I admit: when I used to plan a short holiday to Spain, Málaga always came to mind quite late (if at all). But who can blame me when its big brothers Granada and Seville have been taking all the glory for years? But now the time has come: Málaga has done it!!! Not only is it the warmest city in mainland Spain, but it’s also 100 years older than Rome (rad, right?!), so you can admire fascinating Gothic buildings and historical relics everywhere. With numerous cool hostels, a low number of tourists and some of the best tapas in Spain, there are numerous other reasons why the harbour city is in no way inferior to the classics Barcelona and Madrid. What’s more, you can get flight tickets from as little as €20 each way or €52 return, so what are you waiting for? You can find cheap flights here, among other places. So, without further ado, here are the best things to do in Malaga:
1. Discover street art
Malaga’s art scene has made huge strides in recent years. The once dubious Soho neighbourhood, for example, has become a veritable canvas for impressive street art, mainly thanks to MAUS, a popular movement of numerous artists. Since then, countless artworks have adorned the district’s run-down buildings, some by world-renowned artists such as OBEY, D*Face and ROA, who has made a name for himself with his depictions of endangered species (see below). On the movement’s website, you’ll find a handy map showing the artworks.
2.Enjoy the freshest food and drinks
The Mediterranean climate naturally cries out for Mediterranean food, and in Málaga you’ll find more of it than you could wish for. The locals eat so much seafood that their nickname is “boquerones” – anchovies. This is the reason why you should try the legendary Espeto de Sardinas at the harbour, gigantic grilled sardines that go straight from the sea to the barbecue spit.
Another thing you shouldn’t miss is the Mercado Atarazanas, an authentic market that is busy all week. At its stalls, you’ll find baskets of roasted almonds and shiny olives, as well as all the ingredients you need to try your hand at tapas. If you have a craving for delicious Spanish wine, grab a glass at Ke Bocata for just one euro and treat yourself to a bowl of Gambas Pil Pil from the Mercado Atarazanas bar – juicy prawns in sizzling hot garlic-chilli olive oil. They are one of those Spanish classics that you can never go wrong with. Of course, Málaga also has a great party vibe, but nobody goes out before 10 pm, so start the evening with a gin and tonic fish bowl and deep house at Oasis Backpacker’s Hostel.
Before we go any further, we need to talk about churros. Casa Randa has perhaps the best churros we’ve ever eaten: They are greasy, big, perfectly crispy and cost only 50 cents a piece. The Malagueños, the locals, particularly enjoy them as an evening treat after work. Don’t miss out on this treat!
3.Soak up the tropical gothic flair
There are many places in Málaga where you can enjoy the tropical atmosphere, but our favourites include La Concepcion Jardin Botanico (the botanical garden) and the English Cemetery, where lion statues welcome you into a walled (also botanical) garden where the tombs tower over the sea. There are more than 1,000 graves in an area of 8,000 square metres, including Swedes and Hispanics, as well as the 41 castaways of the German frigate Gneisenau, which sank in 1900. This cemetery, which was built in 1831, was the first Protestant cemetery in Spain. Legend has it that the last person to be buried here is always the “guardian of souls”.
Daniel Mera Fernandez & @alvaroooh
4.Visit summit fortresses with incredible views
As you follow the orange tree-lined, winding paths to the top of the Alcazaba fortress, you’ll find yourself in a maze of viewpoints and Moorish archways. Admission is just €3.50 (€5.50 for a combined ticket with Gibralfaro) and is even free on Sundays from 2pm. How about a walk to the Roman theatre afterwards? To the south of Alcazaba is the equally beautiful Castillo de Gibralfaro. You can wander around the gardens in the region for hours and learn more about the history of the Catholic siege, the first conflict in which both sides resorted to gunpowder.
5. Pure nature!
In the hilly local landscape, there are rightly more than 40 hiking trails: slopes, plains, rivers, ravines – Málaga has it all. Grab your best hiking boots and explore the Montes de Málaga National Park or hike the popular . At 1.7 kilometres in length and 105 metres in altitude, this “royal path” was once considered one of the most dangerous hikes in the world, but since a thorough restoration, it is once again accessible and far safer than before. Nevertheless, the climb is nerve-wracking – but the rocky cliffs and the sparkling turquoise waters of the Gualdalhorce are definitely worth the adrenaline rush.
