“Is Malaga worth visiting?” This was the question we asked ourselves before deciding to book our trip in January. We were a bit apprehensive due to its party reputation, but we stumbled upon a great deal on Ryanair and decided to take a chance. We figured at the very least, we could enjoy some warm weather, eat lots of tapas, and visit the birthplace of Picasso.
To our surprise, Malaga exceeded our expectations, and after just two days, we weren’t ready to leave. The city has so much to offer that we couldn’t fit everything into our itinerary. Allow me to share some of the reasons why we think Malaga is definitely worth a visit.
Note: This post contains affiliate links. Please see disclosure for more information.
- About Malaga
- History of Malaga
- Reasons to Visit Malaga
- #1 The Weather is Usually Warm and Sunny
- #2 You Can Learn More About Picasso
- #3 You Can See World-Class Contemporary Art
- #4 You Can Have a Beach Day (or Two)
- #5 You Can Visit Castles
- #6 You Can See Roman Ruins
- #7 The Food is Delicious
- #8 It Has Nightlife
- #9 The Cathedral is One of the Most Impressive in Spain
- #10 There are Many Day Trip Options
- When is the Best Time to Visit Malaga?
- How Long Should You Spend in Malaga?
- Where to Stay in Malaga
- Is Visiting Malaga Worth It?
- Expert Tips for Visiting Malaga
Malaga is located on the Costa del Sol in the Andalusia region in southern Spain. It is the capital of the Malaga province and the sixth largest city in Spain, with a modern airport (AGP) that offers frequent flights to major cities around the world.
The city is famous for its Mediterranean climate, vibrant cultural scene, lively atmosphere, and rich history (more on that below). Malaga is also a popular destination for beachgoers, with many beautiful beaches located along its coast.
When I think of Malaga, I think of Pablo Picasso because it was his birthplace. I also learned that one of my favorite actors, Antonio Banderas, is also from Malaga.
History of Malaga
Malaga has a rich and diverse history that dates back to 770 BC when the Phoenicians established a trading post. In the following centuries, the city fell under the control of the Carthaginians, the Romans, and the Visigoths.
During the Islamic period, which began in the 8th century and lasted more than 700 years, Malaga was an important center of trade and culture. You can see their influence in the Alcazaba, a fortress and palace complex that is still one of the city’s most iconic landmarks, and Gibralfaro Castle, which overlooks the city and provided protection from invaders.
After the Christian conquest of Malaga in 1487, the city underwent a period of significant growth and development. Many of Malaga’s most famous landmarks were built during this time, including the Malaga Cathedral, which was constructed over a period of 250 years.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, Malaga became a hub of industrial and economic activity, with the construction of a port and a railway network that connected the city to the rest of Spain. Today, Malaga is a thriving and cosmopolitan city, with a rich cultural heritage that is still evident in its architecture, art, and traditions.
Reasons to Visit Malaga
If you’re on the fence about visiting Malaga, let me persuade you with a few reasons to add this city to your travel list. It is easy to overlook Malaga, but it offers a unique blend of history, culture, and stunning natural scenery that’s worth exploring. Let me share with you some of the reasons why I believe Malaga is a must-visit destination.
#1 The Weather is Usually Warm and Sunny
If you are seeking sunny and warm weather, you can usually find it in Malaga. The city has a Mediterranean climate, with hot summers and mild winters.
In the summer months, from June to September, temperatures in Malaga can reach highs of 86°F and higher. This is the busiest season for tourism, as visitors come to enjoy the city’s beaches, nightlife, and outdoor activities.
During the winter months, from December to February, temperatures in Malaga are cooler, with average highs of around 60°F and lows of around 50°F. Although it can be rainy and windy during this season, it is still a good time to visit the city, as the cooler weather is ideal for exploring its cultural and historical attractions.
When we visited in January the weather felt perfect compared to what we were dealing with in England. We were even able to enjoy dinner comfortably outside with the help of heaters.
Spring and autumn are perhaps the best times to visit Malaga, with pleasant temperatures in the range of 68-77°F and lower humidity. It’s perfect for outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, and exploring the city’s parks and gardens.
#2 You Can Learn More About Picasso
If you’re a fan of Picasso, visiting Malaga will give you insight into his life and work. Not only was the famous artist born in the city, but there are also two museums dedicated to him.
The Picasso Museum in Malaga boasts an extensive collection of over 200 paintings, sculptures, and drawings, showcasing the full range of the artist’s career from his academic studies to his later experimental pieces. The museum is housed in a beautifully restored 16th-century palace in the heart of the city’s historic district, which adds to the ambiance of the museum experience.
