Why you should travel to Malaga? Once a working-class port city, Malaga has undergone a stunning transformation in recent years, thanks in part to its thriving arts and cultural scene. Today, the city is a cosmopolitan hub that draws visitors from all over the world with its stunning architecture, interesting museums, and unforgettable atmosphere.
Thanks to its location along the sun-soaked coast of southern Spain, Malaga is also the bonafide capital of the Costa del Sol. This aptly-named stretch — the Sun Coast — is a favorite destination of the rich and famous, especially glamorous cities like Marbella to the sun-drenched beaches and clear waters of the Mediterranean.
But Malaga is much more than that. The city boasts a rich cultural tapestry that dates back thousands of years, with its Andalusian heritage adding a touch of Moorish magic to its charms.
It’s not just the city’s history and culture that are drawing visitors to travel to Malaga. Indulge in Malaga’s gastronomic offerings, where the freshest seafood and local mercado-picked ingredients are paired with impeccable flavors that will entice even the most refined palates. With a thriving gastronomy scene, the city is a fine juxtaposition of Michelin-starred restaurants placed side-by-side with local eateries and street food. Pair that with a crisp white or full-bodied red from one of the region’s wineries and you have the recipe for happiness!
If you’re already wondering what to do in Malaga or simply want to be inspired, we invite you to explore this stunning city with us! Keep reading to see why everyone should visit Malaga at least once in their life and see this Costa del Sol gem for themselves.
1. Sights and Delights: Malaga’s attractions
While Malaga might be famous for its long stretches of sandy beaches — 150 kilometers, in fact! — that doesn’t mean it’s only a beach destination.
Malaga will leave even the most discerning traveler enchanted. From its vibrant street art to awe-inspiring architecture and lush greenery of its parks, this city offers an unforgettable experience. History buffs will relish the opportunity to explore the city’s ancient Roman Theatre and Alcazaba, while foodies will delight in the buzzing Mercado Central… and that’s just the tip of the Malaga must-visit list.
While one could spend a lifetime in Malaga and never get bored, the city is also quite doable in bite-sized pieces — and 48 hours is the perfect amount of time to get acquainted with the city. Let’s start with some of the top things to see in Malaga.
Wander Through the Alcazaba & Witness Malaga’s Ornate Past
There’s no better way to get acquainted with Malaga than by starting at the impressive Alcazaba. Although it isn’t the oldest monument in the city (that honor goes to the Roman theater, which is conveniently located at the foot of the citadel), the Alcazaba is undoubtedly one of the most iconic. This Moorish fortress, which dates back to the 11th century, is a true reflection of the city’s rich history.
As you wind your way through the Alcazaba’s winding labyrinth of courtyards, gardens, and terraces, you’ll be transported to a bygone era of illustrious monarchs and conquerors.
The fortress’s imposing walls are a testament to the city’s cultural heritage, while the intricate tilework and ornate arches are an excellent reflection of the masterful artistry of the civilizations who built it. Of special note are the beautiful Patio de los Naranjos, a small but serene oasis surrounded by orange trees and a fountain, as well as the Patio de la Alberca. Both are excellent remnants from the Nasrid era, whose other works include the Alhambra in Granada.
Those who crave adventure can climb up to Gibralfaro Castle, where they will be rewarded with breathtaking views over the city and the Mediterranean sea.
Relax the Andalusian Way
Besides elaborate palaces and exotic dishes, the hammam is another iconic Moorish influence that has stood the test of time. Although this luxurious ritual is often associated with neighboring Morocco, it has found popularity with Malagan locals and visitors.
A visit to a hammam is a multi-step ritual that typically involves a combination of hot steam, cold water, and various massages and scrubs that are designed to detoxify and revitalize the body.
Upon entering the hammam, visitors are enveloped in a serene and calming atmosphere before being guided through a series of rooms, each with varying temperatures and levels of humidity, to indulge the soul and purify the body. It’s an excellent way to relax after a long day of exploring Malaga!
Our recommended hammam in Malaga: Hammam Al Ándalus Baños Árabes.
Admire the Malaga Cathedral
Nestled in the center of the city, the Malaga Cathedral is a stunning architectural masterpiece that has captivated visitors for centuries. Built between the 16th and 18th centuries, the cathedral boasts an impressive blend of Gothic and Renaissance styles that will leave you breathless.
Stroll Along the Muelle Uno
This aptly-named promenade — muelle means dock in Spanish — is a chic open-air mix of restaurants, cafes, bars, and, of course, a dreamy view of the Mediterranean. The sunsets here are legendary!
Savor the Creative Scene of Soho
Malaga is a popular case study when it comes to a successful urban transformation, and one of its most central districts has adopted a similar approach. Soho, once a dilapidated neighborhood, has been thoroughly reinvented as one of the city’s most colorful and en vogue places to be.
This triangle-shaped wedge near the waterfront is known for its streets lined with colorful murals, cutting-edge art galleries, and trendy boutiques boasting the latest in contemporary fashion and one-of-a-kind pieces.
