Malaga is the classic destination for a successful holiday in Spain. The city with a mild climate, with 300 sunny days a year, with fortresses, castles, cathedrals, orange flavor, parrots flying free, and Arab influences is the perfect getaway in any season.
The relief is not something to neglect either. That’s because Malaga is beautifully surrounded by mountains and the two rivers that flow directly into the Mediterranean, Guadalmedina, and Guadalhorce. Guadal means river in Arabic.
Malaga has a troubled and extremely interesting past.
Among the things to know about Malaga is the fact that it has been ruled throughout history by Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Visigoths, and Arabs who came from the north coast of Africa. Since 1487, Malaga has become a Christian settlement again, and so it remains until now.
But all nations have left their marks on the city. The most visible are the Oriental influences. These can be found especially in architecture and gastronomy.
You can learn more about Andalusian culture if you visit the city during the festivals. In Malaga, important personalities were born.
The most famous names are Pablo Picasso and Antonio Banderas. The first one even has two museums dedicated to the painter.
13 Best things to do in Malaga
1. Visit the Roman Theater
The oldest construction in Malaga is situated at the foot of the Alcazaba fortress.
Therefore, you should visit both at the same time. Add Gibralfaro castle, and it’s gonna take around half a day to do them all.
The Roman theater was built during Emperor Augustus. And it was used until the third century, then completely abandoned until the Moorish came to Andalusia.
Later, it was covered with earth, so these extremely valuable elements from the history of the city were buried.
Until 1951, when the ruins were discovered and presented to the public to be admired. They were surprisingly very well preserved, despite the centuries.
You can still distinguish the three elements that made up the whole ensemble: the scene, the usual seats, and the VIP seats.
The price of a ticket to Alcazaba is 3.5 €, and if you add the Gibralfaro castle to the list of things to see in Malaga, then you have to pay another 2 €.
2. Admire the Fortress Alcazaba
If you are wondering what to visit in Malaga, a very good answer would be Alcazaba.
The old and imposing Moorish fortress was built at the beginning of the 11th century, during the reign of Abd-al-Rahman I, the first Emir of Cordoba.
Alcazaba means fortress in Arabic, and the oriental influences are very impregnated between the brick walls.
Arches, towers, columns, artesian fountains, mosaic-plated pool, weapons, all are evidence of the Islamic era in Malaga. But my favorites are the gardens, beautifully decorated.
Although not as famous as the fortress in Granada or the one in Seville, Alcazaba is about 300 years older than the two.
Which makes it a little more mysterious and gives it an extra value. It’s one of the best attractions in Malaga.
3. Climb to Gibralfaro Castle
The last of the series of historical sites in Malaga is Gibralfaro Castle. The one situated on a hill that seems to watch over the entire city.
In the past, there used to be a road that links Alcazaba to Gibralfaro. However, now you have to use a bypass road to get here.
A long road with many steps, in which you will have to invest time and effort.
As a reward, you will receive, along the route, some viewpoints from where you can admire the beautiful panorama of Malaga.
Comfortable footwear and water for hydration are mandatory.
Mirador de Gibralfaro is the main viewpoint and the place where you can learn about the main buildings of the city. From here, you can see the bullfights, the port, the park, and part of the city.
Unlike Alcazaba, there are not many things to see at Gibralfaro. This is because it was built several centuries later. And the main purpose was to defend the Fortress Alcazaba.
The castle consists of a long string of high walls that you can walk on, a few towers, and a museum where you can admire military uniforms of different sizes.
⇒ Here you will find the best hotels in Malaga.
4. Visit the Picasso Museum
Pablo Picasso was born here in 1881, and also here he had his first attempts at painting, realizing some works that you can admire at the Picasso Museum inside the Buenavista Palace.
Opened in 2003, the museum displays a collection of 285 works of the great artist.
Most of them were donated by the painter’s family. You will be able to study closely the works done by the child, adolescent, and adult Picasso.
Some will come with audio narration to better understand the meaning of the images.
They were super useful, in my opinion. Especially since Picasso had an infinite imagination, and not necessarily the most common style.
Unfortunately, I cannot exemplify this with images, because the museum is guarded inside precisely to prevent the photographing of the works.
If you are a fan of art in general and especially if you love Picasso’s works or if you are interested in his less famous works, then this museum is for you, and it is worth to put it on the list of fun things to do in Malaga.
Otherwise, maybe you should skip it, especially if your holiday time in Malaga is limited.
The museum is opened daily, and the price for a classic ticket is 8 €.
5. Go to the Cathedral of Malaga
Whether you are attracted to religious buildings or not, you will surely like the Malaga Cathedral, built in place of a former mosque.
The Roman Catholic church beautifully combines three highly appreciated architectural styles: baroque, Renaissance, and gothic.
The project was started in 1528 and was completed 250 years later, more than enough time to build a true architectural masterpiece. However, is not completely finished, since one of the towers is still missing.
