A palace, Gothic cathedral, bullring, beach, bustling port and a base for spectacular day trips are some of the attractions in the Spanish city of Malaga.
Look closely at Malaga and you’ll be impressed by what it has to offer as long as you know where to go. I didn’t need to spend a lot of money to enjoy myself here – as a keen photographer I took my camera and my creative eye and there were lots of beautiful places all around.
Malaga is well served by cheap airlines such as Easyjet and RyanAir and is a good base or jumping point to explore the Andalucian region, including the cities and towns of Granada, Cordoba, Ronda and Seville.
Once overshadowed by more famous cities such as Granada, Malaga is now becoming a tourist destination in its own right with a lovely historic area, fascinating Alcazabar and a modern marina full of clothing and gift shops, cafes and bars.
From the city centre to the port are peaceful tropical gardens. The port has been regenerated over the past couple of years and is now a really good spot for some retail therapy, ice cream or a few drinks. Right behind the port is one of Malaga’s beaches, Playa de la Malagueta. It’s touristy and beware of the jellyfish, but it’s still nice for a swim only a 15 minute walk from the centre.
The nicer beaches lie further outside the city. You can take a bus up to Nerja if you’re after something more natural. It’s about a 90 minute bus trip to Nerja from Malaga.
Malaga’s city centre is also nice to wander from its large open air mall strip featuring all the popular European chain stores, fountains and historical buildings.
Malaga also has a daily market Mercado Central Atarazanas. If you have access to a kitchen during your stay, this is a great place to stock up on fresh fish, meat, cheese, olives, fruit, nuts and vegetables.
The building housing the market has had various uses over the years such as a ship building yard, convent, military hospital and army barracks.
La Alcazaba and Palacio Gibralfaro La Alcazaba is a Moorish fort reminiscent of Granada’s Alhambra but on a smaller scale.
Take the time to explore the fort, walk through the beautiful gardens, and admire the views across the port and bay and up to the castle.
Up a short but steep pathway from the La Alcazaba is the Castillo de Gibralfaro (castle). You also have great views from here – especially of the bullring. If you’re reasonably fit, the walk shouldn’t take you more than 20 minutes. There is also a bus up to the castle.
This is one of the better castles I’ve seen and it’s great to walk along the medieval walls.
You can buy a combined ticket to the fortress and castle for an economical €3.50 at the La Alcazaba (perfect for travellers on a budget). The La Alcazaba is open from 9am.
Moving on from Malaga
If you’re happy using Malaga as a base, then the towns of Ronda and Granada are about a two hour bus ride away and can be done in a day trip. Both places are serviced by regular daily buses from Malaga.
Granada is famous for its impressive Alhambra – a fortress and palace. Leave early if you’re doing a day trip – I usually don’t spend that long at places but I spent four hours walking around the Alhambra – it’s a massive complex but you’ll enjoy every corner of it. There are views from Alhambra over the beautiful town of Granada. It takes about two hours by bus to get to Granada. It’s also possible to get to Granada from Malaga airport.
The town of Ronda sits above an impressive gorge. Check out the Puente Nuevo stone bridge (you can’t miss it) that spans the gorge and offers great views of the town. You can take a bus or train to Ronda, but the bus is faster and takes about two hours. It’s a small town so you probably only need a few hours there.
Seville is about a three hour trip from Malaga, so you might want to spend longer there than a day.
Seville is a fairly big city that’s nice to wander around and see the sights, taste the tapas and check out a flamenco show.
I loved the Plaza De Espana in Seville and it stands out as one of my favourite European squares.
The cathedral and Alcazar are also popular stops in Seville. You can climb the bell tower in the cathedral for expansive views of the town.
Things you should know:
- Watch out for jellyfish at Playa de Malagueta. Constantly moving while you’re swimming seems to keep them away and is how the locals do it, but if you do get stung, there are a lot of pharmacies everywhere and a product called Medusicalm will help with the sting.
- With most Spanish towns, a little bit of Spanish will be helpful as English is limited.
- It’s quick and easy to get to and from the airport into Malaga. It’s only a couple of euros on the Renfe train and it takes less than 15 minutes. You can catch the train to or from the main train station Maria Zambrano or the central train sation Malaga Centro Alameda Station.
- I’ve got on flights to and from Malaga a couple of times because it was by far the cheapest flight from the south of Spain. If you only ended up in Malaga because of a cheap flight and don’t want to stay, there are plenty of buses from Malaga Airport to places such as Granada and Seville.