Malaga is one of the most visited coastal cities in Andalucia, thanks in part to its warm climate and cheap flights from the UK.
However, most people visiting for the first time have no idea what to expect, other than sun, sea, and sand, and while Malaga has all of those things in droves, it also has a lot more to offer.
When I visited Malaga for the first time in 2022, I could tell there was something special about it from the moment I arrived, and by the time I left, I was smitten.
My time in Malaga was limited, and so before I arrived, I spent a while researching how I could make the most of Malaga in one day. I wanted to see all the major sights, get a taste of the local cuisine, and not waste a second of my time on something that wasn’t amazing.
I think I nailed it, and so today I’m going to share my best Malaga tips with you so that you too can make the most of your visit, whether you’re spending a day in Malaga, or a week!
Are you ready?
Then let’s get into it.
17+ Malaga Tips for the Perfect Malaga Vacation
Before we get into my best Malaga tips, here are some things you should know about Malaga before you go.
- Malaga gets around 300 days of sunshine per year, making it a great year-round destination.
- Malaga is on the Costa del Sol, which translates to ‘Coast of the Sun.’
- The history of Malaga dates back 3000 years, resulting in a mix of Roman, Spanish, Christian, and Islamic influences.
- Malaga is famous for anchovies, or ‘boquerón‘ in Spanish.
- Greek settlers started to build Malaga’s Old Town over 2500 years ago, in the 8th century BC.
- Malaga has more bars per square meter than any other city in Europe!
- Malaga is the birthplace of Picasso.
- Calle Marques de Larios is one of the most expensive streets in Spain to rent property.
17+ Malaga tips for a successful trip
Getting around in Malaga
Getting to Malaga from the airport
The first thing you need to do is figure out how to get from the airport to the centre of Malaga.
Malaga Airport is only about 7 km outside the city, so getting into the centre is quick and easy (yay!).
The cheapest way of getting to the centre of Malaga is the airport train. It costs 1.80 EUR for a one way ticket. The journey takes about 12 minutes.
You can also take a bus from Malaga Airport to the centre, which costs 3 EUR.
An airport taxi will take around 15 minutes and cost in the region of 20 EUR. You can check on the FREENOW taxi app to try and get a cheaper rate.
Getting around in Malaga
The centre of Malaga is very small, and all of the main attractions are close together.
I walked everywhere in Malaga, including to the beach and never needed to use public transport.
However, if you prefer, you can rent an electric bike (Malaga is very bike-friendly). This is an especially good idea if you want to venture out of the centre and head to some of the gorgeous beaches nearby.
You can also use the EMT bus network. A good way to save money is by buying a multi-journey bus ticket (bonobus). Rather than pay the 1.40 EUR fare per journey, you’ll pay 0.84c. This ticket can be used for as many people as you like (so you can buy a 10-trip ticket between you and share it).
Another great thing about the bonobus ticket is that if you take a bus within an hour of taking the previous one, your second journey is free!
Parking in Malaga
If you plan on renting a car in Malaga, I would avoid staying in the Old Town. Most of Malaga’s historical centre is pedestrianised, and you’ll find it almost impossible to park.
There is an underground garage just outside the Old Town, but it’s mega expensive, costing 26 EUR for 24 hours!
General Malaga tips
Stay in the old town
Malaga’s Old Town dates back to Phoenician times, and it is the best place to stay in Malaga, especially if you have limited time.
With its narrow cobbled streets lined with tapas joints and cervecerias, picturesque squares, and historic architecture, Malaga’s Old Town oozes charm, and one of the best things to do in Malaga is to just wander around and soak up the atmosphere.
Staying here means you’ll be within walking distance of top Malaga attractions like the Alcazaba, Gibralfaro Castle, and the Picasso Museum. It also gives you easy access to the beach, and when the sun goes down, you’ll be right in the centre of Malaga’s vibrant nightlife.
As I was travelling on a budget, I stayed in a hostel in Malaga. The one I chose was Picnic Dreams Boutique Hostel, which had a mix of dorm rooms and private rooms. I stayed in a dorm room and it was lovely.
You can also browse other hotels in Malaga Old Town on Booking.com or Expedia.
Learn about Pablo Picasso
Picasso was born in Malaga in 1881, and the city is very proud of their best export.
