20 Marvelous Things to Do in Málaga, Spain

Málaga boasts 320 days of sun per year, sandy beaches, historic monuments, and vibrant nightlife. Home to a major international airport and a well-connected train station, this seaside city makes a great launching pad for exploring Southern Spain. Be sure to stay at least a few days to explore Málaga’s attractions before venturing further into Andalusia. Here are the 20 best things to do in Málaga!

Beautiful Málaga, Spain on the Costa Del Sol
Beautiful Málaga, Spain on the Costa Del Sol (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

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1. Picasso Museum

Since Málaga is the birthplace of Picasso, a visit to this art museum is essential for any vacation itinerary. View Picasso’s work in an impressive permanent collection at Museo Picasso Málaga.

"Woman with Raised Arms" by Pablo Picasso at the Picasso Museum in Málaga
“Woman with Raised Arms” by Pablo Picasso at the Picasso Museum in Málaga (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

It is home to over 200 pieces of art created by Pablo Picasso over the course of 80 years. The artwork was donated to the museum by his family.

Buy your skip-the-line Picasso Museum ticket now. An audio tour is included with the price of admission.

Courtyard in the Alcazaba of Málaga
Courtyard in the Alcazaba of Málaga (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

2. Alcazaba of Málaga

The Alcazaba is Málaga’s best known monument. Construction of this imposing fortress began in the 8th century but most of the current structure dates to the 11th century.

Moorish arches at La Alcazaba
Moorish arches at La Alcazaba (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Moorish (Spanish Muslim) royalty lived in the inner palace when they ruled Andalusia for hundreds of years until the Spanish Inquisition in the late 1400s. That’s when Spain’s Moors and Jews were banished, forced to convert, or killed. Catholic monarchs King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella lived here for a while after conquering the city in 1487.

Garden inside the Alcazaba
Garden inside the Alcazaba (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

The fortress is laced with vines and dotted with sweet-scented citrus trees and bright flowering bougainvillea. Fountain-filled gardens add to the allure of this beautiful place.

Wear good walking shoes because it’s quite a hike to the top of the Alcazaba. For your effort, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of the city and port.

View of Málaga from the Alcazaba
View of Málaga from the Alcazaba (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

A small museum and audio tour are included with your entrance ticket. For a more in-depth experience, sign up for a guided tour of the Alcazaba via our partner, GetYourGuide.

Teatro Romano de Málaga in front of the Alcazaba
Teatro Romano de Málaga in front of the Alcazaba (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

3. Roman Theatre of Málaga

You can’t miss Teatro Romano de Málaga. It’s located in the heart of the city and sits at the foot of the Alcazaba.

The Roman Theater is the oldest monument in Málaga. It was built in the 1st century by Caesar Augustus, the first Roman emperor.

For centuries, the Roman Theatre was hidden by houses and streets that were built on the slopes below the Alcazaba. In fact, it was not discovered until 1951 during a landscaping project. That sparked years of excavation to reveal the ruins.

Entrance to the Roman Theatre of Málaga and a small onsite interpretation center is free. It’s closed on Mondays but can always be viewed from a distance.

View of Malaga from Gibralfaro Castle
View from Gibralfaro Castle (Photo credit: amoklv, Depositphotos.com)

4. Gibralfaro Castle

At night, floodlit Castillo de Gibralfaro glows on Gibralfaro Mountain just outside the city center. This fortress began construction in the 10th century and was expanded in the 14th century. For hundreds of years, it was used as a defense structure and a lighthouse to guide ships into Málaga’s harbor.

This fortress features eight towers, lovely gardens, a small museum, and a cafe. The real reason to visit Gibralfaro Castle, however, is for its sweeping views of the city and port.

It takes about 30 minutes to tackle the uphill walk from the Alcazaba to Gibralfaro.

White sangria and strawberry daiquiri on Malagueta Beach in Malaga
My teen daughter and me on Malagueta Beach (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

5. Sandy Beaches

When visiting the capital of the Costa del Sol (Coast of the Sun), the beach is a must. You can rent lounge chairs with umbrellas for a handful of euros per person.

Then settle in and order a cold drink while you watch the mellow Mediterranean Sea waves. Sangria, anyone?

Málaga’s beach amenities vary but most offer showers, footbaths, and public bathrooms. Lifeguards are typically on duty from June through September.

Although the beaches are sandy, expect rocks along the shore and when entering the water. Floats and water shoes will help protect sensitive feet.

