Planning Your Trip to Málaga, Spain: A Step-by-Step Guide

Málaga, Spain is a sun-seeker’s paradise. The city along the nation’s southern coast is the sunniest place in Europe, getting more than 280 sunshine hours a month, which works out to more than 3,000 hours of sunshine a year. Málaga sits on the aptly named Costa del Sol, or the “sun coast,” but this city has a lot more going for it than just the sun. It’s also a cultural paradise and the birthplace of Pablo Picasso.

“Málaga is a fantastic destination because it has a Mediterranean climate. Its winters are mild, and the summers are nice and warm. It has a sometimes-overlooked history rich in Roman history and Moorish influence. There are many cultural activities to do, such as the Picasso Museum and flamenco shows,” Kristin Espinar, founder of Must See Spain, shared. And, as with the rest of Spain, Málaga has fantastic cuisine, especially fresh local seafood and tapas. Don’t miss local chiringuitos, which are seaside seafood restaurants that locals flock to.

Ready to explore this fantastic city? Here’s what you need to know about visiting Málaga, Spain.

Top 5 Can’t Miss
Stay at Finca Cortesín, voted the top hotel in Spain and Portugal by our readers.
Pablo Picasso was born here — visit the Picasso Museum to learn more about the artist’s life.
Spend a day on beautiful La Malagueta Beach.
Stroll around the historic center of the city.
Visit during the spring or fall to enjoy pleasant weather with fewer crowds.

Best Hotels & Resorts
Gran Hotel Miramar
Spend a few days in the lap of luxury with a stay at the Gran Hotel Miramar. The historic palace has been turned into a five-star hotel that looks out onto the Mediterranean. Each of its rooms is decked out with plush furnishings in a soothing natural palette, making the panoramic views the star of the show. The hotel’s spa is equally alluring and uses local ingredients for a unique Andalusian touch.

Finca Cortesín
In 2023, Finca Cortesín was named the top hotel in Spain and Portugal by Travel + Leisure readers in the World’s Best Awards. Readers fell hard for its white-washed walls, colorful rooms, and gorgeous sea views — not to mention its fantastic Cabell B. Robinson–designed golf course. Here, guests can play a full 18 and then unwind in the spa, which comes with science-forward treatments like oxygenated facials.

Palacio Solecio
Have one more regal stay at the Palacio Solecio, an 18th-century palace-turned-hotel. The hotel is as glamorous as you’d imagine, with four-poster beds, floor-to-ceiling windows and doors that open to spacious patios, and deep soaking tubs in the bathrooms. The hotel’s central location makes for easy access to some of the city’s most sought-after sites, including Santiago Church, just a few feet away.

Best Things to Do
Picasso Museum
Explore Pablo Picasso’s past and his artistic genius, and discover a few other fantastic artists, at the Picasso Museum inside the Buenavista Palace. Here, guests can explore Picasso’s life through his 144 works on rotation and check out the museum’s exhibitions, including works by María Blanchard and Joel Meyerowitz.

Alcazaba and Gibralfaro Castle
Surround yourself with Málaga’s history during a visit to the Alcazaba and Gibralfaro Castle. The historic castle is a Moorish fortress that takes up an astonishing 21,310 square meters. “Must-see attractions really come down to the preferences of the visitors, but the Alcazaba — and nearby Gibralfaro Castle and Roman Theatre — are some of the most highly visited attractions for good reason,” Jess Rodley, the bookings director at Andorra Escapes who also travels to Málaga for her summer vacations, shared. “Filled with history, these sites are exceptionally well-preserved.”

Mercado Central de Atarazanas
Sample some of Málaga’s best flavors with a visit to the Mercado Central de Atarazanas. The market, now located inside a 19th-century building, dates back to the 14th century. Here, travelers and locals alike can mix and mingle over the local meats, cheeses, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. The market is open every Monday to Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Carmen Thyssen Museum
Málaga is absolutely spoiled with culture, so make sure to visit at least two museums. Once you hit the Picasso Museum, make your way to the Carmen Thyssen Museum, housed in a restored 16th-century palace. Here, guests can gaze upon 19th-century Spanish paintings, with a special focus on Andalusian art.

