Top [and free] things to do in Málaga

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Things to do in Malaga 1

Málaga and it’s (probably more than) 50 shades of blue.

Málaga surprised us in many ways. 300 sunny days per year, calm beaches, fresh barbecued sardines and a lively nightlife. These are just some of the top things to do in Málaga! We knew we would have a great time there, but we didn’t expect to love it so much!

To start the conversation let me say one thing: the weather in Costa del Sol is perfect. It means that whenever you plan to travel to Málaga you’ll get beautiful and warm days. It’s the sixth-largest city in Spain, but when we were there it felt like we were in a small cheerful city.

For me, Málaga is a small and cool version of Barcelona. Perfect for smart, cultural, party and budget travelers. Plan to stay there during the weekend and enjoy the admission free Sundays to all the top things to do Málaga.

Playa de la Malagueta, in Malaga.

Playa de la Malagueta.

Playa de la Malagueta is one of Málaga’s postcards. Located in the central area of the city, it’s a place you can swim, relax under the sun and even do some workout. And that was exactly what we did, our first tourist activity was running at the beach promenade, doing some exercises while enjoying the Mediterranean sea view.

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We got tanned!

Now that we have already enjoyed the beach (one of our addictions) let’s talk about the top things to do in Málaga. The list is pretty big with attractions for all tastes, ages, and pockets. As we are big fans of food and wine, don’t be surprised if eating & drinking is one of the highly ranked activities on our list.

 

Top things to do in Málaga [and tips to free attractions]

» Explore the old town

Sunny golden streets, cafes, souvenirs and fashion shops. The old town is a mix of antique architecture and a new style of life. Tiny streets packed with restaurants and bars, in every corner some ancient building showing a little bit more of the Spanish culture. You will never get bored exploring the old town and it’s one of the best free things to do in Málaga.

 

» Bodega Bar El Pimpi & Málaga Sweet Wine

You must visit Bodega El Pimpi, an icon of Málaga’s social and cultural life. The 18th-century building is decorated in a Spanish style with red and white dots. On the walls photographs of intellectuals, artists, international singers and many football players. All of them visited Bodega El Pimpi and left their signature on the wine barrels. The tradition is kept alive, the new generation of Spanish artists still go there for cultural meetings and flamenco nights.

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Bodega Bar El Pimpi’s cool wall.

Bodega El Pimpi is one of the best places to try the Sweet Wine produced in Málaga. Made out of Moscatel grapes the local wine production dates back to the roman empire. The sweet and strong Málaga wine represents the city’s soul. Some people love it from the very first time, others just need time to get used to it!

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Sweet wine goes well with a sweet smile 🙂

After one, two, or maybe three glasses of wine you will be ready to discover more things to do in Málaga.

Don’t forget to buy your Travel Insurance!

We use and recommend World Nomads and SafetyWing, click on the name of the company and book your insurance now. If you need more information read our Travel Insurance Guide here.

 

» Málaga Cathedral

This is an imposing building in the middle of the old town. The construction took place between 1528 and 1782. The original plan was to build two big towers, but due to the lack of money they were able to finish just one.

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Málaga Cathedral.

Called “La Manquita” which means “one-armed woman” the church is a great example of Renaissance architecture and it’s so beautiful that you don’t even realize there is a tower missing.

 

» Roman Theater

This is the oldest monument in Málaga, and it’s in the heart of the city.

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Roman Theater.

Built in the 3rd Century, the theater is now open to the tourists with an interactive exposition, another free attraction in Málaga.

 

» Alcazaba and Gibralfaro Castle

On top of the hill, just beside the Roman Theater, are Alcazaba and Gibralfaro Castle, two huge Moorish fortresses that overlook the city. Visiting these two places is a must in Málaga. Be smart: the entrance is free on Sundays after 2 pm.

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Alcazaba.

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Gibralfaro Castle.

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alcazaba is one of the best-preserved Moorish fortress in Spain. The view from the walls is to die for. You can see Malagueta Beach, the port, Plaza de Toros, and Málaga’s bullring from there.