La Malagueta Beach, facing away from the port
La Malagueta Beach, facing away from the harbor (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Malagueta Beach

La Malagueta Beach is one of the most popular beach options in Málaga. It’s lined with palm trees and offers a children’s play area. It’s an urban beach close to the city, making it convenient. But I found the industrial Port of Málaga views to be less than ideal.

Misericordia Beach in Malaga, Spain
Misericordia Beach in Malaga, Spain (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Misericordia Beach

My family preferred Misericordia Beach. A local recommended it to us for its pretty views and less crowded atmosphere. A playground for kids adds to the fun.

Charcoal grill at a chiringuito in Malaga
Sardines being grilled at a chiringuito (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

6. Chiringuitos Beach Bars

Chiringuitos are beach bars that offer drinks and often food. You can make reservations in advance at some of these casual restaurants or just show up and ask for a table.

Stacked skewers of charcoal-grilled sardines (sardine espetos) are the specialty at these establishments along Costa del Sol’s beaches. You can order other fresh fish, too.

Gazpacho at a chiringuito in Málaga
Gazpacho at a chiringuito in Málaga (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Additionally, most chiringuitos serve simple Spanish foods. Spain’s famous cold tomato soup, gazpacho, makes a refreshing choice on a hot summer beach day.

Dried fruits at Mercado Central de Atarazanas
Dried fruits at Mercado Central de Atarazanas (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

7. Atarazanas Market

The vibrant Mercado Central de Atarazanas offers an array of beautiful fresh produce, olives, spices, and other tempting foods. My family purchased an array of dried fruits that we snacked on throughout our vacation in Spain.

For a quick bite, pull up a seat at one of the stalls to grab a tapa or two with a glass of Málaga’s namesake sweet wine. Atarazanas Market Bar gets rave reviews.

Olives and olive oils for sale at Atarazanas Market
Olives for sale at Atarazanas Market (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Wander the market on your own or sign up for a Foodie Tour of Atarazanas Market via GetYourGuide. The 2-hour tour includes samples of Iberian ham, manchego cheese, olive oil, and more. All ages are welcome.

Málaga Cathedral
Málaga Cathedral (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

8. Málaga Cathedral

The official name of the city’s primary cathedral is Santa Iglesia Catedral de la Basílica de la Encarnación. Locals, however, call it La Manquita. This nickname translates as “the one-armed lady” and refers to the cathedral’s missing tower.

Plaza de la Constitución and Málaga Cathedral at night
Plaza de la Constitución and Málaga Cathedral at night (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Built between 1528 and 1782, construction halted when money ran out. La Catédral de Málaga’s remaining tower is the second tallest in Andalusia.

Interior of Málaga Cathedral
Interior of Málaga Cathedral (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

The Baroque-Renaissance Málaga Cathedral is lovely from the outside. But the interior will take your breath away with its soaring dome encircled by stained glass windows.

YouTube video
Evening Paseo in Málaga

9. Evening Paseo in City Center

In Spanish, paseo means to stroll or leisurely walk. Spain’s evening paseo is when locals and visitors take to city centre to wander, socialize, and enjoy drinks and tapas late into the night.

Of the many Andalusian cities we visited, Málaga’s paseo was the liveliest and most concentrated within one central area. Head to Old Town and join the crowds to take in the bubbly vibe.

View my video above to see a small slice of Málaga’s evening paseo. I recorded this bustling video around midnight on a Friday in July. We strolled Saturday and other nights, too, but Friday was definitely the best time to find a festive environment.

As with most things in Spain, paseo is a family affair. So, expect to see even young children out late strolling with their parents. This is especially true on weekends in summer.

Parque de Málaga
Parque de Málaga (Photo credit: fotolupa, Depositphotos.com)

10. Parque de Málaga

Stretching along Paseo del Parque between Old Town and the port, the oval-shaped Parque de Málaga is also known as Parque de la Alameda. Locals, however, call it simply El Parque.

This green space provides a refreshing respite from the city. Enjoy fountains and ponds throughout its 81 acres. Also, look for small playgrounds and an outdoor theater. It’s a free spot to wander, play, or simply relax on a bench in the shade of palm, orange, and cypress trees.

Centre Pompidou de Málaga
Centre Pompidou Málaga (Photo credit: pabkov, Depositphotos.com)

11. Centre Pompidou Málaga

The first extension of the famous art museum in France, Centre Pompidou Málaga features more than 80 modern art pieces from the 20th and 21st centuries. Look for works by Marc Chagall, Frida Kahlo, Pablo Picasso, and other famous artists.

