Malaga is a coastal gem situated along southern Spain’s Costa del Sol. It’s a captivating and vibrant destination with a rich cultural history, beautiful beaches, and a thriving cultural scene. But, is Malaga worth visiting? Is it’s past enough to make you want to visit Malaga Spain? The past history does make Malaga a city worth visiting but the city also embraces the contemporary. Let’s delve into the question of whether Malaga is worth visiting.
Is Malaga Worth Visiting
There are so many reasons that make Malaga a city worth visiting but 4 of the BEST reasons to visit Malaga Spain are the historical sites, it’s art scene, the food, and the beaches. But we first need to discuss Malaga’s history. What is it that has made Malaga the city it is today?
If you want to know about safety in Malaga read my article Is Malaga Safe?
Where is Malaga?
Malaga is located in the southern region of Spain, known as Andalusia, and is the capital of the Malaga Region. This coastal town’s location is what helped grow Malaga into an important city on the trade route. Malaga is a city with a mix of historical and modern elements and today is Spain’s sixth largest city with a population of around 595,000 people.
Malaga is a historic city dating back thousands of years. It has been influenced by various civilizations and cultures over several centuries. The first evidence of human settlement dates back to the Phoenicians, around 770 BC, when they established a trading post and Malaga became an important trading hub in the Mediterranean.
Malaga was once known as Malaca back when the Romans conquered the city in 218 BC. The Romans constructed multiple structures including theaters and aqueducts. They ruled the region until the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century AD.
After the Roman period, Malaga came under the rule of the Visigoths and then the Byzantines. During that time, the city’s importance was diminished. In 711 AD Muslim forces from Northern Africa, known as the Moors, conqured Malaga. Under the Moorish rule, the city experienced significant growth and development and it once again became a center of trade, culture, and learning. The Moorish influence on Malaga’s architecture and culture can be seen today.
In the 15th century, two powerful families were joined together in marriage which would become the beginning of the Kingdom of Spain. The politically arranged marriage of Ferdinand II and Isabella united two separate kingdoms, set off Spain’s exploration of the New World, and banned all religions except Roman Catholicism. They were also responsible for establishing the Spanish Inquisition which enforced the one religion rule.
It was the Catholic Monarchs who would recapture the region from the Moors marking the end of Muslim rule in the city. Malaga became part of the Spanish Empire and played a significant role in maritime trade and exploration throughout the world.
Malaga Spain experienced rapid urban development and economic growth in the 20th century. It’s become a popular tourist destination due to it’s Mediterranean location and climate, historic sites, and cultural attractions.
If you’re looking for more information and articles about Spain then head over to our Spain page to read more about the country and places to visit.
What makes Malaga worth visiting?
If you are looking for a beautiful and vibrant destination to explore on your next vacation then Malaga should be on your list. Boasting a rich history, breathtaking architecture, beautiful beaches, amazing food, and a thriving cultural scene, there is so much to experience which makes Malaga worth a visit.
Do you love history and architecture? Malaga Spain is home to multiple historic landmarks including Roman ruins and a castle. If you are an art enthusiast then you’ll be interested to know that Pablo Picasso was from Malaga and is the perfect place to immerse yourself in his works. Or maybe you just want to relax and soak up the warm Mediterranean sun. Well, Malaga has that too. There really is something for everyone. Let’s explore the many reasons why you should visit Malaga Spain and why it should be at the top of your travel bucket list.
If you’re a history enthusiast then you’ll be happy to know that there is PLENTY of that to explore in Malaga Spain. From castles to a Roman theater, get to know Malaga’s ancient history by touring it’s historical sites. These sites are an integral part of Malaga Spain and a must-see when you visit.
- Alcazaba of Malaga: One of the best sites to explore in Malaga Spain is a Moorish Fortress located right on the edge of the historic city center. This Islamic palace is one of the most well-preserved of its kind in Spain and a significant historical landmark in Malaga and Andalusia. Construction on the fortress began in the 11th century and served as a royal residence and for defensive purposes.
