11 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Málaga
Málaga has weathered the centuries in stride. Founded in the eighth century BC, Málaga is one of the oldest Mediterranean seaports. The landmarks reflect the city's checkered past - ruins of a Roman theater, a 10th-century Moorish castle built on the remains of a Phoenician lighthouse, the 13th-century Alcazaba, and a beautiful Baroque basilica. Besides history, Málaga offers the stunning scenery of the Costa del Sol and great weather combined with culture and a beautiful stretch of beach. Leafy palm trees line the seaside promenades, and tropical vegetation flourishes throughout the city. Málaga's old-world ambience enchants visitors who take the time to explore. Wander the historic center to discover little boutiques and tapas restaurants. Stroll along the harbor and stop at a waterside restaurant to indulge in a delicious seafood meal. Málaga is packed with fun things to do. Discover the best places to visit with our list of the top-rated tourist attractions in Málaga.
See also: Where to Stay in Málaga
1 Alcazaba de Málaga: An Old Moorish Castle
Stronghold of the Moorish kings, this ancient Moorish castle was built in the ninth century (and rebuilt in the 11th century) on the ruins of a Roman bastion. The town's Muslim rulers governed from this citadel for several centuries. Advantageously perched on the Mount of Gibralfaro, the fortified palace was designed with three circuits of defense walls and 110 main towers. Visitors can see some of the remaining towers including the Torre de la Vela (tower), the Arco de Cristo (entrance), and the impressive Torre del Homenaje (tower). Another highlight is the beautiful garden in the castle's courtyards.
Today, the Alcazaba houses the Museum of Málaga, which contains two museums: The Provincial Museum of Fine Arts has an excellent permanent collection of local 19th-century paintings as well as renowned pieces by Spanish artists Muñoz Degrain, Enrique Jaraba, Joaquin Sorolla, and Salas. The museum also displays two of Picasso's earliest works: the Study of Old People painting and The Old Man with the Blanket. The Archaeology Museum exhibits Roman antiquities, a collection of Hispano-Arab pottery, and models of the castle. Near the Alcazaba on the west side of the Mount of Gibralfaro is the Teatro Romano, the ruins of an ancient Roman theater dating from the time of Augustus. Outdoor theatrical performances are held here occasionally.
Address: 2 Calle Alcazabilla, Málaga
From the Plaza de la Marina, the Calle Molina Larios leads into the Old Town, which is dominated by the cathedral. With its twin-towered facade, this grandiose 16th-century building stands on the site of an earlier mosque. Visitors are dazzled by the finely proportioned interior and sense of spaciousness. The cathedral's Capilla del Rosario (the third chapel in the south aisle) is adorned with a painting of the Virgin with Saints by Alonso Cano. In the Capilla de los Reyes (the first choir chapel on the right) and on the left-hand wall are kneeling figures of the Catholic Monarchs by Pedro de Mena. This chapel also contains the statuette of the Virgin, which Ferdinand and Isabella carried with them on their military campaigns. The modern altar in the Capilla Mayor features Passion scenes of 1580. The choir is especially noteworthy with its exquisitely carved 17th-century stalls. The 40 carved wooden statues of saints were the work of Pedro de Mena and José Micael. Tourists may ascend the 86-meter-high North Tower to take in splendid panoramic views.
After visiting the cathedral, spend time exploring the Old Town, a tangle of narrow medieval lanes and quiet squares. Many of the atmospheric streets are lined with quaint boutiques, cafés, and atmospheric tapas restaurants. At the heart of the Old Town, the Plaza de la Constitución is a hub of activity.
Address: Calle Molina Larios, Málaga
3 La Concepcion Jardin Botanico (Botanical Gardens)
La Concepcion Botanical Gardens were created in 1855 by the Marquis and Marchioness of Loring. These exquisite grounds are filled with vibrant Mediterranean, tropical, and subtropical flora. Plant species found in the gardens come from all over the world. A collection of several different gardens, La Conception offers an exceptional diversity of landscapes. The Historical Gardens cover three hectares of romantic-style gardens filled with unusual species, tropical plants, and exotic flowers. Surrounding the Historical Gardens are 23 hectares of new gardens with special exhibits such as "Plants of the Region" and "Around the World in 80 Trees." The Hibiscus Avenue is a floral pathway that leads to the northern end of the gardens. The Gonzalez-Andreu Garden showcases more than 50 diverse plant species from the Solomon Islands, Polynesia, China, Japan, Australia, Brazil, and Mexico. For a charming place to relax, the Wisteria Arbor is especially beautiful when blooming in late March or early April.