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What a view!

 

» Seafood BBQ

As I already said: the beaches in Málaga are amazing. Not only for sunbathing or swimming, but for eating as well! One of the biggest seaside attractions is the grilled sardines. When walking around the beach promenade you’ll find lots of restaurants serving amazing seafood literally on the sand.

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That’s right, great seafood being served on the sand.

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My birthday feast, yay!

To celebrate my birthday (yeahhh, we were in Málaga when I turned 31), we stopped at one of them and ordered the super famous barbecued sardines. OMG!! It was delicious!!! On our table there was a big jar of sangria, some anchovies, Spanish olives and grilled fish! What a feast!!

I recommend you going to the beach for lunch. There is nothing better than delicious Spanish food, amazing seaview and the possibility of having a siesta (nap) afterward. Believe me, it’s a great experience approved by me and Rob that slept under in the shadow of a tree for almost an hour.

Do you know you can rent a house, a boat, a castle or a room on Airbnb? Curious? Sign up here and get a discount on your first booking!

 

» Pier 1 and The Palm Grove of Surprises – Málaga’s Port

In 2011 some renovations transformed the port quay into a recreation and commerce center. Shops, restaurants and bars are lined in front of the bay.

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Muelle Uno.

The Quay 2 was turned into a stunning promenade called The Palm Grove of Surprises. Designed by the architect Jerónimo Junqueira, the massive central pergola changed the landscape. Surrounded by a green garden, this area became one of the new attractions in Málaga. Pick one of the bars around the pier to enjoy the sunset.

 

» Paseo de España

The palm tree park lays in between the old town and the new port. Created in the 1890’s, the park is famous for its exotic plants and music shows that happen every Sunday at lunchtime. This is another great free thing to do in Málaga, go there and have fun with the locals.

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The flowery Paseo de España.

 

» Botanical Garden La Concepcion

Still talking about nature (and that is one of the best assets of the city) the Botanical Garden is a highly recommended place to visit in Málaga. It’s a bit far from the old town, but there are regular buses to take you there. Flowers, sculptures, a waterfall and mansions… A beautiful place.

 

» Picasso Museum Málaga – Museum and Casa Natal

We always save the best for last! Actually, we save the best for Sundays!

If you don’t know Pablo Picasso was born in the heart of Málaga, now you know. Proud of his famous son, the city has a museum that stands tribute to Picasso. It’s open from Tuesday to Sunday and the admission costs €10, except for Sundays from 6 to 8 pm, when it’s free of charge.

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Picasso Museum Málaga.

At Plaza de La Merced, in another corner of the old town, you will find Casa Natal, Picasso’s birthplace. The permanent exposition shows his first works of art, some ceramics he made and many objects from his childhood. It’s really nice to visit it and learn a bit more about his life. On Sundays is the top free thing to do in Málaga.

 

» Dine out and enjoy the nightlife

To end a wonderful day in Málaga there is nothing better than some tapas. The old town is full of nice restaurants and bars, you can also find great food and some party mood at Plaza de La Merced. Forget about starters and main courses, if you are in Spain tapas are a must-have during the day or night. 

You will try a massive variety of seafood, bread and dips and finger food. Try them all, you won’t regret it! For drinks, have some Spanish wine or caña (a small glass of beer). Dinner is just the start of it, in Málaga no one goes home early, the bars and clubs rock until the morning light.

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Cheers!

After a couple of super busy days, we realized that we will have to go back to this lovely city. There are so many things to do in Málaga that our next stay will have to be at least one week longer. I would love to have more time to enjoy the beaches, the food and study Spanish.

 

Where to stay in Málaga

For an affordable, but clean and cozy hostel in Málaga, go for Dulces Dreams Boutique Hostel.

Another option is Petit Palace Plaza Málaga that offers great service, modern rooms and superb location.

But if you are looking for something more luxurious with a swimming pool and an incredible view of the old town, Molina Lario Hotel is your choice. It´s ranked as the 3rd Best Hotel in Málaga on Tripadvisor.

