From exploring the ancient Roman Theatre or the impressive Cathedral to soaking up the Spanish sun at a paradisiacal beach or relaxing in the serene Botanical Gardens, there's something for everyone in this vibrant coastal city. It is indeed a great place to fully experience the best of Andalusia's culture, cuisine, and history.
Whether you're a seasoned traveler or a first-time adventurer, Málaga is a destination that should be on your bucket list, and we have put together a list of the top 10 best things to do in this glamorous and inviting city, each one hand-picked to give you the best possible experience and trip.
Pack your bags, grab your camera, and get ready for an unforgettable experience in the land of Picasso, which is the epitome of charm, culture, and endless sunshine!
Step back in time by visiting the Alcazaba
Ready for some time travel? Visiting the Alcazaba in Málaga is like stepping back in time to the days of the Moors! This stunning fortress, built in the 11th century, boasts a rich history and remarkable architecture – it is a living history book, with intricate stonework, gorgeous gardens, and breathtaking views of the city and the sea. It is actually considered to be one of the best-preserved examples of Islamic architecture in Spain. In fact, the word Alcazaba comes from the Arabic “AL-kasbah” and refers to a fortification within a walled town.
The fortress is composed of two main sections: the lower section, which is the oldest part, and the upper section. The lower section of the Alcazaba features a series of terraces and gardens, which were used for agriculture and water storage. The upper section of the Alcazaba is the most impressive part of the fortress, with a complex system of walls, towers, and gates. However, the palace is the most notable building in the upper section, with its impressive architectural details, including intricate stucco decoration and marble columns. This palace was used as the residence of the Moorish rulers of Málaga and features several rooms, including the Sala de los Reyes (Hall of the Kings), which is decorated with a beautiful ceiling featuring stars and geometric patterns.
As you wander through the labyrinthine corridors, you can imagine the hustle and bustle of life in this ancient citadel! One of the most unique features of the Alcazaba, designated a National Monument, is the Puerta de las Columnas, a beautiful gate decorated with horseshoe arches and columns. Another highlight is the Torre del Homenaje, the tallest tower in the fortress, which offers panoramic views of Málaga and the Mediterranean Sea.
A visit here is sure to leave you with a newfound appreciation for the history and culture of this amazing city!
Visit the Castillo de Gibralfaro and stroll through the ruins
Adjacent to the Alcazaba but located on a nearby hill, the Castillo de Gibralfaro is an iconic fortress standing tall above the city and offering amazing views of the Mediterranean Sea. Built in the 14th century by Yusuf I, the King of Granada, on the site of a former Phoenician lighthouse, it served as a defensive stronghold during the Moorish and Christian eras. It actually played a key role in the Spanish Reconquista! In addition to its military history, the Castillo de Gibralfaro has also been used for other purposes throughout the centuries. At one point, it was used as a prison, and during the Spanish Civil War, it served as a military barracks.
Today, you can wander through the castle's ruins and take in splendid views of the Mediterranean Sea and the city below. The layout of the walls of the Gibralfaro fortress is very irregular, making it a unique structure. One of the most impressive features of the castle is the tower, which stands over 17 meters tall and offers incredible views of the city and the surrounding countryside. You can climb to the top of the tower and take in the superb scenery!
The climb is well worth the effort, with the castle's well-preserved walls and towers providing a glimpse into the past. The castle's surrounding gardens offer a tranquil escape from the city.
Be sure to bring a camera and take advantage of the panoramic views of Málaga, including the stunning Alcazaba and the bustling port.
Marvel at the Cathedral and climb the tower for splendid views
Calling all architecture buffs and stained-glass aficionados! The Cathedral of Málaga, also known as La Manquita ("The One-Armed Lady") due to its unfinished south tower, is a prime example of Spanish Renaissance architecture. Built in the 16th century on the site of a former mosque, its interior boasts a mixture of Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles, making it a true masterpiece of art and architecture. The central nave is the heart of the Cathedral, with its impressive domed ceiling and beautiful choir stalls.
Inside, there is an impressive collection of religious art for you to admire, including paintings, sculptures, and tapestries. The Cathedral also houses the Chapel of the Holy Sacrament, where you can admire the stunning altarpiece made of silver and gold.
If you're feeling adventurous, climb the tower for panoramic views of the city and the crystal-clear waters. Wander through the one-armed wonder of Spain, and marvel at the intricate façade, soaring ceilings, and beautiful stained-glass windows – you will feel like you're in a scene from a medieval movie!
