Malaga Travel Guide: Best Things to Do, See, and Eat

When I first started planning my trip to Spain, Malaga wasn’t really on my radar, overshadowed by the likes of Barcelona or Mallorca. Then a new, affordable WizzAir route came along and I decided to give it a shot. But, it wasn’t until I started my research that I realised just how many wonderful things there are to do in Malaga.

From eating your way around the city to climbing the historic fortress overlooking Malaga, exploring one of its many museums, or attending a live flamenco show—Malaga has it all. It’s mostly famous for being the birthplace of Pablo Picasso and for its wine, which means there’s plenty of culture and chances to sip amazing local wines (we certainly enjoyed that part!)

We spent 3 full days in Malaga and still left feeling there was so much more to see. Its fantastic location on the Costa del Sol also makes it a great spot for day trips. Hopefully, this guide provides a great starting point for planning your Malaga itinerary to truly make the most of your visit.

Let’s dive in!

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How to get from the Malaga Airport to the city centre

Even though Malaga Airport is one of the busiest in Spain, it’s surprisingly easy to navigate and very well-connected. The quickest way to get into the city centre is by hopping on the Renfe cercanías (commuter) train. It takes just 12 minutes to reach the Malaga Centro-Alameda station and stops at the María Zambrano station on the way.

You’ll find the train station conveniently located right opposite the arrivals hall in Terminal 3—simply exit the terminal and follow the signs. A one-way ticket costs €1.80, and you can reuse it for future journeys – simply tap it on the card reader at the machine when buying new tickets. Trains start running early in the morning and continue until just before 1 am – you can check the current timetable on the Renfe website. If you land outside these times, no worries—there are always plenty of taxis and rideshares like Uber, Bolt, and Cabify ready at the airport.

Where to stay in Malaga

One of the best things about Malaga is that the city is perfectly walkable with great public transport links. So, even if you choose a place outside the city centre to save on costs, getting around is a breeze and inexpensive.

AB Apartamentos Museum

For the first 2 nights, we checked into AB Apartamentos Museum* – a central one-bedroom flat that cost €210. It was conveniently close to all main attractions, quiet despite being in a building full of rentals, and had access to a rooftop terrace—perfect for breakfast or evening drinks. The only drawback was that the rooms were a bit dark due to courtyard-facing windows, but we didn’t mind too much for a short stay.

Hotel Zenit Malaga

Next, we moved to Hotel Zenit Malaga*, which was a bit further out—about a 20-minute walk from the city centre—but still great value at €170 for 2 nights. And, since we weren’t planning to spend much time in the room, the distance was hardly an issue. The hotel offered all the basic amenities, plus an unusually spacious bathroom complete with both a bathtub and a shower. It was also near plenty of shops and restaurants. So, if you don’t mind a short walk to the centre, it’s definitely a good option for more budget-conscious travellers.

A cosy hotel room featuring a large double bed with white linens, flanked by two bedside tables with lamps, against a striped cream and beige wall

If you find yourselves in Malaga and need a convenient spot to drop off your luggage, Lock and Relax at C. Casas de Campos 22 is a great choice. Their rates are super affordable, starting at just €2.50 for a small bag and going up to €8 for an extra-large suitcase. For those extending their stay or travelling around the area, there’s also an option to keep your luggage for longer at a small additional cost of €2 per night. And it’s just a quick walk from the Malaga Centro-Alameda station, which is perfect if you’re heading to the airport!

Best things to do in Malaga

Picasso Museum

When you’re in Malaga, make sure to visit the Picasso Museum at the beautiful Buenavista Palace. The exhibition spans two floors, showcasing some of Picasso’s earliest artworks, as well as his take on the classics, experiments with different styles, collection of ceramics and sculptures, and late paintings.

While it misses some famous pieces like Guernica, the building’s stunning Andalusian architecture is worth the visit alone.

The museum is open daily from 10 am with closing hours varying by season—6 pm (November-February), 7 pm (March-June, September-October), and 8 pm (July-August).

Tickets are €12 online or €13 at the door. If you want to save money, you can enjoy free entry on select dates (28 February, 18 March, 27 September, and 27 October) and every Sunday for the last 2 hours before closing, but prepare to queue!

Museo Casa Natal de Picasso

Just a short stroll from the main Picasso Museum in Malaga is the Museo Casa Natal de Picasso, located in the house where he was born and lived during his early childhood.

This museum offers a unique glimpse into Picasso’s formative years, showcasing how his hometown influenced his iconic style.