Made of brightly colored glass panes, The Cube sits atop the museum and is a beautiful display of art in itself.

La Concepción Botanical Garden in Málaga, Spain
La Concepción Botanical Garden (Photo credit: katatonia82, Depositphotos.com)

12. La Concepción Botanical Garden

Created in 1855, La Concepción Botanic Garden is located just outside the city, off the exit road to Granada. It is, “too far to walk, but well worth the cab fare,” according to Fodor’s Essential Spain.

In addition to native flora, the garden includes plantings from Latin America, the Philippines, and Australia. Spain’s official tourism website says, “This is a romantic garden with winding paths, ponds, waterfalls, and streams. It has lush semi-tropical vegetation and wonderful examples of rubber plants, palm trees, and some spectacular Araucarias.”

Plaza de la Merced
Plaza de la Merced (Photo credit: James633, Depositphotos.com)

13. Plaza de la Merced

Surrounded by leafy trees, Plaza de la Merced is a pretty public square in central Málaga. Sidewalk cafes and restaurants line the square.

Picasso fans will want to visit Casa Natal de Picasso, also located in the square. This is Picasso’s birthplace home, which now functions as a small museum in his honor. Additionally, there is a bronze statue of Picasso within the square.

In the plaza’s center, find Monumento a Torrijos. This obelisk was erected to honor General Torrijos and 48 of his followers who were shot to death by order of Ferdinand VII.

Carmen Thyssen Museum in Malaga
Carmen Thyssen Museum (Photo credit: joanbautista, Depositphotos.com)

14. Carmen Thyssen Museum

Gain insight into local culture with a visit to Carmen Thyssen Museum. The museum displays over 200 paintings and other Spanish pieces of art from the 19th century, with a particular focus on Andalusian artists. The artwork is displayed within Palacio de Villalón, which was owned by a noble family in the 15th and 16th centuries.

Street art in Málaga
Flamenco dancer street art in Málaga (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

15. Street Art

Málaga sizzles with street art. Enjoy the vibrant displays as you stumble across them. Or follow this self-guided street art tour of Málaga by The Flashpacker.

To become part of the art yourself, book this Málaga Professional Photo Shoot and City Tour. A professional photographer will snap portraits of you (and your travel companions) in the street art districts of Soho and Lagunilla. You will receive 20 edited, high-definition photos as a souvenir of your time in Málaga.

Flamenco performance
Flamenco performance (Photo credit: kasto, Depositphotos.com)

16. Flamenco Show

Flamenco consists of a singer, guitarist, and dancer who work in concert together to showcase the best of their individual abilities in one passionate performance. The improvised art form takes years to master. It is mesmerizing to watch the musicians and dancers synchronize their art forms to create a seamless display.


Andalucía is the birthplace of flamenco. Therefore, you will definitely want to attend a tablao while in Southern Spain. Choose from an array of flamenco shows in Málaga.

Religious processional in Málaga
Religious processional in Málaga (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

17. Holy Week

Many people from around the world travel to Spain to experience the country’s Holy Week processionals. In fact, more than 5 million tourists visit Málaga for this celebration every year.

Strong locals carry elaborate and extremely heavy floats called pasos. These feature statues of Jesus or Mary. It is considered a great honor to participate in these processions and is done as a sign of devotion and penance.

Semana de Santa de Málaga takes place during the last week of Lent, the week before Easter. During Passion Week in Málaga, expect a joyous celebration filled with flamenco and boisterous crowds. This differs from more somber and meditative processionals in other areas of Spain.

My family visited Málaga in July, but we were treated to a smaller version of the Holy Week processional. On a Sunday, we stumbled upon a parade of Malagueños in Old Town carrying a paso on their shoulders and necks. (And, yes, I did see two strong women carrying the paso!)

YouTube video

Catholic church leaders led the procession. Then, children preceded the float, with older teens holding burning incense. A band playing rousing religious music followed the paso.

Even though I am not Catholic, it was truly a moving sight to see. View my video above to see what I mean!

Hammam al Andalus
Hammam al Andalus (Photo courtesy of GetYourGuide)

18. Hammam al Andalus Arab Bath House

For one of the most relaxing things to do in Málaga, plan a day at Hammam al Andalus in the city center. Experience the ritual of an Arab bath in a beautiful setting surrounded by Moorish mosaic tilework.

A hammam is a public bathhouse adapted from Roman times. The traditional bathing process involves cleaning the body and mind through a combination of hot steam, exfoliation, and submersion in various pools of different temperatures.

