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What to do in Malaga, Costa del Sol, Picasso's Birthplace

  • Travel tips
Find best guided tours and excursions to do in Malaga and surroundings Find best guided tours and excursions to do in Malaga and surroundings from 15€ find offers

Art at no cost, great food and beaches to enjoy every month of the year. Malaga is a sunny town of Andalusia overlooking the Mediterranean, and much more. The Alcazaba, the Picasso Museum... to name a few attractions. So, on a holiday to Malaga, you can have wonderful walks, cultural afternoons and see the imprinting of Picasso, tangible everywhere. There are so many good reasons to visit Malaga, and things to see, just a stone's throw from the vibrant Costa del Sol.

Things to do in Malaga: 6 good reasons it is a good holiday destination

Pablo Picasso's birthplace, capital of the Costa del Sol but also starting point to visit other beautiful tourist destinations such as Granada. Not to mention the wonderful Cathedral, must-see museums, cocktails on terraces and rooftop. If this is not enough, we give you 6 good reasons to visit Andalusia and travel tips about things to do in Malaga, its beaches and the surrounding area to visit. 

Things to see: Malaga Cathedral, the wonderful "Manquita"

In the heart of Malaga, stands out an immense cathedral that combines Renaissance, Baroque, Gothic and Neoclassical styles. The Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación is one of the city's "must see", so it goes straight to the top of the list of things to see in the Malaga.

Curios fact: One of the two towers of the building is unfinished. For this reason the Málaga Cathedral is commonly nicknamed "the Manquita" (The One-Armed Lady).

Málaga Cathedral: Duration of the visit and areas not to be missed

The entrance to Malaga Cathedral costs a few euros and the ticket includes an audioguide available in several languages. The waiting time to enter is not excessive. Although many visitors would be disapponinted about paying to visit a church, the interior is definitely worth it and money helps keeping the place as it is. 

  • For a few extra euros we suggest to buy the ticket that includes the visit to the Ars Malaga museum and the climb to the Cathedral's roof: this one offers an excellent view of the city.
  • The best time to visit Malaga Cathedral is in the central hours of the day to admire the fantastic plays of light and colour created by the rose windows into the church. Soon after lunch, the queue is generally short and you enter quickly. Take a peaceful walk between the frescoes and naves and make sure to climb the rooftop by sunset, when the view of the city looks like a postcard.

Malaga CathedralThe visit to Malaga Cathedral lasts a couple of hours, at least, if you linger on every point. One of the areas of the church most appreciated by visitors is the patio: it's small but perfect for a nice walk here while admiring the beautiful statue of a Madonna and Child. Other spectacular spots are: the various chapels, the organs and the vaults of the ceilings. The main facade, adjacent to the colourful palace of the Bishopric, will impress you with its rich decorations as much as the side facade of the Cathedral.

The audioguide is well made and provides complete information, but if you want to have a more immersive experience in the history of art in Malaga, we suggest to book a guided tour of the city. The guided tours will take you in a nice walk of the historic centre and its major places of interest such as Calle Granada, Calle Marqués de Larios, Plaza de la Constitución and the Cathedral.

  • For a cool experience, we recommend the guided tours through the city's terraces (one of the most beautiful makes a stop in the rooftop of the Manquita). They are usually organized at sunset, so that you can enjoy the evocative view.


A visit of Málaga's museums and Arab fortresses: It's free on Sundays!

With over 30 museums and historical landmarks Malaga is a perfect cultural destination.

If you're in town in the weekend, you could plan sightseeing in Malaga on Sunday because most museums and attractions offer free entry for a few hours or for the whole day.

The Museu Picasso, for instance, is free on the last 2 hours of Sundays while the Moorish fortresses such as the Alcazaba and the Castle of Gibralfaro are free on Sunday afternoons.

The Alcazaba and the Castle of Gibralfaro: The beauties of the Moors

Alcazaba is one of Malaga's most popular attractions for tourists from all over the world.

Alcazaba malagaThe name comes from Arabic and means "fortress"; the Alcazaba was the former seat the Muslim rulers in the city. Why is it so loved by visitors? Like every Arabic medieval fortress, it houses patios, wonderful frescoes, courtyards and enchanting gardens: a leap into history of the Moors. Also not to be missed is the small archaeological museum with beautiful models of Moorish ceramics.

