This is a post from Adam James. He knows Spain very well, so here he shares his best insights on things to do in Malaga. Enjoy!
Adam James is a content marketer working alongside Panoramic Villas, providers of a wide range of beautiful holiday villas in Spain and elsewhere. They take great pride in their customer service, personal approach, and their broad variety of villas that will suit all types of holiday goer.
The first thing that pops into every tourist mind when they hear about Málaga is beaches and sun. Until recently it has been regarded by many as a transit point to the more popular destinations of Costa del Sol, but did you know that it’s actually the sixth largest city in Spain?
The weather is perfect with beautiful and warm days most of the year (actually more than 300 days of summer), the beaches are not very crowded, and the nightlife is cheerful, especially during high season.
There are plenty of things to do in Málaga, either you’re looking for culture, architecture or just want to lay back and enjoy the Mediterranean vibe. Even if you are on a budget, you still have a lot of activities to choose from, so here are my top picks:
1. Eat grilled sardines
One of the cool things to do in Málaga is eating sardines by the sea. This is the most typical local dish, so you can find it almost in every Chiringuito (beachfront bar and restaurant). Freshly caught from the sea, the best grilled sardines are served in one of Málaga’s oldest fishing neighbourhoods, Pedregalejo.
There is a tradition to try the local espeto de sardinas (grilled sardines) or pescaito frito (fried fish) which are cooked on embers in boats on the sand, just in front of the chiringuitos. This is their traditional way of grilling fish, so it’s definitely not to miss. For 4,50 EUR you can try the grilled-sardines, catch a glimpse of the boat building workshop that is organized near the entrance to the beach and enjoy the lively atmosphere on the ‘paseo maritimo’ from El Palo to Banos de Carmen. A good deal, I would say. The meal is not complete, though, without a good local wine, so let me tell you further where you can find one.
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2. Try Málaga’s Sweet Wine
One of the best places where you can try the local wine is Bodega el Pimpi, an icon of Málaga’s social and cultural life. It’s an 18th-century building that is decorated in typical Spanish old style with an interior full of ancient tiles. There are signed barrels and photographs of celebrities, such as international singers, intellectuals or football players. Even if it’s a tourist hotspot, it hasn’t lost its charm and it still remains popular among locals as well.
La Casa del Guardia is the oldest tavern in Málaga, so it’s worth having a look.
3. Visit Atarazanas Market
Another place to visit in Málaga that mixes culture with food. This central market dates back from the 14th century and was originally built by the Moors as a shipbuilder’s yard. It’s not really a tourist attraction, but this is exactly its charm. If you want fresh fish, meat, cheese, fruit and vegetables at reasonable prices or just marvel your eyes, then for sure this is the place for you. Once in a while, it’s worth going off the beaten track.
4. Follow Picasso’s tracks
Málaga has a lot of museums, so it’s hard not to visit one, even if you’re not the type of tourist that goes from one museum to another. To make it easier, I picked the Picasso museum. Why? Because it’s the symbol of Málaga, I would say. Did you know that Picasso was born in Málaga? Before heading to the museum, you can visit his birthplace on Plaza de la Merced, a few minutes away from the city’s landmarks.
The museum dedicated to him is of Renaissance style decorated with Moorish elements and has over 200 paintings on display. These are two of the most popular attractions in Málaga, but there is much more to see. Let’s discover it further.
5. Mingle in Mitjana square
No better place to end your day than Mitjana Square, the site where the locals and tourists hang out in bars, pubs or on the streets. Whether you’re there for a walk to feel the lively nightlife or want to have a drink, it’s a good place to socialize and learn new things about the city directly from the locals.
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6. Explore Alcazaba and Castillo de Gibralfaro
Are you in for some hiking? Then you should definitely see these two attractions in Málaga. These are the places that tourists usually don’t miss not only because they take you through history, but also due to the breathtaking views over the city and the Mediterranean Sea. You can wander through the gardens and courtyard of Alcazaba fortress and climb up the hill to Gibralfaro castle for the best viewpoints in the whole city.
The place is magical by day and night, no wonder is one of the top attractions in Málaga. If you want to do a little bit of sport, you should climb the hill on foot, but keep in mind that the ascent is steep and can take up to 40 minutes. It’s definitely worth it, though. Both Alcazaba and Gibralfaro have free entrance after 2 pm on Sundays, so what other better way to spend the day? Actually, there is, so follow me to find out.
7. Go local during ‘Merienda’ time
Spaniards have a habit of eating a snack usually between 5 and 7 p.m or better said, used to have as it’s not as popular as it once was. However, this is the best time to go shopping on Calle Larios, Málaga’s busiest shopping street with chic boutiques, souvenir shops and designer stores. You can also have some ‘tapas’ in local bars or cafes on Calle Granada and Plaza de la Merced where there are usually outdoor performances for the passers-by. A good place for having some tapas is Gorki near Puerto de Málaga or Bodeguita el Gallo, a small cozy restaurant across Picasso Museum.
8. Have a picnic in the Botanical garden
Time to relax in one of the most exotic and diverse botanical gardens in Europe. Entrance is free on Sunday afternoons after 3.30pm during summer and from 9:30 am to 16:30 pm in winter. There is a picnic area, benches and of course, plenty of vegetation, making it a perfect place to relax. This is also among the most popular places to visit in Málaga.
9. Relax at Hammam al Andalus
This is not exactly a low-cost activity, but it’s a cool thing to do in Málaga. You deserve to be spoiled and relax after visiting the numerous sights in the city. If you want to have an Arabian bath experience that captures the essence of the ancient baths of Al Andalus, this is the place. With five thermal baths, massage rooms with beautiful Nazari decor, the place is an oasis of relaxation for body and mind. It’s in the historic city center of Málaga near Picasso museum.
10…..and go to the beach
I couldn’t have left the beaches out, since Málaga is a coastline city and most probably that’s the reason you go to Málaga in the first place. It has 16 beaches, all of them family-friendly, with good facilities, restaurants, and bars. More popular are Playa las Acacias, Playa de la Malagueta and Playa de la Misericordia. You can go there by bus or you can rent a bike. If you want to spend a vacation on the coast, you can find affordable accommodation either on Málaga or Costa del Sol.
There are so many cool things to do in Málaga, you just need to discover them. If it’s not yet on your destinations wishlist, you should definitely give it a try, either for a city break or at least for a stopover on your way to a beach holiday. There are dozens of low-cost flights every week, so book a flight and you’ll see that this city doesn’t deserve to be underrated. Read about top things to do in Valencia on a budget!
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