Malaga is a jewel of the Costa del Sol in Spain’s autonomous community of Andalusia. The city’s #tranquilotropical vibe had me right away: you can feel how the ocean and the warm weather energize the city, where timeworn Moorish ruins meet renowned modern art. Places like Sevilla and Granada may compete for top honors as Andalusia’s greatest city, but Malaga is definitely in the running with its compelling arts scene, culture, history, and, unlike the aforementioned cities, its BEACHES. (To any sevillanos reading – lo siento). Malaga has the most important airport in the south of Spain and is also easily accessible via train from Madrid and Sevilla; needless to say, it is 100% worth a visit. Here is my list of the 10 best things to do in Malaga – mostly all within walking distance of each other and easy to fit into a weekend trip!
1. The Alcazaba.
Are you really in Andalusia if you don’t see a Moorish fortress or palace?…nah. The Alcazaba is one of Malaga’s historical and cultural gems and definitely one of the best things to do in Malaga. Located in the center of the city and at the base of Mount Gibralfaro (see below), this historic fortress-palace dates back to Muslim rule and gets its name for the Arabic word for “citadel.” Stroll through the Moorish archways of the fortress and take in the spectacular views of the city and ocean.
2. The Castle on Mount Gibralfaro.
Continue up the hill from the Alcazaba and you’ll get a great mix of exercise and sweeping views of Malaga and the Mediterranean. The Gibralfaro Castle on top of the hill, which also dates back to Muslim rule, is probably the best lookout point in the city. Reward yourself by enjoying a caña with a view at the cafe at the top!
3. The Picasso Museum.
Important reminder: Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga. That’s kind of important. To pay proper homage, head over to the fantastic Picasso Museum tucked away in Malaga’s centro histórico. The museum is located in a historic palace with a pleasant central courtyard and contains some of the legend’s most notable works. Some of my favorites include the colorful Woman in Beret and Checked Dress and the striking Woman with Her Arms Raised. If you’re a fan of Picasso or modern art in general, this is definitely one of the best things to do in Malaga. PS – Credited teachers get in free!
4. Muelle Uno.
This maritime walkway, featuring many shops, cafes, and restaurants, is a nice place to stroll along the water. Stop in to Artsenal, a hip art gallery in the center of Muelle Uno that has a full bar and live music. This is a great place to crush a beer and enjoy the great weather and good vibes of Malaga, right near the ocean.
5. Centre Pompidou Malaga.
The Centre Pompidou Malaga is the little sister of Centre Pompidou in Paris. Opened in 2015, this museum is a testament to the growing arts scene in Malaga and the city’s efforts to boost its position in the art world. Its collection of modern and contemporary art is worth a visit, although I must say that I do prefer its Parisian predecessor. The museum is interestingly located right on Muelle Uno and is easily recognized by the colorful cube that marks the entrance. Pro tip: Entry is free from 4 PM until closing at 8 PM on Sundays.
6. Playa de la Malagueta.
This beach is the perfect urban retreat, located right in the heart of the city. For beach lovers, this stands out as one of the best things to do in Malaga. Dip your toes in the Mediterranean waters, shop for artisanal goodies at the stalls along the beach, or snap a pic on the Malagueta sign!
7. The Roman Theatre.
Something that’s great about European cities is the fact that Roman ruins sometimes just casually hang out in the middle of the city. Yep, just go about your 21st century life and boom – stumble upon some #throwback ruins from the 1st century. This is definitely what happens in Malaga, with its ancient Roman Theatre centrally located at the base of the Alcazaba.
8. Parque de Malaga.
Malaga’s park is situated right in the city center, allowing for a nice change of pace from the surrounding bustle of urban life. This little slice of greenery is a quiet haven complete with tree-lined walkways, fountains, and sculptures. This park is really more like a botanical garden – in fact, it is one of Europe’s largest collections of tropical plants!
9. Leisurely Strolls.
Malaga is incredibly pleasant to walk around – like I said, the laid-back, tropical vibe of the city just makes you want to be outside. Make sure to stop by the cathedral in the centro histórico and let yourself get lost as you stumble upon other charming churches. The city buzzes with life, full of locals and guiris (a colloquial term for Anglo tourists) just tryin’ to have a food time. One of my favorite strolls is along the tree-lined walkway on Avenida de Cervantes, which has great views of the Alcazaba and Mount Gibralfaro – a sort of malagueño version of a skyline. Look out for the Banco de España and the city hall, both beautiful buildings.
Of course, no list of the best things to do in Malaga – or Spain in general – should leave out the gastro-adventures. While in Malaga, have a traditional Spanish breakfast of pan con aceite y tomate (toast with olive oil and tomato), stop by the Mercado Central de Atarazanas for a snack, and go tapas-hopping in the city center. One of my favorite places for lunch is Miguelito El Cariñoso – shout-out to my girl Elly for hosting me and taking me here. This typical Andalusian eatery serves delicious seafood and paella right on the beach (see the main photo for this post above). Although a bit off the beaten path – you have to take a bus or cab because it’s too far to walk – this place is definitely worth it. Make sure to call ahead and reserve a table outside by the water.
What do you think are the best things to do in Malaga? Let me know!