Visitors could spend several hours exploring the gardens. Various thematic walking routes are designed to highlight special features. The Forest Route travels through a lush woodland, and Viewpoint Route includes sensational views over the city. The Around the World Route is a delightful walking tour through the florae of the five continents, from Europe and America to Asia, Africa, and Oceania. The Jewels of La Concepcion Route is an hour-and-a-half stroll over footbridges, past waterfalls, ponds, unique palm trees, and the Doric-style Museum.
Address: Camino del Jardín Botánico, Málaga
4 Castillo de Gibralfaro
Standing proudly on the Mount Gibralfaro hilltop above the Alcazaba, the Castillo de Gibralfaro is another medieval Moorish fortress. Abd-al-Rahman III, the Caliph of Cordoba, built the castle in the 10th century on the site of a Phoenician lighthouse. The name is derived from the word "gebel-faro" (Arabic and Greek words that mean "rock of the lighthouse"). The Sultan of Granada, Yusef the First, enlarged the fortress in the early 14th century, yet the Castillo de Gibralfaro is most famous for its three-month siege by the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella. The image of this building appears on Málaga's flag as well as the flag of the province.
Although now mostly in ruins, the site is appreciated for its stunning panoramas and historical value. From this vantage point, visitors can see the port of Málaga and the serene Mediterranean coastline. The most visible remains of the fortress are the immense old ramparts, which rise above the woodlands. Inside the walls are the relics of buildings and courtyards typical of Islamic architecture. Take a scenic walk around the well-restored ramparts to discover the grounds and enjoy magnificent views of the harbor. Also high on Mount Gibralfaro near the Castillo and the Alcazaba is a superb hotel, the Parador de Málaga Gibralfaro. Set amid a forest of pine trees, this luxury accommodation features Moorish-style architecture, comfortable rooms, and a roof terrace with a swimming pool. The hotel's stylish restaurant serves traditional Andalusian cuisine.
Address: Camino de Gibralfaro, Málaga
5 Pablo Ruíz Picasso Foundation Birthplace Museum
A must-see attraction for lovers of modern art, this museum in the Old Town occupies the house where Picasso was born and displays 233 pieces by the artist. The collection represents the entire span of Picasso's life and art career, from his earliest studies to his revolutionary artistic innovations. The collection includes artworks created between 1892 and 1972 reflecting the wide range of styles and techniques that Picasso mastered. Examples of Picasso's creativity, versatility, and talent are seen in his reworking of paintings by the European masters, as well as the variety of styles he introduced, such as Cubism. The collection highlights themes such as the portrait, still life paintings, landscapes, and nudes. The museum also displays Picasso's studio where he painted nude models. Highlights of the collection include the Mother and Child(1921), the Acrobat (1930), Woman with Raised Arms (1936), Still Life with Skull and Three Sea Urchins (1947), Jacqueline Seated (1954), the Bather (1971), and Musketeer with a Sword (1972).
Address: Palacio de Buenavista, 8 Calle San Agustín, Málaga
6 Basílica Nuestra Señora de la Victoria
The Basílica Nuestra Señora de la Victoria is north of the Picasso Museum, reached by way of Calle de la Victoria. This 17th-century Baroque church is one of the most important churches in Málaga. A listed historic monument, the Basilica stands on the site where the Catholic Monarchs pitched a siege of Málaga during the Reconquest. The church contains the Shrine of Our Lady of Victory with a 15th-century figure of the Virgen de la Victoria, Patron Saint of the town. The figure was a gift of Emperor Maximilian I to King Ferdinand. Among the paintings and sculptures decorating the sanctuary, highlights are the two sculptures by Pedro de Mena. Another must-see piece is the Altarpiece of San Francisco de Paula by Luis Ortiz de Vargas. The basilica houses some of its art treasures within an exhibition hall.
