One of Spain’s loveliest cities, Málaga is the perfect destination for a sun-soaked break with a twist of culture. This beachside city has a rich history, is crammed with art galleries and museums and has a charming old town.
But which are the best areas to stay in Málaga? Armed with first-hand knowledge gained as a two-time visitor, this is where I can help.
Discover where to stay in Málaga with this lowdown on its neighbourhoods, to whom they are best suited and Málaga accommodation options. From solo travellers to families, luxury to budget travellers, I’ve got you covered.
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Where to Stay in Málaga: The Bottom Line
Let’s cut to the chase. Drum roll please ….
- Luxury hotel in Málaga – Icon Malabar
- Mid-range hotel in Málaga – Room Mate Larios
- Budget hotel in Málaga – Pinar Vip Class Málaga C/Alcazabilla
- Recommended apartment in Málaga – Suites del Pintor
- Solo traveller in Málaga – Debambú Atarazanas
Top Picks: Málaga’s Neighbourhoods at a Glance
As Málaga is a sprawling city, it’s good to get a handle on its neighbourhoods.
Most of Málaga’s main attractions are in the centre of town, between the Guadalmedina River and the port. Old Town Málaga is located around the broad, fig tree-lined La Alameda boulevard, and to the east is the trendy Soho district.
Venture further east and you’ll come across La Malagueta, the city’s urban beach, and El Palo and Pedregalejo, which were once fishing villages.
Here are my recommended neighbourhoods of Málaga, based on how you roll travel-wise.
- Where to stay in Málaga for the first time – Old Town
- Where to stay in Málaga for the beach – La Malagueta
- Coolest area to stay in Málaga – Soho
- Best neighbourhood in Málaga for nightlife – La Merced
- Where to stay in Málaga for shopping – Calle Larios
- Best area of Málaga for budget travellers – El Palo
- Best area of Málaga for families – Pedregalejo
Where you stay in Málaga is likely to be determined by the personality of the area and your budget. Each neighbourhood has its own vibe and price tag and it’s the case of picking the one that’s right for you.
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Recommended Accommodation in Málaga
Full disclosure. As a single traveller, it would be impossible for me to stay in all of these recommended hotels and apartments (although I have stayed in a few).
I have based my accommodation recommendations on my knowledge of these neighbourhoods, gained through a few visits, and by researching reviews across more than one platform. In choosing these places to stay in Málaga, I have taken the same care as if I was selecting accommodation for myself.
I’ve done the legwork so you don’t have to.
You shouldn’t struggle to find accommodation in Málaga, even in high season. This abundance of choice helps to keep prices sane.
Four-star hotels lead the pack here with over 60,000 beds (2019 data). Three-star hotels offer more than 21,000 beds and five-star hotels in Málaga have almost 6,000 beds.
Once you add apartments, bed & breakfasts and backpacker hostels to the city’s accommodation inventory, there is something for every type of traveller.
To help you pick places to suit your budget, I have grouped these Málaga accommodation choices into three price categories:
|£££||> £150 per night|
|££||£100 – 150 per night|
|£||< £100 per night|
As prices can fluctuate by season and day of the week, check the latest room rates online.
One of the drawbacks of solo travel is that you pay more for accommodation when you are travelling alone. Where possible, I have indicated which of these accommodation choices offer single rooms.
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Where to Stay in Málaga: The Best Areas
Let’s dive into the best areas to stay in Málaga.
1. Málaga Old Town: The best area to stay in Málaga for the first-time visitor and sightseeing.
The Old Town is Málaga’s geographical and historical heart. Radiating from Plaza de la Constitución, this is a labyrinth of pedestrianised shopping streets, narrow alleys, and elegant squares, and is home to the city’s main monuments.
Explore Málaga’s Roman roots at its beautifully restored theatre and learn more about Málaga’s favourite son at Museo Picasso. Discover why Málaga Cathedral is known as the One-Armed Lady.
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But one of the best things to see in Málaga is its 8th Century Alcazaba and the adjacent Gibralfaro fortress. From both of these sights, there are wonderful views over the city and its port.
This is tourist-central with plenty of shops, bars, restaurants and accommodation. The streets of the Old Town are good hunting grounds for self-catering options in Málaga.
Splurge (£££) – Apartamento Mar de Korus
This spacious apartment in the heart of Málaga’s historic centre has a balcony and good soundproofing.
