16 best things to do in Málaga and nearby

Discover the must-see historical sites, fun activities and day trips from Málaga.


8 minute read
Updated on 20 Mar 2024

There’re so many things to do in Málaga: from exploring its historical heritage to savouring its vibrant nightlife. And none of it will hurt your wallet, so you’ve got a lot to do!

To make your planning a tad easier, we’ve made a list of all the Málaga must-sees and dos.

We’ll introduce you to:

  • fun activities in Málaga
  • best day trips from Málaga
  • the top tourist attractions in Málaga.

And to make things convenient for you, we’ve added the best spots from our guide to this Google Maps list.

Now let's get started, shall we?

Best activities in Málaga

Before we get to our sightseeing, let’s do something fun! We'll give you a few suggestions on how you could spend your leisure time here and get a taste of the rich culture of Málaga.

1. Try local products at the Atarazanas market

What: If you want to taste some fresh local products, the central market Atarazanas's one of the best markets to go in Spain. Housed in a huge 19th-century building with colourful stained glass, it’s hard to miss when you walk past it.

Why: Inside, you’ll find a variety of fresh fruit, seafood, cured meat and cheese stacked on the market stalls. As a bonus, try those fresh products in a cooked form — they serve delicious paella, fried fish and tapas here too!

The market's open Monday to Saturday 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.

2. Relax in a traditional Hammam

© Hammam Al Ándalus Málaga

What: What’s a better way to unwind after a long week than relaxing in a beautiful marble steam room? We’re talking about the traditional Arabic hammam — a great way to escape from the city while being right in the heart of it.

Why: We recommend going to the Hammam Al-Andalus in Málaga. You can take hot and cold baths, get a scrub treatment and a massage or just lay down and disconnect while sipping delicious mint tea.

The Arab architecture's stunning and no one uses their mobile phone here, helping to immerse yourself in the experience. But the most serenity's found in the evening when the baths are nearly empty and you can make the most of your "me time".

3. Visit a Local Feria

What: Every second or third week of August, Málaga hosts a traditional annual fair. You can see the city in full bloom as the streets fill up with tourists and locals in anticipation of the big celebration.

Why: Málaga’s Feria is the most important celebration honouring the liberation of the city from Moorish rule in 1487. The whole city turns into a week-long street party which takes place in the centre during the day and continues at the fairground until dawn. Expect a lot of flamenco, fino (sherry), and fireworks!

However, if you seek a less crowded experience, you should just take your pick at any village or city nearby. Find out when they hold the feria and join the local celebration without tourists!

If you want to learn more about the annual festivities in Málaga, check out our guide to the festivals in Málaga.

4. Escape the city in a tropical jungle

What: Locals are proud of their botanical gardens. And for a good reason! The Botanical Garden La Concepción has existed for over 150 years and is easily one of the most beautiful places in Málaga.

Why: The Botanical Garden La Concepción impresses with more than 3,000 tropical plants, including more than 50 species of palm trees. They spread over about 250,000 m², making it one of the largest subtropical gardens in Europe.

To reach this oasis with public transport you can take bus 2 and exit at the last stop. A 15-minute walk and you’re at the entrance of La Concepción!

Entrance: €4.20

5. Feel the thrill with water sports in Málaga

What: Living by the sea's a great reason to get into water sports! Some of the popular ones in Málaga’s surroundings are parasailing, kayaking and canyoning.

Why: You can find spots for parasailing and kayaking in most of the marina along the Costa del Sol.

One of the best spots for snorkelling, diving and kayaking in Málaga’s province is Maro Beach in Nerja. You’ll see some beautiful sea creatures through the crystal clear water!

And while you’re at it, Cala Doncella is worth checking out. It’s an untouched sheltered cove which's pretty hard to get to unless you’ve a kayak!

But if you’re looking for a proper thrill, you can try canyoning. This sport involves walking, climbing, jumping, abseiling, and swimming and is a great way to experience Aldalucia’s waterfalls and canyons from within.

If you dare, you can look for canyoning in Málaga's province in El Chorro Gorge, Barranco de Jorox and Barranco de Las Chorreras.

6. Admire the art in one of the many museums

© Malaga City Tourist Board

Did you know that Málaga's the birthplace of Picasso? Yes, it’s a pretty big deal here, which's why the Picasso museum is one of the most popular places to visit in Málaga.

But let’s not forget about other exciting art destinations in the city:

  • Museum Carmen Thyssen Málaga: for 19th-century Spanish painting in a Renaissance palace.
  • Museo de Málaga: for fine arts and archeology.
  • Centre Pompidou Málaga: for multi-disciplinary experiences and programs for kids displayed in a colourful glass cube.
  • CAC Málaga: for contemporary art by international & emerging Spanish artists.
  • Museum of Imagination: for an interactive experience on a day out with kids.

You'll find all of them on our Google Maps list!

Best day trips from Málaga

1. Montes de Málaga Natural Park

What: This 5,000-hectares-wide natural park is often called ‘Málaga’s green lung.’ Located about 25 km north of the city centre, Málaga Natural Park's a perfect place for a day trip from Málaga. It takes about an hour to get there by car.

Why: The park's home to 400 varieties of plants, 27 species of mammals, many birds, reptiles and amphibians. It has 5 signposted hiking trails and 2 cycling routes which are suitable for different levels. You can even rent a mountain bike.

Entrance: free

2. Caminito del Rey

What: Another great weekend getaway is Caminito del Rey, located about a 1-hour drive from Málaga. But you can also reach it by train to El Chorro, which takes only 40 minutes.

Why: Stretching for 8 km, Caminito del Rey was once considered the most dangerous hiking trail. Luckily, it was reconstructed and made safer. But still, approach it with caution: once you’ve started the hike, you can’t go back.