Visiting the Alcazaba is a must for those who have a holiday in Malaga. Here are some useful tips:

  • The fortress is located a 5-minute walk from Malaga Cathedral so usually visitors combine the two attractions on the same day.
  • From Alcazaba you can walk to the Castle of Gibralfaro, located on the mountain of the same name. There is a path with incredible views that connects the two fortresses, though it is a bit steep. As an alternative, take the bus to get to it (the line 35 arrives there).
  • This historic fortress of Malaga is characterized by fascinating legends and stories. The best way to enjoy it is to take a guided tour which usually includes a climb to Gibralfaro Castle and a stop at the ancient ruins of the Roman Theatre, the oldest site in the city.


Picasso Museum in Malaga: On the stages of genius

Situated in the heart of the old town, the Picasso Museum (Museu Picasso) in Malaga is a must visit for any art lover. The exhibition covers the various stages of the career of the eclectic artist. Because the museum is not that big, the visit may take just about a couple of hours.

In 2006 the Picasso Museum in Malaga was the second most visited museum in the whole of Andalusia.

Museo picasso malagaEven if some of the most illustrious works of the painter aren't there (you can find them in other cultural sites like Museum Reina Sofia, the MoMa or at museums in Paris) the collection is quite large and visitors recommend it. The audio guide included in the entrance ticket is detailed and available in several languages - which helps to fully understand the history of the works and contextualize them in different periods of the artist's life.

A couple of tips about your visit to Picasso museum:

  • The temporary exhibitions have a separate cost and are not included in the ticket.
  • You can expect a queue at the ticket office of the Picasso Museum, especially during the free entrance hours. Considering the low cost of the ticket, if you stay in town for few days, you should probably visit the museum during the week and buy the online ticket in advance to save time and avoid confusion.
  • In the Picasso museum you will not find the painter's famous masterpieces but over 200 works of art including pieces from the private collection of two family members.
  • For a regular visit, the audio guide may be enough, but if you are a Picasso enthusiast then you should book a private guided tour of Picasso's birthplace.


Centre Pompidou, Thyssen and other museums of Malaga

This little pearl of Andalusia is really a city rich in art. For a cultural afternoon there are many museums that you could include in your list of things to see in Malaga.

Centre pompidou malagaFrom the Centre Pompidou - a branch of coloured Parisian building - to the Museum Carmen Thyssen, which houses a collection of Andalusian paintings up to more particular addresses such as the Museum dedicated to Flamenco, the Glass Museum and the famous Museo Automovilístico de Málaga. As mentioned, almost all the museums in Malaga are free on Sunday afternoons, except for the Archaeological Museum and the Contemporary Art Centre (CAC) always free of charge.

  • A stone's throw from the Contemporary Art Centre you will find the Art Soho District of Malaga: once a decaying artistic district and today revitalized by writers and street artists. Take a ride if you're into Street-Art!

Malaga close to Granada: Do you know the Alhambra?

A great reason to visit Malaga is its non-prohibitive distance from Granada, another incredible tourist destination in Spain that you should definitely take into account.

Alhambra granadaIn a couple of hours by bus you can get to the city lying at the foot of the Sierra Nevada. There are bus rides from Malaga to Granada almost every hour. It goes without saying that Granada's main landmark is the Alhambra, declared a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site in 1984. It is the most popular attraction of Granada at any time of the year.

Did you know that the Alhambra was nominated among the 21 finalists to be named one of the Seven wonders of the modern world?

Take note of the following tips to get from Malaga to Granada:

  • If you can book a visit to the Alhambra, staying a day in Granada is a good idea. The visit of Alhambra and a tour of the city could be done on a day-trip with a bit of a rush. To save time, many travellers choose to rely on daily guided tours with priority entry.
  • Book the tickets for the Alhambra as soon as possible. The sold out quickly.
  • If you prefer to travel at your own pace, you might consider to rent a car and take a DIY tour of Granada.

Rent a car to visit Malaga on a self-guided tour

Hiring a car allows you to get around freely and travel independently, without having to think about timetables and tickets for public transport. Travelling by car allows, above all, to have more flexibility and discover places like Granada or the magnificent coast of the Costa del Sol at your own pace.