Mid-range (££) – Suites del Pintor
I stayed in this sunny, well-designed apartment in Málaga Old Town. The washing machine, Nespresso machine and roof terrace were bonuses, and there are a few good supermarkets close by.
Budget (£) – Apartamentos 7 dreams
Pick from a choice of a studio apartment, a one-bedroom apartment and a penthouse with a terrace.
2. La Malagueta: Where to stay in Málaga near the beach
La Malagueta is the closest beach to the centre of town. Whilst it’s safe to say that it’s not the best beach in Southern Spain, this Blue Flag beach is the perfect place to soak up the sun and enjoy a plate of fried fish at one of its chiringuitos.
From La Malagueta, it’s a pleasant stroll to Málaga’s Pompidou Centre, and to Muelle Uno and El Palmeral. These portside promenades, lined with bitter orange and palm trees, are amongst the best places in town to grab a drink. The one-hour catamaran cruises that set off from Muelle Uno are hugely popular.
Splurge (£££) – Gran Hotel Miramar
As the swankiest joint in town, the Gran Hotel Miramar has all the amenities you would expect from a 5-star hotel. Some of its rooms have sea views.
Mid-range (££) – Hotel MS Maestranza Málaga
This 4-star hotel is just 100 meters from Malagueta Beach and the Pompidou Centre. Its rooftop terrace has a hot tub.
Budget (£) – Malagueta Beach Studio
It would be hard to stay any closer to the beach than this small but mighty apartment.
3. Soho: The coolest area of Málaga to stay in
In recent years, MAUS (Málaga Arte Urbano Soho) has been instrumental in transforming this formerly run-down neighbourhood between the Guadalmedina River and the port into Málaga’s urban art gallery. This initiative has attracted some of the greatest graffiti and street artists from across the globe, including Doger, Dadi Dreucol, Boamistura, ROA, D*FACE and Dal East.
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For a tour through the artistic movements and trends of the 20th & 21st centuries, visit the Cento de Arte Contemporáneo Málaga (CAC Málaga), housed in a former wholesale market on the riverbank.
Although it does not possess the immediate charm of Málaga Old Town, the Soho area feels less touristy and has some good restaurants. And if you are planning to take a few day trips from Málaga, it is also closer to the train station and bus station.
A good all-rounder.
Splurge (£££) – Icon Malabar
I stayed at this new 4-star hotel the last time I was in Málaga. Located in the heart of Soho, it is stylish and its staff could not have been more helpful.
I would stay there again in a heartbeat.
Mid-range (££) – Mariposa Hotel Málaga
Close to the Icon Hotel is the more affordable Mariposa Hotel, which has a rooftop sun terrace.
Budget (£) – Eurostars Astoria
Located next to the riverfront, this 3-star property is a good budget hotel in Málaga’s Soho district.
4. La Merced: The best neighbourhood to stay in Málaga for nightlife
Centred around the impressive Plaza de la Merced, northeast of the Old Town, La Merced is one of the liveliest neighbourhoods in Málaga. If you are a Picasso fangirl and fanboy, this is where he was born and spent his childhood (you can visit Casa Natal de Picasso on Plaza de la Merced).
With an abundance of bars, clubs and restaurants, La Merced is the best neighbourhood to stay in Málaga for night owls.
Splurge (£££) – BHost – Suite La Merced
This spacious two-bedroom apartment has attracted a clutch of great reviews. If the photos are to be believed, I’m not surprised.
Mid-range (££) – Hotel Brö-Adults Only
This 3-star hotel on Calle Victoria has also attracted excellent reviews and features a swimming pool. There is a surprisingly affordable premium room that has a private pool (you have to see the photos to believe it!)
Budget (£) – Pinar Vip Class Málaga C/Alcazabilla
This bright and sunny apartment, right in the thick of things, has a lovely roof terrace and a washing machine.
5. Around Calle Larios: Where to stay in Málaga for shopping
Are you looking for a shopper’s paradise? Then head to Calle Larios the main retail street in Málaga.
Stretching from Plaza de la Constitución in the Old Town to the Parque de la Alameda, this broad, pedestrianised boulevard is home to a number of high-end stores, bars, ice cream shops and restaurants.
Calle Larios is a chameleon of a street, changing its appearance by season. When I last visited Málaga in winter, it was lit up for the city’s Carnival.
Splurge (£££) – Vincci Selección Posada del Patio
This elegant luxury hotel in Málaga is in an ideal location, close to Calle Larios, and between the train station and Old Town. It is one of the few mid-to-high-end hotels in Málaga that offers single rooms.
