Malaga is Spain’s sixth-largest city and one of the sunniest cities in Europe. Often grouped with some of the more touristic, surrounding resorts, Malaga is anything but. The city is fast becoming a cultural hotspot within Spain, home to a growing number of museums and art galleries and thriving food culture. There is very little that you can’t do in this city, from relaxing on its long, sandy beach, taking some shade at the Botanical Gardens, or exploring the history of Picasso. If you’re looking for a place that caters to everyone and everything, this is it – spend one day in Malaga, and you’re going to have a great time.
When is the best time to visit Malaga?
With 300 days of sun a year, you’ll be hard-pressed to find more sunshine anywhere in Europe than in Malaga, which makes this a great year-round destination. Average temperatures are above 10 degrees Celsius, even in the coldest months of the year. However, the city is a popular destination for both international and domestic tourists, so the peak months of July and August are very busy. It is therefore advisable to visit the city outside of these months.
For the best conditions, visit in May and June or September and October. This will ensure fewer crowds, comfortable but warm temperatures, and more reasonably priced accommodation and flights.
A few facts about Malaga
Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga and called it home for 10 years, so Malaga has one of the most extensive collections of Picasso’s works in the world – more than 4000 works are housed in the local Pablo Picasso Museum!
Located in the heart of Malaga’s historic old town, the city’s cathedral has been nicknamed ‘the One-armed Lady’. This is because the cathedral only has one tower, the north tower. When the south tower was due to be built in the 1700s, the money that had been budgeted for the build was reallocated to bring aid to the Americans, who had recently gained independence from the British. The tower was never completed, but it gives what is already a beautiful cathedral, a unique story.
One day itinerary
Start with a visit to the market
The best way to start your one day in Malaga is to take a walk through Malaga Central Market Atarazanas. This area of the city is buzzing in the morning with locals and businesses buying fresh daily produce for the day ahead. It’s a great way to see and experience Malaga as a real working city and to eye up some of the incredible ingredients and food that is available in this region of Spain.
Have breakfast at Cafe Central
Once you’ve swung by the market and are suitably hungry for some breakfast, head to Cafe Central. Located on one of the most famous squares in the city, Plaza de la Constitution, Cafe Central is well known by locals and tourists alike. The menu features a selection of churros, bocadillos, and other Spanish favorites. Enjoy a coffee and some breakfast while you do some people-watching.
After an energy boost from breakfast, take a 10-minute walk to the entrance of the Alcazaba of Malaga. The entrance costs €3.50 per adult and will allow you to explore the gardens, grounds, and buildings that make up these palatial fortifications. Built in the early 11th century, this is one of the best-preserved Alcazaba in Spain.
As the walk up is a little steep, it’s best to do it before the midday sun hits in full force. Make sure you take a close look at the Roman theater adjacent to the entrance first. Allow around 1.5 to 2 hours to get up to the Alcazaba and visit all the different areas. You can also book a tour.
Highlights of the Alcazaba include the courtyards and fountains, which illustrate how luxurious the Moorish-period design could be. But the building itself, the gardens, and the spectacular views are the real joys of the experience and worth savoring while you’re up there.
Sit down at a churreria
When you’ve finished at the Alcazaba and have made your way back down, take a much-needed coffee break. If you didn’t have churros for breakfast, take a 10-minute stroll over to Casa Aranda. A churreria that has been open since 1932, serving up some of the best churros in Malaga.
Explore the city center and see the cathedral
After coffee and churros, take a gentle stroll down through the city center, crossing through some of the most famous streets such as Calle Marques de Larios, and heading towards Malaga Cathedral and the Plaza del Obispo. You’re not stopping for long, but for just enough time to take in the amazing architecture of the cathedral.
See what the port has to offer
From here head towards the port. You can walk along the port front, which is a relatively new development in Malaga and very nicely done. Alongside a selection of bars, restaurants, and shops, the port is also home to the Centre Pompidou Malaga, a branch of the famous contemporary art museum in Paris. Sightseeing boats also leave from the port regularly to a range of nearby coastal towns and resorts.
Walk around the entirety of the port, up and past the lighthouse, and you will arrive at Malagueta beach. At 1200m long, this sandy beach gives the urban sprawl of Malaga the edge of having a thriving cityscape alongside a relaxing beach area.
Stop for lunch
Time for some lunch. It is common to have lunch around 2-3 pm in Spain, later than in many countries. Lunch is also usually seen as a longer, social affair, sometimes taking up to two hours. There are chiringuitos dotted down most of the beach stretch. Chiringuito El Cachalote is one of the best, but nearly all of them serve up freshly grilled sardines, fish, and seafood cooked on the coals in old boats.
Enjoying lunch in a chiringuito on the beach is a must in Malaga. Pick a favorite from the menu or ask what the fresh fish of the day is. If it’s priced by weight then be sure to ask the approximate size of the fish, to avoid any nasty surprises when the bill arrives.
Take a stroll in a wonderful park
Fed and watered, it’s time to take a 30-minute walk back into the Historic Quarter of the city. To see more of the city, you can walk through Parque De Malaga after leaving the port area. This city green space was opened in 1897 and houses a variety of plants, some fountains, and many benches to enjoy some shade on. It is centered around three 800m long paths and provides a refreshing and relaxing way to get from the city to the port and beach area.
Set some time aside for Picasso
Once in the Historic Quarter, head to the Picasso Museum. Opened in 2003, the Picasso Museum became one of the catalysts behind Malaga’s development into the vibrant arts and cultural city that it is today. The museum houses over 4,000 works of his, of which 285 were donated by his family. Tickets start from €9 per adult for the permanent exhibition and here you can get tickets in advance. Allow at least one hour to fully explore the museum and all that it offers.
