It is no secret that Malaga offers beautiful sandy beaches. But it may surprise you that there is another side to this Spanish city. Not many would place Malaga high on their list of cities to visit, but, in truth, this seaside city has so much to offer. Even when you visit Malaga in winter, the capital of the Costa del Sol will still thrive. This buzzing city with balmy weather, stunning scenery and delicious food is worthy of its renowned reputation. There are many beautiful places to visit in Malaga. Art lovers and history geeks will find plenty of attractions to keep them occupied. We did the hard part for you and created a list of the best things to do in Malaga. Whether this is your first, second or third visit, there is no shortage of attractions here.
Spend a day or two in Malaga, and it soon becomes clear why tourists flock there.
Why is Malaga a popular travel destination?
Malaga is famous for Andalusian culture and being one of the oldest cities in Europe. This coastal city gave the world Pablo Picasso and unique museums and galleries. It is a popular holiday destination on Costa del Sol because of its sandy beaches and lively night scene.
Beautiful places to visit in Malaga
If you are planning to visit this city and want to see the best places to visit in Malaga, you are in the right place. Read along to find out the top things to do in Malaga.
Top things to do in Malaga for culture lovers
1. Malaga Cathedral
It is easy to see why Malaga Cathedral is one of the best places to visit in Malaga. This Roman Catholic church is one of the most important monuments in the city. Malaga Cathedral is, in fact, one of the finest examples of Baroque-Renaissance architecture in Spain.
Malaga Cathedral history
Believe it or not, many years ago, when the Christians took over Malaga, the Catholic monarchs wanted to display their power. They decided to build Malaga Cathedral on the site of a former mosque, like other cathedrals in Spain. The construction work started in the 16th century. It took over 200 years to build it.
A small courtyard with fragrant orange trees is the only part of the mosque which survived.
Building Malaga Cathedral was an ambitious project, and it suddenly stopped when funds dried up. Look closely, and you will notice that Malaga Cathedral is incomplete. You are right to think that this beautiful church lacks one of its towers. The original plans had two towers, but due to a shortage of money, they completed only the North Tower. Because of the Cathedral’s unfinished state, the locals call it the One-Armed Lady.
For many tourists, this church is one of the city’s main sights
Malaga Cathedral inside
The Main Chapel of Malaga Cathedral is the heart of the temple.
Malaga Cathedral is a mixture of two styles. While Diego de Siloe designed it in the Renaissance style, it also has a Baroque façade and paintings. The highlights are stain-glass windows, a beautifully decorated ceiling, and 15 chapels. Also, do not miss a wooden choir with fine sculptures and two 18th-century organs with over 4,000 pipes. The Choir in the church is also one of the most valuable parts of the cathedral because numerous artists worked on it.
Malaga Cathedral is home to magnificent works of art.
Visiting Malaga Cathedral is one of the best things to do in Malaga because this beautiful church is a perfect example of the Spanish Renaissance. What’s more, Malaga Cathedral is the second tallest building in Andalusia. The Tower of Malaga Cathedral is only 4 metres shorter than the bell tower in Seville (97 m).
GOOD TO KNOW:
You can visit Malaga Cathedral every day. The opening times are 10 am – 6.00 pm on Monday to Saturday and 2 pm to 6 pm on Sunday. If you want to visit only Malaga Cathedral inside, expect to pay 8 euros. Those visiting the church inside and its roof need to pay 12 euros.
2. Roman theatre Malaga
If you want to soak up the city’s rich past, find the Roman theatre in the western part of the city. The Roman Theatre is one of the best places to visit in Malaga because it is the oldest monument in Malaga. Moreover, it’s a reminder of the Roman Imperium and one of the few surviving Roman ruins in the south of Spain. Because of that, a walk around the ruins of Malaga’s Roman theatre is one of the top things to do in Malaga.
Even though it is in ruins, much of the original design still exists. At the time of the construction, Malaga was one of the dominant cities in the region. Malaga’s Roman theatre dates back to the first century AD. The Romans built this theatre when Emperor Augustus was in power. They used it for a few hundred years up to the 3rd century AD. They abandoned it after the Romans left Andalusia.
