Malaga, the capital of the Costa Del Sol, is world renowned for its amazing beaches and bars. But the area is also rich in history and culture, having an impressive number of museums and monuments. As this is the birthplace of Pablo Picasso, you won’t be surprised to find some incredible street art as you walk neighborhoods like Barrio de las Artes. Three days in Malaga is the perfect amount of time to see the major sights, whilst also escaping the hustle and bustle of the city to experience the amazing landscapes in Andalucía.
WHERE TO STAY IN MALAGA
You’ll want to stay in the Malaga Historic Center, as most attractions are within walking distance of this area. In the historic center you’ll find beautiful cobblestone, narrow streets to stroll down, plenty of delicious bars and restaurants, and a lively atmosphere.
ON A BUDGET
THE URBAN JUNGLE ROOFTOP HOSTEL
The Urban Jungle Hostel is located in the center of Malaga’s historic town. The accommodation is a green hostel with access to a rooftop terrace, shared kitchen, free hairdryers, and lots more!
The hostel is super social, which is great for solo travelers and budget backpackers. Guests can attend a range of activities organised by the staff, including:
- Free Flamenco dancing shows
- Daily morning yoga classes
- Tapas tours around Malaga City, which operate twice a week
- Happy hour and nightly pub crawls
- Free concerts on the rooftop terrace
- Family dinners which run 4 nights a week, and include vegan options.
The price for a single bed dorm is as low as €20 a night, and there are private rooms available from €28 per person. This is the perfect accommodation for someone looking to explore the city, meet new people and have some fun!
MID RANGE ACCOMMODATIONS IN MALAGA
BE MATE MALAGA
If hostels aren’t your thing, and you’re okay with spending a bit more, I’d recommend staying in Be Mate Málaga Centro. This is the perfect accommodation if you are travelling as a couple or with a small group of friends. The apartments are beautifully decorated and luxurious, but are very reasonably priced.
The apartments are very spacious and a short walk to most attractions. They are equipped with a kitchen, living area, flat screen TV, air-conditioning, toiletries and a private balcony.
An apartment for two people will cost about €75 per person, per night. The apartment is a bit pricy, but for the excellent location and comfort, I think it is worth it!
DAY ONE – MALAGA HISTORIC CENTER
EXPLORE THE HISTORIC CENTER
Drop your bags, freshen up, and head out for a day exploring the city. We are going to start with a walk around Calle Larios, a bustling shopping street in the heart of Malaga. The street ends at Plaza de la Constitucion, a beautiful square that’s the ideal spot to sit and watch the world go by. I’d recommend grabbing a coffee at the nearby Mia Cafe, who also serve a wide range of delicious pastries.
If you’re here at the height of summer, you might find Malaga quite warm in the middle of the day. For this reason, our next stop is going to be indoors (and airconditioned) to escape the heat!
PABLO PICASSO MUSEUM
Duration: At least 30 minutes
The Museo Picasso Málaga contains over 80 years of Picasso’s best work. When you wander through the museum, you get a real understanding of how his work grew and evolved over time.
The ground floor is dedicated to his childhood and family life. On the first floor, you’ll find works by Picasso and his father, Jose Ruiz Blasco. The top floor is a dedicated research center. In the museum you will also find over 3,500 pieces by over 200 contemporary artists.
The museum was really interesting, and a bit more fun as you spend some time trying to figure out what exactly the images are! You can buy tickets here, or at the door when you arrive.
GET SOME LUNCH
We are going to get lunch a 5 minute walk from the Picasso museum, at Desal Cafe. This is a breakfast/brunch bar in the heart of Malaga. Their food is absolutely delicious, so delicious that you might find it hard to get a table! I got the ham and avocado croissant, and it was so good! It’s also a really affordable option, with lunch costing about €5 to €10.
CATHEDRAL DE LA ENCARNACIÓN
Cost: Cathedral and Roof: €10
Duration: 1.5 hours
Important note: We visited in Summer 2021, and due to health regulations we had to book the rooftop tour at least a day in advance.
You can purchase tickets for the roof, roof and cathedral, or just the cathedral here.
It’s time to head to one of the most iconic landmarks in Malaga, the Malaga Cathedral. The Cathedral is affectionately nicknamed La Manquita, meaning “the one armed woman”, due to its unusual design. Originally, the Cathedral was meant to have two towers, but a lack of funding meant that only one was completed, giving an asymmetrical shape.
