This blog post was originally posted on April 4th, 2016 and was updated on April 15, 2019.
Home to a rich history, stunning beaches, and some seriously fabulous tapas and wine, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to ways to experience Malaga.
Whether it’s your home base for summer vacation or you’re only in town for a quick 24 hours, we guarantee you’ll never be bored in this city with so much to offer. Here’s what to see in Malaga so you can be sure to make the most of your time in the city.
1. La Alcazaba
Any list of what to see in Malaga likely has the Alcazaba near the top, and for good reason. Not only is this breathtaking Moorish palace-fortress one of the city’s most important historical monuments, but its easily accessible location—perched just above the city center—means that there’s no excuse not to visit.
Constructed during Moorish rule in Malaga between the years 1057 and 1063, this spectacular structure gives Granada’s more famous Alhambra a run for its money—in fact, the Alcazaba is even older! Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to wander through the breathtaking gardens and enjoy the views from the towers.
Insider’s Tip: Check #1 and #2 from this list off at the same time—get the combined ticket to access the Alcazaba and Gibralfaro Castle.
Want to get a birds eye view of the entire city and port area? Gibralfaro Castle is calling your name. Built in the 8th century by Abd ar-Rahman I and later reformed in the 14th century, this magnificent structure holds a fascinating history from its years as a military lookout and barracks. Today, it’s home to some of the most beautiful views of Malaga, particularly at sunset.
Insider’s Tip: If you want to walk up to the castle, be aware that the path is steep, although it’s incredibly scenic with lots of photo ops along the way. You can also take bus number 35 if you’re not up for walking.
3. Roman Theater
Malaga’s compact city center allows for the unique opportunity to see remnants from two iconic civilizations at the same time. Just below the Alcazaba sits the Roman Theater, which dates back to the first century B.C. and was used for hundreds of years. After falling into disuse in the third century A.D., the impressive amphitheater was eventually buried by dust and rubble from the construction of the Alcazaba during the Moorish years, and remained untouched until the 1950s when it was accidentally unearthed during a construction project.
Today, the restored Roman Theater is easily one of your best bets for what to see in Malaga. Open throughout the year, it’s free to visit and allows you the fascinating opportunity to step back in time and imagine what seeing a performance here would have been like during the Roman heyday.
4. La Malagueta
As you probably imagined, Malaga is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Spain. While it’s definitely not the most tranquil, the closest beach to the city center—La Malagueta—is the most popular. Home to the famous stone sculpture boasting the name of the beach, it’s a great place for an afternoon stroll—or just to relax in the midst of a busy day of sightseeing.
5. Atarazanas Market
As foodies, we always enjoy visiting a local market, and this one made our list of what to see in Malaga for its historic value. Atarazanas Market began its life as a place to reconstruct naval vessels, and today has become a bustling foodie paradise that’s one of the best markets in Malaga.
As soon as you step into the market, you’ll immediately notice the beautiful architecture, starting with the ornate doorway made from marble that may remind you of the Moorish designs you’ve seen around the city. While you won’t find any ships inside anymore, what awaits you beyond the grandiose entrance is a wonderful reformed market teeming with colorful products from Malaga and the surrounding region.
6. The Cathedral
Like many of its kind in Andalusia, Malaga’s cathedral started out centuries before as a mosque. During the Christian Reconquest in the 16th century, it was converted into the structure we know today, leaving only the Patio de los Naranjos where you can still enjoy the orange blossoms in springtime to this day.
Construction on the new cathedral took longer than expected, though, and one of the two planned bell towers never ended up being built. As a result, you’ll often hear locals refer to the cathedral as la manquita, or “the one-armed lady.” Today, it remains one of the most obvious options for what to see in Malaga—you’ll be able to see that famous single tower from across town.
7. A world of museums
Malaga is one of Andalusia’s best cities for museums, with a cultural space dedicated to just about any kind of interest. Don’t believe us? Go explore some of the best museums in Malaga for yourself.
Art lovers, of course, likely know about the Picasso Museum, but that’s not all. Malaga is also home to the Carmen Thyssen Museum, Pompidou Centre, Russian Museum, and CAC (Contemporary Art Center), as well as plenty of colorful displays of street art.
8. The English Cemetery
We know what you’re thinking: “A cemetery?” But the English Cemetery isn’t just any cemetery—it also happens to be one of the most interesting and offbeat options for what to see in Malaga.
Up until the year 1831, non-Catholics couldn’t be buried in Malaga. Instead, their bodies were unceremoniously tossed out to sea. The English Cemetery came about as an attempt to end this morbid practice, and serves as the final resting place for several notable English expats. The gardens in the cemetery are beautiful as well, and several times a year, there are guided tours at night, which almost always sell out.
9. El Parque de Malaga
Another serene green space in Malaga, the city’s eponymous park was originally envisioned as an extension of the Alameda Principal. The lovely space is the perfect place to take a relaxing stroll among the flowers, palm trees, and emblematic sculptures that pay homage to Andalusia and Malaga. Despite its location close to the city center, from the moment you enter you’ll be immediately transported away from the buildings and cars that normally dominate downtown Malaga—and that’s exactly why we love it.
10. The Plaza de la Merced and Picasso’s home
Okay, so these are technically two great picks for what to see in Malaga, but if you’re going to see one, you might as well check out the other. Plaza de la Merced is one of Malaga’s most picturesque squares. Located just at the end of Calle Granada, it’s home to one of our favorite coffee shops, Cafe con Libros. But most importantly, it’s also where you’ll find the home where Pablo Picasso himself was born, which today is a small but fascinating museum that houses many of the family’s personal objects. Don’t leave without getting your picture taken with the sculpture of Picasso sitting on a bench in the corner of the plaza, which is the can’t-miss photo op in Malaga.
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Abby has lived in cities all over Spain including Madrid, Málaga, Fuengirola, Sevilla and Barcelona and she loves traveling and tasting all this diverse country has to offer. Along with her husband, who is originally from Málaga, she writes the bilingual travel blog El Boquerón Viajero. Abby is also currently partner & director of communications for a Spanish travel agency called Auténtico Nueva York. She has recently become a mum & is looking forward to sharing all Spain’s bites with the next generation of foodies! Favorite Devour Tour? Catalan calçotada!