What to Expect and Day Trips
Located on Costa del Sol, Coast of the Sun, in Southern Spain, Malaga lives up to its name, delighting residents and visitors with over 300 days of sunshine a year. But most visitors skip it for other coastal towns, under the impression that Malaga is not more than a port and airport city.
While Malaga’s historical center may not have the same grandeur as Seville, it stands apart in its Andaluz culture, art scene, gastronomy, and more museums than you can manage to visit in one stay. It’s an authentic Spanish city with free-spirited and kind locals, visually pleasing surroundings, and up-and-coming neighborhoods. It is brimming with creativity and passion. And if that hasn’t convinced you to put Malaga on your Spain itinerary, here is what you can expect to see, do and eat in this amazing city.
Things to See and Do in Malaga, Spain
Explore Malaga’s Historical Sites
Start your tour at the Roman theater, the oldest structure in Malaga dating, back to the 1st century AD. Towering just above the theater is Malaga’s answer to Granada’s Alhambra, Alcazaba Fortress, which remains from when the city was under Moorish rule. It’s a maze of ancient walls, palaces, and fountains, and through the gardens in the back, you can climb up to the Gibralfaro Castle, from where you can see Malaga from another perspective and enjoy sweeping views over the city and the sea. Finally, make your way back down to Malaga Cathedral, fondly named La Manquita, one-armed woman, because of its unfinished south tower.
Stroll Through the Best Parts of Malaga
Dedicate an entire day to just strolling around the city. First, wander through the lush jungle-like Parque de Malaga and past seafront cafes on Muelle 1 and 2, the port of Malaga. Then, make your way to the iconic lighthouse La Farola, browse shops along the beautifully decorated main pedestrian street Marques de Larios, and finish your day by enjoying a spectacular sunset on Magala’s urban beach La Malagueta.
Go Art Museum Hopping
Is that a thing? Well, if you are a museum connoisseur, Malaga has a museum for every taste. There are over 30 here! With more museums than any other city in Spain apart from Madrid, you can fill your day bouncing from one to another, breaking up the visits with culinary adventures in between.
You cannot come to Malaga and not visit the Picasso Museum. The collection of artwork celebrates the career of the famous cubist painter Pablo Picasso, who was born in Malaga. And if you are not a fan of his work, explore modern art at the only Pompidou Museum outside of France, which is marked by a large multicolored cube, or visit the Centre for Contemporary Art.
Climb San Anton Mountain
For even better views than what you get from Gibralfaro Castle, embark on a hike to San Anton Mountain. It is located conveniently within city limits. Level up your experience by bringing a picnic and watching an epic sunset from the top.
Try All of the Amazing Food in Malaga Restaurants
If you aren’t eating your way through Spain, you are not doing it right. In Spain, life revolves around food, and Malaga restaurants are no exception. The perfect climate and location mean there is an abundance of fresh produce, wine, and seafood. So much so that you often hear the locals being called boquerones, anchovies, for the amounts they consume. Here are our favorite culinary experiences in Malaga restaurants.
Atarazanas market is one of the best markets in Spain, housed in a Mudejar-style building, a former Arab shipyard. Yes, the seashore came right up to the gates of this market once! Aside from this fact, the architecture and delicious treasures inside make the market an incredible experience. Join a food tour, or trust your nose and eyes to guide you through sampling cheeses, cured meats, seafood, olives, almonds, and wine.
Bodega El Pimpi
This Andalusian tapa restaurant has become an institution and is very popular among locals and celebrities. Perhaps the fact that Antonio Banderas owns the building has something to do with that. Or it is simply that good. Considered one of the best tapas spots in Malaga, El Pimpi is also the place to try muscatel – sweet wine from Malaga. Decorated with Andalusian tiles, wallpaper, and wooden barrels lining the walls, it is a cozy atmosphere to dine in accompanied by views over the Roman Theatre.
Chocolate and Churros
Even after trying churros in Madrid, Valencia, and Alicante, we just cannot get enough of this killer combination. So, in Malaga, we headed to the best churros joint in town – Casa Aranda. *shrugs* It was for quality control! Look, when in Spain, you should just accept having fried dough and chocolate for breakfast and not question it. Casa Aranda, conveniently located next to Atarazanas Market, has been serving churros since 1932. They know what they are doing. We can confirm!
Sardines on a Stick
One of Malaga’s specialties is sardines on a stick, and it must be tried in the fishing district of Pedregalejo. The neighborhood is tucked away in the eastern part of Malaga and feels like a separate small beach town. The promenade is lined with former fisherman houses turned restaurants and bars that fill up quickly come sunset time.
Best Day Trips from Malaga
Caminito del Rey
In an hour and a half from Malaga, you can be hiking the most famous trail in Spain. Eight kilometers long, suspended over a deep gorge, this experience is not for the faint-hearted, but if you are an adrenaline junkie, this is right up your alley. The trail is a former path that connected dams, which was originally constructed in 1901. In 2015 it was repaired and reopened to the public. The thrill and stunning views put Caminito del Rey on the radar, and it became a popular day trip to take when in the Malaga region. Make sure to check weather conditions and call ahead because the trail closes for rain and strong winds.
Pueblo Blanco Ronda
The white village of Ronda is another amazing day trip from Malaga, located just under 2 hours away. Ronda is known for three things. It is one of the largest wine producers in the region. It has Spain’s second oldest bullring and a long-standing tradition captured by Ernest Hemingway in his novels. And lastly, its dizzying dramatic landscape.
Ronda sits on a gorge, which separates the old and new parts of the city. They are connected by jaw-dropping bridges, the New Bridge being the iconic one. Enjoy views of the 150-meter-deep gorge from every angle you can find. Then wander around the narrow streets taking in Moorish architecture and white lime-walled houses that give the village the name Pueblo Blanco. And finish your day in Ronda with a wine tasting, of course. If you decide to spend the night, you can set out on a hiking adventure through Sierra de Grazalema Natural park. Enjoy views over gorges, explore caves and hopefully spot Hispanic goats.
Malaga is a vibrant city full of character that ticks all the boxes and deserves a spotlight on your Spain itinerary. With so much to do in and around the city, it’s an ideal base to make as you travel through Costa del Sol. So, whether you seek a relaxing stay minus the crowds or to experience slow living in Spain, make your way to Malaga.
Be sure to read another travel guide of our fun Spanish cities, when we visited Valencia and Seville.
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