Spend some time wandering through the gardens and admiring the Baroque style exterior. When you’re finished, head inside to see influences from both the Baroque and Renaissance periods. Inside the cathedral you’ll find impressive sculptures, art work, and beautiful stained glass windows. Audio guides are available if you want to gain a better insight in to the history of the Cathedral and it’s interior, and they are included with your ticket.
VISITING THE ROOF OF THE MALAGA CATHEDRAL
Tours to the roof last about 45 minutes, and run every hour. This is a must do when in Malaga! From the roof you get an amazing view over the city, stretching from Alcazaba fortress to Malaga port. To access the roof, you will ascend about 50m up 200 steps. The spiral staircase is narrow, and I would not recommend for anyone with respiratory difficulties, reduced mobility, or claustrophobia.
DINNER IN THE HEART OF MALAGA OLD TOWN
Our final stop of the day, we’re going to get Seafood Paella at La Bouganvilla. This restaurant is right in the heart of the Old Town, and their Seafood Paella and Sangria are delicious. It costs about €12 per person, and takes about 30 minutes to make. This might seem long, but it is standard for a good paella!
Once you’ve finished your meal, head out for a walk around the narrow streets in the Old Town. You won’t want to be too late heading to bed, because we have an early start in the morning- my highlight of our trip to Malaga!
DAY TWO – CAMINITO DEL REY
Cost: €20 to €100+, depending on your budget
Duartion: Half Day tour from 7am – 1pm
This was hands down my favourite thing we did on our trip to Malaga. When you think of Malaga, you think of a bustling, vibrant city with great nightlife and restaurants. You don’t think of stunning cliffs, canyons, and a large valley! The Caminito Del Rey was built in the 20th century to transport materials, and was once considered one of the most dangerous walkways in the world. Today, it has been fully restored, and is safe for tourists to explore.
The Caminito Del Rey is a 7km downhill walk. The path is a mixture of mountain trail and suspended walkways, which cling on to the cliffs at a heights of over 100 meters. The views are absolutely incredible, with aqua blue waters and cliff walls as high as 400 meters. There are also lots of incredible plants and wildlife, and we were lucky enough to spot a few vultures in the area.
HOW TO GET TO CAMINITO DEL REY
If you are planning on head to the Caminito Del Rey without a tour guide, you can find tickets here. They cost €10, and will give you entrance to the park itself. The number of visitors allowed per day is limited, so I would strongly suggest you book in advance. You can get a train from Malaga to El Chorro station, and there is a shuttle bus at the end which brings you back to the start of the route. The train takes about 45 minutes, and costs around €6.
Alternatively, you can find a tour guide and shuttle bus to bring you to and from Malaga for as little as €35. We chose the tour below, which costs €65 per person. To be honest, when we went to book a tour, this was one of the only options left. As I’ve said, this place really does sell out. We had an amazing time with our tour guide, who couldn’t have been more friendly and knowledgeable. For the convenience of having your transport, tour guide and tickets sorted, I’d probably recommend booking with a tour.
IMPORTANT NOTES ON THE CAMINITO DEL REY
- I’ve said this a million times but book in advance! The number of visitors per day is restricted, and it is very likely that the tour will book out.
- Go early in the morning. We left our apartment at about 7am to start our tour at 9am. Andalucía gets very warm in the summer, and you’ll want to avoid hiking in the mid day heat.
- On the same note, pack lots of water and snacks!
- Bring comfortable footwear that is suitable for hiking. When you arrive, the staff at Caminito Del Rey will check that you have appropriate footwear and provide you with a helmet. If you are not wearing proper shoes you may not be allowed to walk the trail.
- Be sure to pack your camera to take some photos, but avoid bringing selfie sticks or tripods. As the walkway is pretty narrow, you will not be allowed to use these.
- Do not do this tour if you are afraid of heights. You will be walking along an exposed path at great heights, and you will have to cross a suspension bridge overlooking the river at the end. This could make the most confident hiker dizzy, and I definitely wouldn’t recommend this if heights aren’t your thing!
HEAD BACK TO MALAGA
When we got back to Malaga, we were exhausted! After an early morning and a few hours of hiking, we decided to relax in our room and get ready for dinner. If you have a bit more energy, here are some options of things you can get up to!
GO TO THE BEACH
Playa la Malagueta is just 10 minutes from Malaga City center. You can rent sun loungers and relax, or head out for a walk along the shore. This is a blue flag beach, so it is also an ideal spot to head for a swim!
