My Perfect Day in Malaga

Malaga View
The city of Malaga from above.

The first time I visited Malaga I spent the day lounging on the beach, trying not to stare at the nearly naked grandmas that were sunning themselves on all sides.

It was October of 2007 and I was studying abroad in nearby Granada when some friends and I decided to make the short trip to Malaga for a night. We came mostly for the beach, and I honestly don’t remember seeing or doing much else.

Since then I’ve been hearing mixed things about sunny Malaga. It seems like people either love it or hate it– and I knew I needed to go back to find out which side of the fence I was on. So when the opportunity came about to take a week long road trip I made sure Malaga was a stop. We only had one day to take in the sights, so we made the most of each and every minute.

Conclusion? I love Malaga!

1. Calle Larios

We started our visit with a stroll down the lovely Calle Larios, one of Spain’s most expensive shopping streets with rents soaring to over 150€ per square meter per month, and where only the big name shops and designers can afford them. But as much as the glitzy brand names were tempting, we preferred to spend our time and money eating our way around the city.

Calle Larios Malaga

2. Malaga Central Market

Malaga’s central market (Mercado Central de Atarazaras) is one of the most impressive and charming markets I’ve ever visited (and I’ve visited lots!). It was opened in 1879 after being built in what was once a naval repair yard of the Nasrid Dynasty, and later a Christian hospital. In 2008 it was remodeled, exposing the gorgeous ceilings. What I love about Malaga’s market is that it isn’t too big, but it is filled with plenty of amazing food, friendly vendors,  and also many little snack bars.

Read More: Get the 101 on Malaga’s market here, and book a Malaga market tour here.

Malaga Market

3. Vinos de Malaga

After spending too much time in the market, it was time for a quick walk through one of the city’s coolest wine bars. The Antigua Casa de Guardia was founded in 1840 and is famous for its sweet and dry Malaga wines– namely Moscatel and Pedro Ximenez.

Visit Yourself! You’ll stop at Antigua Casa de Guardia on our evening Tastes, Tapas & Traditions of Malaga Food Tour.

Malaga wine bar

4. Sacred Heart Church

We continued our walk past the gorgeous Sacred Heart Church, where I would have loved to have sat across from on a terrace with a glass of wine and a good book. Next time…

Sacred Heart Church Malaga
Sacred Heart Church Malaga

5. Plaza de la Constitución

Malaga’s main square is as relaxing and charming as any, with plenty of space for kids to run around and people to stroll through on the weekend. I loved the display of the different newspapers front pages on the day Spain became a democracy.

Plaza de la Merced Malaga

Plaza de la Merced newspaper
“Buenos días Democracia”

6. Cathedral

We had to make a stop at Malaga’s beautiful (and strange) Cathedral, known by locals as “the one armed lady” (La Manquita) because it isn’t quite finished and one entire tower is left undone. Some historic accounts say that the money destined for the second tour went to the British colonies fighting for their independence in the American Revolution! Curiously, Malaga had the chance to see it finished but opted to leave it the way it was.

Malaga Cathedral La Manquita

7. View from AC Malaga Palacio Hotel

After plenty of tapas and more than a few drinks, we ended our afternoon on the rooftop of the AC Malaga Palacio Hotel, where the views of the city are simply stunning. From the rooftop restaurant you have an unobstructed view of the port, the Cathedral, the Arab wall, and of plenty of gorgeous homes and villas that scatter the hills.

Malaga Port

Malaga Wall

8. The Port

Later that evening we went for a stroll along the port, known now as Muelle Uno. As the oldest continually operated port in Spain, it is still used to welcome ships from all over the world. Recently renovated, the new walkway is modern but lovely, lined with outdoor terraces and benches to take in the view from all angles. It was here where I honestly thought that maybe one day I could live in Malaga…

Malaga port

9. Dinner and Drinks

We decided to dine out in style and try the Jose Carlos Garcia Restaurant, Malaga Capital’s only Michelin starred restaurant. Unfortunately, apart from one of the plates on the tasting menu we were less than impressed, but at least the ambiance and company were great. After we went for a cocktail at La Moraga, which had a limited cocktail list (we’ve been spoiled here in Madrid), but the beach view and sound of the sea more than made up for it!

Hake with beet
Hake with beet in different textures was my favorite dish of the night.

We arrived back to our hotel at 3:00 a.m. and could have definitely have stayed out longer to truly take in the night life! Our time in Malaga passed in a flash, but we are both certain we’ll be back. I love that the city combines various things I value in one place: the quaint, windy cobblestone streets of Andalusia, some excellent tapas spots and a historic market, a beach and lovely port, and easy access to other Spanish cities and towns. It also has an international airport! Could it be the perfect Spanish city we’ve been searching for?

