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 some of all the top things to do Málaga.
And after reading this guide to what to do in Málaga, don’t forget to have a look at our post about Spain travel costs, so you can start planning and saving on your next Spanish holiday.
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 workouts. 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.
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.
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! After one, two, or maybe three glasses of wine you will be ready to discover more things to do in Málaga.
» 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.
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. 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.
Alcazaba is one of the best-preserved Moorish fortresses 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.
The entrance is free on Sunday afternoon, but if you want to learn about its history I highly recommend you book a guided tour. Here is an option of an Alcazaba Guided Tour with a visit to the Roman Theater that has great reviews and price.
» 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.
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, an amazing sea view, 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.
» 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. 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 1890s, 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.
» 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 as a 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.
Click here and you can book your visit to Museu Picasso Malaga with an audioguide!
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.
Where to stay in Málaga, Spain
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 a 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.
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.
Don’t forget to buy your Travel Insurance!
How to get to Málaga, Spain?
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!