Here you can see everything from childhood sketches to items that belonged to his family, including personal photographs, baby clothing and toys, and even a replica of the Spanish cape in which he was buried. Entry is just €3, with free access every Sunday between 4 and 8 pm and on several dates throughout the year (28 February, a select Saturday in May, 18 May, 27 September, and 25 October).

Centre Pompidou

If you like modern art, stop by the Centre Pompidou Malaga, the Parisian institution’s first branch outside France. Here, you can find a collection of 20th and 21st century artworks loaned from the museum’s permanent collection and arranged in 5 different themes.

Three blank canvases mounted on a deep blue wall at Centre Pompidou Malaga

I have to admit that contemporary art really puzzles me (Is a blank canvas really art? Or a video of a clown lying down?), but it was still great to see works by famous artists like Jean Cocteau and Henri Matisse up close. Entry is free on special dates (18 May, a select Saturday in May, and 27 September) – otherwise, it’s €9.

Muelle Uno

While you’re in the area, make sure to wander along the Muelle Uno promenade. It might not match the Riva in Split, but it’s still a lovely place to grab a bite by the water, do a little shopping, or catch a sunset boat cruise. If you’d like to soak up the sun, just a bit further east, you’ll find the famous Malagueta Beach, with its soft sand imported from the Sahara.

A modern, white wave-like structure on the Muelle Uno promenade in Malaga, Spain

Malaga Cathedral

The Malaga Cathedral is a stunning example of Spanish Renaissance architecture that we sadly didn’t get to visit this time around. You can spot its unique one-towered structure, known affectionately as “La Manquita” or “The one-armed lady”, from various points in the city.

If you’re watching your pennies, you can skip the €10 entry fee and pop in for free between 8:30 and 9 am on weekdays and Saturdays or between 8:30 and 9:30 am on Sundays. For a small extra charge, you can also head up to the rooftop for some stunning views over Malaga. And, don’t skip the cathedral gardens—it’s a perfect spot for some relaxation and people-watchings surrounded by blooming flowers and birds.

Alcazaba of Malaga and the Roman Theatre

If you’d like to learn more about the Moorish influences in Malaga, the Alcazaba is a must-visit. This fortress, from the Arabic “Al-qasbah” meaning a fortified town, served as both a governor’s palace and a military base during the Muslim rule.

Parts of the fortress were heavily restored in the 20th century, so you can get an idea of what it must’ve looked like back in the day, when it was much bigger.

You can tour it with a guide or on your own for just €3.50, or get a joint ticket with Gibralfaro Castle for €5.50. We were lucky to visit on 27 September when entry was free, but it’s also free every Sunday after 2 pm. And, for those who don’t feel like hiking up or have mobility issues, there’s a lift at Calle Guillén Sotelo 1 for easy access.

While you’re there, don’t miss the Roman Theatre right at the foot of the Alcazaba—the city’s only ancient ruin dating back to the 1st century AD!

Roman Theatre (Teatro Romano) in Malaga, Spain - an ancient stone amphitheatre with rows of seating under a blue sky

Castle of Gibralfaro

If you fancy a little adventure, make your way up to Malaga’s Castle of Gibralfaro, sitting right on top of Mount Gibralfaro. Yes, it’s quite a hike and can be a bit slippery in places, but once you’re up there, the sweeping views over the city are absolutely breathtaking.

A broad path leading up to Gibralfaro Castle, with visitors walking up and down the hill, and Malaga’s buildings and coastline in the backdrop
Panoramic view of Malaga seen from the Gibralfaro Castle
A scenic view of Malaga's cityscape seen from a hill, with green parks in the foreground and the blue sea meeting the sky in the distance

The castle was originally built in the 14th century to protect the Alcazaba fortress. These days, there’s not much to see at the top. It offers a much quieter and less crowded experience than the Alcazaba, allowing you to enjoy the walls and snap some photos in peace.

Watchtowers with domed tops, connected by a wall, amongst greenery inside the Gibralfaro Castle in Malaga, Spain
A leafy path leading to a wooden gazebo inside the Gibralfaro Castle grounds in Malaga, Spain
A panoramic view over the walls and towers of Gibralfaro Castle, surrounded by cypress trees
The panorama from Gibralfaro Castle, featuring the port of Malaga with its ships and the cityscape, set against the Mediterranean Sea
The historical city centre of Malaga seen from Gibralfaro Castle

Plus, you might just bump into the friendly local cat who’s made the vantage point halfway up her home 😉

Panoramic view of Malaga from the Gibralfaro Castle

It’s free to visit on Sundays after 2 pm or on the 27th of September, but a combined ticket with the Alcazaba is a good deal for any other day.

