard.” That’s because the market occupies the location of a Moorish shipyard from the 14th century. Believe it or not, even though the market is a 10 minute walk from the water today, 600 years ago when the original shipyard was built, the Mediterranean sea reached right up to the building!

Olives stand at the Atarazanas market in Malaga, Spain
Olives stand at the Atarazanas market – Malaga

After the Reconquest, the shipyard building had a variety of uses (warehouse, military hospital, barracks, etc.) until it was finally demolished at the end of the 19th century for the construction of a new market building. Luckily, the last original Nasrid gate was kept and the new building attempted to pay homage to Malaga’s Moorish heritage.

*Extra tip: make sure to try some local specialities: olives, almonds, etc. The “almendras fritas” (salted fried almonds) are our favorites.

More Things to See

MALAGA MUSEUM

Although sometimes eclipsed by other landmarks, the Malaga Museum (free entrance EU citizens, 1.5€ others) is a great museum to check out. Even just the building, Palacio de la Aduana, makes the visit worth it.

As its name indicates, the Palacio de la Aduana (Customs Palace) was built for use as a customs office for all the goods arriving by sea. It was constructed between 1787 and 1829 in neoclassical style, imitating Italian Renaissance palaces. Before even entering the building, its main facade lined with tall palm trees will draw your attention. The feeling of grandiosity continues as you enter the building, which is clad in beautiful white marble and opens up to a central patio with more palm trees.

The Fine Arts Museum occupies the first floor and is made up of over 2,000 pieces, mainly from the 19th and 20th centuries. On the second floor is the Archeological Museum, containing over 15,000 pieces which go from prehistory to the Al-Andalus period and includes several Phoenician and Roman artifacts.

CATHEDRAL

One of the main sights in Malaga’s old town is the city’s cathedral (6€ entrance fee). It was built between 1528 and 1782 on the site of a former Mosque. The architect is actually the same that built the New Bridge in Ronda. Locals affectionately call the cathedral “la Manquita” (the one-armed woman), because it was actually never finished. To this day, it is still missing one of its two towers.

The cathedral also offers tours of its rooftop (6€ entrance fee), which take you up 200 steps to enjoy some great city views and get a very close look of the missing tower.

PICASSO & ART SCENE

Malaga is the birthplace of famous painter Pablo Picasso and has two museums in his honor. More recently, the city has tried to brand itself as a “city of art” and has worked to build up an impressive list of museums. Here are a few of them worth noting:

  • The Picasso Museum (8 - 12€ entrance fee) opened in 2003 and triggered Malaga’s cultural rebirth. Housed in the magnificent Buenavista Palace, it is made of 12 halls of permanent exhibition.
  • As its name indicates, Picasso’s Birthplace Museum (3 - 4€ entrance fee) occupies the house where the famous painter was born in 1881. Today, it is a monument to his life and work as well as the headquarters of the Picasso Foundation.
  • Occupying a 16th century palatial building in the heart of Malaga, the Thyssen Museum (10€ entrance fee) exhibits 230 works, mainly by 19th century Spanish artists: Zurbarán, Sorolla, Zuloaga, Romero Torres, etc.
  • Malaga’s Pompidou Center (9€ entrance fee) occupies a modern and colorful cuboid glass structure at the port. It houses a permanent collection of impressionist art from the 20th and 21st centuries.
  • Located in Malaga’s Soho art district, the Contemporary Art Center (free access) aims to promote and disseminate visual art of the 20th and 21st centuries. Its permanent collection is made up of 400 works that go from the 1950s to the present day.
  • The Russian State Museum (4 - 8€ entrance fee) houses temporary and long-term exhibitions showing the fascinating history of Russian art.

FLAMENCO

Flamenco is much more than just a music or dance style. It is a way of expression, it is culture and tradition, it is art. Flamenco has been able not only to survive throughout the centuries, but to thrive to the point that it still today is an important part of Andalusian culture.

Malaga is not particularly well known for its flamenco venues. If you have the opportunity to travel further to Seville or Granada, then it would probably be better to see a show there. With that being said, there are still a few places to see flamenco live in Malaga. Check out our Flamenco in Malaga page for a complete list.

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