Get lost in Malaga
You’re now in a great position to go off and explore the historical part of the city. There are numerous small alleys, large open streets, and squares which can only be seen by getting lost in this part of Malaga. Countless souvenir, gift, and clothing shops call these streets home, so if you’re looking to take something home then this is where to find it.
If you have time then go into Malaga Cathedral. Tickets cost €5 each for entry inside and are well worth it to see the magnificent interior which includes walls adorned with gothic artworks and two spectacular organs.
Enjoy a well-deserved dinner
After taking a well-earned rest, head out for a late dinner, as the Spaniards do. It’s once again common to go out to dinner past 9 pm in Spain and well beyond. You will find that most restaurants are empty of locals before this time.
For dinner, enjoy a mix of traditional and creative tapas dishes at La Barra de Zapata, located just a minute or two from the Cathedral. The service here is great and amazingly friendly, which alongside the quality of the food, makes it one of the best restaurants in Malaga. The menu may look limited at first glance, but there is a great range of dishes taking influence from Spanish and international ingredients. Alongside its regular menu, the restaurant also has daily specials to mix things up.
Head out for a drink
For an after-dinner drink, walk just a few minutes to Calle Granada or Plaza del Siglo, where there are numerous bars and a buzzing atmosphere at night. Tables spill out onto the streets here and beer, wine and gin are drunk well into the early hours of the morning. If you’re not accustomed to Spanish drinks then make sure you try Sangria or Tinto de verano, both drinks based on red wine but fruitier and lighter.
Where to stay in Malaga city
The Urban Jungle Hostel
Calle Niño de Guevara 8, Malaga Centro, 29008 Malaga
Located in the heart of Malaga’s historical quarter, Urban Jungle hostel is perfect for anyone looking for a cool, inexpensive and well-located accommodation option. Rooms are light, airy, and modern and include dormitory options as well as private doubles and family rooms. The hostel has a terrace and shared kitchen too.
Calle Puerta del Mar Nº 15, Malaga Centro, 29005 Malaga
If you want a bit more space but still want to be in the heart of the city, Halcyon Days apartments are just what you need. This block of six apartments is located near the market and Calle Larios shopping street. Thereare several apartment types to choose from, but all have been beautifully decorated and include a kitchen, washing machine, and everything you need for a comfortable stay.
Hotel Molina Lario
Molina Lario, 20-22, Malaga Centro, 29015 Málaga
Often considered one of the best hotels in Malaga, this four-star hotel is situated just a stone’s throw from Malaga’s Cathedral. Family-owned, the hotel is sophisticated and has recently been tastefully renovated in a contemporary and elegant style. The rooftop bar and pool, alongside the first-class service, make this hotel one of the best places to stay in the city.
Gran Hotel Miramar
Paseo de Reding, 22, Malaga Centro, 29016 Malaga
If you want some true luxury, Gran Hotel Miramar will make all your dreams come true. Just a few steps from the beach, the hotel has an incredible garden, a spa center, a pool, and a whole lot of other features that will make sure you have a wonderful time. The rooms have a fantastic view, and they come with Bulgari toiletries. Luxury at its very finest.
Day trips from Malaga
Botanical Gardens (Jardin Botanico – Histórico La Concepción)
Located north of Malaga, a visit to the Botanical Gardens is a great way to escape the city rush. Getting there takes 15-20 min by car or taxi or 4 5min by bus. The gardens were originally built in 1855 and cover 23 hectares. Amongst the mature trees, you’ll find tropical gardens, a cactus garden, lily ponds, and a small cafe serving up reasonably priced home-cooked lunches. Allow at least two hours to cover the gardens or longer if you’re wanting to have lunch and take the hiking trail. Entry costs €5.20 per adult.
An hour’s car journey or bus ride southwest of Malaga, Marbella is a coastal resort town that boasts a great beach, a small old town, and a beautiful promenade. It is widely associated with its newer developments but has much more to offer. Highlights of the town include the remains of its medieval walls in the Old Town, Alameda Park, La Encarnación Catholic Church, its many beaches, and its boutique shops.
Caminito del Rey Trail
Once considered one of the most dangerous pathways in the world, the Caminito del Rey trail was built across the El Chorro gorge in the early 20th century, to make it easier to access and bring materials across. In 2014, it underwent a significant renovation to make it safer and is now a popular hiking attraction. It is located around a one-hour drive or a 45-minute train journey from Malaga and tickets cost €10 each. The pathway is around 7km long and sits 100 meters up, on the edge of the cliff face. The path is now fully safe to walk along and most of it has handrails. A return bus back to the entrance is available once you have finished the walk if you would prefer not to walk back. If you’re looking for a thrill and the chance to see some amazing scenery, then this is the perfect day out from Malaga city.
Extra tips for visiting Malaga
– If you’re looking to explore further afield from Malaga or are coming in from another area of Spain via their fantastic train network, use Trainline Europe to book train tickets in advance. This is the best way to see a simple overview of train times and durations and get the best prices.
– If you’re arriving at Malaga airport take either a taxi or a bus to get into the city center. A taxi will take around 15min and cost €25-€30. The Linea Express A leaves from outside departures every 30 min and runs into the city center with several stops on the way, taking around 15-25min. Tickets cost €3 per person.
Make sure you have everything you need
What to pack for your next trip?
Make your next trip as simple and as enjoyable as possible by packing smart. It’s amazing how much stress top travel items can save you, so choose carefully.
Things like lightweight travel backpacks, for example, are ideal for short trips and allow you to move around with ease, and a passport holder will make sure you keep your documents safe at all times.
Check our travel checklist guide for 2021 to make sure you haven’t missed anything, and travel to your next destination in style and with maximum comfort.