Roman citizens used the Roman theatre for entertainment, such as dance and music. The Romans loved all types of entertainment – they even performed some plays to honour their Gods.
When the Arabs settled in Andalusia in the 8th century, they used parts of the theatre for their own building purposes. They took the stones and columns from the theatre as building material for a nearby fortress. Today you can still see some Roman columns in the Alcazaba fortress.
After that, this Roman theatre remained hidden underground for many centuries. The locals rediscovered it in the middle of the 20th century.
GOOD TO KNOW:
You can find the Roman theatre at the foot of the famous Alcazaba fortress. There is a small visitor centre where you can learn more about the history of how the Romans built the theatre. You can also see some finds here. Entry is free, and the visitor centre is not open on Mondays.
3. Semana Santa Malaga
Did you know that Holy Week, or Semana Santa in Spanish, is one of the most unusual events in Malaga? While Easter is a big deal in Spain, it is even more significant in Malaga. It is because impressive religious processions bring this Spanish city to life.
Holy Week is one of the biggest events of the year. If you do not know, Easter in Malaga is world famous for a week of religious processions. Thousands of visitors follow the parade throughout the city, accompanied by music. Because of that, visiting Malaga during Semana Santa is one of the top things to do in Malaga.
Forty-two brotherhoods in traditional costumes make processions through the streets of the city. They carry wooden sculptures and extravagant thrones representing scenes from the events of the Passion of Christ. They also make processions with pictures and richly decorated statues of the Virgin Mary. These extravagant floats are usually several meters tall. They take place from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday.
Beautiful places to visit in Malaga for the best views
4. Visit the roof of Malaga Cathedral
Many visitors turn back once they explore the church inside, but it would be a mistake. Did you know that you can visit the roof of Malaga Cathedral? Yes, that is correct, you can explore the rooftop of Malaga Cathedral, and it is well worth a visit.
If you are fit, take a guided tour of Malaga Cathedral. To access the roof, you must climb the 200 steps of the North Tower. Malaga Cathedral’s rooftop offers the best views in Malaga. From here, you can see the harbour and other landmarks in the city, such as the Alcazaba and Gibralfaro castle. Because of that, climbing steps to the rooftop of Malaga Cathedral is one of the top best things to do in Malaga.
What’s more, from here, you can spot the tops of the domes that protect the roof. The brick domes, which you can see today, are only a few years old (from 2010). They protect the original cupolas which are underneath.
The rooftop tour is safe because it follows the hand-railed walkways. It has pathways and a viewing platform with views in all directions.
GOOD TO KNOW:
- the rooftop tour of Malaga Cathedral lasts nearly an hour and is well worth the climb.
- to climb the roof, you need to buy a ticket which the locals refer to as ‘’covers’’ or cubiertas in Spanish. To visit the rooftop of the church costs 8 euros. Guided tours are available in English and Spanish.
- during the summer months, there is also a possibility to visit the roof in the evening. There is also a special ticket, which you can buy if you want to see the Malaga fair fireworks in August.
5. Alcazaba Malaga
As you already know, Malaga spent some time under Moorish rule. Because of that the city is home to numerous attractions from this era. Even though the Alcazaba is not as impressive landmark such as Granada’s Alhambra, this Moorish palace is still well worth a visit. You can find it at the foot of Gibralfaro hill.
Today the Alcazaba of Malaga is one of the best places to visit in Malaga because it is a valuable monument from the Islamic period. Moreover, the Alcazaba is a famous sight and one of the best preserved Moorish fortress palaces in Spain. You can see its walls from almost everywhere in the city.
The Alcazaba is one of the largest Muslim military buildings, which you can still find in Spain. It is also one of the best preserved citadels in the country. Because of that, the Alcazaba is one of the top attractions in Malaga.
History of the Alcazaba
The Moors built this palace in the 11th century on the ruins of a Roman bastion and expanded it multiple times. The Alcazaba became the home of Muslim rulers who governed from this citadel for hundreds of years. The fortress protected and defended the city from the Catholics.
Believe it or not, but the walls which you can see today once had 110 main towers and also other small towers. The two sets of walls protected the inside and outside citadel. These days you can see only some of the remaining towers.