SEE THE STREET ART AT BARRIO DE LAS ARTES
As the birthplace of Pablo Picasso, it’s not surprising that Malaga has an incredible art scene. MAUS, or Malaga Arte Urbana SoHo, began an urban renewal initiative for street art in Spain. The best works can be found in the Soho Area. The area is relatively small, and can be seen in about an hour. There are over 50 murals, as well as an open air museum and the free Contemporary Arts Center.
HEAD TO MALAGA’S 14TH CENTURY MARKET
Mercado Central de Atarazanas is an old food market, which is popular with both tourists and locals. Here you’ll find an amazing stained glass window, and the whole building has been refurbished to preserve the old design. You can’t leave here without trying pescaíto (typical small fried fish), which you can pick up from many of the bars in the market.
GO SHOPPING ON CALLE LARIOS
GET DINNER IN LOS MARANGOS AND DRINKS AT ATLANTIS BAR
Los Marangos serve delicious Mediterranean and Spanish cuisine. The location is perfect, right in the heart of the old town but on a quiet side street. This place is really special. The food is great, the service is excellent and the prices are reasonable.
Here you’ll find tapas, paella, steaks, and a wide range of seafood. I tried the vegetarian lasagna and it was amazing, made with really fresh ingredients!
To end the day, we’re going to watch the sunset at the Atlantis Lounge Bar. This bar is located on the pier, giving you an amazing view of the city from the water. If you look across, you will see the Cathedral, Alcazaba fortress, and much more.
Although the views are amazing, the prices are pretty expensive for Malaga. One Aperol Spritz will set you back €7.50, which is pretty expensive in comparison to other bars and restaurants. I’d stay to watch the sunset and enjoy the relaxed vibe, but if you’re on a budget this might not be the place for you!
DAY THREE – GIBRALFARO CASTLE AND THE ROMAN THEATRE
For our final day in Malaga we’re going to spend some time exploring the ancient ruins of the city. We’ll also be trying some of the best food the city has to offer, as recommended by locals!
Duration: 2 hours
The incredible Gibralfaro castle sits at 130m above Malaga, and gives breathtaking 360 degree views of the city. It dates back to the 10th Century, and was once used as a lighthouse to guide boats coming in to Malaga port. You can spend some time walking across the 2 large walls surrounding the structure, as well as admiring the surrounding courtyards and towers.
To get to Gibralfaro castle, you will need to walk uphill for about 20 minutes. This walk is quite strenuous, so be sure to bring plenty of water and stop to admire the views along the way. Alternatively, you can get the number 35 bus to Gibralfaro for about €1.20. The bus will drop you at the entrance to the castle.
Duration: 2-3 hours
Another beautiful historical site is the Alcazaba, meaning citadel, which is connected to Gibralfaro castle. This is considered Spain’s most complete and best preserved citadel. It was the palace-fortress of the city’s governing Muslims, and contains over 100 main towers. From here you can also see the beautiful Roman Theatre which faces on to the Alcazaba.
TAPAS AT LA TRANCA
This place was one of the highlights of our trip to Malaga. La Tranca is a small tavern in the heart of Malaga, serving traditional tapas in a relaxed setting. The atmosphere here is amazing, the walls are lined with old Spanish posters and they play 80s Spanish music that the staff sing along to. The food was delicious, we got a range of tapas and a glass of Tinto de Verano, but La Tranca is famous for their on-tap Vermouths.
This restaurant is really popular, and you may have to queue for a table. I’d recommend arriving just before lunch to make sure you get a seat. The prices were super cheap, we got 6 tapas and 4 drinks for €24.70! This was hands down my favourite place that we ate during our stay, and I highly recommend taking a trip here!
We didn’t have time to make it to the Colomares Monument, but it is something I really want to see the next time I’m in Malaga! It’s about a 30 minute drive from Malaga Center, or an hour journey by train. This is an incredible castle dedicated to Christopher Columbus. It is the largest monument in the world dedicated to the explorer, and looks so impressive!
If you don’t have a lot of time and want to stay more local, definitely check out these recommendations on things you can do in the city.
AND THAT’S IT!
That’s all for our three day trip to Malaga! This city really has it all, including historical monuments, incredible beaches, bustling night life and beautiful scenery. I really hope you’ve found this guide helpful and that you’ve had an amazing stay in Malaga!