18 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Málaga
Málaga has weathered the centuries in stride. Founded over two millennia ago, Málaga is one of the oldest Mediterranean seaports. The landmarks reflect the city's multifaceted heritage. Layers of history can be seen at every turn: ruins of a Roman theater, a medieval Moorish castle built on the remains of a Phoenician lighthouse, the 13th-century Alcazaba, and a glorious Baroque cathedral.
Besides cultural attractions, Málaga offers the stunning scenery of the Costa del Sol along with its balmy weather and beautiful beaches. 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. Wandering the historic center leads to discoveries of pleasant squares and narrow cobblestone streets, brimming with little boutiques, outdoor cafés, and tapas restaurants. The harbor offers wide-open spaces for a scenic stroll, as well as restaurants with sea views.
Málaga is packed with sightseeing opportunities. Discover the best places to visit with our list of the top tourist attractions and things to do in Málaga.
See also: Where to Stay in Málaga
1. Alcazaba de Málaga
Stronghold of the historic Kingdom of Granada, this ancient Moorish castle was built in the 11th century on the ruins of a Roman bastion and renovated in the 13th century. The town's Muslim rulers governed from this citadel for several hundred years.
Advantageously perched on the Monte de Gibralfaro, the fortified palace was designed with three circuits of defense walls and originally had 110 main towers plus other smaller 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).
The Alcazaba de Málaga is an Islamic architectural gem of the Nasrid period, featuring intricate decorative details and beautiful grounds. There are delightful terraced garden courtyards with refreshing fountains and decorative pools. Some of the outdoor vantage points offer sea views.
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 emperor Augustus. Outdoor theatrical performances are held here occasionally.
The Alcazaba de Málaga is open every day year-round. Admission and guided tours are free on Sundays.
Address: 2 Calle Alcazabilla, Málaga
2. Catedral de Málaga
From the Plaza de la Marina, the Calle Molina Lario leads into the Old Town, which is dominated by the Catedral de Málaga (Santa Iglesia Catedral Basílica de la Encarnación de Málaga). Dating to the 15th century, the Cathedral of Málaga `replaced the city's Great Mosque and is considered a jewel of the Spanish Renaissance. The architecture also incorporates Baroque elements that were added in the 17th and 18th centuries.
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 Alfaro.
The cathedral's exterior was never completed due to a lack of funds. Although the monument was originally designed as a twin-towered structure, only the 86-meter-high Torre Norte (North Tower) was finished. For this reason, locals call the cathedral "La Manquita," which translates to "The One-Armed Woman."
To admire fabulous panoramas of Málaga and its harbor, tourists may take a guided tour of the cathedral's 50-meter-high rooftop, which has been outfitted with pathways, safety rails, and a viewing platform. This tour is recommended only for those in good shape, as visitors must climb the North Tower's spiral staircase of 200 steps to access the rooftop.
Address: 9 Calle Molina Lario, Málaga
3. Old Town
Surrounding the cathedral is the Old Town, a labyrinth of medieval-era pedestrian lanes and peaceful 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. This is a good place to begin exploring Málaga's historic center.
Near the Plaza de la Constitución is the Iglesia de San Juan Bautista, which was founded by the Catholic Monarchs after the Reconquest of the city in the 15th century. The church blends Gothic and Mudéjar architectural elements, while the interior features 18th-century Baroque decor.
4. Jardín Botánico-Histórico La Concepción
La Concepción Historical-Botanical Garden was created in the mid-19th century 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.
At its center is the Jardín Histórico-Artístico (Historical-Artistic Garden), over three hectares of Romantic-style landscaping filled with unusual species, tropical plants, and exotic flowers. This distinctive garden also features fountains, waterfalls, and neoclassical elements.
Surrounding the Historical-Artistic Garden is the Jardín Botánico (Botanical Garden) that encompasses 23 hectares of diverse landscapes. This luxuriant garden has been designed with special thematic sections, such as aquatic plants, primitive plants, orchids, and cactuses. Other highlights include the "Around the World in 80 Trees" path and the "Scenic Stop" route.