It’s also a (not so) hidden gem for curious epicureans thanks to the neighborhood’s innovative restaurants, a booming street food scene, and chefs that constantly come up with creative new ideas.
Last but certainly not least, don’t miss the Made in Soho market. Held on the first Saturday of every month, this buzzing open-air market is where local artisans come to show off their latest creations.
Botanical Historical Garden La Concepción
The Botanical Historical Garden La Concepción, one of Spain’s most impressive gardens (and one of the biggest in Europe!), is a stunning oasis of tranquility and beauty that has enchanted visitors for over a century.
Originally created in the mid-19th century by a wealthy couple with a passion for botany and horticulture, the garden has grown to encompass over 50 hectares of lush greenery, exotic plants, and charming pathways. In fact, The garden’s founders, the Marquis and Marchioness of Casa Loring, collected plants from all over the world and created a space that was not only beautiful but also educational. Today, the garden is home to over 55,000 plants, many of which are rare and endangered.
Visitors to the garden can wander through its myriad of gardens, each with its own distinct personality and charm, from the serene desert landscapes to an enchanting tropical forest.
Malaga is an absolute mecca for shopping, and no trip to this city is complete without peeking into a few stores.
The charming pedestrian street of Calle Larios is a bustling hub of activity where visitors can find everything from high-end fashion to handmade souvenirs.
For those looking for something more unique, Malaga offers a wealth of specialty shops selling handcrafted ceramics, leather goods, and other artisanal products. One such shop is Alfajar Cerámica, a local family studio specializing in handmade ceramics for the past 30 years.
Relax on a Rooftop
Is there anything more chic than sipping some sherry or Malaga wine, enjoying some quintessential Andalusian tapas, and watching the sun slowly set from a rooftop terrace? Thankfully, Malaga has a fantastic rooftop scene, with many hotels, restaurants, and bars offering stunning panoramic vistas over the city and the Mediterranean sea. It’s the perfect way to end a busy day!
2. A World-Renowned Art Hub
Malaga is the birthplace of many famous artists, including Felix Revelló de Toro, Jorge Rando, and, of course, Pablo Picasso. With so many eclectic and artistic natives, it’s no surprise that Malaga has easily established itself as the destination for art and culture. There are more than 30 museums and art centers scattered across the city!
Let’s start with one of the most famous residents: Pablo Picasso. This bon vivant was born in Malaga and lived there until he was 10 years old, yet his Andalusian roots served as a significant inspiration throughout his life. Many of Picasso’s works have symbols of his native city, such as the presence of the Mediterranean Sea, bulls and bullfighting, and elements of flamenco.
While Malaga may have left an impression on Picasso, the opposite is true as well! The city is home to two Picasso museums — the Museo Casa Natal (“Birthplace Museum”), the birthplace of Picasso and where he spent his early years, and the Picasso Museum Málaga, which houses his early and lesser-known works.
Another must-visit museum in Malaga is the Pompidou Center, a branch of the famous Parisian museum that showcases modern and contemporary art. The museum features a permanent exhibition as well as a rotating collection of installations that showcase the works of both established and emerging artists from around the world.
The Carmen Thyssen Museum is another gem in Malaga’s crown, with a collection that focuses on Andalusian art and Spanish paintings from the 19th century. The museum’s exhibitions are an excellent glimpse into the history and culture of the region, as well as the rich artistic heritage of Andalusia. Similarly, the Museo Ruso (Russian Museum) is the Spanish wing of the Russian State Museum and consists of works by famous Russian artists, it remains opened in spite of the actual situation and have worked hard in reorganizing the exhibition program. For instance, they have closed an agreement with a private collector in London for a sample of 78 works by Russian authors without going through the Russian State.
Malaga is firmly rooted in classic world-class museums like those previously mentioned, but as the city has grown and evolved, so too has its art scene. Nowadays, modern art museums like the CAC and street art projects like MAUS showcase the city’s contemporary creative energy.
The Contemporary Art Centre of Malaga (better known as CAC Malaga) is one of the finest examples of a modern art museum thanks to its thought-provoking installations, challenging sculptures, and immersive exhibitions. The museum hosts works from the likes of Anish Kapoor, Luis Gordillo, Erwin Wurm, Louise Bourgeois, and many others, as well as temporary exhibitions.
Just around the corner is MAUS (Málaga Arte Urbano en el Soho), an open-air ‘museum’ that is actually made up of street art, murals, and installations that adorn the walls of buildings and public spaces throughout the Soho neighborhood. Visitors can find works by urban artists like OBEY, D*face, Andri Rivas, and the Boa Mistura group.
3. The Food Scene in Malaga is Impeccable
With over 300 days of sun and a subtropical-Mediterranean climate, it’s no wonder that Malaga is home to some of the freshest and most exquisite produce in the world. From succulent mangos to creamy avocados and tangy kumquats, the ingredients and food in Malaga are truly exceptional.
The Axarquía region in Malaga boasts the biggest production area for sub-tropical fruit in all of Europe, making it a paradise for fruit lovers. Visitors who find themselves strolling through Mercado Central should be sure not to miss the chance to indulge in a juicy, sweet mango from this region.
