Located in Spain’s southern Andalucia, Malaga is a vibrant city that has so much to offer the intrepid tourist. Jam-packed with history, Malaga has been home to several civilizations stretching back 3,000 years. Phoenician traders originally founded a commercial center here in the early 7th Century BC and were soon followed by the Greeks and Carthaginians. Now that we have set the scene, let’s look at 15 incredible things to do in Malaga Spain and why you must go there this year.
Today Malaga is a thriving city that is no longer just the gateway to the Costa del Sol. Revamped; revitalized and reborn, Malaga boasts a redeveloped waterfront and port full of designer shopping and trendy cafes. Malaga is also fast becoming a cultural center, thanks not only for being the birthplace of Picasso but the home of the only Pompidou Centre outside France.
Foodies will love Malaga for its thriving tapas bars and restaurants, while others may embrace the club scene hot enough to rival anything you would find in Barcelona and Madrid.
Aerial view of Malaga, Spain
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15 Best things to do in Malaga and why you must visit now
1) The persistently outstanding weather
Regarded as having the best climate in Europe, there is rarely a bad time to visit Malaga. Protected from cold northerly winds by the Montes de Malaga, the city averages a very pleasant sunny 17.2C during the winter and has perfect beach days throughout the year. Malaga weather has even been ‘prescribed’ for those with certain health conditions! With Malaga providing around 320 days of sunshine, this a great reason to come and get some natural vitamin D even in the winter.
2) Easy to get to Malaga and explore
With so many low-cost airlines flying to Malaga from the UK, there is no excuse not to visit even if it is just for the weekend. To get into town from the airport you have three options, a taxi, bus or train. Malaga Airport is located just eight kilometers from the center and costs 2€ by bus. Many high-speed trains connect Malaga with many large Spanish cities like Seville, Madrid and Barcelona. You can buy tickets in advance at Renfe.
All of Malaga’s main attractions are within walking distance of each other, and with an extensive network of bike lanes, it’s easy to cycle to the port, beach and botanical gardens. The new phenomenon that’s caught on in Malaga, is to hire an electric scooter and cruise around, exploring the sights yourself.
3) Enjoy its spectacular beaches of Malaga
One of the best things about being in Malaga is its picturesque blue-flag beaches. Whether you just want to stroll along the promenade or just sit at a bar and people watch, you will love Malaga’s waterfront.
For the more active type head just east of the center to Playa Malagueta and go for a swim, play volleyball or work out on the public exercise equipment. Malaga beaches are clean and well maintained and are a perfect location for a family picnic.
While at the beach be sure to visit one of Malaga’s beach Chiringuitos for the local specialty of grilled sardines cooked on a bamboo skewer over an open fire.
4) Discover more and keep fit
As already mentioned Malaga is a very bicycle-friendly city perfect for exploring on two wheels and keeping fit. In the city, you will find numerous places where you can rent a bike, but the one we like is called the Recyclo Bike Café. Located close to the central market it is not only a bike shop, but as the name suggests a café where you can grab a bite to eat before setting out on your adventure. Recyclo Bike Café rents bikes for 7€ for a half-day or 10€ for the full day.
Two popular options for places to visit by bike are the Botanical Gardens or for those looking for a more arduous ride the Guadalhorce river estuary natural area not far from the airport. Considered as being one of the premier bird-watching locations in Europe, the Guadalhorce river estuary natural area is a stopover for birds migrating between Europe and Africa.
5) Mercado Central
No visit to a Spanish city is complete without a visit to the central market. Malaga’s Mercado Central is housed in a spectacular wrought iron building that features a 14th-century Moorish arch that was once the entranceway to the city. If you look closely you will find two tiny shields with Arabic writing that reads “Only God is the victor, glory be to Him.”
Stroll around the market and immerse yourself in the flavor of the place while sampling authentic Andalusian tapas and grilled seafood before heading off to your hotel for that all-important Spanish tradition known as “Siesta”!
6) Step back in time at the Roman Theatre
Named Flavia Malacita by the Romans, Malaga flourished as a part of the Roman Empire from the 3rd Century BC until AD81 as an exporter of wine, olive oil, raisins and salted fish. Regarded as being the oldest monument in Malaga city, El Teatro Romano was built in the first century BC, during the rule of Emperor Augustus.
Rediscovered during construction works in 1951, a decision was made in 1994 to restore the theatre to its former glory. On September 15th 2011 some 60 years after being rediscovered, El Teatro Romano was open to the public. Today a museum depicts the work involved in the theatre’s reconstruction and throughout the summer open-air night-time concerts are held in it.
7) A jewel in the city – La Alcazaba
Malaga’s heyday occurred during the Moorish occupation when it was under the Caliphate of Córdoba. Later when under the Nasrid Dynasty in Granada, Malaga became the main port for Granada and is burgeoning textile industry.
Built by the Hammudid dynasty in the early 11th century, the Alcazaba was constructed on the site of a former Roman fort. Designed to be both a palace and a military fortification, the Alcazaba contains two double walls similar to the castle of Krak des Chevaliers in Syria.
Now extensively restored, La Alcazaba contains many horseshoe-shaped arches that are found in Moorish architecture. And while it may not be as beautiful as Granada’s Alhambra Palace, courtyards, gardens and fountains will help you to understand how advanced the Moors were when compared to the rest of Europe.
8) Visit the castle on the hill – El Castillo de Gibralfaro
Perched overlooking the city, the Castillo de Gibralfaro is a Moorish fortification that dates back to the 10th century.