Nestled in a delightful spot of La Concepción Garden is a cafeteria with outdoor seating. The cafeteria serves soups, salads, sandwiches, quiches, and cakes. There is also a gift shop where visitors can pick up souvenirs.
Address: Camino del Jardín Botánico, Málaga
5. Castillo de Gibralfaro
Standing proudly on the Mount Gibralfaro summit above the Alcazaba, the Castillo de Gibralfaro is another medieval Moorish fortress. The castle was built 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 II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. After the Christian Reconquest, King Ferdinand made the Castillo de Gibralfaro the emblem on Málaga's flag, as well as the flag of the province.
Although much of the fortress has been destroyed, the site provides a fascinating historical perspective. The Interpretation Centre displays educational exhibits.
The most visible remains of the fortress are the immense old ramparts, which rise above the woodlands. Inside these defensive walls are the relics of buildings and courtyards typical of Islamic architecture.
Visitors can take a scenic walk around the well-restored ramparts to discover the grounds and enjoy magnificent views of the Málaga harbor. The sweeping coastal panoramas are breathtaking.
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 four-star hotel's stylish restaurant serves traditional Andalusian cuisine.
Address: Camino de Gibralfaro, Málaga
6. Museo Picasso Málaga
A must-see attraction for lovers of modern art, this museum in the Old Town displays an extensive collection of Málaga's famous native son. Picasso's childhood home (the house at 15 Plaza de la Merced) is now the Picasso Birthplace Museum (Museo Casa Natal de Picasso).
The collection of the Museo Picasso Málaga represents the entire span of Picasso's life and art career, from his earliest studies to his revolutionary artistic innovations. The wide range of artworks (created between 1892 and 1972) reflect the many 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 art movement that he introduced, such as Cubism. The collection highlights themes such as the portrait, still life paintings, landscapes, and nudes.
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).
The museum has a bookshop specializing in books about Picasso and a casual café set in a garden courtyard amid geraniums and orange trees. The café serves breakfast pastries, lunch, coffee, tea, and refreshments inside or on the shaded outdoor terrace.
Address: Palacio de Buenavista, 8 Calle San Agustín, Málaga
Official site: www.museopicassomalaga.org
7. Museo Carmen Thyssen Málaga
At the center of the Old Town, the Museo Carmen Thyssen Málaga occupies the elegant Palacio de Villalón, which was built on top of the ruins of a 1st-century AD Roman villa. This aristocratic mansion, built in the late 15th- to early 16th-century, reveals elaborate Andalusian architectural details of the Renaissance era: ornate coffered ceilings and a two-story central courtyard with marble-columned arcades.
The permanent collection of the museum is renowned for its assortment of 19th- and 20th-century Spanish paintings and has a special focus on artworks of the Andalusia region. The permanent collection also presents paintings by European Old Masters from the 13th century to the 18th century.
Highlights of the collection include Santa Marina by Francisco de Zurbarán, Rocas de Jávea y el Bote Blanco (Rocks at Jávea and the White Boat) by Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida, the portrait of Julia by Ramón Casas Carbó, Vista del Guadalquivir (View of the Guadalquivir River) by Manuel Barrón y Carrillo, La Capilla de los Benavente en Medina de Rioseco by Genaro Pérez Villaamil, and Mujeres en el Jardín (Ladies in the Garden) by Cecilio Pla y Gallardo.
Visitor services at the Museo Carmen Thyssen Málaga include a cloakroom, cafeteria, an outdoor terrace, and guided tours. The guided tours are approximately one-hour long. Guided small-group tours on various themes are available upon request.
Address: 10 Calle Compañía, Málaga
Official site: https://www.carmenthyssenmalaga.org/en/
8. Playa de la Malagueta
Málaga has only a few beaches within its city limits. The most popular, and the closest to the historic center of town, is the Playa de la Malagueta. This beautiful urban beach features an expansive sand and pebble shoreline and a promenade lined with swaying palm trees.
