Whether you’re arriving in Malaga, Spain by plane, cruise, train or car, you can expect to leave that transportation behind and you’re greeted by a city that embodies the Costa Del Sol. Malaga offers art, culture, history, food, wine and the Mediterranean. The city center will make you immediately feel relaxed… It all makes you feel like this is your new home away from home.

Malaga is historic, thriving and easy to navigate. The old town cobblestone streets are bustling with both locals and visitors. And you can reasonaSpain Infobly take your time to check out the boutique shops, cafes and museums that catch your eye. To be sure, you’ll also find a mix of national brands and modernization.

As busy as the foot traffic seems, you will also get to feel as if you’re the only person who gets to explore a hidden street or wander so that you can be surprised by what’s around the next corner. I like that type of contrast.

Another reason to go: Malaga is the birthplace of Pablo Picasso — where he spent his younger years — until he turned eight years old. Malaga served as an inspiration for much of Picasso’s work, such as flamenco, doves and bulls. And don’t miss the opportunity to get your picture taken seated next to the Picasso statue on a bench at Plaza de la Merced which is across from the Picasso Foundation. (Check out my post: Pablo Picasso Exhibitions Review to learn more about the artist.)

Malaga is Spain’s sixth largest city, with more than 850,000 people living in this metropolitan area. Your money will go far here in comparison to some of the more expensive locations in Costa del Sol.


Things to Do in Malaga, Spain

There are plenty of options to do in this charming city, from walking and exploring to dining and music. Calle Marques de Larios is one of the main shopping streets and the old town streets feed into the city center from there.

Malaga is a port city and several cruise ships were there during my visit. What’s nice is that the city center is is a short walking distance away.  Alongside the port is Parque de Malaga. It has paths and fountains and palm trees. This is a great spot to stroll in the morning, afternoon or evening. Tip: Take the City Sightseeing Hop-On Hop-Off bus — and boat — to get a sense of the city upon your arrival.

Here are some of my best suggestions (and each of these are excellent for private events):

  • Charter (or join) a catamaran.
    This is a special activity that will allow you to relax and view Spain’s beautiful coast at the same time. You can also take in the sights from the Hop-On Hop-Off boat.
  • Stroll and shop along the Malaga port.
    This is where you’ll find Centre Pompidou Malaga (the second such modern art museum outside the first one in Paris — with a permanent collection that includes works by Picasso). The port and promenade has modern shops and you can relax at restaurants and bars. Tip: Relax along the promenade at one of the restaurants and take in the views. I enjoyed lunch at Kaleido Malaga Port, which offers a full Mediterranean menu, wine and perfect people watching. If you’re there on Sunday, shop its flea market on Sundays with a good range of quality items!
  • Book a (private) food tour with Spain Food Sherpas.
    They have several different tours and cooking classes in Malaga. My guide strolled throughout the city center, showcased shops, walked us through the Malaga Ataraznas Food Market (I love wandering through European food markets and this one is historic and quite impressive), relaxed at several local restaurants to taste tapas and wine, explained the local cuisine and took us through the most hidden streets of the city. (Private tours are available.)
  • Visit the Cathedral of Malaga.
    This is definitely among the must-see activities and things to do when visiting Malaga. The cathedral is located where a mosque was once located until 1487, when the Catholic monarchs conquered the city of Malaga and took control back from the Muslims, who controlled the city since the invasion in 711. The Cathedral of Malaga underwent construction from 1528 and that continued for 200 more years, until money was no longer available. The Cathedral of Malaga is officially “unfinished.” The exterior reflects a baroque style; the interior reflects Renaissance and baroque styles. Definitely check out the wooden choir sculptures and look up once inside — light floods the interior through the stained glass windows in the domed ceiling.
  • Dine at El Pimpi.
    I think this was one of my favorite spots in Malaga. It is the bodega bar in Malaga not to miss. Located in an 18th century mansion, you can enjoy local food and wine. This restaurant is casual and lively. It has a tapas bar in the front where you can grab a quick bite and a drink. As you walk through, you’ll find an intimate dining room, then it’s main bar stretches through the building that’s packed with photos along the way. In the back is the main dining room. I enjoyed dinner next to El Pimpi’s decorative wine barrels — one which was signed by Antonio Bandaras. Live music and entertainment is located upstairs. And it’s a great spot for a special event.
  • Dine at Matiz.
    Located inside Hotel Molina Lario, Matiz serves innovative Mediterranean menu of tapas and main dishes with regional ingredients. Suggest booking a spot in the restaurant’s interior courtyard patio under the stars and patio decorative lighting (dinner recommendation).
  • Dine at Los Patios de Beatas.
    Located in the historic center near the Picasso Museum, you enter through an impressive doorway that brings you into two 18th and 19th century houses that were converted into this restaurant (and architecturally interesting how the space uses its inside patios). They have an impressive menu and a range of local wines — don’t miss that Los Patios de Beatas also offers a shop with local wines, liquors, olive oil and more (it’s quite subtle).
  • Visit museums in Malaga. The city has more than 35 museums — a few highlights include:
    • Carmen Thyssen Museum Malaga: Reflects Carmen Thyssen’s personal collection, housed in a 16th century Baroque building (and potentially a good contender for private events).
    • Museum of Malaga: Opened in 2016, it has eight rooms, including five rooms with an archaeology collection and three rooms with a fine arts collection.
    • Picasso Foundation, Birthplace House & Museum. The artist was born here, and 285 of his works were donated by family members when it opened in 2003 — definitely worth a visit (and a special place to host a private event, including cocktails in its courtyard).
    • Collection of the Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg/Malaga. Located in a converted tobacco factory, this museum has 2,3000 square meters of space and is dedicated to Russian art and culture. It’s also located on the same campus as the Automobile and Fashion Museum.
    • Automobile and Fashion Museum. This is a beautiful space where you can experience a collection of cars, including those from the late 19th and 20th centuries. The fashion rooms take you back to the era when people dressed for the experience (definitely worthy for private events).