For more options of hotels in Málaga check TripAdvisor & Booking.com, you can filter them by location, price, reviews, etc…

We enjoy staying with locals so we booked our room with Airbnb again. If you have never rented a room or an apartment through Airbnb, click on the link above to make your first booking and get a $20 USD discount.

We had an amazing time during our stay in a nice apartment at Plaza de La Merced with Nat & Dave, a lovely British couple. They even went out with us to celebrate my birthday! Thanks, guys!!!

 

Moving Around Málaga

Walk or rent a bicycle! The city is so pretty that you don’t want to spend time in taxis. Not a big fan of walking? No worries, buses are perfect there, they are cheap and reliable. On the bus company’s website you can find all the lines, maps and timetables.

 

How to get to Málaga?

Málaga has a busy airport that connects to most European countries. The budget airlines also fly there (check rates here!). Buses around Spain are great too, we traveled by bus from Cabo de Gata (Almeria) to Málaga and the trip was fine (and cheap).

You can also get to Málaga by train. If you love traveling by train consider buying a Eurail Pass.

Are you ready to enjoy all the amazing things to do in Málaga? Then start planning your trip now and if you need extra info drop us a message. Enjoy Spain!

Looking for more travel tips to Spain? Read our guides to Spain here!

59 Comments

  1. Hi Love Birds!

    Hope you both are doing well, my list of places to visit is getting bigger and bigger, thank you for excellent recommendations!

    P.S. Nat I love that dress you are wearing 😉

    Annie ox

  2. Hi Annie!!

    We are fine, thanks! Already missing Chiang Mai :-(, but ready for some action here in Cambodia!

    You guys should visit Málaga and all the south of Spain, it’s absolutely beautiful!! The dress I was wearing is my only fancy dress I have now. It saves my look every time I don´t want to feel and dress like a full time traveller. 😀

    Hope to see you soon!
    Happy travels babies!
    Nat

  3. You don’t have to sell ME on Malaga — I love that place 😀 visited about 7 years ago and after the past 3 weeks of no sun we’ve had here in Germany, I could definitely go for a few of those 300 days a year Malaga has 🙂

  4. Great read about an alternative to all of the better known Spanish destinations!

    Some of those pictures are making me very envious (despite typing this from the Caribbean)!

    1. Hi Chris!

      Are you writing from the Caribbean? That´s sounds awesome too!
      We spent a month travelling around the Spanish Mediterranean Coast and we discovered many lovely places. Perfect Destinations for those who LOVE Sun & Sea!!

      Happy travels!
      🙂
      Nat

  5. So glad to have found your blog, Natalie! I was at a party on the weekend, and a couple there was bragging about their visit to Málaga! I’d never heard about it before, but they showed me on the map where it is and I’m intrigued. I’ve been to Spain 3x, but still haven’t made it to the Costa del Sol. I wonder if they have any good chocolate?!

  6. I havent been to Malaga, Spain yet but few of my friends have, already and I heard only great stories and about awesome experiences they had there.

    I have to visit it! What is the weather like in Malaga now, on December?

    1. One thing about Malaga and the rest of the Costa Tropical area is that you’ll have the mildest of Decembers. Last December I was still in shorts and T-Shirts. The days are usually sunny. The winters get a wind that can be cold but after awhile you figure out where to go to avoid it should it be blowing. In the old town, they put up a nice display of Christmas lights over the main walking street that goes toward the port. It’s very nice at that time of year to visit.

      1. Thanks for the tips and info Ed!
        Malaga is truly a great destination during summer and winter time, a perfect spot to escape from the cold weather in other parts of Europe!
        Cheers,
        Nat

  7. Thanks Trisha!!

    It is not that easy to keep fit and looking nice on the road, but Málaga is the perfect place for workout and be outdoor!

