One Day in Málaga, Spain: A Free Self-Guided Walking Tour

Cradling the southern tip of Spain, Málaga is a popular port of call for Western Mediterranean cruises. Boasting a rich historic and artistic legacy, a charming old town and an attractive beach and port area, the main challenge is seeking out the best things to do during just one day in Málaga.

But don’t worry. I’ve got you covered.

Whether you are visiting on a cruise, or on a day trip from one of the resorts on the Costa del Sol, this free self-guided Málaga walking tour will ensure that you see the best things that this vibrant city has to offer.  

malaga cathedral tower and buildings reflected in water of port of malaga

Some articles on this website contain affiliate links. This means that I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase through these links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Read the full disclosure here.


The Best Things to See in Málaga in One Day

photograph of pablo picasso
Explore the life & work of Pablo Picasso
sandy beach with palm trees and sign saying malagueta
Chill out on Malagueta Beach
pathway lined with orange tress leading to stone gateway
Stroll around the Alcazaba
bell tower of malaga cathedral
Pay your respects to the “One-Armed Lady”
view of rootfops of Malaga and mountain through a latticed window
Take in the views from the Gibralfaro

>>> Do you have more than a day in Málaga? If so, check out this guide to spending a weekend in Málaga.

Málaga Self-Guided Walking Tour

This self-guided Málaga walking tour starts at the Gibralfaro and finishes at La Malagueta beach. The total distance is 4 km (2.4 miles). For walking directions, simply click on the map.

Málaga self-guided walking tour map

map of best places to see in one day in malaga self-guided walking tour
Málaga self-guided walking tour. Map data @ Google 2022 (click on image for live map and directions)

CASTILLO DE GIBRALFARO

The Gibralfaro Castle (Castillo de Gibralfaro) dominates Málaga’s skyline.

In the early 8th Century, the Moors invaded Spain and Málaga flourished as the main port for the nearby city of Granada. They held the city until its conquest by Christian forces in 1487.

Much of what we see of the impressive Gibralfaro Castle was built by Yusuf I of Granada between 1344 and 1354 to protect the Alcazaba and to house troops.

From its ramparts and terraces, there are magnificent views over Málaga, its port and the Mediterranean.

panoramic views of rooftops of malaga and mountains beyond from the gibralfaro
View of Málaga from the Gibralfaro
VISITING CASTILLO DE GIBRALFARO

Address: Camino Gibralfaro, 11

Opening hours: The Gibralfaro is open daily. Seasonal opening times apply.

Getting to the Gibralfaro Castle: I went there on foot, taking the path that winds its way around the Alcazaba.

This walk is spectacularly pretty but also spectacularly steep. Don’t attempt it under the glare of the midday sun.

Bus number 35 runs between the Gibralfaro and Avendida Andalucia, Alalmeda Principal or Paseo del Parque.  The castle is also one of the stops on the city’s hop-on-hop-off bus.

Try to visit the Gibralfaro first thing in the morning to avoid the heat of the day and the worst of the crowds.

Learn more about the Gibralfaro: For more information when you are there, download the free audio guide using the QR code displayed at the entrance.

Ticket price: Admission fee applies. A joint ticket that includes the Alcazaba is available. Free admission on Sundays.

THE ALCAZABA

The Moors are also responsible for Málaga’s magnificent Alcazaba. Built between the 8th and 11th Centuries, it served as the residence of the Arab Emirs, who created an independent kingdom upon the break-up of the Western Caliphate.

The Alcazaba was my favourite place in Málaga.

islamic stone gateway framed by orange trees

Its pathways, lined with orange trees and bougainvillaea, lead through a series of graceful gates, designed to keep unwelcome visitors at bay. The Nasrid Palace at the Alcazaba’s upper level is a younger, more peaceful cousin of its more famous namesake at the Alhambra in Granada.

patio garden with low hedges and central fountain in the alcazaba in malaga

From the Alcazaba, there are also panoramic views across Málaga, the glittering Mediterranean and the countryside beyond.

VISITING THE ALCAZABA IN MÁLAGA

Address: Calle Alcazabilla, 2

Opening hours: The Alcazaba is open daily. Seasonal opening times apply.

Ticket price: Admission fee applies. A joint ticket that includes the Gibralfaro Castle is available. Free admission on Sundays.

MÁLAGA CATHEDRAL

interior of malaga cathedral with soaring columns and alcoves

Don’t ignore Málaga’s One-Armed Lady.

Málaga Cathedral owes its nickname, La Manquita, to its unfinished state. When building funds ran dry in the 17th Century, the tower on its west side was the most visible casualty.

The Cathedral has a superb collection of paintings and sculptures and an exquisitely carved wooden choir. But the highlight for me was the views across its roof.

bell tower of malaga cathedral and rooftops of city below
panoramic view of rooftops of malaga

READ THIS NEXT: 10 Things to Know about Málaga Cathedral Before you Go

VISITING MÁLAGA CATHEDRAL

Address: Calle Molina Lario, 9

Opening hours: Málaga Cathedral and its roof are open daily. Check opening times here.