It’s important to note that the Picasso Museum is a popular attraction, and you should book skip-the-line tickets in advance here to avoid waiting in line. Even during the offseason, we found a line at the entrance, but our advanced booking allowed us to breeze through.
An audio guide is included with your admission. It provides detailed insights into select pieces of the collection that includes more than 200 pieces of Picasso’s work including paintings, sculptures, and drawings covering 80 years of his work. If you are interested in learning more, you might want to book a guided tour here.
You can also visit Picasso’s birthplace museum, Casa Natal, which is inside the house where Picasso was born in 1881. It offers a glimpse into the artist’s early years and features a collection of personal items, family photographs, and a recreation of the rooms where the Picasso family lived. An audio guide is included with your admission (get advance tickets here) or you can book a guided tour here.
If you plan on visiting both the Museo Picasso Malaga and the Casa Natal Picasso Museum, you can save money on a combination ticket here. We went to both and if you are interested in Picasso, you should too. They are quite different and you will learn more about Picasso and his art at both museums.
#3 You Can See World-Class Contemporary Art
Malaga has become an exciting destination for contemporary art lovers with a growing number of museums and galleries showcasing the work of renowned international artists.
One of the most notable of these is the Centre Pompidou Malaga (book your tickets here), which opened in 2015. This branch of the renowned Centre Pompidou in Paris is housed in a unique building called The Cube, which is located in the port area of Malaga. The space showcases two or three themed or monographic temporary exhibitions each year.
During our visit to the Centre Pompidou Malaga, we were captivated by the “Un Tiempo Propio” (One’s Own Time) exhibition. The galleries seamlessly brought together the diverse segments of the Centre Pompidou’s collection, including photography, design, architecture, and video. The artwork on display not only appealed to our visual senses but also stimulated us to question how we manage our time and priorities.
Another must-visit is The CAC (Contemporary Art Center) Malaga which is located in the old Malaga Wholesale Market, designed in 1927 by Luis Gutiérrez de Soto and built in 1939. It opened in 2003 with a focus on becoming a reference point for contemporary art in Europe. The collection focuses on 20th and 21st century international art with a focus on artistic trends from the 1950s to the present. It is free to visit the CAC.
While it’s not a contemporary art museum, if you are a fan of Spanish art, you should check out The Museo Carmen Thyssen in Malaga. Opened in 2011, the museum is located in the beautiful 16th century Palacio de Villalón. The permanent collection offers a great insight into traditional Andalusian life, showcasing works from the 19th and 20th centuries. In addition to the permanent collection, the museum also hosts fantastic temporary exhibitions. You can book skip-the-line tickets in advance here.
I should also mention we did notice several wonderful murals during our time walking around Malaga. Next time, we will have to make more of an effort to seek out the street art.
#4 You Can Have a Beach Day (or Two)
If you like spending time at the beach, Malaga is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Spain. With crystal clear waters, golden sands, and a wide range of water activities, Malaga’s beaches are perfect for anyone who loves to soak up the sun and have fun in the water. Just be sure to bring your sunscreen!
One of the most popular beaches in Malaga is Playa de la Malagueta, which is located only a 10-15 minute walk from the city center. Although it can get crowded, the beach is definitely worth a visit. You can enjoy swimming, sunbathing, and relaxing on the soft sand while taking in the stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea.
Adjacent to Playa de la Malagueta you will find Playa de La Caleta. This beach is set along an affluent neighborhood with several beach bars. You can spend your day sunbathing, enjoy a variety of water sports, or just take a dip in the crystal clear waters.
Further east there is Playa de el Palo. It may be smaller than other beaches, but you can still enjoy the sand and waves. The atmosphere is more relaxed making it a popular fishing spot. This is the place to get espetos (sardines on skewers cooked on a barbecue made from an old fishing boat).
#5 You Can Visit Castles
As I may have mentioned before on this blog, I love castles and Malaga has two that tower over the city center. You can visit both the Alcazaba and Gibralfaro Castle on a combined ticket (just buy it on arrival) and save a few euros. It includes an audio guide that can be played on your smartphone.
The Alcazaba, a stunning example of Moorish architecture, was constructed in the 11th century and stands as a testament to the region’s history. The Nasrid Palaces, reminiscent of those found in The Alhambra, are among the castle’s most fascinating features. Visitors to the Alcazaba can explore numerous towers and gardens. From the fortress’s pinnacle, you can marvel at the panoramic views of the city below.
A bit higher atop the hill overlooking the city of Malaga, the Castillo de Gibralfaro offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. Dating back to the 14th century, this magnificent castle served as a military stronghold for centuries. Today, you can climb to the top of the castle’s towers and walk along the walls to take in panoramic vistas of the city and the countryside beyond.
