News What to do in Malaga: a local’s guide

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What to do in Malaga: a local’s guide

We bring you what to see and do in Malaga, capital of the Costa del Sol and brimful of Andalusian charm.

The 12 best things to do in Malaga in 2019

1. Gibralfaro Castle, the Alcazaba and Roman Theatre

A visit in Gibralfaro Castle is one of the best things to do in Malaga

One of the main tourist attractions in Malaga is this complex of historic buildings. The view from the fourteenth century walls of Gibralfaro Castle offers up a stunning introduction to the city skyline. From here walk along the wall that connects the castle with the gardens, fountains and beautiful courtyard of the Alcazaba. Not only is it a great sunset stop, but a lovely place for a Sunday afternoon stroll, as after 2pm admission is free (other times it’s €5.50 for both monuments).

The Roman Theatre is one of the best things to do in Malaga, Spain

Finally, don’t miss the Roman Theatre, built by Emperor Augustus and rediscovered in 1951. Nowadays, it shows open-air performances (admission is free).

2. Try the sweet Malaga wine

There are two great places to visit in Malaga’s old town if you want to try the best local wines or eat the most authentic local cuisine. The atmospheric wine bar, Pimpi, is a treat in the afternoon or late evening for a glass of sweet Malaga wine. It’s typical old Malaga, full of ancient tiles, barrels and signed photos of the celebrities who have visited over the years. Another favourite spot is La Casa del Guardia or ‘The Guardhouse’ which is the oldest tavern in Malaga.

3. Picasso Museum

Unmissable. Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga, and there’s a museum dedicated to him in the Palace of Condes de Buenavista, a building with an incredible blend of styles: Renaissance decorated with Moorish elements and restored in a modern style. Inside, you can see more than 200 paintings, early academic studies and re-workings of old masters by one of the greatest painters of the twentieth century. While you’re there, peek into the basement which has remains of Phoenician Malaga (seventh century BC) and traces of Roman architecture.

4. Eat grilled sardines in El Palo

Tasting grilled sardines is one of the best things to do in Malaga

Visit the old fishing district of El Palo, where it’s tradition to try the local espeto de sardinas (grilled sardines) or pescaito frito (fried fish) – both of which can be found at any beach bar here. Grilled sardines are the most typical dish in Malaga, consisting of six sardines pierced on a stick, cooked on the embers of the fire right on the beach – the cost is around €2–€6*.

If you want to sit down and have a proper meal, try the restaurant Palo El Tintero (the Inkwell), a unique place where the waiters pass around the tables to auction each dish (better if you know some Spanish!). After your meal, enjoy a swim from one of the beaches of Pedregalejo, a trendy area well-known to Malaga locals for its friendly and relaxed atmosphere.

5. The Manquita – Malaga’s cathedral

Malaga Cathedral - one of the top things to do in Malaga

La Manquita is a much-loved symbol of the city and essential to any Malaga sightseeing tour. Founded in the fifteenth century on the site of a mosque, its nickname, used by all locals, means ‘one armed woman’, because the south tower was never finished. Legend claims that the funding for the cathedral’s completion was donated to the colonists’ cause during the American War of Independence. If you go into the cathedral, take a look at the intricate details of the figures sculpted within the choir stalls, crafted by Pedro de Mena.

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6. Merienda time

Churros con chocolate

Don’t miss merienda time in Malaga, basically an excuse to have an ‘afternoon snack’ between 5 and 7pm (most locals dine after 10pm). Stroll down Calle Larios (the main artery of the city), Granada Street or the square of La Merced and Molina Larios Street. Pause for coffee – maybe una nube (a cloud), un sombre (a shadow), un mitad (a half), or un cortado (a cut) or if you’re peckish, go to Casa Aranda for churros or a cake at one of the fantastic tea shops in San Agustin Street.

Want something more chic? Head to the terrace of the AC Malaga Palacio Hotel to have a drink alongside stunning views of the cathedral.

7. Pier 1 Port of Malaga

An up-and-coming neighbourhood, Pier I Port of Malaga is a wide space which opened in 2011 and has amazing views of Gibralfaro Castle and Alcazaba. It’s a magical place at night, with bars, restaurants, shops and ice cream parlours. You can walk all the way to the end, where it joins the Malagueta area, and finish up with cocktails and tapas on the promenade – try El Merendero de Antonio Martin, with its views out to sea, and you might end up staying for dinner!

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8. Conception Botanical Garden

Conception Botanical Garden is one of the top Malaga attractions

An oasis of peace in the city, this green space is the perfect place to visit in Malaga to take a breather amongst lush vegetation, winding paths and ornate fountains. It also has one of the most magnificent tropical and subtropical gardens in Europe. Admission is €5.20*, and for this you have the option of taking a guided tour – highly recommended, as the garden has a great history and the guides are an absolute delight.

9. Carmen Thyssen Museum

This museum opened in 2011, and has a vast collection of nineteenth century Spanish paintings. What’s most striking, however, is the building, which has a lovely interior courtyard and very stylish gift shop that’s great for one-off souvenirs. Free on Sundays after 5pm if you fancy a spot of evening culture.

10. Mingle in Mitjana Square

The people of Malaga are known for being open, friendly, cheerful and hospitable, and it’s worth heading out in the evening to see just how true this is. The best place to go in Malaga by night is Mitjana Square in the old centre of town, which is packed with people and energy, no matter what day it is. Some of the city’s most popular bars and clubs are around this area, including Malafama. Just show up and mingle!

11. Spend a day in the sun-bleached Mijas Pueblo

One of Andalusia’s most stunning Pueblos Blancos (White Villages), the mountain town of Mijas is only a half-hour drive from Malaga. The enchanting pueblo in the Sierra de Mijas mountain range offers much-needed respite from the hustle and bustle of Costa del Sol.

Handmade pottery in Mijas, Spain

Wander around cobbled alleys flanked by postcard perfect white-washed houses. Soak up spectacular views of the coast from the garden of Muralla de Mijas, where an ancient Arab fortress once stood. And do spare some time to pick up one-of-a-kind gifts and souvenirs from the boutique shops dotted around the village. With handmade ceramics, art and leather goods at affordable prices, you’ll be spoilt for choice. 

12. Take the scenic route to Ronda

Ronda's spectacular Puente Nuevo, one of the best things to see on a holiday to Malaga

Another must-see attraction to lure you away from the sands of Costa del Sol is the historic town of Ronda. Perched atop the El Tajo gorge, it offers breathtaking views of the Serranía de Ronda mountains and the peaceful surrounding countryside – particularly from the 18th-century Puente Nuevo, which connects the Moorish old town with the new one, spreading to the north of the Guadalevín river. A guided tour of the atmospheric bullring Plaza de Toros is another thing you don’t want to miss here.

But Ronda is also one of the most intriguing up-and-coming wine destinations in Spain. The countryside is studded with bodegas that will make a road trip in the wider region all the more alluring. 

Tripbod Ana M Ramos is a native of Malaga and a tourism professional who loves to explore her city and find its hidden gems.

*Updated June 26 2019. Prices correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change and/or availability.

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