Explore Malaga Like a Local

Update! Years after falling in love with Malaga, I’ve helped design a wonderful food tour here! Our Tastes, Tapas & Traditions of Malaga food tour is the perfect way to see the city, eat some amazing food, and meet passionate locals behind the food! You can see all details on

What do you think, does Malaga have it all?


  1. Glad you had such a wonderful stay (albeit a short one). Next time you are down get in contact and we will show you the best tapas bars and a lot more. Sorry to hear you did not like José Carlos Garcia’s Restaurant – I wonder what went wrong there as we have always had exemplary meals there (but not actually had his current Menu which is just a couple of weeks old I believe).

  2. I’ve stumbled upon your blog recently since I’ll be moving to Spain in September. I’ll definitely be shifting through to inform myself about all the fabulous foods and destinations I’ll want to visit 🙂

    Malaga looks beautiful. How long does it take from Madrid? Also, which other coastal cities are the easiest to reach from the capital? Hopefully I’ll be able to visit one before my job starts mid-September!

    Thanks for creating such an awesome blog!

    1. Madrid is so central that there are lot’s of coastal cities you can choose from. I recommend any that have the AVE train connection (high speed), because it is much quicker than driving! Malaga, Cadiz, and Valencia are all options. If you buy your tickets a month or so ahead of time you can find up to half price deals, and if you travel with 4 people you can get the cheap “table rate”. Thanks for reading!

  3. I studied abroad in Malaga in the fall of 2008 and was there for about four months so I got to know it pretty well. Overall, I thought the city was okay. I didn’t love it but I didn’t hate it either. It’s not really a place I’d want to go live (since I already did) but I wouldn’t mind visiting again. You can see most of the touristy stuff in a day, the city center is pretty small. The beaches are nothing to write home about really but hey, at least there are beaches! I had a great host mother and I was living in the residential El Pedregalejo neighborhood. And it looks like you didn’t go there but the tapas place El Pimpi is the restaurant to go to! It’s got a wine barrel signed by Antonio Banderas (who is from there).

    And oh yeah Calle Larios–the meeting point for the Americans before a night out to the discotecas in el centro. 🙂

    1. Hi Amelie! It’s funny because I thought the same after my first visit, but everyone says it has changed a lot over the past years. I was there in 2007 and remember things around the port especially being very different. The renovations on the port are wonderful, and though the beach isn’t great, it’s like you said, at least there is one! Living here in Madrid without a beach is pretty tough! We did go to El Pimpi (saving it for a food post) which was really cool. You should go back one day!

  4. I’m glad you and Ale like the city! Sorry but at the end couldn’t join you for the cocktails. See you guys in Madrid

  5. For the longest time I didn’t care too hoots about visiting Málaga (must be my inner hipster) but then I decided “oh, what the heck,” bought a bus ticket, and made a weekend out of it—and was not disappointed! The Moorish castle(s), the cathedral, the Picasso museum, the beaches, the fresh fresh fresh seafood, the happy atmosphere in the streets, really impressed me. (And thanks again for that Málaga food post you did a while back about ajoblanco, sardinas al espeto, and molletes!)

  6. ah Málaga…me encanta Málaga. of course to ME, Málaga has it all!! Hubby and I loved Málaga so much that we’re planning to retire there. I may have mentioned that once or twice 😉

    you didn’t mention the Picasso museum. but of course your visit was so short. for any art lovers out there and most especially Picasso lovers, this museum is a MUST see!! It’s a collection of his art that he gave to family members and they are the ones that got the museum going.

    anyway, fabulous photos! thanks for the great write-up of one of my favorite cities in Spain.

    1. Hi there. I stumbled across this blog and your comment. I’ll be visiting Malaga next month and was wondering if you could suggest any great places to eat, areas to see, etc. We’ll probably spend a day doing touristy stuff, but I’d really like to get a feel for the city beyond museums and cathedrals.

  7. Love Malaga! I’ve been working near there for one school year and am thrilled to be staying! I’ve been to Madrid and Barcelona, and they were fun, but a bit much for me. I just finished walking the Camino de Santiago and have had enough tiny northern villages – Malaga’s climate and beaches, with some interesting tourist options – it’s perfect for this California transplant!

    1. Hi there. I stumbled across this blog and subsequently your comment. I’m also from CA and will be visiting there in about a month. I was wondering if you had any insider information you could share as far as where to eat, go out, smaller must-see towns, etc. Any help would be appreciated! Thanks!

  8. Malaga has been in such a transformation in the last 20 years. It is a wonderful city with losts of cultural things to do. The gastronomy is fantastic, not to be missed the pescaito frito.

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