When exploring the Alcazaba you will see gorgeous Arabic architecture, beautiful floral patios and courtyards with fountains and orange trees. There are also partly restored buildings and a small archaeological museum showcasing Moorish pottery and ceramics. The Alcazaba’s terraced garden courtyards with decorative pools offers some of the best views in Malaga.
Alcazaba’s various viewpoints offer beautiful views of the city.
GOOD TO KNOW:
- avoid the midday heat during the summer months
- the entrance to the Alcazaba is beside the Roman theatre.
- the entrance to the Alcazaba is free every Sunday if you visit after 2 pm.
- alternatively, get a combined ticket and you can visit both the Alcazaba and the nearby Gibralfaro castle for € 5,50
- you cannot buy your ticket online – you can only buy it in the visitor centre from a machine.
- expect long queues during the summer months (even more than 30 minutes just to buy a ticket)
- there is not much information about the history of this attraction. Hence, it is well worth booking a guided tour which lasts about 1 hour and 30 minutes.
6. Gibralfaro castle
Afterwards, walk to the Gibralfaro castle, which you can find high on the hill overlooking the city centre. The Gibralfaro castle is another remnant of Malaga’s Islamic past. You are correct if you think that the Moors built this palace for defensive purposes.
Unlike nearby Alcazaba, this protective fort had a more warlike purpose – you can still see lookout towers and ramparts.
History of the Gibralfaro castle
The Phoenicians (an ancient civilization) built a lighthouse here more than 2,500 years ago. When the Arabs came to the area in the 10th century, they constructed a palace in this place.
Later Malaga became the main port for the emirate of Granada, and the Sultan of Granada enlarged this fortress in the 14th century. The Gibralfaro castle acted as a lighthouse and had military barracks and soldiers.
However, the Gibralfaro castle is the most famous for a three-month siege by Catholic monarchs in the 15th century. The Christian troops besieged the Arabs in the fort. They surrendered when they ran out of food after three months. After the Christian Reconquest, the Gibralfaro Castle became the symbol of Malaga’s flag. It also became the symbol of the province.
Visiting Gibralfaro castle is one of the best things to do in Malaga if you love history. After regaining their power, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella decided to use this castle as a symbol of Malaga’s flag.
Even though the buildings and courtyards are destroyed, Gibralfaro Castle is well worth a visit. The most visible remains of Gibralfaro Castle are the high defence walls from which you can enjoy some of the best views in Malaga.
There is also a small military museum with weapons the soldiers used on the battlefield. You can also learn here more about the castle’s history after the Reconquest.
Enjoy the scenery from the walls as you walk around them.
GOOD TO KNOW:
Even though Gibralfaro Castle is connected to the nearby Alcazaba by a walled corridor, they are not connected. From the Alcazaba, you can go to the castle on foot via a path, which you can find on the south side of the Alcazaba. The walk takes about 25 minutes and offers beautiful views of the city. The walk is challenging if you are not fit because there is a steep climb at the end. Alternatively, you can take bus number 35 from the Avenida de Cervantes to Gibralfaro castle.
7. Gibralfaro viewpoint in Malaga
Gibralfaro viewpoint surrounded by pine trees
It is also worth stopping at Gibralfaro viewpoint, which you can find not far from Gibralfaro Castle. Gibralfaro viewpoint is one of the best places to visit in Malaga because this hilltop lookout point offers gorgeous views. In fact, Gibralfaro viewpoint has the best views in Malaga. You can see beautiful views of the town, the bay and the mountains from here.
Visiting the Gibralfaro viewpoint during sunrise or sunset is one of the top things to do in Malaga.
GOOD TO KNOW:
Gibralfaro viewpoint is one of the most famous viewpoints in Malaga because many tourists stop here on their way to the Gibralfaro castle. It is a popular stop to take a little break when walking on foot from the city centre.
Best places to visit in Malaga for museum lovers
Museum lovers looking for places to visit in Malaga have plenty of options. It is quickly becoming evident that Malaga is one of the most popular cultural destinations in the country.