Take a walk through the historic center and the Port of Málaga
If you want to experience the heart and soul of Málaga, taking a walk through its historic center and the Port is the way to do it! This picturesque area is a magical mashup of old-world charm and modern-day excitement, with a little something for everyone.
Start off in Plaza de la Constitución, the main square of the city, and take in the superb architecture of the surrounding buildings and the buzzing atmosphere. Then head to the iconic Calle Larios, a pedestrian street bursting with shops and cafes, where you try some local delicacies.
As you make your way towards the Port, admire the stunning Cathedral and the charming Plaza del Obispo. When you reach the Port, take a deep breath and enjoy the fresh sea breeze and the views of the Mediterranean, while doing some people-watching.
The Port of Málaga has undergone a major transformation in recent years, with a new marina, a revamped promenade, and a vibrant cultural scene. You can visit the Pompidou Center, a museum of modern art, or the Muelle Uno, a shopping and leisure complex with beautiful views of the harbor. The port is filled with restaurants and bars, so you can enjoy a cool drink at the end of a day of sightseeing.
In short, a walk through the historic center and the Port of Málaga is a perfect way to experience the essence of this city. So, get those walking shoes on, grab your favorite hat, and get ready to strut your stuff in style!
Visit the Picasso Museum and learn all about this famous artist
Want to see what all the fuss is about when it comes to the legendary Pablo Picasso? Then get ready to make your way to the Picasso Museum in Málaga, and prepare to be dazzled by some seriously impressive works of art!
The Picasso Museum is a must-visit destination for art lovers of all ages and backgrounds. Located in the heart of Málaga, the museum is housed in a beautiful 16th-century palace and boasts an extensive collection of the artist's works.
Pablo Picasso was born in Málaga in 1881, and the museum is a tribute to his life and legacy. You can explore the different stages of Picasso's artistic evolution, from his early paintings to his iconic cubist works and beyond. The museum's permanent collection includes over 200 pieces by Picasso, along with works by other artists that influenced his career. Whether you're a seasoned art critic or just looking for a fun and inspiring outing, the museum's collection is sure to inspire and delight.
In addition to the permanent collection, the museum also hosts temporary exhibitions and educational programs, making it an ideal destination for families and art enthusiasts alike.
Take a journey through the life and art of one of the most influential artists of the 20th century - whether you're a seasoned art connoisseur or just looking for a fun and inspiring outing, the Picasso Museum is definitely a must-visit in Málaga!
Take in the Spanish sun at the beach
Looking to get your tan on and for a little fun in the sun while in Málaga? Then grab your flip-flops and head on over to the beautiful beaches that line the city's coast. With plenty of sand, surf, and sunshine to go around, these beaches are the perfect destination for a relaxing day in the sun.
Some of the most popular beaches in Málaga include La Malagueta, located next to the port, El Palo, located in the fishermen neighborhood, and Playa de Pedregalejo, located a bit east of Malagueta. Each beach offers something unique, whether it's a lively atmosphere or a more laid-back vibe. La Malagueta, for example, is known for its bustling promenade and wide array of restaurants and bars, while El Palo and Playa de Pedregalejo are both quieter and more family-friendly. There are other options, in case you want to further explore the coastline: the popular La Caleta beach, the large and famous La Misericordia beach, or the San Andrés beach, also with grassy areas, are some of the alternatives.
And, of course, no trip to the beach is complete without a refreshing dip in the cool, clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Whether you're swimming, snorkeling, or just soaking up the rays, the beaches of Málaga are the perfect place to unwind and enjoy the beautiful Spanish seashore.
Pack your sunscreen, grab your beach towel, and get ready to soak up some vitamin D and work on your golden glow!
Stroll through the Botanical Gardens or wander in the Parque de Málaga
If you're in need of some greenery and fresh air, then the Botanical Gardens of Málaga are just the ticket. Get ready to channel your inner David Attenborough and explore the over 1000 species of plants from around the world that call this oasis home. From towering palm trees to colorful orchids, there's something here for every nature lover.
Escape the frenzy of the city and take a peaceful stroll through the Botanical Gardens of Málaga, located at the foothills of the Montes de Málaga. The gardens are divided into various sections, each with its own unique charm. Take a leisurely walk through the Mediterranean Garden, where you can admire a variety of plants and trees native to the region, or wander through the Tropical Garden, where you'll find exotic flora from the Amazon and other tropical regions.