Amenities at Malagueta Beach include snack bars, beachfront restaurants, showers, a children's playground, and rentals of sun beds and umbrellas, as well as water sports equipment. Next to the beach is the Real Club Mediterráneo de Málaga yacht club.
Thanks to its safe and clean waters, the Playa de la Malagueta has been awarded a Blue Flag designation, so it's a great place for swimming, water sports, and sailing.
9. Museo de Málaga
The Museo de Málaga contains two museums: the Museum of Fine Arts and the Provincial Archaeology Museum. An 18th-century neoclassical mansion, the Palacio de la Aduana de Málaga houses both museum collections.
The Museum of Fine Arts has an excellent permanent collection of local 19th-century paintings, as well as renowned pieces by Spanish artists Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Luis de Morales, Francisco de Goya, Diego Velázquez, Francisco de Zurbarán, Alonso Cano, Ramón Casas, Muñoz Degrain, Enrique Jaraba, and Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida, among others. The museum also displays two of Picasso's earliest works: the Study of Old People painting and The Old Man with the Blanket.
The Provincial Archaeology Museum exhibits Roman antiquities, a collection of Hispano-Arab pottery, and models of the castle.
10. Basílica Nuestra Señora de la Victoria
The Basílica Nuestra Señora de la Victoria is a short walk away from the Picasso Birthplace Museum (Museo Casa Natal de Picasso), reached by way of Calle de la Victoria. One of the city's most important churches and a listed Historical Monument, this 17th-century Baroque church 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 city. 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
11. Centre Pompidou Málaga
Málaga boasts the first branch of the Centre Pompidou to be located outside France. The Centre Pompidou is one of the top museums in Paris, renowned for its modern and contemporary art collection.
The Centre Pompidou Málaga displays an assortment (around 80 paintings and photographs) of the prestigious Paris collection. Highlights include works by Picasso, Max Ernst, and Frida Kahlo. The center also presents temporary exhibits every few months.
Address: Pasaje Doctor Carrillo Casaux, s/n 29016 Muelle Uno, Puerto de Málaga
12. Museo Unicaja de Artes y Costumbres Populares
The Unicaja Foundation Museum of Folk Arts and Costumes is found within the Old Town of Málaga, housed in a renovated 17th-century inn. The characteristic Andalusian building reveals Moorish architectural 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.
The museum includes both archaeological and ethnographic collections. Visitors leave with an appreciation of the rich artistic heritage and traditions of Málaga.
Address: 1 Plaza Enrique García-Herrera, Málaga
13. Mercado de Atarazanas (Market Hall)
From the Alameda, side streets lead north to the Mercado de Atarazanas. 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.
The market hall itself was constructed in the 19th century. In the 1970s, the building was completely renovated after having been closed for many years.
At this spacious market building, visitors discover a bustling scene of vendors selling fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, and cheese. The morning, when the locally caught fish arrives, is the liveliest time to experience the market.
It's also fun to visit the market's tapas bars later in the day for a taste of pescaíto (fried fish) and other specialties.
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 Marqués de Larios, a street lined with many clothing shops, jewelry boutiques, shoe stores, confectionery shops, and cafés.
Address: Mercado de Atarazanas, Calle Atarazanas, Málaga
14. 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 de San Julián, 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 museum's 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
15. Centro de Arte Contemporáneo (CAC Málaga)
The cutting-edge Contemporary Art Center of Málaga displays an exceptional collection of 20th-century and 21st-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.
The CAC Málaga is open year-round from Tuesday through Sunday. The museum is closed on Mondays, with a few exceptional Monday openings throughout the year. Admission to the museum is free of charge.
Address: Calle Alemania, Málaga
Official site: http://cacmalaga.eu
16. Soho (Art District)
Colorful large-scale street art defines this neighborhood near the Puerto de Málaga (harbor). Some of the murals in Soho were created by internationally known graffiti artists.
A cultural attraction in its own right, Soho is home to the Contemporary Art Center of Málaga and the Teatro Alameda, as well as many art galleries and artists' studios.
On the first Saturday of every month, the neighborhood hosts the Made in Soho Market, which gives visitors a chance to purchase locally crafted artworks.