There’s plenty to look at there too with gardens, fountains, courtyards, and multiple buildings all with decorative mosaics and beautiful architecture. With it’s location on the top of a hill, once you get to the top you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the city and coast.
- Gibralfaro Castle: Once you’re done spending a few hours at Alcazaba, head over to Gibralfaro Castle. The castle dates back to the 10th century when it was built by the Moors during their rule. It was later expanded and used to house troops protecting the Alcazaba. Like the Alcazaba, there are fantastic views of the surrounding landscapes including the city of Malaga and the port.
- Teatro Romano de Malaga: The Roman theater of Malaga sits at the foot of the Alcazaba and dates all the way back to the 1st century BC when the Roman Empire occupied the city. It’s carved into the hillside and once sat around 2000 people. It was later abandoned and some of it’s stones were moved to the Alcazaba. The theater was covered by other structures and mostly forgotten. It’s hard to believe but the Roman Theater was lost to history until it was rediscovered in 1951 during construction work. This led to restoration and today it’s open to the public and a must-see site. And it’s free!
- Catedral de la Encarnacion de Malaga: The Cathedral of Malaga sits in the center of old town and is one of the iconic landmarks of the city. The cathedral has styles of Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque and was built in 1528 on the site of a former mosque.
- Mercado Central de Atarazanas: The Atarazanas Market, which dates back to the 14th century, is a historical landmark worth exploring. The market is a great place to explore the food culture of Malaga and Andalusia.
Malaga Spain is the birthplace of artist Pablo Picasso so it should be no surprise that Malaga has a great art scene. So if art is your thing then here are just a few reasons Malaga is worth a visit.
- Museo Picasso: Malaga is the birthplace of Pablo Picasso and a visit to the Picasso Museum to see a collection of his works including paintings, sculptures, and ceramics is a must.
- Museo Carmen Thyssen: A former 16th century palace, this museum features a collection of Spanish and Andalusian art focusing on 19th century works. You’ll find paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts at the museum.
- Museo de Malaga: The Malaga Museum is located in an 18th century Palace and features a range of art including archaeological artifacts showcasing the history and culture of the region of Malaga. You’ll also find more of Pablo Picasso’s works at the Malaga Museum.
- Cac Malaga: The Contemporary Art Centre is dedicated to contemporary art focusing on Spanish and andalusian artists. The museum has rotating exhibitions and is a platform for emerging artists to showcase their work.
- Museo de Artes y Costumbres Populares: The Museum of Popular Arts and Customs is dedicated to showcasing the tradional arts and customs of the Andalusian region and of spain. The museum features pottery, textiles, and woodworks. There’s also traditional clothing from different areas of the people of Andalusia, musical instruments, and religious artifacts.
- Museum Jorge Rando: The Jorge Rando Museum features the contemporary works of artist Jorge Rando and promotes is artistic contriutions to Spain. His sculptures explore themes of spirituality and the human condition.
- Pompidou Center: This museum is an extension of the Centre Pompidou in Paris and showcase a diverse range of contemporary art and exhibitions. Even the colorful cube-shaped building is a piece of art representing the modern era of Malaga and has become an iconic part of the skyline.
Malaga’s food scene is heavily influenced by it’s location of being a coastal town. You can’t visit Malaga Spain without taste testing a few of it’s local dishes.
- Fritura or Malaga’s Fried Fish: Most restaurants offer a variety of fresh fish lightly battered, fried, and served with a lemon wedge. You can order an assorted platter of fried fish or a specific kind. Some of the varieties it includes is cod, squid, and anchovies.
- Espeto de sardinas or spit of sardines: While you can find these in restaurants, the best ones can be found right on the beach. The sardine skewers are roasted over a barbeque pit right on the beach by fishermen’s boats. The ones you find in a restaurant will be slightly diffeent so maybe give both a try!
- Ensalada Malagueña or Malaga salad: a potato salad with oranges, cod, and olives. It’s the perfect addition to any Malaga meal.