Ticket price: Admission fee applies. There is an additional fee to visit the roof.

MÁLAGA’S OLD TOWN

If you think that Málaga is just concrete low and high-rise buildings, think again.

The labyrinth old town is the beating heart of the city, chock-full of narrow streets lined with historic buildings and grand plazas.

beige ochre and salmon pink houses lining narrow street in malaga spain
Málalga’s Old Town

If you are in the mood for a spot of upmarket retail therapy after all of that history, head to Calle Marqués de Larios (Larios Street). During winter, it is beautifully illuminated.

arches in street at night lit with festive lights
Marques de Larios

MUSEO PICASSO

abstract painting by pablo picasso

No one-day Málaga itinerary is complete without paying your respects to the city’s favourite son.

Pablo Picasso was born here in 1881 and lived in the city until he was ten. The Picasso Museum displays his artworks in thematic and chronological order, covering 80 years of his prolific career.

You’ll also learn a lot about the women in his life. There were two wives and three partners and, with the exception of his second wife, he outlived them all.

VISITING MUSEO PICASSO, MÁLAGA

Address: Calle San Agustín

Opening hours: Open daily. You can check the seasonal opening hours here.

Ticket price: Admission fee applies which includes an excellent audioguide. You can buy your skip-the-line ticket here.

There is free admission every Sunday for the last two opening hours (up to 30 minutes before closing time. You can also get in for free on the Day of Andalusia (28 February), International Museum Day (18 May), World Tourism Day (27 September) and the Anniversary of the opening of the museum (October 27).

If you are a Picasso enthusiast, you can also visit the house where he was born. Casa Natal de Picasso on Plaza de la Merced is now a museum dedicated to his family background

CENTRE POMPIDOU MÁLAGA

Málaga’s Pompidou Centre, an offshoot of the Pompidou Centre in Paris, is a relatively new addition to Málaga’s cultural landscape.

Also known as “The Cube” thanks to its steel and stained glass skylight,

brightly coloured glass of cube skylight of pompidou centre in malaga spain

Its permanent collection is made up of 70 works selected from the Pompidou Centre’s collection of 20th and 21st Century art.

Málaga’s Pompidou Centre also hosts temporary exhibitions.

Centre Pompidou Málaga is closed on Tuesdays

MUELLE UNO

The lovely Muelle Uno flanks the port of Málaga. Lined with orange and palm trees, this pedestrian promenade is a lovely spot to stop for a drink.

oranges on tree
Muelle Uno in Málaga is lined by orange trees

LA MALAGUETA

Malagueta Beach stretches for over one kilometer between the Port of Málaga and La Caleta Beach.

A pleasant promenade, lined with towering palm trees that are occupied by vocal parrots, runs alongside this sandy Blue Flag beach.

seagull and two people sunbathing on beach lined with umbrellas

This is the ideal place to relax and perhaps enjoy a plate of the fried fish for which Málaga is famous at one of its chiringuitos as the sun sets.

Other Things to Do in Málaga, Spain

Ultimately, how you spend your day in Málaga will depend on your tastes and interests, and how relaxed you wish your itinerary to be.

So what else can you see if you want to squeeze in more sights?

Here are a few suggestions.

EXPLORE MÁLAGA’S STREET ART

street art in malaga spain of young child wearing face mask

From street art in my hometown of London to the iconic artworks in Penang in Malaysia, I try to explore urban art wherever I am.  And I’m pleased to report that Málaga can give both of these destinations a run for their money.  

Since 2013, MUAS (Málaga Arte Urban Soho), has transformed previously rundown neighbourhoods into an urban outdoor art gallery, attracting. some of the world’s best street artists.

The best areas of Málaga to hunt for street art are Soho, between the port and Alameda Principal, and around Calle Victoria.

There is a useful street art map here.

ATARAZANAS MARKET

With its multitude of food stalls and small bars, Atarazanas Market is the perfect place to buy fresh produce or to stop for lunch

This cathedral to food started life as a Nasrid shipyard in the 14th Century, only becoming a market at the end of the 19th Century. Don’t miss its rear façade that features a stained glass window depicting scenes from Málaga’s history.

brightly coloured stained glass window depicting scenes of malaga

The Atarazanas Market is open from Monday to Saturday, from 8 am to around 2-3 pm

Address: Calle Atarazanas, 10

Plan Your Day in Málaga

How to get to Málaga

Málaga is well served by train, bus and air.

map showing location of train stations and cruise terminal in malaga spain
Transport hubs in Málaga, Spain. Map data @ Google 2022 (click on image for live map)

Getting to Málaga from other Spanish cities by train

Spain’s AVE high-speed trains run to Málaga’s main Maria Zambrano station from Madrid (from 2 hr 30 minutes), Seville (from 2 hours), Valencia (from 5 hours) and Barcelona (from 6 hours). Book in advance for the best fares. 

