Travelers have been drawn to visit Malaga, Spain, and the Costa del Sol for decades, drawn in by the warm sun and relaxing beaches. We were hesitant to travel to Malaga, afraid it would be swarming with sun-seeking Brits. We were wrong (at least in the off-season).
Whether the goal is to visit the best beaches in Malaga, learn about the Andalusian culture, or eat amazing tapas and drink local wines, Malaga is the perfect destination.
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How To Visit Malaga Spain
In this Malaga travel guide, we will share our tips on how to make the most of a trip to Malaga. This includes recommendations for some of the best places to visit in Malaga, Spain. We’ve also included where and what to eat and drink in Malaga, Spain.
As one of the main entry points to the Costa del Sol, Malaga is a beautiful city to base yourself. On the one side, there are a ton of things to do in Malaga itself. On the other side, Malaga is ideally located to take a day trip or two in order to explore the surrounding area. Regards, there’s a lot to do in Malaga.
Where Is Malaga Spain
One of the oldest cities in Europe, Malaga is a port city in the Costa del Sol (Coast of the Sun) region of Spain. Founded nearly 2,800 years ago, it is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Today, Malaga is a vibrant city with great restaurants, beaches steps from the city center, and an active contemporary art scene.
Many travelers don’t know, but Malaga is the birthplace of the acclaimed artist Pablo Picasso. It’s also one of the most important port cities in Europe. Malaga plays a vital role in the economic development of Southern Spain. The Port of Malaga welcomes hundreds of merchant and cruise ships all year round.
Malaga is one of the most southern Spanish cities on the Iberian Peninsula. From Madrid, Malaga is over 330 miles south. And it’s over 600 miles south of Barcelona. Getting to Malaga from within Spain can be done by air, train, or car. Although it’s a 10+ hour drive from Barcelona.
The best way to get to Malaga from within Spain is by high-speed train. The AVE train from Madrid to Malaga takes approximately two and a half hours. From Barcelona, the journey is long at around five and a half hours.
How To Book Hotels In Malaga Spain
Since leaving the US over a decade ago, we’ve traveled to Spain numerous times. We’ve even lived in Spain for over three years. During these trips to Spain, we learned a few things about booking hotels in Spain. We’ve stayed at stunning luxury hotels like the Hotel Alfonso XIII in Seville and the W Barcelona. And sadly we have stayed in our fair share of not-so-great hotels in Spain.
When planning our trips to Spain, we use Booking.com for hotels in Spain. In addition to booking hotels, we’ve used them to book apartments in Spain for longer stays. When we’ve wanted something special, we’ve used Booking to find stunning villas in Spain. We’ve even found some charming and less expensive guest houses in Spain on Booking.com.
Heading To Spain? Check Out Our Ultimate Guide to Packing For Spain
Malaga Travel – When To Go To Malaga
With the Mediterranean Sea to the south and the Malaga Mountains to the north, Malaga experiences mild winters and extremely warm summer months. While winds from the Mediterranean can make the summer heat manageable, don’t count on rain to help cool off.
With over 300 days of sun per year, rain isn’t a common sight to see in Malaga. For comparable cities of its size in Europe, Malaga experiences the warmest winters of any city on the Continent with average temperatures around 65˚F (18˚C) making it the perfect winter getaway.
Because of the year round popularity of the Costa del Sol especially with British and Irish travelers, Malaga can seem a bit touristy. Add in a cruise ship or two and you can feel overwhelmed, especially during the summer months.
But don’t let this dissuade you. Malaga is a great city to visit with tons of beautiful gardens, old buildings, and lots of free things to do.
What To Do In Malaga– Top Malaga Attractions
Best known for its white sandy beaches, reason enough to visit Malaga city, the city offers a wide range of attractions to explore. For art lovers, the Museo Picasso Malaga showcases over 250 works of art from the famous Spanish painter, donated by the Picasso family.
Housed in the 16th Century former palace, the museum is a great way to beat the summer heat of Malaga while experiencing works from one of the greatest artists of all time.
Perched above Malaga with commanding views of the city and the sea sits the Moorish fortification known as the Alcazaba. Built in the 11th Century, this vast complex set the standard for military architecture for centuries to come.
Cathedral of Malaga – Catedral de la Encarnación de Málaga
There is no missing the Cathedral of Malaga. Not only is it one of the tallest structures in Malaga, but it’s also vast. Dubbed “La Manquita” or one armed lady for its unfinished state, the Cathedral of Malaga was constructed over 200 years beginning in 1528. It is the second-largest cathedral in Southern Spain.
One of the two 276 feet tall bell towers remains unfinished to this day. Why? There are many legends and rumors as to why that makes for a good story. But like most things in life, the reason came down to taxes and the cost to complete the project.