Book a 1.5-hour bath and massage at Hammam al Andalus now.

Ajo Blanco soup served with mango sorbet at El Pimpi Restaurant in Malaga
Ajo blanco soup served with mango sorbet at El Pimpi (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

19. Spanish and Andalusian Cuisine

There is no shortage of great food in Málaga. In fact, there are a handful of Michelin-starred restaurants in the city. If your budget doesn’t allow for such extravagances, then take a look at my three favorite dining options in Málaga below.

El Pimpi's al fresco dining
El Pimpi’s al fresco dining (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

El Pimpi

The seafood served at El Pimpi is delivered daily from the nearby ports of Málaga, Almeria, Cadiz, and Huelva. And all their meat entreés, like oxtail stew or acorn-fed Iberian pork tenderloin in mustard sauce, come with vegetables from the restaurant’s own garden.

This restaurant is a fabulous place to try ajo blanco. This Andalusian chilled soup is made from almonds, garlic, bread, and olive oil. It is sometimes called “white gazpacho.” El Pimpi’s is served with a refreshing scoop of mango sorbet in the center, which pairs surprisingly well with the other ingredients.

The food is very good at El Pimpi but the main draw is their al fresco dining patio with views of the Alcazaba in the distance. Make reservations online for this popular restaurant.

Jamón Serrano at Casa Lola
Jamón Serrano at Casa Lola (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Casa Lola

Of course, when in Málaga you must visit their plentiful tapas bars. My family loved Casa Lola. Expect a convivial, casual environment with friendly staff and lots of menu choices at affordable prices.

Look for traditional favorites like gambas al ajillo (prawns with garlic, chili, and white wine), calamares (deep-fried battered squid), and jamon sérrano (Spanish cured ham).

Patatas bravas at Casa Lola
Patatas bravas at Casa Lola (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Our family of four agreed Casa Lola’s patatas bravas were the best we ate in Spain. And we at a lot of patatas bravas! Their deep-fried potatoes are served with a delicious creamy tomato sauce with just the right amount of kick.

A variety of paellas are available for those seeking a heartier Spanish meal. Meanwhile, vegetarians (like my daughter) appreciate their salads, cheeses, and zucchini croquettes.

Stained glass ceiling at Los Patios de Beatas
Stained glass ceiling at Los Patios de Beatas (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Los Patios de Beatas

Wine lovers will want to dine at Los Patios de Beatas before or after a visit to the nearby Museo Picasso. This restaurant and wine bar is home to one of Málaga’s largest wine collections.

Expect more than 500 options on the wine list, many of which are very affordable. Be sure to get a bottle of wine to bring home or to drink during your vacation in Spain.

We bought a bottle of their incredible olive oil as a souvenir, too. (Did you know Spain is the world’s largest producer of olive oil?)

Food prices aren’t cheap, but you can stick to salads and tapas (“media” portions). It’s worth your time and money for the wine selection and interior patio covered with a dazzling stained glass ceiling.

Pink flowers and pretty view in Ronda, Spain
Ronda, a day trip option from Málaga (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

20. Day Trips from Málaga

Málaga works well as a central place from which you can venture on day trips to other fascinating Spanish locales.

Teens in front of Puente Nuevo in Ronda
My teens in front of Puente Nuevo in Ronda (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)


The White Villages, or Pueblos Blancos, include 19 whitewashed towns in Spain’s Andalusia region. The largest and most popular is Ronda. That’s where my family stopped on our route from Seville back to Málaga.

Ronda is also the only White Village with train access. We, however, hired a private driver for the 1.5-hour car journey. Parking is notoriously difficult in Ronda and the route is a bit precarious along winding cliffs, but you could certainly rent a car for the day. You can also sign up for a Ronda group day trip.

The primary attraction in Ronda is the renowned Puente Nuevo (New Bridge). Despite its name, this beautiful bridge began construction in 1759 and took 34 years to build.

Beach scene in Nerja
Beach scene in Nerja (Photo credit: herraez, Depositphotos.com)


Head to nearby Nerja for a beach day trip. Rick Steves recommends this town for its picturesque and well-equipped beaches. The most popular and crowded option is Del Salón Beach. Locals prefer El Playazo, but it lacks restaurants, showers, and other facilities.

Nerja is about a 50-minute ride by car from Málaga. Note: Uber is available in Málaga but not in Nerja. You can use the Cabify app to call a taxi instead.