Malaga is the gateway to Costa del Sol and one of Spain’s largest cities, so you’ll find hundreds of hotels. But the historic city center is an ideal place to stay with more than 30 hotels in the four and five star categories. A couple to consider:

  • Hotel Molina Lario is a boutique hotel that offers an impressive address next to Malaga Cathedral and the port. (Tip: Enjoy dinner in the hotel’s restaurant Matiz — either the indoor patio or outside along the street.)
    (See our review Hotel Molina Lario for more information.)
  • Gran Hotel Miramar is the city’s new five star hotel. It’s historic and lovely and situation right on the Bay of Malaga.
    (See our review Gran Hotel Miramar Review for more information.)
  • AC Hotel Malaga Palacio by Marriott is popular and perfectly located right in the old town. (Tip: Enjoy dinner or host a private event at Atico Bar and Restaurant located on the rooftop level of the hotel; it’s trendy and has amazing views of the city and access to the terrace and pool.)
  • Parador de Malaga Gibralfaro is peacefully perched above Malaga city and has amazing views. If you’re not staying here as a guest, certainly include a visit for lunch and get a view that overlooks the entire city and port.
    (See our review Paradores of Spain for more information.)

The Barcelo Malaga is another popular hotel. It’s a four-star modern hotel with 224 guest rooms. There is a slide for ALL ages and sizes that goes from the level above, right down to the lobby. When you ride the slide you come out near the front desk. But the other super cool thing about this hotel is that it is attached to the train station.

Noteworthy for Special Events in Malaga, Spain

Hacienda del Alamo is located about 15 minutes outside of Malaga. You pull up to a mansion that was built in 1800, and you can use that space as an intimate setting. But it’s grounds are extensive, wooded, rustic and with modern touches — you can definitely organize memorable indoor and outdoor dinners and receptions here.

It’s also worth noting that CITITRAVEL is a leading destination management company that has served Spain and Portugal for more than 30 years.  Key client director Ana Charters Jessen shared some insights with me about how to qualify for VAT-free events in Spain.

Logistics in Malaga

You can easily get around most areas by foot, but this is still a city. Taxis are easily accessible.

Malaga-Costa del Sol Airport. It is located about five miles from the city center, and most people know it because this is the gateway to other tourist destinations within Andalucia. It’s one of the oldest Spanish airports, with connections throughout Europe and Spain. More than 12 million passengers pass through Malaga-Costa del Sol Airport each year.

Malaga Centro Train Station. Opened in 2007, the train station is located in the hub of the city and is easy to navigate. It’s deceiving when you’re there, but there’s actually has 30,000 square feet of shopping — more than 120 stores, and it’s connected to a four-star hotel. The AVE is operated by Renfe, which offers the high speed AVE to Malaga service.

The weather in Malaga is extremely moderate in winter (rainfall is highest during the months of November to March), and the weather is expectedly hot during the summer months. It seems the best months to visit are fall through spring, although there’s no reason to skip this city in the summer.

If you think Malaga is just an airport city, think again. That’s an old stereotype. If you are curious about the idea of exploring Andalucia with Malaga as you’re starting point, that’s a great idea. It’s easy to spend a couple nights here and then head to nearby favorites, such as Granada, Seville, Cadiz or Ronda, among others. But, yes, it’s also safe to let you know that this charming city is a destination itself.

For more information about what to do in Malaga, visit the Tourist Office of Spain’s Malaga pages, Malaga Tourism or the Andalucia tourism site.

Updated August 12,2023.