With its tranquil setting and stunning natural beauty, the Botanical Gardens are the perfect place to spend a relaxing afternoon. So, pack a picnic, grab a book, and enjoy the serenity of this hidden gem in the heart of the city!
Alternatively, you can also lose yourself in the tranquil Parque de Málaga. This lush green park spans over 30 acres and offers a peaceful retreat for nature enthusiasts.
As you wander through the park, you will be greeted by a menagerie of flora and fauna, from the colorful flowers to the adorable ducks paddling in the pond. And with its various playgrounds and sports facilities, it's a great place for families to burn off some energy. You'll come away feeling refreshed and reinvigorated, ready to take on whatever the rest of the day has in store!
Explore the Roman Theatre
If you're a history buff, then the Roman Theatre of Málaga, one of the oldest and most well-preserved theaters in Spain, is a must-see attraction. Located in the heart of the city, this ancient ruin is a testament to the enduring legacy of the Roman Empire.
Built in the 1st century AD, during the reign of Emperor Augustus, the theatre was used for various performances and events for over 300 years. The stage is made of white marble and was once decorated with statues and other embellishments. The orchestra pit, which is located in front of the stage, where all the real partying happened, was used for musical performances and is now used as a seating area for visitors. The seating area is divided into two sections: the lower section, which was reserved for the upper classes, and the upper section, which was reserved for the lower classes. It could seat up to 2,000 people, which is more than some modern-day theaters can hold! In addition to theatrical performances, this theatre was also used for gladiatorial games and other public spectacles. Although it fell into disrepair after the fall of the Roman Empire, it was rediscovered in the 20th century and has since been restored to its former glory.
As you wander around the theatre, you will be transported back in time to a bygone era! If you're a fan of history and architecture, be sure to add the Roman Theatre of Málaga to your list of must-see highlights. The theater is also used today for occasional cultural events and performances, bringing its rich history full circle!
Visit the Atarazanas Market or the Mercado Merced
Are you ready for a foodie adventure? Then make sure to visit the Atarazanas Market or the Mercado Merced in Málaga! These lively and colorful markets offer a sensory overload of sights, smells, and tastes. You will find a dizzying array of fresh seafood, cured meats, artisanal cheeses, ripe fruits and veggies, and local specialties like salted cod and sweet Málaga wine.
If you’re a foodie or just enjoy perusing local markets, the Atarazanas Market and the Mercado Merced are the perfect places for you. The Atarazanas Market is housed in a historic building from the 14th century, and it's a feast for the senses with its vibrant stalls selling fresh seafood, meats, fruits, and vegetables. You can also find specialty foods like cheeses, olives, and spices. If you're feeling peckish, there are tapas bars where you can try some of the local cuisine.
The Mercado Merced is a smaller market located in the historic center. It's less touristy than the Atarazanas Market, but just as charming. Here you can find a wide variety of local products, including fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, cheeses, and pastries. The market is also home to several small cafes and bars where you can enjoy a coffee or a glass of wine.
Both markets offer a glimpse into the local food culture and provide a great opportunity to pick up some ingredients for a picnic or to take home with you. Just make sure to bring a big appetite, and maybe a small wheelbarrow to carry your haul!
Take a daytrip to Nerja and visit the caves
Nerja is a charming coastal town located about an hour's drive from Málaga. It is the perfect destination for a little adventure outside Málaga and is home to one of the most fascinating natural wonders in Spain: the Nerja Caves. This natural subterranean spectacle is over five million years old and boasts a labyrinth of caverns, each one adorned with impressive towering stalactites and stalagmites, and even an underground lake. Walking through these ancient tunnels, you will feel like you've entered an otherworldly realm, straight out of a fantasy novel!
But Nerja has plenty more to offer. Nestled in the picturesque countryside, this attractive town also boasts stunning beaches, scenic vistas, and plenty of restaurants and cafes serving up delicious seafood. If you are looking for a change of pace from the hustle and bustle of Málaga, a day trip to Nerja is a must-do. Bring your camera and capture some of the most breathtaking views in all of Spain. Some of the highlights also include the famous Balcon de Europa, a scenic viewpoint with gorgeous views of the sea and surrounding landscape.
Be sure to also take a break from spelunking and enjoy the town's beach, with its crystal-clear waters and soft sand. Nerja has been called the "Jewel of the Costa del Sol" for a reason, so make sure to admire its sparkling treasures!