Best Things to do in Malaga

Meera Dattani

written by
Meera Dattani

updated 05.06.2024

The 1960s may have brought mass tourism to the surrounding region, but Málaga is no resort town. You’ll see more Malaguenos than tourists. Backed by the Montes de Málaga mountains, this Mediterranean port city leaves few boxes unticked – beaches, harbour, historic centre, hilltop castle, and food scene. Read our guide to the best things to do in Málaga, one of Spain's most underrated cities.

The information in this article is inspired by The Rough Guide to Spain, your essential guide for visiting Spain.

Plaza de la Constitucion

Fountain, Plaza de la Constitucion, Málaga @ Mariano Pozo

1. Explore the Museums

Málaga has about 27 museums in total, covering glass, wine, classic cars, football and even interactive music.

Málaga’s is the birthplace of Picasso. and Málaga’s prized son is honoured at the Casa Natal museum.

Other major museums include Carmen Thyssen, a sixteenth-century palace containing Málaga’s most comprehensive Spanish art collection and part-sister museum to Madrid’s Thyssen. Another favourite is CAC, Málaga’s centre of contemporary art. Just off-centre by the Guadalmina river, its changing programme, outdoor bar and sushi restaurant are extra reasons to visit.

Our tailor-made weekend getaway to Málaga allows you to explore the city, as well as the well-known surrounding cities of Ronda and Marbella. Beautiful beaches, fascinating museums and delicious cuisine await to be discovered.

Pablo Picasso statue in Malaga © Shutterstock

Pablo Picasso statue in Malaga © Shutterstock

2. Get some perspective at Castillo de Gibralfaro

To get some perspective, one of the things to do in Málaga is to head for the fourteenth-century Moorish citadels of Alcazaba and Gibralfaro. The winding path up Mount Gibralfaro leads to the castle ramparts where the city unfolds in front of you.

On a hot day, the bus (regular or hop-on-hop-off) is tempting and it’s worth arriving later in order to stop for sundowners at the Parador de Málaga Gibralfaro. This is a luxury hotel which welcomes non-residents to its terrace where views over the city and harbour are quite sublime.

Málaga is one of the places in Spain rich in Moorish heritage. Our guide to the best places to experience Moorish Spain will tell you where else to go in Spain to enjoy the architecture of those times.

External view of Malaga Gibralfaro Walls with beautiful flowering plants. Gibralfaro castle (Castillo de Gibralfaro) was built in 929AD on high hill overlooking Malaga city © Shutterstock

External view of Malaga Gibralfaro Walls © Shutterstock

3. Discover Alcazaba & ruins of the Roman Amphitheatre

Málaga’s magnificent Alcazaba – along with the Gibralfaro – is an exuberant contrast to the dour fortresses of Castile and it's one of the best things to do in Málaga. At the Alcazaba’s entrance stands a Teatro Romano, unearthed in 1951 during building works. The theatre, constructed in the second century BC, is now used as an auditorium for various outdoor entertainments.

Access to the theatre is via a Centro de Interpretación, whose exterior is decorated with extracts from the Lex Flavia Malacitana, the Roman city’s municipal law code.

Discover the best of Andalucía's breathtaking palaces, churches, museums, vineyards, and more, as you travel through spectacular scenery dotted with pueblos blancos and bordered by rugged mountains and coast on this tailor-made trip exploring Andalucía.

The Alcazaba of Malaga © Shutterstock

The Alcazaba of Malaga © Shutterstock

4. Visit Plaza de La Merced

Plaza de La Merced is considered Málaga's main square and you will find lots of things to do in Málaga here such as the city's major events and festivals. Picasso was born in 1881 in the Plaza de la Merced. Here you'll find the Fundación Picasso, a centre for scholars researching the painter’s life and work.

An exhibition space displays lithographs, etchings and washes by Picasso – mainly with women as the subject matter – plus temporary exhibitions centred around the artist’s work. Also a reminder of Picasso is the sculpture by Francisco López Hernández installed on the Plaza in 2008, close to the Casa Natal de Picasso.

If you're planning a trip to Spain, don't miss our Spain itineraries and information on how to get there

Meeting place Plaza de la Merced, Malaga © Shutterstock

Meeting place Plaza de la Merced, Malaga © Shutterstock

5. Tour the Málaga Cathedral

Just as impressive is Málaga’s Gothic/Renaissance-style cathedral. You’ll probably hear about it before you see it – it’s a miracle if 24 hours pass without someone pointing out its odd, one-tower design.

Known as La Manquita or "The One-Armed Lady", work was halted when a bishop diverted funds to the American War of Independence against the British. “They held a referendum on the adding the second tower,” one guide said, “but they voted no to keep it unique.”

Malaga Cathedral © Shutterstock

Malaga Cathedral © Shutterstock

6. Walk along gorgeous coastline

Peel yourself away from the alluring old quarter and you’ll find yourself on the palm tree-lined Paseo del Parque with its botanical garden. Follow the surreally designed seafront promenade El Palmeras de las Sorpresas to the restaurants and shops of Muelle Uno (Pier One), part of the redeveloped harbour and cruise terminal.

Here, just past Málaga’s lighthouse, are the city beaches, from Malagueta and eastwards to the pretty neighbourhoods of Pedregalejo and El Palo. These two are among the best things to do in Málaga’ for lazy weekends. Explore cove beaches, promenades and endless line of bars, restaurants and chiringuitos (beach bars/restaurants), usually packed with locals.