Mid-range (££) – Room Mate Larios
Room Mate Larios is a consistently well-reviewed 4-star hotel that is slap-bang on Calle Larios itself. This Málaga aparthotel offers both rooms and apartments.
Budget (£) – Debambú Atarazanas
These lovely apartments near Atarazanas Market are at an excellent price point, considering the location and quality. One of the studio apartments would be a cost-effective option for a single traveller to Málaga.
6. El Palo: Best area of Málaga for budget travellers
Seven kilometres east of Málaga is El Palo. Stretching for over a kilometre, this lovely Blue Flag beach has fine sand and shallow water.
It has an extensive palm grove, providing welcome shade from the scorching summer sun. Along its beachfront promenade, there are a number of chiringuitos at which to sample the fish Málaga is famous for.
As this former fishing village is more popular with locals than tourists, it is one the best places to stay in Málaga if you are trying to keep travel costs down.
A frequent and inexpensive bus service connects Málaga and El Palo. Taxis are also cheap.
Recommended hotel in El Palo – Hotel La Chancla
This lovely 3-star beachfront hotel has a hot tub in which to unwind after a day of sightseeing in Málaga. Many of its rooms have a sea view.
7. Pedregalejo: Best area of Málaga for families
On the Málaga side of El Palo is Pedregalejo, popular for its large and beautiful beach.
Compared with the busier urban beach of La Malagueta, Pedregalejo has a more relaxed vibe. Thanks to the six coves that form breakwaters, swimming conditions are calm, making it a good beach for children.
Pedregalejo is one of the best areas of Málaga for grilled fish on the beach (try the sardines!). It has many restaurants lining its attractive seafront promenade.
To get from Málaga to Pedregalejo, use the frequent and inexpensive bus service or take a taxi. If you are feeling energetic, it will take you around an hour to walk the five-kilometre distance from the centre of town.
Splurge (£££) – Soho Boutique Castillo de Santa Catalina
This gorgeous 5-star hotel offers spectacular views over Málaga Bay and is located close to Pedregalejo in the El Limonar area.
Mid-range (££) – Piso en Pedregalejo a 50m de la playa
This three-bedroom apartment, which is a one-minute walk from the beach, would be perfect for a family or a group holiday in Málaga.
Budget (£) – Paraiso Pedregalejo
Another beachfront apartment in Pedregalejo, offering sea views and a washing machine.
Areas to avoid in Málaga
Although Málaga is amongst the safest cities in Europe, there are a few areas to avoid.
As in many cities, the level of crime goes hand in hand with levels of deprivation. Although they fall short of being downright dangerous, La Palma / La Palmilla, the area around Cruz Verde street and some areas of El Palo and Trinidad are best avoided.
It is unlikely that you would visit these areas of Málaga as a tourist.
Where Should a Solo Traveller Stay in Málaga?
One of the main priorities of solo female travellers is keeping safe whilst travelling alone. This is especially the case for women who are travelling alone for the first time.
Spain is a superb solo travel destination. It is not only one of the best places to travel alone in Europe, but also one of the best global solo travel destinations.
If you are a solo traveller, I recommend that you stay in Málaga Old Town or the Soho area. I stayed in both of these neighbourhoods as a female solo traveller and felt safe.
Although most of Málaga is safe, petty crime does exist. As ever, a little bit of common sense goes a long way. Remain vigilant, keep your belongings close to you and use your hotel safe to store valuables.
Staying in Málaga: Frequently Asked Questions
How many days in Málaga is enough?
Two or three days in Málaga will allow you to see the city’s main cultural and historical highlights with enough time left for the beach. With more time, you can use the city as a base to visit other cities such as Marbella, Cordoba, Granada and even Seville.
Where is the best area in Málaga?
If you are planning to sightsee or are visiting Málaga for the first time, stay in its central district. The Old Town, Soho and around Calle Larios are all good bets.
Is it better to stay in Málaga or Marbella?
Whilst Marbella is a gorgeous city, Málaga is also lovely with much more to see and do.
As it is easy to get from Málaga to Marbella, stay in Málaga and visit its swankier neighbour on a day trip.
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And That’s a Wrap
I hope that this guide to the best neighbourhoods to stay in Málaga will help you plan your trip like a pro.
This is one city that surprised me in a very good way. Far from being a sun-and-sangria flop for Northern Europeans to top up their vitamin D levels, it has charm, culture and cutting-edge art in spades.