8. Picasso Museum in Malaga
Did you know that Malaga is famous for giving the world Pablo Picasso? Yes, that is right, this city gave the world the most famous artist in Spain. This talented artist is, in fact, the most productive artist in the world. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Pablo Picasso produces about 13,500 paintings and designs. He also made 100,000 prints and engravings, 34,000 book illustrations and 300 sculptures and ceramics. His professional career lasted 75 years. Pablo Picasso became one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.
Visiting Picasso Museum is one of the top things to do in Malaga for lovers of modern art. Picasso Museum displays works from the late 19th century to his death in 1973. Members of Picasso’s family donated more than 200 artworks from their private collections. They cover different styles and techniques that Picasso mastered and offer insight into his style.
GOOD TO KNOW:
You can find Picasso Museum in the Buenavista Palace in the centre of the old town. The entrance ticket to the museum includes an audio guide. Hence, you can learn more about this brilliant artist. If you are lucky to be in the city on Sunday, you can visit Picasso Museum for free. Make sure you visit Picasso Museum on Sunday during the last two hours of opening.
9. Casa Natal Picasso
Just a short five-minute walk from the Picasso museum is Casa Natal de Picasso. This house on San Agustin street was once the birthplace house of the famous artist. Picasso spent his first years of childhood here. He went to a nursery school on this street. He moved away with his family from Malaga when he was only ten years old.
Picasso’s birthplace house is one of the best places to visit in Malaga if you love this brilliant artist. Malaga’s famous native son was a co-founder of the Cubist movement.
In Picasso’s house, you can learn more about the painter’s childhood because it traces Pablo’s life and work. The house has beautiful pictures and personal mementos of his family. There is also a temporary exhibition hall with artefacts and Picasso’s drawings.
GOOD TO KNOW:
The entry fee for the museum costs 3 euros. If you combine it with the temporary exhibition, you need to pay only 4 euros.
10. Pompidou Centre Malaga
If you have spare two hours (or three) while visiting the city, stop at the Pompidou Centre in Malaga. This colourful glass cube is a dominant feature in Malaga port. The museum is a branch of one of the top museums in France – the Pompidou Centre in Paris. Moreover, Pompidou Centre in Malaga is the first branch of this world-famous museum located outside France.
The Pompidou Centre is one of the best places to visit in Malaga because it houses a vast collection of contemporary art. This cube structure is home to modern art from all over the world. In the gallery underground, you can see canvases, sculptures and video installations from the prestigious Paris collection. Highlights include the works by Picasso, Frida Kahlo and other famous artists. There are also temporary exhibits every few months.
11. Museum of Malaga
If there is one more museum you should visit when exploring this city, it is the Museum of Malaga. Exploring the Museum of Malaga is one of the top things to do in Malaga because this is the biggest museum in Andalusia. Also, the Museum of Malaga is the fifth biggest museum in the country. The museum has an archaeology section, a Moorish section and a Spanish painting section. It houses more than 2,000 pieces of fine art and over 15,000 pieces of archaeology collection. Because of that, the Museum of Malaga is one of the best places to visit in Malaga if you are an art lover.
GOOD TO KNOW:
Entry to the Museum of Malaga is free for EU citizens and costs 1.50 euros for other nationalities. Also, this museum is not open on Mondays.
Beautiful places to visit in Malaga for nature lovers
12. Malaga Park
Not many would place Malaga Park high on their list of places to visit in Malaga, but it would be a mistake. This green space, which looks like a mini jungle from Gibralfaro Hill, is the oldest park in the city. This palm-lined park runs along the harbour and is about 300 metres long.
Did you know that this whole area was once the sea? Malaga park is only over 130 years old because this park lies on land reclaimed from the sea. At the end of the 19th century, the planting of trees began. The area turned into the ‘’green lungs of the city’’.
Today strolling through Malaga park is one of the top things to do in Malaga for nature lovers. The park, located between the old town and the new port, is full of tropical palm trees and exotic flowers.
Malaga Park has three pathways with several fountains and benches where you can sit down and relax. Throughout the park are also numerous statues dedicated to famous figures from Malaga. Malaga park is a place of serenity and is perfect for winding down on a hot summer day.