- Paella: This dish may have originated in Valencia, just up the coast from Malaga, but this classic Spanish dish can be found everywhere. Paella consists of chicken or seafood cooked with rice, tomatoes, onions, and spices. The pan is pretty big and is a great dish to share with friends and family.
- Gambas al Pil Pil: Fresh prawns fried with garlic, paprika, peppers, and olive oil. It’s slightly spicy, but not too much. Just the right amount of spice. It’s also served with bread so you can soak up the spicy sauce when you’re done with the prawns.
- Tapas: The most common thing you’ll see on a Spanish menu is Tapas. Tapas are basically appetizers but sometimes they can be enough for a meal. Usually several are ordered and shared amongst everyone and yes they are delicious!
Can you really visit Malaga Spain without checking out the coast? No you can’t. Malaga Spain is known for it’s beautiful beaches along the Costa del Sol. Here are just a few of the beaches around Malaga to visit and to soak up some sun, have fresh seafood, and enjoy the natural beauty of the region.
- La Malagueta Beach: This beach is centrally located in Malaga and is the most popular. It’s close to the city center and has plenty of bars and restaurants where you can enjoy fresh seafood and drinks with a view.
- Playa de la Caleta: Just a short walk from La Malagueta Beach, Playa de la Caleta is smaller and is the perfect spot to sunbathe and take in the views of the Alcazaba Fortress.
- Playa de la Misericordia: This family-friendly beach is located west of the city center and has plenty of water sports to choose from like paddleboarding and windsurfing.
- Pedregalejo Beach: Pedregalejo Beach is located a little east of Malaga and is a traditional fishing village which will give youo a more authentic local experience. The beachfront has plenty of seafood restaurants serving fresh seafood dishes.
- Playa de Guadalmar: If you want to get away from the crowds then head to Playa de Guadalmar. It’s located west of the city and is more remote, peacful, and is known for it’s dunes and natural landscape. It’s a great beach to escape from the city and relax.
Malaga’s location makes it the perfect home base for exploring the surrounding areas of Andalusia. If you have at least one week in the area you won’t have any problem finding things to do. Spend a few days exploring Malaga and then add some day trips to close by cities. While there are so many day trip destinations that are close by making Malaga a city worth visiting, here’s a list of 7 places you should visit while here.
There are several ways to get to these locations. You can take trains, public bus, or rent a car. If you’re able to rent a car, this will be the best way to take your day trips. It’s definitely the fastest way to get to these places and if you have multiple people with you then it could save money in the end.
Another fantastic option is to take a tour. Taking a tour is the easiest way to see these places. It will cost more but you won’t have to deal with renting a car and figuring out how to get there. You just show up and your meeting point and let someone else worry about the details.
- Ronda: One of those places that when you see the photos your first thought is “I have to go there”! Ronda is a historic and picturesque town known for it’s location on top of a deep gorge. The most famous thing to see in Ronda Spain is the Puente Nuevo, the New Bridge. It’s just something you have to see in person. There are many historical attractions to see in Ronda making it a top day trip from Malaga.
This Ronda Tour from Malaga is great option and also includes a visit to Setenil de las Bogedas, which is just 15 minutes from Ronda.
- Granada: Granada is renowned for it’s stunning Islamic architecture, especially the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Alhambra. Alhambra is the main attraction in Granada and it’s a must-see if you’re in the Malaga region. While Granada is just outside the Malaga region it’s only 1.5 hours away so it’s definitely a place near Malaga worth a visit.
This full day Granada Tour will take you to visit three different sites including the UNESCO site of Alhambra.
- Nerja: Nerja is a picturesque coastal town known for it’s beautiful beaches with clear waters and a range of water sports. Other places in Nerja that are well worth a visit is The Caves of Nerja and Old Town.
- Frigiliana: Frigiliana is just 15 minutes from Nerja and would be a great addition to that day trip. Frigiliana is a picturesque village known for Moorish architecture, narrow cobblestone streets, and is also known as one of the “White Villages”. The historic town has winding streets and whit-washed buildings and has amazing viewpoints of the surrounding countryside. Seeing these villages is a must when you visit Malaga Spain.