Visit Costa del Sol: Malaga beaches and sea

The beautiful Málaga coast or "Costa del Sol" is famous all over the world. This unique place offering 320 days of sunshine a year could not have a more appropriate name. The closest beach to the centre is the Malagueta, which can be reached on a 10 minute walk in the direction of the harbour area: the ideal place to take a dip before lunch on a stifling summer morning.

Further along the coast there is Playa Caleta, another superb area with refined bars. It is a good choice for those who practice water sports. In summer it's very crowded so be ready to find a little corner to lay down your towel. The beaches in Torremolinos are the most loved by young people.

Puerto banus marbella

For a nice walk with sea view, reach la Carihuela, an old fishing village, with its chiringuitos - typical beach bars - where you will taste one of the best mojitos or local delicacies of the Coast : grilled sardines. If you want to treat yourself to a day of pure relaxation, the place to go is Marbella with its chic beaches, frequented by VIPs and billionaires.

Playa Puerto Banus and Nikki are the most chaotic and glamorous beaches, so you'll spend more money there. If you love beach parties, Marbella is the place for you. The only drawback: the trendiest and busiest location on the Costa del Sol is a 1 hour drive from Malaga.

  • Always travel with a surfing table? El Campo de Golf beach is very popular among fans of surfing!

Nature trails and nightlife: Caminito del Rey and rooftop

Getting around in Malaga during the day is all about walking through paths under the shadow of orange and palm trees

Caminito del reyDon't miss a detour to the new promenade that extends along the pier and in the touristic harbour area. If you're a lion's heart, you can't miss the Caminito del Rey, a sensational hiking trail outside the city, considered as one of the most dangerous in the world. Another green area to see during your stay is the "green lung of the city", the Natural Park of Montes.

  • To get around the park at a good pace, the best option is to rent a bike. There are many bike-tours or nice segway tours that take you around Malaga.


And in the evening? In Malaga, a bit like all of Spain, it gets late from 10pm onwards. So the night clubs start filling up around that time. Most of the clubs are located in the old town, but you will also find some nice ones along the Costa del Sol. If you are staying in the centre, the place to go is Mitjana Square; busy pubs, music, people and chupitos until late at night. If you are looking for a refined environment, you will enjoy a drink on the rooftop terrace clubs in the old area. Gin and Tonic accompanied by panoramic views.

What to eat in Malaga: fish restaurants and boquerones

In Malaga you have to taste the main dish, the boquerones. What are the boquerones? Anchovies, typical food of Malaga, cooked in all ways possible - fried or filleted as an aperitif.

Boqueron malagaTalking about food, you can't ignore the "pescaito", where mixed fried food is the king. Obviously we are in Spain, so you will taste everywhere tapas as well as traditional Andalusian dishes such as gazpacho, cold soup made with raw vegetables, almond soup and other typical products such as Iberian chorizo, empanada and various cheeses.

Take a tour of the Atarazanas market, to refresh yourself with fruit smoothies and taste fresh products such as cold cuts and Spanish cheeses.

Where to eat tasty boquerones? Take a note of the following addresses of places where to eat, then let us know:

  • La campana, a stone's throw from the Picasso Museum.
  • El Tintero II, on El Palo beach, one of the most famous places in all of Malaga
  • Catedral del Pescaíto, family-run restaurant in the old town, excellent quality and reasonable prices.
  • Bar-Restaurant Lo Güeno, in the heart of Malaga and famous also for its historic tapas.

Hotel in Malaga: Is it convenient to stay in the centre?

As for accommodation in Malaga, you will find a large variety of hotels, b&b and hostels. The accommodation prices in Malaga are generally lower than in Madrid or Barcelona and, depending on your budget and the period you are leaving, you can consider whether to sleep in luxurious five-star rooms or stay in family-run accommodation. One of the best areas to stay in Malaga is definitely the city centre, a good compromise between culture and nightlife. You can find excellent options on the main shopping street, Marqués de Larios and on Calle San José, right in the centre. If you want to give priority to the sea, then head to Malagueta area, just a short walk from the beach.

Málaga Airport

Málaga International Airport is well served with direct flights by many international low-cost airlines. The most convenient solution is to land directly there and then get to the city by bus - line A Express, it takes 20/25 minutes. Direct flights to Malaga leave from the main airports of many countries.

Andalusia is wonderful and it would be worth a visit! Why don't you also think about Seville, the city of flamenco?

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