17. Museo del Vidrio y Cristal de Málaga
Málaga's Museum of Glass and Crystal houses a broad collection of glasswork, from antiquity to the contemporary era. Phoenician, Greek, Roman, and Byzantine cultures are represented, as well as examples of 19th-century stained glass and 20th-century Art Deco works.
The museum is housed in a beautifully furnished 18th-century home, containing not only the collection of more than 3,000 glass objects, but also antiques, paintings, and décor. The museum courtyard is remarkable for its black marble columns and Baroque frescoes.
Address: 2 Plazuela Santísimo Cristo de la Sangre, Málaga
Official site: www.museovidrioycristalmalaga.com/museoingles
18. Festival de Málaga (Film Festival)
This annual film festival showcases an assortment of Spanish-language films produced in Spain and Latin America. With a wide-ranging program of events, the festival includes both feature films and short films, as well as documentaries.
The prestigious festival runs for over a week, and screens more than a hundred films. Panel discussions and an awards ceremony make the festival interesting for attendees and film professionals alike.
Where to Stay in Málaga for Sightseeing
Málaga appeals to two types of vacation-goers: those who appreciate culture and old-world ambience and those seeking fun in the sun at the Costa del Sol beaches. The historic center is convenient for visiting the Alcazaba and other top tourist attractions. For those who prefer a vacation of sunbathing and relaxation, one of the city's beach hotels is the best choice. Choose from these highly rated hotels in the Old Town or by the seaside:
- In the city center (about a 20-minute walk from the Old Town) overlooking the Bay of Malaga, the stately five-star 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 five-star hotel that combines avant-garde design with traditional Andalusian elements. Amenities include an outdoor rooftop swimming pool, fitness center, and gourmet restaurants. Some guest rooms feature private balconies.
- About a 10-minute walk from the Old Town, in a trendy urban neighborhood near the waterfront, the Room Mate Valeria is a four-star boutique hotel with a pleasant terrace and Andalusian patio.
- The Room Mate Larios is near the Plaza de la Constitución, in a bustling part of the Old Town. This four-star Art Deco 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 four-star Petit Palace Plaza Malaga offers easy access to great restaurants and Malaga's top cultural attractions. Contemporary-style guest rooms include soundproofing, flat-screen televisions, and hydro-massage showers.
- The Hotel Soho Boutique Los Naranjos is steps away from the beautiful Malagueta Beach and the Pablo Picasso waterfront promenade. This three-star hotel offers cheerful rooms with soundproofing and modern amenities.
- The Hotel Don Curro is centrally located near the Old Town, just a five-minute walk from the cathedral and Picasso Museum. This three-star hotel has spacious guest rooms with stylish details like parquet floors, sleek modern furniture, and marble-accented bathrooms.
- The three-star Hotel La Chancla stands next to a small, sheltered beach and is a 10-minute drive from the Old Town of Malaga. Guests rooms are bright and minimalistic in style. The hotel has an outdoor terrace with sea views.
- The Sunset Beach Club is a four-star beachfront resort that boasts excellent amenities for the price: rooms with terraces or balconies, a swimming pool and poolside snack bar, a seaside restaurant with an outdoor terrace, and concierge services.
- Slightly on the higher end but still affordable, the three-star beachfront Hotel Soho Boutique Las Vegas 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 longer 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. Tourists will spend time with a knowledgeable guide here and see the famous Rock of Gibraltar, as well as St. Michael's Cave, a set of enormous cliffside caverns. The second half of the day includes free time for lunch and shopping.
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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 exemplify simple Moorish architecture.
Granada and the Alhambra: 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 is packed with tourist attractions, from the Old Town and its spice markets to traditional flamenco performances.
Seville and its Gothic Cathedral: The enchanting city of Seville is home to amazing landmarks, such as the glorious Gothic Seville Cathedral and the Alcázar, a splendid 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 base for taking day trips to nearby historic towns like Córdoba and Ronda or to explore Cádiz and the Costa de la Luz.