La Concepción Historical Botanical Garden

If you’re looking to get away from the city noise, the La Concepción Historical Botanical Garden in Malaga is a great choice. Just to note, there are two botanical gardens in the city – the other one owned by the University of Málaga – so make sure you head to the right one!

To get there, take bus number 2, then walk for about 15 minutes from the stop, or simply catch an Uber. Entry costs €5.20, though you can visit for free on Sunday afternoons depending on the season – from 2 to 5:30 pm between October and March, or from 4:30 to 8:30 pm between April and September.

The garden itself houses a wide variety of plants, including Malaga vines and a collection of 80 tree species from around the world on the “Round the World in 80 Trees” path.

There are also historical greenhouses and a 19th-century holiday home that was once a hotspot for aristocratic gatherings. When we visited, there was even a quirky exhibition featuring Barbie dolls that narrate the garden’s history.

And, don’t miss the Historical Viewpoint for breathtaking panoramic views of the city – it’s a perfect Instagram spot!

A panoramic view of Malaga's urban landscape from La Concepción Historical Botanical Garden

Automobile and Fashion Museum

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know I’m always looking for fashion exhibitions wherever I go. So when I heard about Malaga’s Automobile and Fashion Museum combining cars with couture, I was intrigued, even though I’m not much of a car enthusiast. Ranked as one of Malaga’s top attractions and among Spain’s finest museums, I just had to see what all the fuss was about.

The entrance fee is a bit steep at €10, but it was absolutely worth it. The museum takes a unique approach by showing how vehicle design influenced the fashion evolution throughout the decades.

You start in the Belle Epoque era and move through several thematic rooms, where each restored vintage car is paired with stunning haute couture.

There’s even a room where you can swoon over a collection of vintage designer hats if that’s more your thing!

One of the coolest exhibits is a photo of The Rolling Stones cruising down Costa del Sol in a Cadillac—almost makes you want to hit the road in a fabulous outfit right after your visit 😉

A vintage yellow Auburn Speedster convertible displayed at the Automobile and Fashion Museum in Malaga, Spain

Just a heads-up, they close for siesta from 2:30 to 4 pm, so plan your visit around that and allow 60 to 90 minutes to fully enjoy the experience.

Where to eat and drink in Malaga

Brunchit Coffee & Kitchen

If you’re looking for an Insta-friendly brunch spot in Malaga, Brunchit Coffee & Kitchen should definitely be on your list. They offer a range of international breakfast options from sweet and savoury pancakes to various kinds of toast and burgers, as well as vegan-friendly choices like avocado toast and açaí bowls.

I tried their salty pancakes with scrambled eggs, bacon, caramelised onion, and maple syrup, while Mac went for their eggs Benedict. As someone who’s never been a big fan of maple syrup, I was questioning my choice at first… but it was so delicious I ended up wiping my whole plate clean! Now, I don’t want to jinx it, but I think I might be a convert now… 😉

Another big plus is their extensive coffee menu; I tried a traditional Spanish café bombón consisting of a thick layer of a condensed milk topped with a shot of espresso and it was a real treat.

A plate with a stack of pancakes topped with scrambled eggs and garnish, beside a glass of coffee on a wooden table

The only downside is the price, as my breakfast was €17.50, which is a bit steep compared to other local spots. However, if you’re looking to treat yourself away from the usual churros con chocolate, I’d definitely recommend giving Brunchit a try.

Tejeringo’s Coffee

If you’re after a taste of traditional Andalusian breakfast, you can’t go wrong with Tejeringo’s Coffee. Famous for their churros, they spice things up with a variety of dipping sauces like Nutella, white chocolate (my absolute fave!), Kinder, and dulce de leche. They even had a limited edition Speculoos sauce when we visited!

A plate of churros with four dipping sauces, two cups of coffee and glasses of drinks on a café table at Tejeringo’s Coffee

For those who prefer a savoury start, they also serve different Andalusian sandwiches, or pitufos (which apparently literally translates to smurfs!). They’re deliciously simple, traditionally enjoyed with tomato pulp on toasted bread, and drizzled with olive oil. They also have a selection of delicious freshly squeezed juices or lemonades to go with your food, so make sure to try those too.

This place really hits the spot if you’re looking for a filling meal without spending too much. For just €7.90, I enjoyed churros with 4 different dipping sauces to share, a coffee, and a lemonade. When we added a Speculoos sauce and a sandwich each, the total was only €11.95.

If you’re looking for traditional churros con chocolate, I’ve also heard great things about Casa Aranda – but Tejeringo’s won us over so much that we ended up going back a second time instead (and I’m team white chocolate anyway 😉 ).