Getting to Málaga from Fuengirola, Benalmadena and Torremolinos by train

If you are travelling from one of the resort towns on the Costa del Sol – Fuengirola, Benalmadena, Torremolinos – use the C1 line which terminates at the more conveniently located Málaga Centro Alameda.

Trains run every 20 minutes throughout the day.

Getting to Málaga by bus

Travelling by bus in Spain is sometimes quicker and more convenient than taking a train.  For example; when I compared options for travelling between Granada and Málaga, the bus was the better option.

Málaga’s bus station is located next to Maria Zambrano train station.

How to get to Málaga by air

As the main hub for the Costa del Sol, Málaga Airport is served by a number of airlines. Located just 8 km from central Málaga, it is cheap and easy to travel from.

If you don’t want to fork out for a taxi, take the C1 train to Málaga Centro Alameda. The journey from Málaga Airport takes a mere 11 minutes and cost €2.30 in 2022. Trains run every 20 minutes.

How to get from Málaga Cruise Terminal to the city centre

If you are arriving in Málaga on a cruise, you will disembark at the city’s shiny new cruise terminal close to Muelle Uno and La Malagueta. From here, it’s an easy 15-minute walk to the city centre.

Alternatively, the Port Authority of Málaga operates a shuttle bus from the cruise terminal to Plaza de la Marina in the historic city centre. Buses run every 15-20 minutes and cost €2 for the 5-minute journey.

There’s also a solar-powered road train that runs between the cruise terminal and Plaza de la Marina which costs €3

How to get around Málaga

Málaga is a very walkable city. Its main attractions are spread over a concentrated area and the best way of getting around is on foot.

But, if you prefer, there is the inevitable hop-on-hop-off (HOHO) bus service.

>>> CLICK HERE TO BUY YOUR HOHO TICKET

Where to stay in Málaga

If you are staying overnight in Málaga, base yourself in the Old Town area around the Cathedral or the trendy Soho district. These areas are close to the city’s main attractions, bars and restaurants and offer accommodation to suit all budgets.

Here are my recommendations:

Mid-range apartment: Suites del Pintor

I stayed at this apartment in the Old Town, which is a great self-catering choice in Málaga. The washing machine, Nespresso machine and roof terrace were bonuses.

sitting room of apartment with sofa tv and table and chairs
terrace of apartment with sun loungers and sofas

BOOK A ROOM | READ REVIEWS

Luxury hotel: ICON Malabar

I also stayed in this fabulous new boutique hotel in Soho. But this is not style over substance. It is also in a superb location and its staff are first-rate.

hotel bedroom perfect for staying the weekend in malaga with bed and chair
shower and marble sink in hotel bathroom in malaga spain

BOOK A ROOM | READ REVIEWS

>>> None of these take your fancy? Click here for other great accommodation choices in Málaga.

Where to eat in Málaga

You certainly won’t go hungry in Málaga.

Here are a few places that I tried and can recommend.

Café Bar Moran

This friendly breakfast spot in Soho serves cheap coffee and tostada with a smile.

Address: Calle Tómas Heredia, 12

Madame Suzanne

If you are not keen on tapas, try this French restaurant in Soho. It is open for breakfast and lunch daily and for dinner on Friday and Saturday.

Address: Calle Casas de Campos, 31

Madeinterranea

This Old town restaurant serves excellent food and the service was superb.

Address: Pl. de Uncibay

Uvedoble

Another recommendation is this modern tapas restaurant in the shadow of the Roman Theatre.

Address: Calle Alcazabilla 1

El Mesón de Cervantes

This cosy traditional tapas bar on the edge of the Old Town served one of my best meals whilst I was travelling in Southern Spain. Just be careful which wine you choose as some of the wines by the glass are pricey.

Address: Calle Álamos, 11

24 Hours in Málaga: FAQs

When is the best time to visit Málaga, Spain?

Thanks to its temperate climate, you can visit Málaga year-round.
 
When I visited in February, afternoon temperatures were in the low to mid-20s and the orange trees were vibrant with fruit. As there were fewer visitors than in peak season, exploring Málaga’s highlights was a delight.
 
Between March and May, the days and nights are warmer but still comfortable. The sea may just be warm enough to chance a dip and the orange trees will be blooming.
 
The autumn (fall) months have similarly comfortable temperatures.
 
To avoid the intense summer heat, don’t visit between June and August.

Is one day in Málaga enough?

I’ll level with you. One day won’t be long enough to see all that Málaga has to offer.
 
However, you’ll be able to see Málaga’s highlights in one day, take a walk along its beach and explore its artistic heritage. 

What should I not miss in Málaga?

Don’t miss the Alcazaba, Gibralfaro and Cathedral when you are visiting Málaga. Not only do all of these sites encapsulate the city’s rich history, but there are also fabulous views of Málaga from the Cathedral’s rooftop and from the Gibralfaro.

Is Málaga Worth Visiting?

You can get a taste of Andalusia for very little effort by spending just one day in Málaga. It has history and culture in spades, a balmy climate, a sandy beach and many bars at which to get your tapas fix.