If you’re yearning to try some of these culinary delights, make your way to the bustling and vibrant Mercado de Atarazanas — a must-visit for any foodie!
Here, you can explore a maze of stalls selling fresh fish, meats, fruits, and vegetables, as well as local cheeses, olives, and oils. It’s a sensory experience that will leave your taste buds dancing. This mercado is truly a feast for the senses, in more ways than one. Besides the exquisite epicurean treats, the building retains its Nasrid-era facade, complete with horseshoe arches and elaborate details.
With such exceptional local produce, it’s no surprise that Malaga has an impeccable food scene. Chefs are spoiled for choice when it comes to developing new menu concepts, and there’s no shortage of Michelin-starred places in Malaga — 10 Michelin stars distributed among 8 restaurants, to be exact.
Among these is Kaleja, an innovative restaurant with a focus on bringing out the flavors of their dishes using a cooking technique called “candle cooking.” Chef Carnero expertly takes the traditional flavors and dishes of his childhood and revives them in a modern-day atmosphere.
Another local favorite is José Carlos García‘s eponymous restaurant, which boasts two Michelin stars and is located on Muelle Uno. Chef García’s philosophy focuses on local ingredients, and it wouldn’t be out of place to see him at the Mercado de Atarazanas, chatting with the local farmers and picking up supplies for the day.
Although haute cuisine may be popular in Malaga, there are also plenty of traditional dishes favored by locals — including the delicious espeto. Typically sold near beaches, espeto are made up of fresh sardines fixed onto a skewer and cooked near a fire. Espetos are a popular comfort food thanks to its simple ingredients: sardines coated in olive oil and a dash of salt, although some espeteros also add parsley, capers, garlic, lemon zest, or green olives.
Espetos are so ingrained in Malagan culture that there is even a sculpture dedicated to the espetero along the Antonio Machado promenade!
4. The Wondrous Wines from Malaga
While Malaga is famous for its fresh seafood and Andalusian fare, the region’s wines are equally noteworthy — and no visit to Malaga would be complete without exploring its exceptional wine scene!
Some of the region’s most accessible wines come from Axarquia, which is less than an hour’s drive from Malaga. Axarquia is home to some of the most awe-inspiring vineyards in Spain, while its favorable climate — characterized by hot days mellowed by the nearby Mediterranean Sea — creates the ideal conditions for producing some of the most distinct wines in the country.
Besides its rich flavor profiles, the wines under DO Malaga and DOP Pasas de Malaga (for the sweets wines made from Moscatel de Malaga and Moscatel de Alejandría) are also famed for its rugged hillsides and dramatic scenery. It feels as if the vineyards are set among impossible slopes, where mules are essential during the harvesting process. In fact, Axarquia is often called the Land of Heroic Viticulture exactly for this reason!
Travelers looking for something truly special should seek out wines from DO Montes de Málaga. This small denomination is home to only one winemaker, Victoria Ordóñez, whose wines are widely regarded as some of the best in the region. Her wines are a perfect reflection of the exceptional terroir of the Montes de Malaga, and are a testament to the passion and skill of this visionary winemaker. Whether you’re dining out in Malaga or perusing a local wine shop, be sure to try one of these wines for an unforgettable taste of the region.
Finally, no trip to Malaga would be complete without exploring the stunning vineyards of Ronda under the assignation DOP Sierras de Málaga. This wine region is located in the heart of the Serranía de Ronda and is known for producing some of the most complex and refined wines in the country.
One of the best ways to see these unique regions is via a tour, such as our popular Andalusia Food & Wine Tour. Some highlights include visiting an authentic winery in the DO Axarquia area, as well as a trip through the romantic city of Ronda.
5. Chic Accomodations
Last but certainly not least, Malaga has no shortage of refined and bespoke accommodations that offer an unforgettable experience for any visitor, including stylish boutique hotels to former palaces, Andalusian-inspired accommodations with hammams, vintage villas, and everything in between.
One of the most unique hotels in Malaga is the Hotel Palacio Solecio, which is also one of the accommodations where guests will stay during our Andalusia Food & Wine tour.
Located in the heart of the city’s historic center, this 18th-century palace has been lovingly restored to its former glory, creating a stunning blend of old-world charm and modern luxury — think luxurious rain showers, a beautiful courtyard, and avant-garde cuisine by none other than José Carlos García. No wonder it was voted the Best Urban Hotel 2022 by Condé Nast Traveler!
With new rooms opening up in mid-2023, as well as a thrilling rooftop bar and pool, this palatial hotel is easily poised to be one of the hottest tickets in Malaga.
Indulge in the magic of Malaga (plus seven other fantastic places!) in our signature 10-day Andalusia Food & Wine Tour. Immerse yourself in this enchanting region’s rich historical legacy through local dishes, exquisite wines, and immersive experiences with locals.
From jaw-dropping accommodations to tastings at authentic Andalusia wineries, and plenty of gastronomic delights, this is a bespoke experience that promises to awaken your senses and delight your soul. We can’t wait to welcome you!