13. Botanical gardens Malaga
If you would like to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, visit La Concepcion Botanical Gardens. Did you know that the Botanical gardens in Malaga are one of the largest tropical and subtropical gardens in Spain? A noble family designed these exotic gardens in the middle of the 19th century. They created an oasis with plants and trees from all around the world.
Today Malaga’s Botanical Gardens contain more than 25,000 tropical plants and exotic flowers. Because of that, La Concepcion Botanical Gardens are one of the best places to visit in Malaga.
When visiting La Concepcion Botanical gardens, you can learn more about the ecosystems and their preservation. The gardens, which feature various fountains and waterfalls, are home to numerous bird species. Also, Mirador has some of the best views in Malaga and the sea.
GOOD TO KNOW:
Exploring La Concepcion Botanical gardens is one of the top things to do in Malaga if you want to spend a few hours in nature. You can find them 8 kilometres north of the city centre.
- to get there, take bus number 2 from Alameda Principal. Get off at the last stop and follow the pavement to the gardens. It will take you about 15 minutes to reach the entrance. The bus from the city centre runs every 10 -15 minutes. If you decide to take a taxi, expect to pay around 9 euros.
- entry to La Concepcion Botanical gardens costs 5.20 euros for an adult. There is free entry on Sundays between 3.30 pm – 7.30 pm from April to September. Free entry on Sundays all day between October and March.
- the gardens have a cafeteria with outdoor seating and a gift shop where you can buy souvenirs.
14. Camino del Rey
If you are not scared of heights and not nervous around cliff edges, we recommend you go to the Camino del Rey. The Camino del Rey is one of the best places to visit in Malaga. This spectacular hiking path was once considered one of the most dangerous paths in the world. But do not worry – the King’s Pathway is safe today.
El Camino del Rey runs through cliffs, canyons and a large valley. This carefully restored walkway pinned along the steep walls of the narrow gorge is, in fact, more than just a walk in the hills. It is an aerial path suspended against the walls of the canyon. The narrow passages and the hanging bridge with beautiful views are more than 100 metres above the ground. Because of that, walking the Camino del Rey is one of the top things to do in Malaga for adventure seekers.
Other places to visit in Malaga
15. Port of Malaga
One of the first places most people visit when they arrive in the city is the port of Malaga. Hundreds of thousands of cruise ship passengers pass through this port each year. This glamorous seaport with shops and restaurants has a modern feel. You can find beautiful yachts docked in the harbour near the palm-lined promenade. But that is not the only reason why the port of Malaga is one of the best places to visit in Malaga.
A port lies near the historic centre. It is a popular place for fireworks displays.
Did you know that the port of Malaga is one of the oldest operating ports in Spain? Yes, that is right, this port is more than 3000 years old. The Phoenicians founded this trading port in 1000 B. C. Malaga became a prosperous trading port under Roman rule. The Romans exported everything from iron and copper from nearby Ronda to olive oil and wine.
When the Moors invaded in the 8th century, Malaga became the main port for the nearby Granada. The Arabs exported figs and wine from here. Later, under the Habsburg Empire, Malaga became one of the biggest manufacturing ports in Europe. Today, this port is among the busiest seaports in the Mediterranean. It is the second largest port in the country (after Barcelona).
16. Beaches in Malaga
You cannot take a trip to Malaga without visiting one of the city’s beaches. There are a few to choose from, but Malagueta beach is the most famous. La Malagueta beach is the most popular beach in the city because it is the closest beach to the city centre. This dark sandy beach, dotted with palm trees, stretches more than 1 kilometre from the port. Malaga’s biggest beach is a blue flag beach. It attracts thousands of holidaymakers during the summer months.
There are other lovely beaches, such as La Caleta beach, La Misericordia beach and Penon del Cuervo beach.
17. Atarazanas Market
If you want to get some delicious local products, stop at the elegant Atarazanas Market. This market, located in an industrial design building with stained-glass windows, is a focal point of daily life for the locals. The people of Malaga come here to shop for Spanish cured meat, cheese, fish and fresh fruit and vegetables. The stalls offer hundreds of varieties of olives – you can even get a tapa here. Despite the central location of this food market, the prices are reasonable here. The market is open every day except Sunday from 8 am until 2 pm.
Now you know what are the best places to visit in Malaga!
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