Coastline in Torrox Costa, Costa del Sol © Shutterstock

Coastline in Torrox Costa, Costa del Sol © Shutterstock

7. Gorge on food at Mercado Central de Atarazanas

Lying at the heart of an area that bustles with life, the nineteenth-century wroughtiron, Mudéjar-style Mercado Central (officially the Mercado Central de Atarazanas) incorporates a little-known architectural gem, largely unnoticed by the daily shoppers.

This, a remarkable fourteenth-century Moorish arch on its southern facade, was built for Yusuf I of Granada – the ruler also responsible for that other great gateway, the Puerta de la Justicia in the Alhambra – when Málaga was part of the Nasrid kingdom.

View of Malaga Atarazanas Market (Mercado Central de Atarazanas) in Malaga © Shutterstock

View of Malaga Atarazanas Market (Mercado Central de Atarazanas) in Malaga © Shutterstock

8. Marveling at modern art in Pompidou Centre

If you are an avid art enthusiast, visiting Pompidou Centre should be on your list of things to do in Málaga. Occupying the corner of Muelle Uno, the Centro Pompidou houses modern art works on loan from its Parisian big sister. As its central theme, the main exhibition takes the human body, whole, in bits or in metamorphosis, and includes works by artists such as Bacon, Magritte, Giacometti and Léger.

Highlights include portraits by Chagall, Kahlo and Picasso; Landau’s Barbed Hula; Attia’s rows of aluminium foil Ghosts; and sculptures by Brancusi, Miró and Schütte. Several temporary exhibitions take place every year, also of works on loan from Paris and with a strong French focus. The Centro Pompidou also showcases the performing arts with concerts, dance performances and films throughout the year.

Centre Pompidou in Malaga, Spain © Shutterstock

Centre Pompidou in Malaga, Spain © Shutterstock

9. Hike the Caminito del Rey - one of the best things to do in Málaga for adrenaline junkies

Although sometimes still billed as one of the world’s most dangerous walkways, the current version of El Caminito del Rey is actually very safe and now ranks among the most popular attractions in the province. You do need a reasonable head for heights – the suspension bridge at the end can be a challenge – and allow at least a half-day for the 7.7km trail.

Book well in advance via the website, wear stout walking shoes and take plenty of water, especially in the summer months, when temperatures in the gorge can easily surpass 35ºC.

Enjoy this tailor-made road trip through Spain’s exuberant Andalucía. Our customisable trip will take you through the charming cities of Malaga, Seville, Granada and various 'white villages', including Ronda, with its vertiginous views across the sweeping Andalucían countryside.

Caminito del Rey, Malaga, Andalucia, Spain © Shutterstock

Caminito del Rey, Malaga, Andalucia, Spain © Shutterstock

10. Watch flamenco show

The dances and music of flamenco, while probably not of Moorish origin, display the soul of Andalucía and can be an electrifying spectacle. Dancers in brilliantly coloured dresses drill their heels into the floorboards in a frenzy of emotion or, in cante jondo, turn the art form into a blues-style lament.

Genuine flamenco in Málaga is now easier to come by and the venues often approach the real thing. Many flamenco events happen in and around the town throughout the year – several are held at the Museo Picasso and during the Bienal de Flamenco. The Turismo Municipal is the best source of information on these.


Flamenco dancer © Shutterstock

11. Walk through the Montes de Málaga Natural Park

The far eastern section of Málaga province is the Axarquía region, which sees comparatively few tourists. An area of rugged natural beauty, it was once the haunt of mountain bandits. From Riogordo, you have a choice of routes: east to Alfarnate or west, following a stiff climb, to Colmenar, another brilliant-white hill town and the Axarquía’s most westerly outpost.

A centre of honey production thanks to the rich variety of flowering plants and shrubs growing in the surrounding hills, the village takes its name from colmena, Spanish for “beehive”.

A wonderful route twists down from here via the Puerto del Léon down to Málaga, through the forests of cork oaks and pines forming the Parque Natural de los Montes de Málaga, and offering stunning views over Málaga and the Costa del Sol during its latter stages.

Discover even more of Spain's natural beauty sites and more with our guide to the best things to do in Spain.

Montes de Málaga Natural Park © Shutterstock

Walking in Montes de Málaga Natural Park is one of the most exciting things to do in Malaga © Shutterstock

12. Get amazed at Nerja caves

The Nerja Caves are a series of limestone caverns discovered in 1959. The caves are famous for their stunning natural beauty, including towering stalactites and stalagmites, as well as intricate cave formations.

Visitors to the Nerja Caves can explore several chambers, including the Hall of the Nativity, where prehistoric paintings and artefacts have been discovered. The caves are a popular tourist destination and offer a fascinating glimpse into the natural history of the region.

Formations; Stalactites and stalagmites in the famous Nerja Caves, Spain © Shutterstock

Stalactites and stalagmites in the famous Nerja Caves, Spain © Shutterstock

Find more accommodation options to stay in Málaga. Also, travelling around Spain, check out our list of the best places to stay in Andalucía.

Ready for a trip to Málaga? Check out the snapshot The Rough Guide to Spain. If you travel further in Spain, read more about the best time to go, the best places to visit and best things to do in Spain.

If you prefer to plan and book your trip to Málaga without any effort and hassle, use the expertise of our local travel experts to make sure your trip will be just like you dream it to be.

We may earn commission from some of the external websites linked in this article, but this does not influence our editorial standards - we only recommend services that we genuinely believe will enhance your travel experiences.

Top image © S-F/Shutterstock

Meera Dattani

written by
Meera Dattani

updated 05.06.2024

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