To reach Gibralfaro Castle, take the road called Paseo de Juan Temboury, by the entrance to the Alcazaba, and head uphill. Although the climb is steep and challenging, we took it slow and enjoyed the scenery. You’ll come across a viewpoint roughly two-thirds of the way up. If you prefer, you could opt for a bus or taxi instead of walking.
#6 You Can See Roman Ruins
Given Malaga’s history goes back to ancient times, you might not be surprised to see ruins of a Roman amphitheatre in the old town area. The crazy thing is that it was only discovered in 1951.
While walking around the plaza next to the amphitheatre, you may notice that you can see some of the foundations through glass panels. Still, I would encourage you to go into the site to learn more especially since it is free to visit.
They have a small exhibition with historical information and a few archaeological discoveries found at the site. After enjoying the exhibition, you can explore the Roman theatre, although some areas were roped off when we visited.
Also, you will find the Malaga sign photo spot behind the Roman Theatre.
#7 The Food is Delicious
Malaga’s cuisine is a testament to its location in Andalusia and the many cultures that have influenced it over the centuries, including Arabic, Jewish, and Roman. With fresh seafood, bold flavors, and local ingredients, the cuisine here is a feast for the senses.
To fully immerse ourselves in the vibrant food culture of Malaga, we decided to take a tapas and wine tour. Our guide, Javi, took us to four different bars, including the city’s oldest one, Antigua Casa de Guardia. He even gave us a pamphlet with recommendations for more restaurants to try during our stay.
Our guide, Javi, was attentive to everyone’s needs and made sure to ask if anyone in our group had any dietary restrictions. He was happy to make adjustments to the tour to ensure that everyone could enjoy the food and drinks without any issues.
Throughout the tour, we tried eight different tapas and paired them with five distinct wines. I particularly enjoyed the croquetas, eggplant, and fried fish. By the end of the tour, we were all full and satisfied, although some of our group continued their night with more drinks at a rooftop bar nearby.
Find out more about the tour here.
#8 It Has Nightlife
Malaga is a vibrant and exciting city with a lively nightlife that offers something for everyone. The city has a wide range of bars, clubs, and music venues, making it an attractive destination for night owls and party-goers.
One of the most popular areas for nightlife in Malaga is the old town where you will find people in the streets enjoying drinks and socializing until the early hours of the morning.
Those who enjoy dancing can check out Malaga’s many nightclubs that play a range of music, from electronic and techno to Latin and reggaeton. Some of the most popular nightclubs in the city include Velvet, Sala Gold, and Gallery Club. It’s important to keep in mind that dinner is served later in many parts of Spain, which means that these establishments may not get busy until after midnight.
If bars and nightclubs aren’t your thing, you can check out some of the cultural events that take place at night, such as flamenco shows, live music concerts, and theater performances.
#9 The Cathedral is One of the Most Impressive in Spain
The Malaga Cathedral, nicknamed “La Manquita” due to its missing tower, is a stunning example of Baroque-Renaissance architecture that is sure to leave you in awe. It has a rich history dating back to the 16th century, having undergone several modifications and additions over the years.
Built on the site of the former main mosque of the city after the Catholic Monarchs conquered Malaga, the cathedral was designed as an outward display of Castilian power. It has a dramatic façade with an equally impressive interior with soaring ceilings, ornate altarpieces, beautiful stained glass windows, intricate wood carvings, large paintings, and two magnificent 18th century organs.
You will need to pay admission to go inside the Malaga Cathedral which includes an audio tour that can be played from your smartphone. For an additional fee, you can also climb the 200 steps to the roof of the cathedral, for a different perspective on the church’s construction and panoramic views of Malaga.
We spent about 1.5 hours admiring the inside of Malaga Cathedral. If you prefer, there are also guided tours available which can be booked here.
#10 There are Many Day Trip Options
Malaga makes an excellent base for day trips because of its proximity to other popular destinations in southern Spain. With a reliable public transportation system, it’s easy to explore other cities and towns in the region without having to worry about renting a car.
One of the top day trip options from Malaga is Granada, which is home to the famous Alhambra palace and fortress complex. You can wander through the beautifully manicured gardens, admire the architectural details, and learn about the fascinating history of this important UNESCO World Heritage Site on this tour.
You also have the option to visit Seville for a day as it is only 2.5 hours away from Malaga by train. Some of the top sights to see in Seville include the Alcazar, a royal palace that dates back to the 14th century and is a UNESCO World Heritage site, the towering Giralda bell tower, and the Cathedral of Seville. With this tour, everything is organized for you.