Start at the Picasso Museum, which houses a remarkable collection of over 200 of his masterpieces, before exploring Casa Natal, the house where he was born (although if you only have time for one, the Picasso Museum is much more informative).
There are also various Picasso walking tours that you can go on to learn more about the artist.
Good to know: The Picasso Museum is open every day from 10:00 am until 6:00 pm. Entrance is 12 EUR (get your tickets in advance here) or FREE on Sundays, two hours before closing.
Remember the siesta!
Aah, the Spanish and their siesta time.
The idea of a long afternoon nap sounds like the dream, but having lived in Spain for almost two years, let me tell you that it can be a total nightmare!
In Malaga, many shops, restaurants, and government buildings will close between 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm, so make sure to be mindful of this and plan accordingly!
I always check opening hours on Google Maps or official websites to avoid disappointment.
Visit Malaga at the right time
Summer is high season in Malaga, meaning that it gets very busy. Not only that, but southern Spain is unbearably hot during the summer. Trust me – I know you think you can handle it, but you can’t. Not even the locals can.
The best time to visit Malaga is in the spring, when it’s hot (but not too hot), and when the crowds are less suffocating.
Explore beyond Malaga
If you have the time, you should definitely explore the region surrounding Malaga.
There are many incredible day trips you can take from Malaga, including Ronda (1.5 hours from Malaga) Caminito del Rey (1 hour), Nerja (50 minutes), and Marbella (1 hour).
Malaga food tips
If you’re a foodie, Malaga is a great place to visit (I actually wrote an entire post about food in Malaga if you’re interested). People from Malaga love food so much that they’ve even nicknamed themselves boquerones – that’s ‘anchovies’ to you and me!
Here are my tips for making the most out of Malaga’s exquisite culinary scene.
Tapas culture in Malaga is real. There are over 400 tapas bars in the historical centre of Malaga (!), making it a great spot for food fanatics!
The golden rule is not to order too many tapa at once – instead, order one or two with your drink, and see how you get on. If you want, order more with your next drink, or head to a different tapas bar to see what’s on offer there.
Good to know: The local beer in Malaga is San Miguel!
Spaniards eat late
If you’re visiting Spain for the first time, it may come as a shock to you just how late Spanish people eat!
Going out to dinner at 9 pm is just about acceptable (although still considered early), and dining at 10 – 11 pm being totally commonplace.
If you go out to eat at 7:30, you may be the only person in the restaurant (and that’s if the restaurant is even open so early!).
Order your coffee properly
Nope, it’s not just Italians who have complex coffee rules!
If you’re wondering how to order coffee in Malaga, here’s a helpful guide:
– Solo is black
– Largo is very strong
– Semi-largo is strong
– Solo corto is espresso
– Mitad is half coffee and half milk
– Entre-corto is semi-short
– Corto is short
– Sombra is shade
– Nube is cloud
This might seem confusing, but it basically corresponds to the amount of milk in the drink, so ‘cloud’ is incredibly milky, while solo is black coffee. The rest is, well, everything in-between!
Gorge on Malaga fish
Like many coastal destinations, Malaga has great fish, and it knows it!
Two things you simply can’t miss when eating in Malaga are espeto de sardina (barbecued sardines) on the beach, and pescaíto frito (a huge plate of deep-fried fish with a generous squeeze of lemon and some homemade alioli).
Have lunch with the locals at Atarazanas Market
Known to the locals as simply Mercado Central, the historic Atarazanas Market is the place to be if you want an affordable and delicious lunch, Malaga style!
Not only is this 19th century building, with its Moorish archway and stained-glass windows, extremely beautiful, but it’s also the best place in Malaga to buy your groceries.
Plump olives, fresh sardines, and colourful vegetables are all there for the taking, and tapas stalls at the back serve steaming plates of freshly-made tapas to locals, who love coming here for lunch.
Good to know: Mercado Central is open Monday to Saturday, from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm. You can find it at Calle de las Atarazanas, 19.
Don’t miss Antigua Casa Guardia
Antigua Casa Guardia is the oldest bar in Malaga (founded in 1840!) and it’s rumoured to have been Picasso’s favourite hangout!
Casa Guardia is a historical and iconic wine bar that serves wine from huge oak barrels that line the walls. The traditional Andalucian décor features hand-painted ceramic tiles and antique wine-related memorabilia.
