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

Cradling the southern tip of Spain, Málaga is a popular port of call for Western Mediterranean cruises. With its rich historical and artistic legacy, charming old town and attractive beach, 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 taking a day trip from one of the resorts on the Costa del Sol, my free self-guided Málaga walking tour will ensure that you see the best things this vibrant city has to offer.  

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

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pathway lined with orange trees leading to stone gateway


  • Stroll around the Alcazaba
  • Explore Málaga Old Town
  • Pay your respects to the “One-Armed Lady”
  • Explore the life & work of Pablo Picasso
  • Chill out on Malagueta Beach



BEST MONTHS TO VISIT MÁLAGA: Spring & Autumn. December is also popular.

Is it Worth Visiting Málaga for a Day?

Málaga gives you a taste of Andalusia for the minimum amount of effort. It has history and culture in spades, a balmy climate, a sandy beach and many bars at which to get your tapas fix.

For my money, it’s one of Spain’s most rewarding cities.

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.

One day won’t be long enough to see all that Málaga offers. However, it’s enough time to see its highlights, walk along its beach and explore its artistic heritage. 

If you are pushed for time, don’t miss the Alcazaba, Gibralfaro and Cathedral. Not only do all of these sites encapsulate Málaga’s rich history, but there are also fabulous views of Málaga from the Cathedral’s rooftop and the Gibralfaro.


Málaga Self-Guided Walking Tour

My self-guided Málaga walking tour starts at the Gibralfaro and finishes at La Malagueta beach. You’ll spend the morning in and around the Old Town, visit the excellent Picasso Museum and explore the city’s lovely urban beach area in the afternoon.

Think of it as a loose framework on which to hang your day.

End-to-end, the total distance is around 3 miles. If you explore the Old Town, this will increase its length (I encourage you to do this).

To send walking directions to your phone, click here or on the map.

map of best places to see in one day in malaga self-guided walking tour
Málaga self-guided walking tour. Map data @ Google 2023


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

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 Avenida Andalucia, Alameda Principal or Paseo del Parque.  The castle is also one of the stops for 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 from 2 p.m.


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.


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 after 2 p.m.


roman theatre in front of castle walls on hill

Málaga’s oldest monument lies in the shadow of the Alcazaba.

The Roman Theatre was built during the reign of Augustus in the 1st Century AD and remained in use until the 3rd Century. There’s an interpretation centre next door which houses archaeological discoveries from the site.


Málaga Old Town is a testament to the city’s rich history. I recommend wandering around here and then making your way to the cathedral.

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

Plaza de la Merced was part of the city in Roman times. It has been home to a market since at least the 15th Century.

Plaza de la Constitución has been the beating heart of Málaga since the Moorish period.

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


interior of malaga cathedral with soaring columns and alcoves

The next stop on your Málaga 1-day itinerary is its so-called 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

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.


abstract painting by pablo picasso

No 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, except for his second wife, he outlived them all.


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


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

The centre is 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 has 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


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 with orange trees


Malagueta Beach stretches for over one kilometre between the Port of Málaga and La Caleta Beach. This sandy Blue Flag beach is flanked by a pleasant promenade, lined with towering palm trees occupied by vocal parrots.

seagull and two people sunbathing on beach lined with umbrellas

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

Other Things to Do in Málaga

Ultimately, how you spend your day in Málaga will depend on your tastes and interests, and how relaxed you wish your itinerary to be. Here are a few suggestions if you want to squeeze in more sights or have more than a day in Málaga.


street art in malaga spain of young child wearing face mask

From street art in my hometown of London to iconic artworks in Penang Malaysia, I try to explore urban art wherever I am.  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 street art areas of Málaga are Soho, between the port and Alameda Principal, and around Calle Victoria.

There is a useful street art map here.


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

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)

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. 

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.

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.

By air

As the main hub for the Costa del Sol, Málaga Airport is served by several 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 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. There’s also a solar-powered road train running between the cruise terminal and Plaza de la Marina.

How to Get Around

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.


Where to Stay

If you are staying 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 top choices:

Mid-range apartment: Suites del Pintor

I stayed at this apartment in the Old Town, 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


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


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

My Favourite Places 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


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

Address: Pl. de Uncibay


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

Where To Next?

And that’s a wrap. If you want more help with planning your Málaga trip, take a look at some of my other articles:

If you are planning an Andalusia trip, read my guide to spending 3 days in Seville, the region’s vibrant capital. If you have less time there, you can hit the highlights with this one-day Seville itinerary.

I also have an in-depth guide for visiting the Real Alcázar of Seville and essential tips for visiting Seville Cathedral.

Although it may be hard to drag yourself away from Seville, discover how to do Seville to Granada day trip.

Visiting the Alhambra Palace draws the crowds but there are other reasons to visit Granada.

I also have an in-depth one-day Cordoba itinerary (one of my favourite Spanish cities). 

If you are planning to explore other beautiful cities in Spain, take a look at my ultimate guide to spending a weekend in Barcelona which includes tips for visiting La Sagrada Família. For a whistle-stop tour of the city, take a look at my one-day Barcelona itinerary

More time in Barcelona? Then take a day trip to Tarragona, Spain’s Roman city by the sea.

Finally, take a look at my guide that describes the best things to see in Valencia, a vibrant city boasting a perfect combination of art, culture, history and food.

bridget coleman the flashpacker 2

About Bridget

Bridget Coleman has been a passionate traveller for more than 30 years. She has visited 70+ countries, most as a solo traveller.

Articles on this site reflect her first-hand experiences.

To get in touch, email her at or follow her on social media.