    I didn’t take classes with Solingua team because we were there for just a couple of days and during the weekend. But we are considering to do the one month course next summer when we head back to Europe! I deffinetly need to improve my Spanish! 🙂

    Nat

    1. You definitely need to visit Málaga, is such a beautiful and nice place to stay a couple of days or maybe a week if you want to explore the nice cities and beaches around.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Nat 🙂

  8. Great pics! Great post!
    Glad you loved our city! Malaga has been in the shadows for too long. 2015 is going to be a great year for Malaga.
    If you come back again, give us a shout.
    Lisa @familyinspain

    1. Hi Lisa!!!

      Thank you very much! 😀
      I´m sure Málaga deserves much more travel posts and trip recommendations, it´s a awesome place. We love it, and definitely next visit will be for a week at least.
      We don´t have plans for the next summer, but if we go to Spain I would love to meet you!

      All the best!
      Nat

  9. Malaga looks like so much fun! I recently got back from Barcelona and came back just wanting to tour the rest of Spain! I had no idea there was a Picasso Museum there, how cool, looks like Malaga has got a great mix of things to do. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    1. Hey Mel!
      For me Malaga is a small and quiet version of Barcelona. The beach, the party, the food and the culture. It has everything with a cheaper price tag comparing with Barcelona.
      Worth to visit!
      Cheers,
      Nat

  10. Ohhhh everyone keeps rubbing it in our faces what we are missing out on in Malaga. Look at that seafood BBQ and with sangria – heavenly!!! I am bookmarking this post and I swear next time we are in Europe – we WILL make it to Malaga!

    1. Megsy you NEED to go to Malaga, definitely!!!
      It’s such a great atmospheres that I could live there! And don´t even start talking about food, the seafood BBQ is just the starter!
      😀
      Safe journey, how to see you soon!
      Nat

  11. You had me at ‘small and cooler Barcelona’ haha! I’ve always wanted to go to Malaga but didn’t know too much about it so this was really useful. I wanna drive around all of Spain so I’ll save this for future reference!

    1. Drive around Spain… Now I’m jealous!!!
      Malaga is really nice, and as you are by car, also check out Cabo de Gata Natural Park, we have been there last year, three days discovering wild beaches, hiking with sea view and relaxing… Mojacar is a beautiful tiny village in the park… Check it out!

      Happy Travels,
      Nat

  12. Malaga looks amazing! Well Spain in general is epic, and there are so many places to discover and explore. 😀 My boyfriend loves this country and I look forward to our adventure next year.

  13. Hi love birds! Thanks for list of the things to do in Malaga. I have there some friends but I thought it’s rather smaller town without too many sights. Now I see you explored it quite a lot! I will keep your list on mind then I go there.
    PS: Interesting that the cathedral is smaller than planned.

    1. Hi Veronika!!!
      Good to see you here!
      If you have friends in Malaga don’t waste time and enjoy the summer there. The city is really nice, a mini version of Barcelona!
      Love it!
      All the best sweet!
      Nat

  14. Great post! In the UK Malaga is kind of seen as a beach destination which obviously after reading your post is so unfair – there are lots of things to do in the city as well as having a beer on the beach of course!

    1. You are right Sophie, most of people think about Malaga as just a beach destination. But actually the city is super lively, full of culture, attractions and history. Really worth the visit!
      All the best,
      Nat

    1. You are welcome Jennifer!!
      Spain is full of amazing places, especially in the mediterranean coast.
      Málaga is on my list the places I want to go back, maybe next summer!
      All the best,
      Nat

  15. Hey there, thank u for this very informative n doable post. We r 2 families going to marbella with toddlers! Do u know if the bars n pubs r child friendly? We dont mean to take them partying, just one odd night out for some drinks ☺️ mommy gets thirsty too ?
    Thanks again!

  16. Hi Natalie, great artikel about Málaga. I hope you will return one day to this lovely town in Andalucia. When you do, don’t miss out a Sightseeing Treasure Hunt. Its the only tour where you can discover Málaga on your own pace, take time to enjoy the beautiful places you are visiting and with a bit bunch of luck, you will find the secret treasure at the end.

  17. Hello, I looked for the places on Air b&b, how do I get the discount? I really like your article, I plan to go to Malaga for the first time in September, so this helps a lot 🙂

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