Located on Gibralfaro hill the castle is famous for a month-long siege by the attacking Christian armies in 1487. Eventually, the defenders surrendered when they ran out of food. Now mostly restored, the castle contains a military museum that shows the history of the castle after the Reconquista.
Following the Siege of Málaga during the Reconquista in 1487 Malaga went into decline with the cities of Cadiz and Seville reaping the riches from Spain’s conquest of the Americas.
7) Meander around the Málaga Museum
Housed in the impressive Palacio de la Aduana a neoclassical building constructed to resemble Renaissance Italian palaces the Palacio de la Aduana was the customs house for Malaga’s port.
Renovated in 2016 the building is now home to the city’s most important museum for archaeological artifacts and is also home to a fine art collection which was kept in storage for 20 years.
8) View the works of Pablo Picasso at the Museo Picasso Málaga
Malaga’s beautiful Buenavista Palace is now home to a permanent collection of Picasso paintings depicting 80 years of the artist’s works.
Born in Malaga in 1881, Pablo Picasso dreamed of having a collection of his works displayed in his hometown. Picasso’s daughter-in-law and grandson made this dream a reality by donating the majority of the collection before the museum’s opening in 2003.
The Picasso Museum has 11 rooms dedicated to the artist’s life and works with 233 paintings depicting how Picasso broke with convention to create the iconic paintings he is known for. An available audio-guide provides interesting information about the various influences that affected Picasso’s style and why his works are so intriguing.
9) Observe beautiful Russian art at the Museo Ruso de Málaga
In 2015 the Russian State Museum in St Petersburg decided to open a second museum in Malaga to showcase Russian art from the 16th to 20th centuries. Housed in a former tobacco factory the artwork in Museo Ruso de Málaga takes you on a tour of Russian history. Featured artists include Vladimir Tatlin, Ilya Repin and Wassily Kandinsky amongst others.
10) The Colorful Centre Pompidou Málaga
Housed under a huge colored glass cube in the rejuvenated Muelle Uno district next to the Port of Málaga. The Centre Pompidou Málaga is the French Museums first foray outside of France.
While home to a permanent collection of 90 works of modern art, the prime purpose of the museum is to host temporary collections from around the world. Some people love it, while for others modern art is not their cup of tea. What we can say though is that the area around the museum is buzzing with life.
12) Be impressed by the Catedral de Málaga
Spectacular during Semana Santa (Holy Week), building first started on the cathedral back in the 16th century. Constructed on what was once a mosque, today the only Moorish remains are the Patio de los Naranjos, a small courtyard adorned with orange trees. Inside the cathedral is a 40-metre high domed ceiling with 15 ornately decorated chapels. Take the guided tour to learn about the history of the cathedral and climb to the cubiertas for incredible views.
Constructing the cathedral was such an expensive and epic feat that in 1782 it was decided to stop work leaving one of the belltowers unfinished. Hence the cathedrals nickname the One-Armed-Lady or La Manquita in Spanish. Tickets for the cathedral include the use of an audio guide and entrance to the Bishop’s house opposite.
Roman theatre at dusk
13) Find tranquility in The Botanical Gardens
Conceived in the mid-19th century by two of Malaga’s richest families, the gardens contain exotic plants from around the world. Throughout the 19th century, the gardens served as a meeting point for the city’s wealthy industrialists, politicians and artists. Today the gardens are open to the public with several different marked routes to guide you through the gardens impressive collection of botanical delights.
One of the most popular routes is the “Jewels of La Concepcion” a route that takes in the most emblematic landmarks and is suggested as being the best starting place for discovering the gardens.
14) Grab a seat at the Teatro del Soho
New to Malaga this year is the Teatro del Soho a run down and now rebuilt theatre owned by Hollywood actor Antonio Banderas. Located in what was once one of Malaga’s seediest neighborhoods, the Teatro del Soho is now restored and ready to put on its first show. Banderas selected Broadway favorite “A Chorus Line” as the first production, a show in which he will co-direct while playing the starring role. The three-month run is scheduled to start sometime in the autumn.
15) Feel the buzz at Malaga’s new port area
Following the luxuriant redevelopment of the area, the beautiful Malaga port is now the place to hang out. It’s been likened to its nearby rival Marbella, with costly and magnificent boats choosing to moor here.
Whether you choose to spend the afternoon gazing at the luxury yachts, browsing around the shops, dining in the numerous restaurants or taking a trip on a catamaran, there’s plenty to do for all the family.
Where to stay in Malaga, Spain
If you need somewhere central to stay in Malaga, be sure to check out Villa Malaga. This luxury bed and breakfast is a popular accommodation that sells out fast, so make sure that you plan ahead if you fancy the ideal location. The palatial Gran Hotel Miramar is another great choice. Boasting a majestic landscape overlooking the Mediterranean Sea Higueron Hotel Malaga, Curio Collection by Hilton is a great choice if you are traveling sans kids.
Alternatively, the Hilton Garden Inn Malaga is just three miles outside of the city center and is just a short taxi transfer from Malaga airport. This modern hotel is also conveniently on the doorstep of the metro. This is a large hotel offering very spacious rooms and each with excellent facilities.
Finally, if you fancy a little touch of self-catering in Malaga, Santa Cruz apartments come with fully equipped kitchens including all the basic essentials. Located in Alameda Principal which is in the old part of Malaga city, it is not far away from all of the museums and the fascinating Roman theatre.
With such a large variety of things to see and do in Malaga, be sure to plan in advance to get the best out of your visit to this wonderful Andalusian city.
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