La Malagueta Beach
After looking at all the gorgeous human-made art, it’s time to look at some created by Mother Nature with a visit to La Malagueta Beach. The beach is just 10 minutes from the city center, making it easy to stop by or spend an entire day. There are also plenty of beachside bars and restaurants to enjoy while you’re there.

Neighborhoods to Visit
Centro Histórico
Centro Histórico is the heart of the city. Here, travelers can weave their way through the bustling, narrow streets, check out the historic plazas, and shop in local stores. It’s also where you’ll find the Málaga Cathedral, the Picasso Museum, and the Carmen Thyssen Museum — all within a few blocks.

La Malagueta
Make your way to La Malagueta, the city’s beachside neighborhood, for a little surf and sand with a splash of culture. While here, visit the Pompidou Centre for a colorful afternoon filled with modern art.

La Victoria
Get a local perspective with a visit to La Victoria, one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city. Located just north of the city center at the foot of Mount Gibralfaro, this area is well-known for its beauty, traditional homes, local tapas bars, and street art.

Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Málaga is over the summer season. However, here, the summer extends from late spring into autumn (from May through October). This is when the weather is at its prime and when everyone is out and about enjoying all that fantastic sun. Travelers can also expect plenty of fun summer festivals too, including the Málaga Fair in August, a week-long party that honors all the best parts of Andalusian culture. That said, even if you can’t come during the summer, there are plenty of other times worth a visit.

“The shoulder seasons are a great time to visit Málaga. I recommend traveling in the spring (March to May) or fall (September to November),” Espinar said. “The temperatures will be mild, you’ll find smaller crowds, and you’ll have more energy for exploring the city and sights.”

Rodley also advocates for the shoulder seasons in April and May and late September: “Visiting during the springtime, you can catch the gorgeous blossoms and flowering jacarandas of the parks and gardens while enjoying the moderate temperatures and fewer crowds when exploring the city and surrounding areas,” Rodley explained. “Align your trip with Easter and you’ll be able to experience the color, culture, and festivities of Holy Week parades. A visit in September is perfect for wine tours and sightseeing with fewer tourists. At this time of year, it may still be warm enough to enjoy the beach without having to contend for a space on the sand.” And, as Espinar added, “If you choose to go in the winter (December to February), you’ll find the benefits of having milder and warmer weather than the rest of Spain. There will be fewer tourists and you’ll enjoy the city. Málaga also has stunning Christmas lights displays, which makes it a great December destination.”

How to Get There
To visit this sunny destination, you can fly into Málaga-Costa del Sol Airport, one of the largest airports in Spain. The airport offers plenty of direct flights to cities around Europe and connections to cities around the world via airlines like LATAM, Air France, Easy Jet, and Emirates. The airport is also just a few miles outside of the city center, making it a convenient jumping-off point.

Visitors coming from spots like Madrid and Barcelona may decide to drive — and that’s a fantastic idea, as you can drive along the Mediterranean on the AP-7 for a scenic journey.

Travelers can also get to Málaga by taking the train to the María Zambrano station. Trains run regularly from Madrid; the trip takes about three hours and costs around $75.

Getting Around
Renting a car is a great option for those who want to get out and explore beyond the city’s bounds and see more of the Costa del Sol region. Car rentals are available at the airport and numerous locations in the city with major operators like Avis, Budget, and Dollar Car Rental.

Málaga also has a robust public transit system that guests can take advantage of during their stay, including both buses and a metro line, which covers most of the city. Travelers can get a single ticket or travel passes, which are easy to recharge online. There are plentiful taxis and Ubers available throughout Málaga as well.

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