If you do take the challenge, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of the canyon and dizzying pedestrian bridges up to 105 metres high.

Beware that to access Caminito del Rey, you’ll need to book your visit in advance. They don’t allow more than 400 people on a trail at the same time.

Entrance: €10

3. Nerja caves

What: Nerja's a great place to visit near Málaga. It’s a city of beautiful architecture, crystal clear beaches and stunning nature. But its fame really comes from its underground caverns.

Why: The 5 km-long labyrinths of subterranean tunnels were discovered by accident in 1959. Today it's a popular family-friendly destination and a site of Spanish historical heritage.

Normally it takes about 45 minutes to finish the tour. And beware it gets pretty cold, so you better bring a sweater and comfy shoes!

Going to Nerja by car takes under an hour. Alternatively, you can take a train which will bring you to Nerja in 1 hour and 40 minutes.

Entrance: €14

4. Granada

What: Granada's a city a bit further away from Málaga but it’s surely worth the 1-hour and 40-minutes drive.

Why: The city's famous for its glorious Moorish architecture and especially the Alhambra - a real jewel of Andalusia.

The fortified palace complex consists of Nasrid Palaces, Alcazaba Fortress, a mosque, courtyards with fountains, figural elements, lush vegetation and, of course, the famous gardens of Generalife.

And if you’d like to take in this beauty from a bird's-eye view, you can walk up the mountain Dehesa del Generalife.

Beware that due to limited capacity, you can only enter the Nasrid Palaces in the hour indicated on your ticket.

Entrance to Alhambra: €14

5. Smurf Village

What: A bit of an unusual spot for a day trip from Málaga is the so-called smurf village. Its real name's actually Juzcar and it was painted all blue in 2011 to host the premiere of The Smurfs 3D by Sony Pictures.

Why: Besides being a fun photoshoot location, it’s also a good place for a hike. You can find some great hiking trails here and enjoy the views of the blue town.

Bonus: When visiting Juzcar, you can stop by Marbella. People call it Spanish Monaco because of its luxe feel and beaches with the Sierra Blanca Mountains as a backdrop.

Entrance: free

6. Ronda

What: Ronda's a stunning mountaintop village set dramatically above a deep gorge. It's most famous for its Puento Nuevo bridge that crosses the gorge and connects the city's new and old towns.

Why: You can explore numerous palaces and markets as well as walk through the lush gardens of de Cuenca. Need we say that Ronda offers some incredible views?

What's more, Ronda's actually the birthplace of bullfighting. Arena Plaza de Toros de Ronda (The Ronda Arena) is one of the oldest ones in Spain!

Málaga Must See: Tourist attractions

But of course, when you just arrive in a new city it's only fair that you want to check the boxes on all the ‘must-see’ tourist attractions.

Luckily, Málaga's a very walkable city with all the historical landmarks being within close proximity of each other. Plus, the historical centre's predominantly car-free, so you’re in for relaxed strolling!

1. The Málaga Cathedral

What: One of Málaga's main attractions is its 200-year old cathedral. The construction began in the 16th century on the foundations of the city’s old mosque. Because of the lack of financing, one of the bell towers was never finished. That's why the cathedral's often called La Manquita (the one-armed).

Why go: In the architecture of the building, you can see the features of neoclassicism, baroque and gothic. To fully take it all in, check out the stained-glass windows, the decorated ceiling and the 4,000 pipes organ. You can also enjoy a great view of the city, the Alcazaba and Gibralfaro castle if you walk up the 87-metres high tower.

Entrance: €6 (cathedral), €10 (cathedral + rooftop)

2. Málaga Roman Theatre

What: The Roman Theatre's only 6 minutes away from the Málaga Cathedral. It’s actually located right at the bottom of Alcazaba, which will be our next stop!

Why go: The Roman Theatre's the oldest site in Málaga built in the 1st century AD. However, it remained hidden until 1951 when it was discovered by accident during the renovations of La Casa de la Cultura standing on top of it.

The theatre preserved some of its original structure and began a new chapter as a theatre again. Today you can visit the Roman Theatre to catch an outdoor play or a concert.

Entrance: free

3. The Alcazaba of Málaga

What: In less than 1 minute from the Roman theatre, you'll be at the entrance of another Málaga must-see attraction — Alcazaba. It’s a fortress that dates back to the 11th-century when Málaga was under Moorish rule.

Why go: This fortress's considered the best-preserved Alcazaba in Spain. Marble, columns and stones for the construction of the fortress were taken from the then abandoned Roman Theatre.

The Alcazaba fortress wasn’t only used for the protection of the city from the Catholics but also as a home for Muslim rulers. There’s a lot to be discovered: from stunning Arabic architecture with courtyards, patios and gardens full of orange trees to a small museum displaying Moorish pottery and ceramics.

It's a good idea to set aside enough time to see it all!

Entrance: €3.50

4. The Gibralfaro castle

What: Next stop on our Málaga sightseeing's The Gibralfaro castle. You can walk there from the Alcazaba, following a steep picturesque path. It was built in the 14th century to protect the Alcazaba.

Why go: The Muslim name of the fortress translates as "mountain of light" thanks to its location 147 meters above sea level. As you might guess, it offers an amazing view of Málaga, day and night. You can even see the Strait of Gibraltar and the African Rif Mountains!

Today, the fortress isn’t in its best condition but it managed to preserve its walls, springs, and a huge 40metre well where the soldiers drank from back in the days.

Entrance: €3.50 or €5.50 (combined Alcazaba and Gibralfaro)

Congratulations, this's the end of our tour! Now that you know all the best spots in Málaga, what’s going to be your next stop?

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