In recent years, Malaga has turned into a sunny metropolis by the sea. It may not be as pretty as Granada or as temperamental as Seville, but there are a lot of things to discover in one of the oldest cities of Spain. Not just tons of history await the keen visitor though. There are also a lot of interesting museums, pretty gardens, and lots of first-class restaurants to explore.
This article will give you the very best things to do in Malaga if you are only visiting for a day.
Malaga in a day: Things to do for Cruise Ship Passengers and Day Trippers
Most people will visit Malaga for one day only. If you are staying on the Costa del Sol for summer, a day trip to Malaga is easily arranged. Cruise ship arrivals have also increased in recent years, and many people choose Malaga as their preferred shore excursion destination over cities in Andalusia that are farther away.
If you are looking for exciting and interesting things to do in Malaga, look no further. Our list of ten sights and activities are enough to keep you busy for the whole day.
Shopping and Family Entertainment at Muelle Uno
Malaga’s new harbour front belongs to the first things that people see when they arrive in Malaga by ship. The pretty waterfront location is named Muelle Uno and offers a mix of family-friendly restaurants, activities, and shops. For a relaxing drink by the water just pick one of the bars with water views and watch the Morocco-Spain ferry pick up new passengers. The covered waterfront walkway with its wavy roof is quite spectacular.
Cool down in the Parque de Malaga
Just behind the harbour front, you will find a delightful strip of gardens which is just perfect for those hot Andalusian summer days. Tiled benches under shady trees invite you to just sit back and relax. Listen to the parrots in the palm trees and the trickling water in the fountain, watch the locals chat with neighbours and play with friends. The Parque de Malaga is indeed a peaceful oasis in the middle of the city.
Eat and Drink in the City Centre
Malaga’s best-known tapas bar is El Pimpi. Located in the historic Jewish quarter, it occupies a number of buildings and is one big mess of a restaurant business. It’s popular with locals and tourists alike, and I challenge you to go inside just to see the period flamenco posters, the signatures of the Picasso family and of Antonio Banderas, the photos of celebrities and the old-school courtyard. Malaga is a city of food and drink, and you will find that there is a variety of restaurants and bars that will tempt you with tapas, cool drinks and – some of them – with rooftop views.
Visit the Cathedral
Malaga’s Cathedral is easy to find – it’s an impressive baroque building with imposing front door. Only one of the two towers were completed as the money ran out during construction. This is why the Cathedral is also called “La Manquita”, the One-Armed Lady. Entry is not free, but if you are interested in churches, this one is a great place to start. If not, just take a walk around the outsides and visit the little garden. There is also a wonderful gift and souvenir shop just opposite the side entrance where you will find modern local ceramics.
Soak up the sun at a Málaga Beach
Wonder where all the Malageños go when they need some sand and sea salt therapy? Malaga’s most popular beach is El Palo. You can get to this old fishing village quite easily by bus (no. 3 and no. 11). Just stick your feet in the sand, enjoy the views and try some of the delicious espetos, sardines grilled right on the beach. If you are after a sit-down meal, there are plenty of restaurants serving delicious fish dishes on the shady promenade.
Discover the Moorish past at the Alcazaba
If you have been to other Andalusian cities before then you might already be familiar with the intricate and delicate designs of the Moors. The Arabs lived in Andalusia for around 500 years, and their designs and fashions can still be found in many places around Andalusia. The Alcazaba of Malaga is the palace on the mountain behind the Roman Theater. It may not be as spectacular as the Alhambra or the Alcazar, but you will still find many typical features here. Entry is cheap, there are fewer crowds, and you can see Antonio Bandera’s rooftop terrace from the walls.
Mingle with the Crowd at the Atarazanas Market
Malaga’s main market is always a great address for some wonderful culinary experiences. The locals come here to shop, meet friends and snack on fresh delicacies such as seafood, sausages and local dishes. Work yourself through the aisles – they are organised in types of food – and study the wonderful selection of foods. Some of them will be entirely foreign to you, such as fruit imported from Africa or pickled whole artichokes. Make sure you also sample some sweet Malaga wine or vermouth at one of the stalls.
Climb the Fortress Walls of the Gibralfaro
Gibralfaro Castle is located just behind the Alcazaba, and you can get a little discount if you buy a combo ticket with the Alcazaba. However, the two are not connected, and you will need some extra stamina to walk to the other side of the mountain and then all the way up. Your reward will be iconic Malaga views from the strong defensive walls: the bullring, the harbour, and the cathedral are all in plain view. There is also a tiny museum inside the fortress which has some military items on display as well as some great medieval city maps.
Street art in Soho
Malaga’s street art scene is slowly evolving and you may not find as many examples of great artwork as, say, in New York or London. Still, Malaga’s Soho quarter does have some wonderful examples, some of them of world-renown street artists such as ROA, D*FACE, and Obey. Soho is close to the harbour and consists of a number of rather derelict looking buildings. There are also some hip tapas bars and shops here, so a stroll is very recommended. For a map, visit the official website here.
There are more than 30 museums in Malaga, for example, the Picasso museum in the artist’s childhood home. However, we particularly love the Centre Pompidou on the harbour front. The art gallery under the colourful glass cube houses selected pieces from the well-known museum of the same name in Paris. The difference is that you can see world-class art without the crowds. Exhibitions do change from time to time but to give you an idea, we have already had the chance to see Frida Kahlo, Pablo Picasso, and Max Ernst. Plus, the museum has wonderful air-conditioning, perfect on a hot afternoon in Malaga.
These are the best things to do in Malaga if you only have one day. If you have more time, visit some of the spectacular places nearby such as the white village of Mijas, the caves of Nerja, nature park El Torcal or the Caminito del Rey.
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