They’re famous for their sweet wines, including varieties like Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel, as well as their homemade vermouth.
In case you get peckish, they also serve tapas.
El Pimpi is another iconic Malaga wine bar that you should add to your lists – you can even watch a traditional Andalucian flamenco show here, which is a real bucket list experience!
One of my favourite things about Spain is the Menu del Dia, or daily lunch menu.
For a fixed price, you can enjoy a starter, main, drink, and coffee or dessert. You can get a menu del dia for as little as 10 EUR, but they’re usually around 15.
There are tonnes of restaurants that offer menu del dia in Malaga, and I found a lot on Plaza de la Merced.
I also found a lot of great breakfast deals around here, including avocado toast, orange juice, and coffee for less than 5 EUR (I don’t remember the name of the specific restaurant where I had this, but all of the establishments on this plaza offered more or less the same).
Tips for visiting Malaga on a budget
You might be wondering, is Malaga expensive?
I’m here to say that NO, Malaga is not an expensive city, and you can make your visit even more affordable by taking advantage of Malaga’s many free attractions and planning accordingly.
Here’s how to get the best out of Malaga on a budget.
Take advantage of free attractions
There are tonnes of free attractions and things to do in Malaga!
The first thing I recommend doing is taking a free walking tour in Malaga. I did this, and it meant that I could see most of the sights, learn some history, and orient myself within the city. Now, it’s important to note that ‘free’ walking tours are not free, but rather tip-based, so I recommend tipping between 5 – 10 EUR to your tour guide at the end.
Genuinely free things to do in Malaga include La Alameda park, the Roman Theatre, and the Contemporary Art Centre.
You can also enjoy free entry to many of Malaga’s attractions on Sundays. For example, the Picasso Museum is free for the last two hours on Sundays, as is the Centre Pompidou (modern art museum), and the Alcazaba and the Gibralfaro Castle are also free on Sunday afternoons.
Good to know: if you’re a pensioner or a student (under 26), you can also benefit from reduced entry rates from most museums and landmarks in Malaga. Just take your ID (including student ID) with you to secure the discount!
Buy combo tickets
If you’re planning on seeing a few of the main sights in Malaga, you should know that many museums and monuments offer combo tickets, which give you a discount.
For example, the Alcazaba Fortress and Gibralfaro Castle offer a combo ticket for 5.50 EUR (instead of 3.50 EUR each), and many of the art museums also offer combined tickets for their exhibitions.
My best tip is to ask about combo tickets at the ticket desk before you buy anything!
Quick Malaga FAQ
Where is Malaga?
Malaga is in the south of Spain. It is part of the Costa del Sol.
Is Malaga expensive?
Malaga is actually one of the cheapest cities in Spain, and certainly an affordably holiday destination. Accommodation, food, and drink, are inexpensive, and there are lots of free things to do in Malaga.
Is Malaga safe for tourists?
Malaga is generally considered a safe destination for tourists. However, as with any travel destination, it’s essential to exercise common-sense precautions to have a safe and enjoyable visit.
How many days in Malaga?
You could see many of the major sights if you have one day in Malaga, but I recommend spending at least two days in Malaga.
Is Malaga a walkable city?
Malaga is very walkable if you don’t usually have problems walking, but public transport is also very efficient and affordable.
Does Malaga have good beaches?
Malaga has a nice city beach, but the best Malaga beaches are located outside of the city centre.
Is Malaga old town near the beach?
Yes, you can walk from Malaga Old Town to the beach. It will take around 10-15 minutes.
Do you need a car in Malaga?
No, you don’t need a car in Malaga, but it might come in handy if you plan on doing day trips from Malaga.
Is Malaga a party place?
Malaga’s nightlife is vibrant, with locals partying until the wee hours and more bars per capita than any other city in Europe.
Malaga Tips | Final Thoughts
Malaga is a great place for a Spanish city break, beach holiday, or starting point for an Andalucian adventure.
It is a city that effortlessly marries history, culture, and natural beauty, from its captivating Old Town and world-class museums, to its pristine beaches and delectable Andalusian cuisine.
Its warm Mediterranean climate, friendly locals, and vibrant atmosphere only add to its allure, and if you’re anything like me, you won’t want your first trip to be your last!
That’s all I’ve got for today, but as always, if you have any questions then please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments section below and I will do my best to help!
Until next time,
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