When you talk about interesting places to visit in Andalusia, Malaga isn’t the first city that comes to mind. Located in Southern Spain, very close to Gibraltar and Morocco, the city is considered the gateway to Costa del Sol. As a result, many visitors use it only as a landing point from where they move on to other destinations along the coast. We almost made the same mistake, but at the last moment we decided to spend one day in Malaga before departing for the States. And we did not regret it!
Malaga was a good surprise. Not at all the modern and dull city that we expected. Despite being underrated, Malaga has a great variety of attractions, including broad beaches, impressive churches, historical monuments and interesting museums. Not to mention great tapas bars!
Best Places to Visit in Malaga in One Day
Because of its scenic location on Spain’s famous Costa del Sol, Málaga isn’t lacking tourists. However, most people consider it a beach destination, neglecting to experience everything the city has to offer. So here are the best things to do in Malaga in a day:
Discover the Alcazaba
One of the most important places to visit in Malaga is the Alcazaba, a fortress-palace built by the Muslims in the 11th century. Strategically located at the foot of Mount Gibralfaro, the fortress has a very unique defensive system with three areas, one inside another, that increases the security.
Much of the original structure has been lost over the centuries, including the entrance to the fortress which was changed soon after the Catholics conquered it. Next to the main square are the remains of an ancient mosque from the eight century.
The architecture alone is very impressive, along with the grounds, the gardens, as well as the views from the top.
From the walls of the fortress there is a path that leads to Gibralfaro Castle, if you want to visit that next. However, that’s not an easy hike, so if you plan to visit the castle it’s better if you take a cab.
Opening hours: 9:00 am to 8:00 pm (April to October) and 9:00 am to 6:00 pm (November to March).
Admission prices: €2.20 for adults and €0.60for children. Combo ticket for Alcazaba + Gibralfaro Castle costs €3.55. Free admission on Sundays after 2:00 pm.
Admire the Grandeur of Malaga Cathedral (Catedral de Malaga)
Of all the places we visited in Malaga, the Roman Catholic Cathedral impressed me the most. After the Cathedral of Seville, this is the second most impressive religious edifice in Spain. The Cathedral’s tower stands 87 meters tall and is the highest in the region.
But grandeur is not its only merit. The cathedral is home to magnificent works of art, among which the Gothic altarpiece and the wooden choir carved by Baroque sculptor Pedro de Mena.
Like many other churches in Spain, Malaga Cathedral was built on the site of a former mosque. Except for the Patio de los Naranjos, a small courtyard of orange trees, there is not much left of the original mosque.
Opening hours: Monday to Friday: from 10:00 am to 6:45 pm and Saturdays: from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm Closed for visitation on Sundays and public holidays because of religious services.
Admission prices: 8.00€ for adults and €5.00 for children; Cathedral + roof terrace costs €12.00/person. Click here to buy your ticket and skip the line.
Walk to the Gibralfaro Castle (Castillo de Gibralfaro)
High on a hill overlooking the port is one of Malaga’s most recognizable landmarks: Castillo de Gibralfaro. The castle is one of the must-see places to visit even if you have only have one day in Malaga.
The castle dates back to the 10th century and was commissioned by Abd-al-Rahman III, Caliph of Cordoba. Gibralfaro Castles sits on the site of a former Phoenician lighthouse, hence the name Gibralfaro (gebel-faro meaning rock of the lighthouse, in Arabic). Once considered the most impenetrable fortress in Spain, the castle protected the Alcazaba, both on a high ridge and within the city of Malaga.
Many Moorish kings used Gibralfaro Castle as a residence. But what made the castle famous was the three-month siege by the kings Ferdinand and Isabella. The siege ended only when hunger forced the inhabitants to surrender.
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday 9:00 am to 8:00 pm (June to September) and 9:00 am to 6:00 pm (October to May)
Admission prices: €2.20 for adults and €0.60 for children. Combo ticket Alcazaba & Gibralfaro: €3.55. Free admission on Sundays after 2:00 pm.
Visit the Roman Theater (Teatro Romano)
Malaga’s Roman Theatre lies in the western part of the city, at the foot of the Alcazaba fortress. The Theater remained buried for many centuries and was discovered only in 1951.
The theater was built in the 1st century and remained in use until the 3rd century, after which it was abandoned. During the 8th century, after the Muslim Arab conquest of Iberia, the Arabs started using parts of the theatre materials to build the Alcazaba fortress, thus leaving the theater in ruins.
Today the amphitheater is open to the public after decades of restoration. There is also an Interpretation Center that provides information about the site and the excavation and restoration process.
Opening hours: 10:00 am to 6:00 pm (Tuesday to Saturday) and 10:00 am to 4:00 pm on Sundays.
Admission is free.
PRIVATE TOURS: If you want to take private tours of Alcazaba de Malaga, Roman Theater and Castillo de Gibrafaro, click on the link in the box below:
Visit Picasso’s Birthplace Museum (Picasso Museo Natal)
Malaga has been and the birthplace of many artists, actors and sport personalities. But perhaps the most notable of them is Pablo Ruiz Picasso, who was born in Malaga on October 25, 1881. Like so many other great men, Picasso left the city in his youth and never returned. His home, in Plaza de la Merced number 15, has been converted in 1988 into Picasso Birthplace Museum Foundation.
