Top 10 attractions and things to do in Malaga
1. Gibralfaro Castle, the Alcazaba and Roman Theatre
If you want to take in some beautiful views of the city, head to the fourteenth century Castle of Gibralfaro, one of Malaga‘s top attractions. The view is ready made for Instagram. From here, you can walk along the wall that connects the castle with the gardens, fountains and beautiful courtyard of the Alcazaba. It’s an ideal place to watch the sunset from here, and it makes for a delightful Sunday afternoon stroll, as after 2pm admission is free (other times it’s €5.50 for both monuments).
Finally, don’t miss the Roman Theatre, built by Emperor Augustus and rediscovered in 1951. Nowadays it shows open-air performances on show (admission is free).
2. Try Malaga’s famous sweet wine
There are two great places in Malaga’s old town if you want to try the best local wines, or eat the most authentic local cuisine. The first is the atmospheric wine bar, Pimpi. This is the place to go in the afternoon or late evening for a glass of sweet Malaga wine. It’s typical of old Malaga – full of ancient tiles, barrels and signed photos of the celebrities who have visited over the years. Another favourite spot for locals is La Casa del Guardia or ‘The Guardhouse’ which is the oldest tavern in Malaga.
3. Visit the Picasso Museum
This is an unmissable attraction in Malaga. Pablo Picasso was born here, and there’s a museum dedicated to him in the Palace of Condes de Buenavista, a Renaissance building decorated with Moorish elements that has been restored in a Modern style. In the museum you can see more than 200 paintings, early academic studies and re-workings of old masters by one of the greatest painters of the twentieth century. While you’re there, peek into the basement which has remains of Phoenician Malaga (seventh century BC) and traces of Roman architecture.
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4. Eat grilled sardines and take a swim at the beach
If you’re wanting to get a flavour of the real Malaga, visit the old fishing district of El Palo. Locals love to come here to eat espeto de sardinas (grilled sardines) or pescaito frito (fried fish). Both can be found at any beach bar. Grilled sardines are the most typical dish in Malaga, consisting of six sardines pierced on a stick, cooked on the embers of the fire right on the beach. The cost is €2–€10, depending on the area and the bar.
If you want to sit down and have a proper meal, try the restaurant Palo El Tintero (the Inkwell). It’s a unique place, where the waiters pass around the tables to auction each dish (better if you know some Spanish!). After your meal, enjoy a swim from one of the beaches of Pedregalejo, a trendy area well-known to Malaga locals for its friendly and relaxed atmosphere. This is a good place to end the day, by stopping at the beach and enjoying a chilled drink on one of the café terraces.
5. Discover the Manquita – Malaga’s cathedral
La Manquita is a much-loved symbol and one of the top attractions in Malaga, founded in the fifteenth century on the site of a mosque. Its nickname, used by all locals, means ‘one armed woman’, because the south tower was never finished. Legend claims that the funding for the cathedral’s completion was donated to the colonists’ cause during the American War of Independence. If you go into the cathedral, take a look at the intricate details of the figures sculpted within the choir stalls made by Pedro de Mena.
6. An evening walk with coffee, tea and churros
Don’t miss merienda time in Malaga, which is a must between 5 and 7pm. Take a walk down Calle Larios (the main artery of the city), Granada street, the square of La Merced and Molina Larios street. It’s a leisurely outing – why not stop at a café and have a coffee. Maybe una nube (a cloud), un sombre (a shadow), un mitad (a half), or un cortado (a cut)? If you get hungry, head to Casa Aranda to eat churros (fritters) with coffee. Or have a crepe or cake at one of the fantastic tea shops in San Agustin Street. If you’re feeling fancy, go to the terrace of the AC Malaga Palacio to have a drink while enjoying the stunning views of the cathedral.
7. Pier 1 Port of Malaga and the Palm of Surprises
A popular neighbourhood for walking is Peir I Port of Malaga, a wide space opened in 2011 that has amazing views of Gibralfaro Castle and Alcazaba. It’s a magical place at night, with bars, restaurants, shops and ice cream parlours. You can walk all the way to the end, where it joins the Malagueta area, and finish up with a swim at the beach or drinks on the promenade. Or both!
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8. Relax in La Concepción Historical-Botanical Gardens
La Concepción Historical-Botanical Gardens are an oasis of peace in the city. The perfect place to take a break and relax, to sit and read in the lush vegetation, enjoy the tranquil paths and admire the charming ornate fountains. It also has one of the most magnificent tropical and subtropical gardens in Europe. Admission is only €5.20, and for this you have the option of taking a guided tour.
9. Explore the Carmen Thyssen Museum
This museum opened in 2011, and has a vast collection of nineteenth-century Spanish paintings. It boasts a delightful interior courtyard (and very stylish gift shop), too.
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10. Hang out in Mitjana Square
The people of Malaga are known for being open, friendly, cheerful and hospitable. And I recommend going out after 11.30pm to see just how true this is. The best place to do it is Mitjana Square in the old centre of town, which is packed with people and energy every evening. Just show up and mingle!
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*Revised June 2019. Prices correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change and/or availability.
10 best things to do in Malaga: a local’s guide
|1. Gibralfaro Castle, the Alcazaba and Roman Theatre|
|2. Try Malaga’s famous sweet wine|
|3. Visit the Picasso Museum|
|4. Eat grilled sardines and take a swim at the beach|
|5. Discover the Manquita – Malaga’s cathedral|
|6. An evening walk with coffee, tea and churros|
|7. Stroll Pier 1 Port of Malaga and the Palm of Surprises|
|8. Relax in La Concepción Historical-Botanical Gardens|
|9. Explore the Carmen Thyssen Museum|
|10. Hang out in Mitjana Square|
Credit: Tripbod Ana M Ramos