Buses depart from Málaga to Nerja every 30 minutes from around 7 am to 11 pm. The journey will take a little over 1.5 hours each way.

Street scene in Marbella, Spain
Street scene in Marbella (Photo credit: cineuno, Depositphotos.com)


For a swanky day trip, set your sights on Marbella. This city is known as the Beverly Hills of Southern Spain for its Michelin-starred restaurants, luxury hotels, and gorgeous beaches.

There are no direct trains from Málaga to Marbella. A car ride is about 45 minutes in each direction. Thankfully, Ubers are available in Marbella. Meanwhile, a one-way bus journey will take around 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Caminito del Rey, Spain
Caminito del Rey, Spain (Photo credit: wujekspeed, Depositphotos.com)

Other Day Trips

Take a look at other exciting day trips from Málaga, available with easy booking via our partner, GetYourGuide. Options include British-owned and English-speaking Gibraltar, Caminito del Rey’s infamously thrilling hike, and Tetouan, a traditional city in Morocco.

View of the city and Málaga Cathedral from AC Hotel Malaga Palacio - Marriott
View of the city and Málaga Cathedral from our balcony at AC Hotel Malaga Palacio – Marriott (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Recommended Hotels in Málaga

After much research, I booked two different hotels in Málaga. My family loved them both! Considering the amenities and locations, each one was a great bargain. This is especially true when comparing costs for staying in similar caliber hotels in U.S. cities.

Rooftop pool at AC Hotel Malaga Palacio - Marriott
Rooftop pool at AC Hotel Malaga Palacio – Marriott (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

AC Hotel Malaga Palacio – Marriott

Book a stay at AC Hotel Malaga Palacio for amazing views of the city, the port, and Málaga Cathedral. Sandwiched between the cathedral and Parque de Málaga, the location can’t be beat. There’s easy access to the beach as well the restaurants and attractions of downtown. The rooftop pool is lovely (if windy), too.

Slide at Barceló Málaga
Slide at Barceló Málaga (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Barceló Málaga

My kids enjoyed the whimsical slide that sends riders right into the hotel lobby at Barceló Málaga. Meanwhile, I appreciated the incredible breakfast buffet. The rooftop pool and bar provided a refreshing retreat after long days of touring the city.

Breakfast at Barceló Málaga
Breakfast at Barceló Málaga (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

The hotel offers direct access to Maria Zambrano train station, making travel easy. Vialia Shopping Centre is located within the same building as the connected station so shopping for Spanish fashions or grabbing a quick bite at the food court is a cinch.

Park Guell's unique architecture in Barcelona with kids
Park Guell in Barcelona, Spain (Photo credit: Depositphotos.com)

Explore More

Take a look at all the things to do in Seville, my favorite Spanish city.

Learn about what there is to do in Barcelona with kids.

In Spain, there is a popular tradition to sport a specific color of undergarments on New Year’s Eve. Find out what color underwear brings good luck in the New Year.

Morocco is just a quick trip from Spain. Read about Morocco with kids, from Marrakech to the Sahara Desert.

Things to Do in Malaga, Spain

Save These Málaga Activities

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Do you have any questions about Andalusia or suggestions for additional things to do in Malaga? Let us know in the comments below!

A Note from The Travel Mama: I did not receive any media rates, comps, or monetary compensation related to this article.

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  1. Malaga Cathedral is one of my favorite places I have visited. Thank you for letting me reminisce a wonderful trip.

  2. I’d definitely start with taking part in the street art! Next up would be taking my sweet time at the beach!

  3. i have seen some Picasso in person. I definitely would not mind seeing more. I’d love to visit most anywhere in Spain as well. We have not been there (yet).

  4. This place is amazing. It’s been on my list for a long time. I would visit the Picasso Museum first when I get here.

  5. This is so cool. I would love to visit Malaga soon. I will add it to the list to go with my gif to this place. Thank you for sharing!

  6. Wow! I didn’t know that there’s a lot of amazing things to do and see in Spain! I would definitely add this on my bucket list!

  7. Holy cow! The travel bug just hit me so hard again from reading this. We haven’t been on a trip in a while, and I’d love for our next stop to be Spain.

  8. All that sun and right on the coast, I’m in! I’d love to visit one day. I’ve never heard of the city before now, but it sounds like a perfect vacation place for my family.

  9. WOW! I’d love to visit Spain. There obviously is a ton to do and see. I’ll bookmark this post for future travels. Thanks!

  10. Gorgeous photos! What a lovely city. The Picasso element is very intriguing. What wonderful travel ideas!