Where To Eat In Malaga Spain
For any traveler planning a trip to Malaga Spain, food should be an important part of your research. More than in some other cities in Spain, there are a lot of Malaga restaurants that are touristy and might not provide the best Malaga food experiences. It’s best to be prepared when planning your trip.
Check out our recommendations for How To Find The Best Tapas In Malaga.
How To Make The Most of One Day in Malaga
We understand that travelers don’t often have as much time as we do when visiting a destination. Often, travelers will take Malaga day trips, only spending a day in Malaga.
Here, we make some recommendations on what to see in Malaga Spain in one day. In addition to some of the Malaga attractions we discussed above, here are a few more ways to spend a day.
Although I would recommend taking a walk along one of the beaches near the Malaga city centre, most of our recommendations here will focus on Malaga Old Town.
This area is the best place to explore when it comes to food, drink, and cultural activities. There is also a load of shopping to be done, mostly around Calle Marquis de Larios.
Picasso Museum In Malaga
So, what to do in Malaga in a day? We recommend the Picasso Museum. It’s one of the best museums in Malaga. Picasso is the most famous son of Malaga City. Well, him and Antonio Banderas.
The museum is located in the center of the city, in a restored palace. The Museum Picasso Malaga is open seven days a week. Its opening times are from 10 am to 7 pm. Admission is only €7.50.
Malaga For Food And Wine Travelers
The best of Malaga Spain has to come in the form of food and drink, particularly for people to travel for food as we do.
For food travelers, definitely visit one of the Malaga city markets. They are generally open in the mornings to early afternoon and are closed on Sunday. Inside the local markets, you’ll find fresh produce, meats, and fish being sold. Make sure to sample the local almonds, one of Spain’s best snacks.
Try the Mercado Central de Atarazanas, which is one of the top Malaga tourist attractions. It’s also a very local market too. There are a few market bars inside the market as well as outside that are great places to eat some great local tapas and try classic Spanish drinks like vermouth.
Like many local markets in Spain, the Mercado Central de Atarazanas is a functioning market for residents of Malaga. The Mercado Central de Atarazanas is only closed on Sundays and has opening times from 8 AM until 3 PM.
If you have a little more time to kill, the local Malaga wine consortium created this quaint Malaga Wine Museum on the first two floors of its headquarters. This is a museum really for die-hard wine aficionados and wine travelers.
It’s for people who know a good amount about wine already and really want to learn about the local wine history. It might not be one of the hippest places in Malaga, but it has its charm.
Food Tours In Malaga
Where there’s great food in a city, this means, you’re going to find great food tours. We always start a visit to a new city with a food tour. Why? Well, not only do you get to sample great food you learn a few other things.
One, you learn where locals eat. This helps us avoid over-priced tourist restaurants that never have good food. Two, you learn what’s eaten locally. This is very important to us. If we are in Malaga, we want to eat what’s grown and eaten here.
We don’t want dishes like paella that are from Valencia and should only be eaten in Valencia. Three, you get a feel for the city. Walking around during a food tour is very helpful to understand where things are in the city.
If you are traveling in Spain and want to take a food tour, we are big fans of the food tours provided by Devour Tours. They offer a wide range of food tours, cooking classes, and other culinary travel experiences. Find out more about Devour Food Tours here.
Recommended Hotels In Malaga Spain
When we traveled to Malaga, we stayed at the Petit Palace Plaza Malaga. It’s steps from the center of Malaga and our room offered the most amazing views of the Cathedral.
They are within walking distance of some of the best restaurants in Malaga Spain. I would definitely recommend them as one of the top hotels in Malaga city centre. Check the best rates for Petite Palace here.
Another option, closer to the beach, is the Gran Hotel Miramar Malaga, one of the top Malaga luxury hotels with views of the water.
This area of Malaga is a little too quiet for me during the winter months, but it is still only about 10-15 minutes away from the center of town.
In the summer, there are loads of beach bars and chirinquitos near the Gran Hotel Miramar. Check the best rates for Gran Hotel Miramar Malaga here.
Outside of the city center, on the beachfront, most of the accommodations focus on apartments. This is a great place to use Airbnb. If you’ve never used Airbnb before, get a discount on your first stay here.
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FAQs – How To Visit Malaga Spain
Malaga is easily one of the most affordable destinations to visit in Spain. It is connected to Europe by several discount airlines including RyanAir and EasyJet. With a tapas culture, food, and drink are very affordable. The city is full of self-catering accommodations including those listed on Airbnb.
Unfortunately, yes. Malaga is an incredible city full of art and culture. Because it is an affordable destination it does attract many holidaymakers looking simply to have a good time. It’s a popular destination for bachelor and bachelorette parties.
While it is helpful to learn some Spanish, English is widely open by staff at restaurants, bars, and popular tourist attractions.