This detail gives the cathedral distinctive features and also the name of La Manquita (The One-Armed Lady).
The tower alone measures 84 meters high. This places the Cathedral of Malaga second in Andalusia, after La Giralda in Seville.
Even if you don’t visit the interior, the exterior is also gorgeous. It’s probably one of the most beautiful places to visit in Malaga.
6. Shopping at Mercado Central
One of the best things to do in Malaga is to visit the market. The most famous market in Malaga is open daily, except Sunday, between 8 in the morning and 3 in the afternoon.
Therefore, consider this program strictly if you want to discover what is behind the huge gate.
And not any gate, but the gate built by Abderramán III, being one of the 5 big gates of the city, built during the period when Malaga was under Arab domination.
If you arrive after 3 o’clock, as I did, you can be satisfied with an outside view.
7. Taste the sweets from Sabor a Espana
The 5-star shop on Tripadvisor was a very pleasant surprise during my holiday in Malaga.
There are a few in the city, and you will find them very easy. By the strong smell of good sweet.
Take a sheet and a pen and note: honey, jellies, walnuts, pineapple jam, fried caramel nuts, chocolate of all kinds, marzipan, dehydrated fruits, teas with soothing aromas.
Did you crave any of these? It is solved simply by a visit to Sabor a Espana.
8. Shopping for souvenirs
Each destination requires at least one souvenir. They may be kitsch, but they represent little symbols of your most successful vacations.
Shopping for souvenirs may be one of the fun things to do in Malaga. I can already think of a very diverse range of souvenirs here.
You can choose from fridge magnets with flamenco dancers, bulls made of mosaic, locally produced wine, extra virgin olive oil produced near the city, pottery painted with Andalusian motifs, or the name of the city, and the list can go on. I hope the pictures below inspire you.
9. Enjoy a Paella
Even if paella was invented in Valencia, and you will probably eat the best food with rice and seafood there, in Malaga you can enjoy the delicious preparation as well. Recommendation: Enjoy it with sangria, and success is guaranteed.
I recommend you go out for dinner, especially in the evening, when the city comes to life, and all the restaurants are full.
By the way, Malaga nightlife is amazing!!! Go to Calle Malaga and for sure you will find a restaurant to your liking.
For the best food in Malaga, go to one of these restaurants: El Gastronauta, Beluga, Plaza de Chinitas, or La Bouganvilla.
10. Take a walk through El Parque de Málaga
If you arrive in Malaga in the summer, you can consider the park as your refuge to cool off.
The vegetation is lush, and the huge exotic plants block the sun from entering and lighting the alleys, so you can shelter here from the suffocating heat.
Also, the park is adorned with numerous fountains and baroque sculptures that give it a special beauty, especially in contrast to the greenery around them.
11. Go to the beach
I wouldn’t say that going to the beach is the main reason to visit Malaga. But since they have a Blue Flag beach in the landscape, then you must not miss Malagueta.
Even if it means a simple evening walk on the very fine sand and a seafood dinner on one of the terraces set near the waves of the Mediterranean Sea.
12. Walk the streets in the downtown
The Malaga center is absolutely delightful, among the most beautiful I have seen. You will love the elegant buildings, neat and with splendid architecture, wide cobbled streets, decorated with palm trees.
It is as wonderful during the day as it is during the evening when the city seems to be even more lively.
Malaga is one of the favorite holiday destinations of the Spanish, French, and English, so you will see them having fun in the bars until later in the night.
One of the best things to do in Malaga is to walk on the streets and just enjoy the city.
In the center of Malaga, you will find many squares, decorated with artesian fountains and palm trees. My favorite is the Constitution Square.
Located right at the end of Calle Marqués de Larios, a very wide pedestrian alley, lined with your favorite shops and brands. It is one of the most beautiful places in Malaga.
13. Day trip to Caminito del Rey
One of the most dangerous routes in the world is Caminito del Rei (King’s Road), built on the edge of the El Chorro gorge.
The best part is that it is only an hour away from Malaga, so it represents the perfect day trip.
Caminito del Rei is 7.7 km long and was initially built to allow workers access to hydroelectric power stations in the area.
Construction began in 1901, and was completed in 1905. But in 1921 the King of Spain Alfonso XIII inaugurated the Conde del Guadalhorce dam.
In 2000, the route was closed for a long period due to a large number of deaths in the area. Later it was reconsolidated and reopened, and now is much safer.
However, if you don’t feel very adventurous or if you don’t have enough time to walk Caminito del Rei, you can come to the area to admire the emerald color of the lakes in the area.
Put on the map Mirador de Tres Emabalses and enjoy a sensational view.
Where to stay in Malaga
We stayed at a very nice apartment, located right in the center, very close to all the points of interest in the city.
Nearby, there is underground parking, in case you need one. The apartment is called iloftmalaga Casapalma and you will find it HERE