The museum, which sits next to the Malaga Cathedral, contains of a collection of personal items and works. Most of these have been donated by Picasso’s daughter-in-law and grandson.
On the ground floor is an exhibition hall that displays artifacts from Picasso’s home. On the first floor you can see Picasso’s early work, portraits and some abstract war-time paintings. Another gallery features his later work, showing the artist in full bloom. Some of these are famous. On the third floor is the library which contains a lot of information regarding the artist’s life and work.
Opening hours: 9:30 am to 8:00 pm (Monday to Sunday). Closed on January 1st and December 25th.
Admission prices: €4.00 for adults and free for children and senior citizens. Free admission on Sundays after 4:00 pm.
NOTE: If you want to see more of the artist’s alluring work, you should visit the Picasso Museum at Buenavista Palace, which opened in 2003. This museum contains over 280 works donated by members of Picasso’s family.
More Than One Day in Malaga?
If you have more than one day in Malaga, you definitely won’t run out of things to do! Here are a couple of suggestions:
Stroll though the Soho Neighborhood
Soho neighborhood is a cultural and commercial area between the Port and Alameda Principal. Today Soho is considered the art district of Malaga, but about 10 years ago this was one of the most rundown neighborhoods in the city.
Like in many other cities in Europe, the art street project in Soho Malaga began as a public initiative intended to revitalize previously neglected areas. Something very similar to the Kunsthofpassage in Dresden, Germany, which began in 2001.
Today you can admire true works of art on the walls of the buildings in Soho, which are transforming the neighborhood into an outdoor art gallery.
Visit the Pompidou Center (El Centre Pompidou)
The first “provisional Centre Pompidou” came into existance in the spring of 2015. The center was initially created as pilot project, or an outside branch of the Pompidou Center in France. In time, Centre Pompidou in Malaga became a very successful exhibit hall (also known as the Cubo). As a result of its success, the city of Málaga decided to extend the collaboration agreement with the French until 2025.
Housed in a multi-colored glass cube, the center displays a selection of interesting exhibitions dedicated to young and old audiences alike.
The museum is a very interesting place to visit if you are into modern art. The Cube itself is a very photogenic building and most definitely checking out if you are in this area.
Opening hours: 9:30 am to 8:00 pm (every day except Tuesdays). Closed on Jan. 1st and Dec. 25th
Admission fee varies between €2.50 and €9.00, depending on the exhibits you choose to visit. Click here to reserve your ticket and skip the line.
Where to Stay in Malaga
Like most coastal towns in Andalusia, Malaga has a great array of hotels and vacation rentals for every budget. Many of them are close to the beaches and therefore enjoy spectacular views of the sea. However, if you are in Malaga for only one day, my recommendation is to stay in the city center where you’l be close to most of the attractions listed above.
One of the best places to stay in Malaga is Parador de Malaga Gibralfaro, a spectacular hotel that enjoys a privileged position on Mount Gibralfaro. From its terrace we had the best panoramic view of the bay of Malaga and the city center. In addition to that, the hotel features a great restaurant on the top floor which enjoys the same fantastic view. The hotel is just 2 minutes walk to Gibralfaro Castle, from where you can walk down to the Alcazaba, in the historic center.
If you are looking for mid-range accommodations, Atarazanas Málaga Boutique Hotel may be a good choice. Located in the old part of the city and close to the Atarazanas market, this hotel is just a few meters from the main street of Málaga, Marques De Larios.
Malaga Lodge Guesthouse is set in a charming town house in Málaga’s La Victoria district, around 10 minutes’ walk from the city center. The hotel is situated next to the famous Santuario de la Victoria church. The Roman Theatre and the Alcazaba are around 15 minutes’ walk.
You can check accommodation prices in Malaga by inputing your dates in the form below:
How to Get Around During One Day in Malaga
The best way to get around Malaga city is to either walk or rent a bicycle, as a lot of the attractions are within walking distance. This one day Malaga itinerary was designed to be completed primarily on foot – with the exception of the Gibralfaro Castle. To reach the Castle from the historic center you can either take a cab (10 minutes), or walk along the wall of the Alcazaba, which takes roughly 30 minutes.
Another way to get around is by bike or by Segway. Like in many other European cities, Malaga is a bike friendly place and has almost 30 km of cycling lanes.
Another option to get around the city is to buy a 24-hour ticket for the Hop-on-Hop-off Bus which stops at different points in the historic center. These red buses take you to all the main sights of Malaga in 1.5-hour circuit.
Taxis are a value, especially in the city center where parking and traffic can be a nightmare. They are also a very safe way of travelling. Taxi transfers are a good way of traveling from Malaga airport to any location in southern Spain. You can easily hail a taxi in Malaga if they have a green light saying ‘Libre.’
I hope that you’ll enjoy your day in Malaga just as much as we did and you’ll find this guide useful.