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.
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The Best Things to See in Málaga in One Day
>>> 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
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.
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.
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.
From the Alcazaba, there are also panoramic views across Málaga, the glittering Mediterranean and the countryside beyond.
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.
READ THIS NEXT: 10 Things to Know about Málaga Cathedral Before you Go
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.
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.
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.
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,
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
>>> 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
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
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.