Next Level Specialty Coffee

If you love specialty coffee, Next Level Specialty Coffee is a must-visit in Malaga. It’s a cosy spot with limited seating, so you might need to wait, but it’s absolutely worth it. Not only is their coffee top-notch, but the cheesecake there is a game-changer—seriously, it’s the creamiest I’ve ever had! They also offer a small breakfast menu, and I’m already planning to go back for some of their French or avocado toast.

Santa Coffee

Santa Coffee is another great spot in Malaga for specialty coffee lovers. Unlike the smaller Next Level, Santa Coffee has several locations around the city, offering more seating and a larger selection of cakes. I popped into their Soho cafe, which is right by a busy street – not the best for a quiet cuppa, but brilliant for people-watching or if you’re catching a train to the airport since it’s close to the station. Oh, and if you’re in the mood for something sweet, make sure to try one of their cakes – I really enjoyed the carrot one!

Bodega El Pimpi

Bodega El Pimpi features in all the Malaga food guides and top restaurant lists, and it’s easy to see why. Located centrally, right opposite the Roman Theatre and the Alcazaba, it’s a place you simply can’t miss (both literally and figuratively).

Although it’s popular with local celebrities, it’s far from just a tourist spot or a glamorous venue. Coming from Central Europe was a definite perk, as our dining times were different from the locals’, so we could easily find a table in what was otherwise a bustling restaurant.

My favourite spot was the patio on the opposite side of the main entrance (accessible from Granada Street), which is beautifully surrounded by greenery and the soothing sounds of a water fountain.

The menu offers a variety of Spanish tapas; I’d highly recommend their patatas bravas (it was the only thing I could eat every single day of this trip) and prawns al Pimpi, paired with a glass of local sherry wine.

A chalkboard menu showcasing a variety of Spanish dishes and prices, above shiny beer taps and a bar counter at Bodega El Pimpi

We spent so much time there during our trip that we became regulars, with one of the waiters even offering us a complimentary glass of wine!

The interior of Bodega El Pimpi in Malaga, Spain, with a tiled walkway, historic posters on the walls, and a traditional wooden ceiling

If you visit, don’t miss a chance to go inside to see all the photos of the celebrities who visited Bodega El Pimpi, including Antonio Banderas (who’s apparently a shareholder there!), Sean Connery, or Placido Domingo.

There are also several wine barrels signed by celebrities, including none other than Gordon Ramsay, who featured this place in his show ‘Gordon, Gino, and Fred: Road Trip’!

Antigua Casa de Guardia

If I had to pick the single most unique spot we visited on this trip, it would definitely be Antigua Casa de Guardia. It’s the oldest wine bar in Malaga, dating back to 1840, and stepping inside is like travelling back in time, with its original decor and traditions perfectly preserved.

It’s a standing-only bar with a long counter offering an excellent selection of craft wines. The bartenders serve your wine directly from the barrels along the wall and jot your tab in chalk on the counter right in front of you.

When you’re ready to leave, just tell the bartender, and he’ll wipe your slate clean. Even after a couple of glasses each, the whole experience was so much fun that we didn’t want to leave, just to soak up more of the atmosphere.

What I personally loved the most was that you could see it’s a favourite with locals, making it authentically Malagan—not just a tourist spot. So, If you’re deciding on just one wine bar to visit in Malaga, this should definitely be it!

Mercado Central de Atarazanas

Mercado Central de Atarazanas is a bustling market where locals go to grab their fresh produce. The building has been around since the 14th century when it was used as a boatyard. It’s open Monday to Saturday, from 8 am to 3 pm, and is organised into sections for fruits and vegetables, meat, and seafood.

People sitting outside the Atarazanas Market in Malaga, Spain

I had a great time there, trying fresh sugarcane juice and picking up some organic honey and lemon candies that really helped with my sore throat from all the air conditioning.

Plus, there are a few tapas bars around with outdoor seating where you can relax and enjoy the local cuisine. We arrived at Medina Bar just as they were about to close, so our choices were limited to what was left. Despite this, the tuna skewers and mini burgers we managed to order really hit the spot! The waiter also introduced us to tinto de verano (summer red wine), a refreshing local drink that’s like a lighter, cheaper version of sangria, made with red wine and soda—usually lemonade. I’m definitely planning to go back earlier next time to try more tapas!

So, that’s a wrap on my Malaga guide – I’d say my first time in Spain was more productive than I thought, and definitely gave me a taste for seeing more of what the country has to offer! What about you? Have you ever been to the south of Spain? Would you like to visit Malaga?

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