Consider this very affordable Frigiliana and Nerja Tour out of Malaga if you don’t want to rent a car.
- Antequera: Just an hour north of Malaga Spain, the town of Antequera is home to a Neolithic archaeological site called the Dolmens of Antequera. This UNESCO World Heritage Site consists of megalithic burial grounds. Other places in Antequera worth a visit are the medieval fortress of Alcazaba of Antequera and the Convent of El Carmen. Nearby is a popular hiking site called Torcal de Antequera.
Take this tour to Antequera and you’ll visit both the Dolmens as well as Torcal de Antequera.
- Caminito del Rey: If you visit Malaga you will definitely have to visit Caminito del Rey which means “King’s Little Pathway”. As long as you aren’t too afraid of heights! This hike is a wooden boardwalk attached to steep cliffs. The Caminito del Rey has stunning views of the Gaitanes Gorge and winds along the cliff, through tunnels, and over a suspension bridge. Plan to spend 3-4 hours here.
Let someone else deal with all the details while you just enjoy the views of Caminito del Rey when you join this tour.
Read Getting from Malaga Airport to the City Center – 6 easy ways
What to know Before you Visit Malaga
Best time to visit Malaga Spain
Malaga’s location along the Mediterranean coast makes it a worth a visit any time of the year but there are some differences between the seasons. The best time to visit Malaga Spain really depends on your preferences for weather as well as when you’re able to go. If your schedule is open and you can go at anytime of the year then read about the seasons below to find the perfect time for trip.
Spring is one of the best times to visit Malaga. The weather is mild with temperatures ranging from 60 to 77. The flowers and gardens are in bloom and there are multiple religious festivals which will give you a cultural experience you might not get at other times of the year.
Summer is the busiest time in Malaga Spain. Temperatures are hot, averaging above 86. It’s a great time to enjoy the beach but it’s extremely busy and the crowds are large. Personally, I would not visit in the summer. You will be shoulder to shoulder with tourists, sites will be crowded, and it will be really hot. But, if summer is the only time you can visit then go for it. It’s crowded everywhere in Europe in the summer so definitely don’t let it stop you from visiting Malaga. Just know what to expect.
Late September to early October is a great time to visit Malaga and is my preference. It’s still really nice out, temperatures are warm enough to enjoy the beach, and the crowds will have thinned out. I was there in September and it was perfect!
The mild weather in the winter makes Malaga worth visiting during this time. Daytime temperatures will be in the 60’s and the evenings will be cooler. You’ll enjoy the city with hardly any crowds making it the perfect time to explore museums and historical sites.
According to climate-data.org, you can see the average temperatures and rainfall a year for Malaga Spain. But don’t let those average temperatures fool you. If you go in the summer expect it to probably be hotter than the average temperature.
How many days do you need in Malaga Spain
I would recommend no less than 3 days to see the city of Malaga. This will give you enough time to explore a little bit of everything. Split your days between historical sites, museums, and the beach to break everything up.
DAY ONE: Pick a few historical sites on your first day to visit in the morning and then head to the beach in the afternoon. Visit a museum in the late afternoon before heading to dinner.
DAY TWO: On your second day stroll through the market in the morning before visiting another museum. After lunch visit the cathedral and Roman Theater and finish the day shopping before dinner.
DAY THREE: On your third day you can visit another museum and historical site and head to the beach again in the afternoon.
Hopefully you’ve decided to stay for at least a week and can plan some day trips on the other days. You might want to split up your itinerary and visit some sites in Malaga one day, day trip the next, Malaga City the following day, and so on. That way you’re not spending 3-4 days in a row doing all that traveling. However, if you choose to rent a car then you would need to consider the savings of renting a car for just 3 days instead of for a whole week.
Where to stay in Malaga Spain
When visiting Malaga Spain, the best area to stay depends largely on your preferences and interests. However, many tourists prefer the Downtown area, specifically around Calle Larios and the Malaga Historic Center. This area is close to the city’s attractions such as the Picasso Museum, Malaga Cathedral, and Alcazaba. It also has a diverse range of restaurants and shopping options.