In addition to climbing gorges, the region around Málaga also boasts numerous beautiful beaches and coastal roads. We recommend the Playa de Araña, a quiet beach where anglers catch their dinner, as well as the city beaches of Malagueta and Pedregalejo, where you will find a wide selection of beach bars and seafood restaurants.
6. World-class contemporary art
The best place to start your artistic exploration of Málaga is the CAC, the Centro de Arte Contemporáneo, which is located just a few minutes from the main railway station. It’s almost unbelievable that this spacious gallery, where legends like Anish Kapoor and Andy Warhol as well as shooting stars like Jia Aili (below) have exhibited, doesn’t charge admission. Here you’ll find everything from Spanish sculptures to neon-coloured wall art and even a cocktail terrace where you can enjoy an Aperol Spritz in the sun and ponder the artworks. If you’re ever in Spain ..
Near the Alborán Sea, on the other hand, is a futuristic, multi-coloured cube, beneath which lies a veritable goldmine of art. This is the Centre Pompidou Málaga, a five-year pop-up museum and the first of its kind outside the French original. It is open daily (except Tuesdays) from 9.30am to 8pm and exhibitions cost between €4 and €7 to enter.
7. The mother of all museums
There are around 30 different museums in Málaga, but one that you should definitely not miss is the Picasso Museum. Yes, it’s not exactly an insider tip and therefore very popular with tourists, but where else should you admire the work of the father of modernism and creator of Cubism if not in the city of his birth? The galleries of the Palacio de Buenavista house eight decades of Pablo’s work: intimate portraits, cubist classics, posters, sculptures… After all these masterpieces, you’ll probably want to relax with a coffee in the museum’s courtyard and think about what to bring home for your loved ones from one of the two museum shops.
8. Mysterious churches and crypts
To soak up the exciting Gothic flair of Málaga even more, you should visit the crypt of St Mary, which is located in a 17th century basilica. It is decorated from top to bottom in black and white baroque style and features, among other things, skeletons playing drums on the altar. The crypt was once built for the Condes de Buenavista family, as a more noble family bought up their original burial place – how unpleasant! The tomb is open Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 1 pm.
Next up is Málaga Cathedral, one of the city’s most important sites and conveniently located right next to the Alcazaba fortress. It was built between 1528 and 1782, but was never completed due to a lack of funds. Its second tower was never built, which is why it is nicknamed “La Manquita” – the one-armed lady.
9. Face your fears in a creepy abandoned house
Cortijo Jurado is just a short drive from the city centre and is completely abandoned. The house was built at the beginning of the 20th century by the Heredia family and, according to rumours, was soon the scene of rapes, murders and other dark machinations. It is also said that the victims of the time are buried here and that their sobs and moans can be heard at night. Goosebumps yet?
Francisco Salido Ruiz
10. And not to forget… the incredible hostels!
Located just around the corner from the CAC, this sociable hostel is right in the centre of the Soho district with its laid-back vibe. With spacious communal areas, paella nights and free sangria refills, you’ll soon be raving like this traveller: “This is one of the best hostels I’ve ever been to! The energy, the atmosphere, the music, the people – everything was FANTASTIC!”
- Rating: 9.0
- Shared room from €15 per person per night
- Single room from €63 per night
Are you looking for comfort, fun and a good night’s sleep? Then you’ve come to the right place! At Lights Out, they do everything they can to bring cool people together, for example over a delicious dinner on the roof terrace or Nutella for breakfast.
- Rating: 9.2
- Shared room from €18 per person per night
- Single room from € 87 per night
“Such a great place! The terrace is wonderful and everything is modern and clean.” This renovated, over 100-year-old house obviously has a special charm for travellers and is also just a short walk from Malagueta beach, the Picasso Museum, the Alcazaba fortress and virtually everything else worth seeing.
- Rating: 8.9
- Shared room from €23 per person per night
- Single room from €48 per night
A hostel with a luxurious twist! Here, the sunset is enjoyed with prosecco on the roof terrace of the Batik restaurant, which is the perfect bit of luxury before exploring the historic centre of the city. The 9.5 average points for location mean that it’s not far from numerous bars and Malagueta beach.
- Rating: 9.1
- Shared room from €15 per person per night
- Single room from €72 per night
Now you know practically everything about Málaga, but if you want to find out more about hostels in Spain, you’ll find it here.