Address: Plaza Santuario, Málaga
7 Museo de Artes y Costumbres Populares (Museum of Arts and Customs)
This charming museum is found within the Old Town of Málaga, housed in a typical Andalusian building of the 17th century. The building's architecture reveals Moorish elements such as whitewashed walls, Islamic tile work, a central patio, and pleasant gardens. An interesting insight into the local culture, the museum introduces visitors to the region's artisan crafts and folklore. A wide array of exhibitions ranges from antique cooking equipment and fishing gear to handcrafted ceramics and folkloric costumes. Visitors leave with an appreciation of the rich artistic heritage and traditions of Málaga.
Address: 10 Pasillo de Santa Isabel, Málaga
8 Mercado de Atarazanas (Market Hall)
From the Alameda, side streets lead north to the Mercado de Atarazanas, the town's historic marketplace. Just the entrance is worth seeing in itself. This horseshoe-shaped Islamic gateway dates to the 14th century and is the only remaining part of the old Moorish shipyard. Enter the spacious market building to find a bustling scene of vendors selling fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, and cheese. The morning, when fresh fish arrives, is the liveliest time to visit. The market hall has been beautifully renovated after being closed for many years. The most striking feature of the interior is the stained-glass window that depicts the historic landmarks of Málaga.
Another area for shopping and snacking a few blocks away is the Calle Marques de Larios, a street lined with many clothing shops, jewelry boutiques, shoe stores, confectionery shops, and cafés.
Address: Mercado de Atarazanas, Calle Atarazanas, Málaga
9 Semana Santa (Holy Week)
Málaga is known for its extravagant and spectacular Holy Week celebrations. This is a wonderful time to visit, when fantastic religious processions bring the city to life. The tradition of Holy Week dates back more than 500 years, from the time of the Catholic Monarchs' Reconquest of Andalusia. A delight for all the senses, the evening processions feature lavish floats (displaying sacred icons) accompanied by lively marching bands or musicians singing flamenco songs. Adding to the ambience, thousands of penitents follow the procession route carrying flickering candles.
The Museo de la Semana Santa (Museum of Holy Week) is found on Calle Muro, housed in the 17th-century Antiguo Hospital de San Julián (hospital). The museum displays 150 different exhibits in thematic categories such as sculptures, trousseau pictures, and processional images. Visitors will enjoy the extensive collection of religious figures, traditional costumes, and icons used during Holy Week processions, while learning about the regional customs.
Address: 2 Calle Muro de San Julián, Málaga
10 Centro de Arte Contemporáneo (Center of Contemporary Art)
This cutting-edge museum of contemporary art displays an exceptional collection of 20th-century art, from the 1950s to the present. With its bright and spacious exhibition rooms, the museum presents the art works in the best light. The collection features pieces from various artistic movements and has regularly changing exhibitions. Artists represented include Louise Bourgeois, Olafur Eliasson, Damien Hirst, Julian Opie, Thomas Ruff, and Thomas Struth. The museum has a special focus on Spanish art created since the 1980s and displays works by renowned artists of this era such as Juan Muñoz, José María Sicilia, Miquel Barceló, and Juan Uslé.
Address: Calle Alemania, Málaga
11 Museo del Vidrio y Cristal de Málaga (Museum of Glass and Crystal)
Málaga's Museum of Glass and Crystal houses a broad collection of glasswork, which ranges from as far back as the Phoenician era. Greek, Roman, and Byzantine cultures are represented, and newer works include examples of 20th-century Art Deco and the contemporary work of several celebrated Scandinavian craftsmen. The collection also includes several pieces of 19th- and 20th-century stained glass. In addition, the museum is housed in a remarkably well-preserved 18th-century home, which features 16 period-furnished rooms containing not only the collection of more than 3,000 glass objects, but also antique furniture, paintings, and décor. The museum courtyard is also remarkable for its black marble columns and Baroque frescoes.
Address: Plazuela Santísimo Cristo de la Sangre, 2, Málaga
Where to Stay in Málaga for Sightseeing
Málaga appeals to two types of vacation-goers: those who appreciate culture and old-world charm (found in the historical city center) and those seeking fun in the sun at the Costa del Sol beaches. Stay in or near the Old Town to be within walking distance of the Alcazaba, cathedral, Picasso Museum, and Basílica, and to amble the quaint cobblestone streets. For those who prefer a vacation of sunbathing and relaxation, one of the city's beach hotels is the best choice. Below is a list of highly-rated hotels in both the Old Town and by the seaside:
- Luxury Hotels: In the city center (about a 20-minute walk from the Old Town) overlooking the Bay of Malaga, the stately Gran Hotel Miramar GL offers elegant rooms, spa facilities, a swimming pool, gorgeous historic gardens, and stunning sea views. In the Old Town, the Vincci Seleccion Posada del Patio is a recently-built hotel that combines avant-garde design with traditional Andalusian elements. About a 10-minute walk from the Old Town, in a trendy urban neighborhood near the waterfront, the Room Mate Valeria is a boutique hotel with a pleasant terrace and Andalusian patio.
