Sparkling turquoise blue waters kissing the edge of soft white sand … that is what I remember most about my visit to Malaga, Spain. The coastline of the Costa del Sol and the hill we climbed to get to a castle, Castillo de Gibralfaro, are vivid memories.
A port city located on the southern Mediterranean coast of Spain, Malaga enjoys balmy breezes and 300 days of sunshine each year. I visited via ship during a Mediterranean cruise, but you can also arrive by plane, bus, car, or train.
Malaga is one of the oldest cities in the world, and there is so much more than just the beach and a castle to learn about. You will find art, a youthful city, and an old town. Malaga is loaded with history, energetic plazas, art galleries, museums, fountains, gardens, and Andalusian cuisine.
It’s a busy city packed with things to see and do. Consider our favorite reasons to visit Malaga, Spain.
1. Shop Along Muelle Uno
Malaga’s port area was rejuvenated in 2011. Unattractive and uninteresting for several thousand years, it has had quite the transformation. Now Muelle Uno is a modern dining and shopping destination on the waterfront with an attractive promenade. This area is flat and easy walking with a steady balmy breeze from the sea.
When we visited, we enjoyed a stroll along the waterfront and lunch at one of the restaurants with a seascape view.
2. Visit Chapel Of Muelle Uno
The 18th-century Baroque Chapel of Muelle Uno is constructed from sandstone and is adjacent to the promenade.
It sits at the base of a long breakwater that leads out to the port’s cruise terminal. The light, one of the oldest in Spain, dates to 1817.
3. View The La Farola
A 19th-century lighthouse, La Farola, is 124 feet high and the only lighthouse in Malaga. It is one of Spain’s oldest lighthouses and is within walking distance of the port, Muelle Uno, and the beach.
La Farola is one of the few lighthouses in the world with a feminine name.
4. Explore Catedral De La Encarnacion De Malaga
One of Malaga’s most important architectural structures includes an intriguing blend of Baroque, Gothic, and Renaissance architectural styles. Catedral de la Encarnacion de Malaga was built on the ruins of the former mosque of Aljama.
This historical centerpiece is more than 250 years old and is one of the most impressive cathedrals in the region, even though it was never fully completed due to a lack of funds.
Two superb organs with more than 4,000 pipes, a grand marble staircase, and a beautiful assortment of frescoes, including Pedro de Mena’s sculptural work, can be viewed by guests inside the cathedral.
5. Walk In The Footsteps Of Ancient Romans
The Ancient Romans were some of the most iconic people to rule the city, and they left their mark with a Roman amphitheater built in the first century A.D. It is the oldest surviving monument in Malaga proper.
The theater is free to visit and is located in the city center.
6. Watch The Bullfights At Plaza La Malagueta
As we walked to Castillo de Gibralfaro, we passed the Bullfight ring. Malaga hosts bullfights in Plaza La Malagueta, which opened in 1876 and has a capacity of 14,000 spectators.
The Bullring is open from April through September. They were not hosting an event when we visited, but we had a great view of the stadium and ring from the top of the mountain.
7. Visit Alcazaba De Malaga
Dating back to the 11th-century Moorish period, Alcazaba de Malaga sits among orange groves and lush towering palms.
It was built upon the ruins of a former Roman bastion as you head up Mount Gibralfaro. Inside, you can view key architectural elements, including marble pillars. Beautiful gardens face the coast.
8. See Castillo De Gibralfaro
This is the castle we climbed the hill to visit. From our cruise ship, it didn’t look too far away. My friend thought we were only about 20 minutes from the castle. A good hour or so later, we arrived. Although it was a climb, the views from the top were worth it.
The magnificent view from the top of Mount Gibralfaro looking out over the city is impressive. The Castillo de Gibralfaro is a medieval Moorish fortress built on a Phoenician lighthouse site that dates back to the 10th century.
The site provides a historical perspective, although some of the fortress has been destroyed. The remains rise above the woodlands, and inside are relics of buildings typical of Islamic architecture.
The ramparts have been restored so visitors can walk around, discover the grounds, and enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of the Malaga harbor and shoreline.
While the hike up the hill is quite steep, the path is paved most of the way. There are several places along the way to stop and enjoy the view. A bus is also available to take you if you prefer to ride.
9. Eat Andalusian Seafood
Treat your tastebuds to delectable local flavors, including seafood. Malaga has a name for producing top-notch seafood dishes brimming with Andalusian flavors. Lobster, king prawns, carabineros (shrimp), and monkfish are crowd favorites.
Many of the restaurants allow you to enjoy views of the Mediterranean while you eat. Some even set up on the beach.
10. Sip Malaga’s Spanish Wine
There’s quite a range of complex and attractive wines from the area with five key geographical sub-areas. Malaga has a rich history in wine dating back 3,000 years.
Recognized as a wine producer of the modern world in the 20th-century, Malaga has no shortage of wine bars and bodegas where you can sip its finest.
If you are a wine enthusiast, don’t miss a stop at one of the oldest wine bars, Antigua Casa de Guardia. Established in 1840, it provides lots of old-world charm and delicious wines for you to enjoy.
11. View Art By Pablo Picasso
Malaga is the birthplace of the artist Pablo Picasso. Museo Picasso Malaga was opened in 2003 as a museum honoring Picasso’s work. Set in the city’s historical section, over 200 pieces of art spanning Pablo’s career hang on display against white-washed walls. The collection includes works from his childhood to his late musketeer obsession.
If you visit during the summer months, the museum is a great place to escape the heat.
12. Check Out The Gourmet Markets
Located just off Plaza de la Merced, Mercado de la Merced is one of the city’s trendiest gourmet marketplaces, offering fresh vegetables and fish, cheese, and cured ham. There are designer tapas bars available.
The market sits between the Cervantes Theatre House and Museo Casa Natal de Picasso.
13. Walk Through Tropical Gardens
One of the most alluring and exotic gardens in Spain, Jardin Botanico Historico La Concepcion hosts the most extensive collection of subtropical plants in Europe and has a rich history. From the garden, you have spectacular views of the sea and across Malaga.
14. Put Your Toes In The Sand
Malaga enjoys over 300 days of sun every year, so regardless of the time of year you visit, you will probably want to spend some time on the beach.
Caressed by the warm, gentle Mediterranean, the powdery sand beaches welcome you to relax. Known as the Costa del Sol capital, Malaga is a beach vacation hotspot during the summer months. People from around the globe visit to enjoy the region’s beaches.
The closest beach to the cruise port and the town is Playa de la Malagueta. It is the beach I walked on when visiting Malaga. While this is a beautiful beach, the sand is not as fine or powdery as some other beaches.
The next closest beach just east of the city center is Playa de las Acacias. It is a 40-minute walk from La Malagueta beach, or take bus number 11 from Alameda Principal to the beach.
15. Consider A Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus Tour
If you have limited time and want to see a lot, consider taking a Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus Tour of Malaga. You can see many of the sites in a short amount of time and hop off at the places you are most interested in spending time visiting. They usually hit all the hot spots, and it gives you an excellent overview of the city.
Whether you are searching for a Mediterranean beach vacation, delicious seafood, stunning architecture, or cultural attractions, you won’t be disappointed when you visit Malaga.
Malaga is a beautiful city with stunning scenery year-round, but the best times to visit to avoid the crowds are spring and fall. Wear comfortable shoes since there is a lot of walking. Even if you decide to just stroll along the port and shop, you will want comfortable shoes. For more Costa del Sol inspiration, consider How To Spend A Perfect Weekend In Beautiful Granada, Spain.