Another popular day trip destination is Ronda, a picturesque hilltop town that offers views of the surrounding countryside, including the famous El Tajo gorge. In Ronda, visitors can explore ancient ruins, visit historic churches and museums, and sample local wine and cuisine. This tour takes you to Rhonda and one of the most beautiful towns in Andalusia, Setenil de las Bodegas.
If you want to be more adventurous, you can do a day trip to Tangier in Morocco. You can take a ferry across Straits of Gibraltar then be charmed by the Kasbah, visit a lively souk, bargain at a bazaar, and enjoy a meal at a local restaurant with live music. Find out more about it here.
Other day trip possibilities from Malaga include the charming town of Antequera, the seaside resort town of Nerja, and the historic city of Cordoba with its stunning Mezquita mosque-cathedral (check out this tour to Cordoba).
When is the Best Time to Visit Malaga?
Although summer is the peak tourist season in Malaga, visiting during the spring or fall can have its advantages. The temperatures are generally milder, making it more comfortable to explore the city’s attractions without the intense heat of the summer months. Additionally, visiting during the shoulder season means fewer crowds, which translates to shorter wait times and a more relaxed atmosphere.
How Long Should You Spend in Malaga?
The amount of time you should spend in Malaga depends on your interests and the activities you want to do while you’re there. We only had two days which wasn’t enough, so in general we think you should try to allow at least 3-4 days in the city.
During this time, you can explore the historic old town, visit museums, sample the local cuisine, relax on the beaches, and enjoy the vibrant nightlife. If you stay four or more days, you might be able to fit in a day trip too.
Where to Stay in Malaga
If you want to make the most out of your time in Malaga, staying in the city center is highly recommended. By doing so, you’ll have easy access to top attractions, such as the beach, as well as great restaurants and lively nightlife spots, all within walking distance. To help you plan your stay, we’ve compiled a list of our top picks for accommodations in the heart of Malaga.
AC Hotel Málaga Palacio by Marriott
The Málaga Palacio by Marriott is located in the heart of the city, between the Málaga Cathedral and the Paseo del Parque, offering an unbeatable location for exploring all that Malaga has to offer. Plus, you can earn or use Marriott Bonvoy points.
One of the highlights of the hotel is Ático, the bar and restaurant on the 15th floor terrace. Here, you can enjoy incredible views of the city and the Mediterranean while sipping on a refreshing drink or taking a dip in the rooftop pool. This is the perfect spot to cool off during the hot summer months.
Additionally, the hotel offers complimentary wireless internet throughout the property, as well as bottled water and coffee in the rooms. And when it comes to dining, guests can enjoy an exquisite menu designed by the distinguished chef Joaquín Muñoz at the hotel’s restaurant. The menu fuses the best of international cuisine with a touch of the Mediterranean gastronomic tradition of Malaga,
Check price and availability here.
Read more reviews on Tripadvisor here.
The Madeinterranea Suites is another hotel perfectly located in the center of the city, offering easy access to all the top attractions that Málaga has to offer.
Each room is thoughtfully equipped with a desk, TV, private bathroom, air-conditioning, and a safety deposit box to ensure guests’ comfort and convenience. Free bikes and free WiFi are also provided to help you explore the city and stay connected with loved ones back home.
When staying at Madeinterranea Suites, you can start your day with a delicious buffet breakfast with continental and vegetarian options. After a day of sightseeing, you can unwind and relax in the hotel’s shared lounge.
Check price and availability here.
Read more reviews on Tripadvisor here.
Apartamentos Pinar Malaga Centro
During our short stay in the city, we had the pleasure of staying in one of the Pinar apartments. It came with everything we needed including free Wi-Fi, air-conditioning, a private bathroom, living-dining room with a sofa, TV, and a fully equipped kitchen.
They helped to arrange a taxi to meet us at the airport and bring us to the apartment and then the rest of the time in Malaga we were able to walk everywhere, including to the train station. There were also plenty of restaurants and cafes close by.
While we loved our apartment and the amenities it provided, we did find that the noise from the street outside could be a bit disruptive to our sleep, despite the comfortable beds. However, this minor inconvenience didn’t detract from our overall positive experience at Apartamentos Pinar Málaga Centro, and we would happily stay there again in the future.
Check price and availability here.
Read more reviews on Tripadvisor here.
Is Visiting Malaga Worth It?
Yes, Malaga is definitely worth visiting for its rich history and culture, beautiful coastline, and renowned cuisine. The city offers a perfect blend of landmarks, museums, beaches, and pleasant weather that make it a top destination to visit in Spain. Whether you are interested in exploring the museums, soaking up the sun on the beaches, or indulging in delicious Andalusian cuisine, Malaga has something to offer for everyone.
Grab your free printable trip planning checklist here and organize your own trip to Malaga.
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