- Mid-Range Hotels: Near the Plaza de la Constitución, in a bustling part of the Old Town, the Art Deco-style Room Mate Larios Hotel has a lovely rooftop terrace and balconies that overlook the Calle Marqués de Larios pedestrian shopping street. Also in the heart of the Old Town, the Petit Palace Plaza Malaga offers easy access to great restaurants and Malaga's top cultural attractions. Steps away from the beautiful Malagueta Beach and the Pablo Picasso waterfront promenade, the Hotel Los Naranjos has cheerful rooms with all the amenities.
- Budget Hotels: Centrally located near the Old Town, just a five-minute walk from the cathedral and Picasso Museum, the Hotel Don Curro has spacious rooms with parquet floors. Clean and bright, the Hotel La Chancla is a short stroll from a small, sheltered beach and a 10-minute drive from the Old Town of Malaga. The Sunset Beach Club is a beachfront resort that boasts excellent amenities for the price: rooms with terraces, a swimming pool, several restaurants, and a concierge desk. Slightly on the higher end but still affordable, the beachfront Las Vegas Hotel keeps guests happy with direct access to sandy shores and a swimming pool in a picturesque garden setting.
Tips and Tours: How to Make the Most of Your Visit to Málaga
- Segway into the Old Town: A fun and relaxing way to explore Málaga's historic attractions is on a guided Segway sightseeing tour. This one-hour tour roams the Old Town, visiting Constitution Square and stopping for photo-ops at Málaga Cathedral, the Alcazaba citadel, and Museo Picasso. Those who opt for the two-hour tour will continue on to explore the Castillo de Gibralfaro and enjoy views over the city before descending to the Málaga Promenade.
- To Britain and Back in a Day: The full-day sightseeing trip from Málaga to Gibraltar is a wonderful option if you want to visit this small British territory. The area's most famous feature is the Rock of Gibraltar, a limestone promontory famous for its size and position overlooking the strait of the same name. Tourists will spend time with a knowledgeable guide here and see St. Michael's Cave, a set of enormous cliffside caverns. The second half of the day, tourists are free to explore the city and enjoy its duty-free shopping and distinct British ambience.
- Out of Africa: Just across the Strait of Gibraltar is the exotic North African country of Morocco. A full-day excursion from Málaga to the Moroccan city of Tangier includes transportation by land and high-speed ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar to this historic and charismatic city. Here, tourists will explore by coach and by foot, led by an experienced guide. Highlights include the Casbah (old citadel) and a chance to walk through traditional markets, where you can find everything from snake charmers to handcrafted souvenirs. The tour includes a traditional Moroccan lunch and free time on the beach in the afternoon.
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Exploring Andalusia: Málaga is home to several of the top tourist attractions in the Andalusia region of Spain, as are the cities of Córdoba, Granada, and Seville. Those touring Andalusia by car will also want to explore the charming Pueblos Blancos (White Villages), which were inspired by Moorish architecture.
Granada and the Alhambra: Considered by many to be the heart of Andalusia, many tourists head straight for the Alhambra, once the fortified home of the Moorish Nasrid Dynasty Sultans. Here, you will find a complex of lavishly designed palaces, which open out onto lush courtyards filled with flowers and a rich history. The city of Granada has plenty more tourist attractions and things to do, however, from exploring the Old Town and its spice markets to enjoying a flamenco show.
Seville and its Gothic Cathedral: The enchanting city of Seville is home to many landmarks and well-known tourist attractions. The most famous of these are Seville Cathedral, known for its Gothic architecture, and the Alcázar, a Moorish palace. Other highlights include the Plaza de España, Parque de María Luisa, and the medieval Barrio Santa Cruz. For those spending a longer time in the city, Seville is a great central point for several day trips as well.