You can choose from luxury hotels to apartments to budget friendly hostels. There’s a wide range of choices in Malaga to choose from.
How to get around Malaga
Getting around Malaga Spain is generally easy and convenient, with a range of transportation options available. From public transportation to taxis to walking, every option is readily available which helps make Malaga worth visiting. Moreover, the city’s compact nature and pedestrian-friendly streets make walking an enjoyable and often preferred mode of transport, especially for those intent on soaking up Malaga’s rich history and culture at their own pace.
Getting around Malaga is quite easy thanks to an efficient public transportation system. The public transportation system includes a comprehensive bus network and a metro system with two lines. The city’s bus network covers most areas and is a cost-effective means of transport. For those who prefer a faster mode, the Cercanías suburban train connects Malaga’s central areas with outlying neighborhoods and the airport.
Taxi or Uber
Taxis are readily available and, while pricier, offer convenience especially if you’re traveling with luggage. Uber is also available in Spain so make sure to download the app. Uber is generally a little cheaper than taxis too.
For those who prefer driving, car rental services are offered by numerous providers. However, do keep in mind the city’s traffic rules and parking regulations. You’ll also need to think about the parking situation before you book. While you won’t need a car in the city, you may need one if you decide to take some day trips.
Another option is to rent a bike or scooter. Malaga is a bike-friendly city with numerous bike rental services and dedicated lanes. Malaga offers plenty of options for renting both bicycles and scooters, making it easy to navigate the city. There are numerous bike rental services available, with a variety of bicycles to choose from, including city bikes and even electric bikes. You can even rent a scooter. One popular option is the e-scooter rental services, which can typically be accessed and paid for via mobile apps. You’ll find them in various locations around town.
Malaga is a highly walkable city, with many of its key attractions located within close proximity. The city’s well-planned and pedestrian-friendly layout encourages visitors to explore on foot. Meandering through the historic center, you will come across architectural gems, museums, bustling markets, and cafes & restaurants, most within a short stroll from each other.
The city’s picturesque promenades along the beach provide stunning sea views and opportunities to experience Malaga’s vibrant coastal culture. This walkability, coupled with a pleasant Mediterranean climate, makes Malaga an ideal destination for those who enjoy exploring cities at a leisurely pace.
If you’re traveling around Spain to different cities, the best way to do that is by train. In my How to buy a train ticket in Spain tells you everything you need to know about how to do that.
It’s undeniable that Malaga Spain is worth visiting for its rich history, stunning architecture, beautiful beaches, and vibrant cultural scene. From exploring ancient fortresses and museums to indulging in delicious cuisine, there is something for everyone in this charming city. Whether you are a history enthusiast, an art lover, or simply seeking relaxation by the sea, Malaga has it all. So pack your bags and immerse yourself in the Mediterranean because you won’t be disappointed!
Do I need to rent a car in Malaga?
Malga Spain is a very walkable city so you won’t need one while there. However, if you plan on taking some day trips then it’s something to consider.
How many days do I need to visit Malaga Spain?
To see all the major sites IN Malaga Spain, you need at least 3 full days. Those days will be busy. If you want to visit a few places outside of Malaga then I would stay in Malaga for 5-7 days.
Is Malaga safe?
Yes, Malaga is very safe. Of course there are always areas of town that are not as nice as the touristy areas so you just need to be cautious and if it doesn’t feel right then trust your instinct. I went out in Malaga at midnight to meet up with someone and didn’t feel unsafe at any point.
Is Malaga expensive?
We found Malaga to be very reasonably priced. From the food to the sites. The entrance fee to both the Alcazaba and Castillo de Gibralfaro was only 5,50€. For both! Malaga is very affordable.
What are the absolute can’t miss sites to see in Malaga
If I had to pick the top 3 sites, I would say the Alacazaba, the Cathedral, and the Picasso Museum.