The Costa del Sol isn’t just about package holidays you know! I’ve put together a fantastic Malaga travel guide to help you discover this fantastic city!

I know what you’re thinking – a Danish fairy tale writer isn’t probably the first thing you’d associate with the Costa del Sol. But I think he pretty much hit the nail on the head when he famously said “In none of the Spanish towns have I been so happy, so entirely home, as here in Malaga“. That’s because this coastal city is simply bursting with charm. Despite being in a region that’s heavily focused on tourism, Malaga has still retained a lot of its Andalusian character and since there’s so much hiding under the surface, it’s a fantastic city to really get to grips with. So, do as Andersen did almost 200 years ago: be prepared to fall in love. ;)

Malaga Travel Guide – why Andalusia is the place to be!

How to get there | The joy of life | Sights

Beaches | Shopping & gastronomy

malaga

Getting there – the cheapest options

Since Malaga is the gateway to several resorts along the Andalusian coast, you’ll be glad to hear that there’s often cheap direct flights from several airports in Ireland all year round, including Cork, Shannon and Dublin. The peak season during the summer is the most expensive time to go, but since Malaga enjoys a mild climate all year round, it’s a perfectly good idea to travel when the city isn’t so busy.

Similarly, if you’re feeling particularly adventurous you could even fly to Barcelona, turning your holiday in to a proper old-school road trip. Along the way, you could stop off in fantastic cities such as Valencia, Murcia and Granada, thereby getting a real dose of Spanish culture and seeing plenty of beautiful scenery along the way.

La alegría de vivir

If you’ve ever been to Costa del Sol or Andalusia, then you’ll know that life here has that special flair to it. As soon as the locals know you speak even just the basics of Spanish, they’ll love to chat with you – both young and old show both warmth and hospitality. Meeting up for a bit of tapas in the evening, partying and simply having a good time – things seem to just be that little more laid back here. The best thing to do in Malaga is to simply take things at your own pace. Enjoy the walks through the leafy parks, allow yourself to get lost in the beautiful Old Town or just watch the world go by as you enjoy some local wine. It’s that alegría de vivir, or joy of living, that makes even a single trip to Malaga so worth it.

Aerial view of the city of Malaga Andalucia Spain

Things to see in Malaga

As well as the fantastic atmosphere, there’s also a whole wealth of sights to get stuck into. There’s everything from churches and grand squares to museums dedicated to various artists, monuments, and plenty of greenery and parkland. All of this and much more makes Malaga a fantastic city break destination.

A proper bit of nature

It’s not just the sights made from bricks and mortar that are important. In fact, nature plays just as big a role when it comes to defining the city’s image. Just five kilometres away from the city is the Montes des Malaga National Park, which spans an area of around 5,000 hectares. Here you’ll find lush, green forests where the air couldn’t be purer. I definitely recommend spending a bit of time here and exploring some of the hiking routes here. But you don’t have to leave the city either if you want a experience a little greenery. The Pedro Luis Alonso Gardens are a lovely place to go for a bit of a wander and soaking up that Mediterranean atmosphere – the smell of citrus in the air, the sound of bubbling the fountains… Lovely stuff!

Sidewalk on the Paseo del Parque in Malaga, Spain

A sea of churches

You’ll notice when exploring the city that Malaga is bursting to the seams with all sorts of churches and chapels. But if you locals talking about THE church, then they can only mean one thing: the beautiful Santa Iglesia Catedral Basîlica de la Encarnación. Or if that’s too much of a mouthful, La Manquita for short, which translates roughly to something like The One-Armed Lady. What’s with the weird nickname? Well, the cathedral was originally planned to be built with two spires, but instead only has one – and all because there was a lack of money at the time!

Malaga cathedral “La Manquita”

From beautiful to meaningful – las plazas

Just a stone’s throw away from La Manquita is one of the most historically significant squares in Malaga, the Plaza del Obispo. Even just looking at it with your own eyes is enough to see just what’s so special! Even today you can still clearly see the original Baroque architecture and townhouses that are bursting with charm. The only thing that’s lacking is some sort of memorial or monument – you’ll find one at the Plaza de ler Merced instead. Built in memory of a local general and his followers who tried to overthrow King Ferdinand VII in 1831, it serves a crypt for the ill-fated rebellion. The square is easily one of the most beautiful in Malaga, named after the street markets that often take place here. Last but not least, you just can’t talk about squares without mentioning Plaza de la Constitución. It’s located right in the heart of the historic Old Town and it serves as a meeting place for both locals and tourists alike.

Summer market on Plaza Merced, Malaga
Plaza de la Merced (Photo: iStock.com/Sloot)

The most famous sight of all – the Alcazaba

No trip to Malaga is complete without taking a look at the impressive Alcazaba! Even today, this impressive former fortress still overlooks the sprawling city below, and it’s a view that harks back to bygone eras. This fortress is one of the best preserved Moorish fortresses in all of Spain, and it even used to be connected to the Gibralfaro Castle, situated just behind. Built in 756 – 780AD, the Alcazaba originally served as a defence against pirates, before becoming a residence for prominent rulers during the days of the Moorish Empire. Next to the entrance of the Alcazaba, you’ll even see the ruins of a Roman amphitheatre which dates all the way back to the 1st century BC. Despite some of the stone being used in the foundations of the Alcazaba, it’s still in fantastic condition. History lovers will definitely get their fix here!

Following the footsteps of Pablo Picasso

When walking through Malaga you’ll find yourself often coming across the name Pablo Picasso. It’s no coincidence – in fact, Picasso was born in Malaga in 1881 and has since left his mark on the city. At the world-famous Museo Picasso you can admire over 200 of his masterpieces, and you can even visit the house he was born in. They’re both just a stone’s throw away from each other – the museum is situated in the Palacio de Buenavista, and his house is just a few steps away at Plaza de la Merced 15.

Picasso museum and other museums in Malaga, Spain

One more thing – if you’re a massive museum fan, then you should know that there’s always tons of awesome exhibits in Malaga, such as the glass museum (Museo del vidrio y cristal de Malaga),  a car museum (Museo automocilistico Malaga) and much more.

Relaxing on the beaches of Malaga

After exploring the sights of the city, most people will definitely be craving a little breather to help recharge those batteries. My tip – just pack a small towel in your bag before you head out and you can always go for a little time out on the beach! Depending on where you are in the city, you could either come across a beach that’s heaving with tourists, or one that’s relaxed and peaceful as the locals chill out. From June to August, there are even open-air cinema events on offer! The beaches of El Palo, La Misericorida and La Malagueta are known for their film nights, but they’re also well worth a visit during the day too. La Misericorida in particular is one of the most frequently visited beaches in Malaga, so there’s plenty of places to go and eat on the promenade. If you fancy eating something traditional and trying your hand at the amazing seafood on offer, then I recommend the restaurants along the Pedregalejo Las Acacias promenade. Not only do you get to enjoy a fantastic view of the sea here, but you can also enjoy the traditions that still live on at Malaga’s oldest promenade.

Kicking soccer ball at Playa de la Malagueta in Malaga
Photo: iStock.com/Joel Carillet

Shopping in Malaga

When you go to mainland Spain for the first time, one thing becomes clear – this place is fantastic for shopping and strolling! The Costa del Sol isn’t just beautiful – it’s also a fantastic place to spend a few pennies. Obviously all that sightseeing will make you hungry, but in the historic centre alone there’s over 300 restaurants, cafés and food stalls that spoil both locals and tourists alike with fantastic delicacies. It definitely won’t hurt to take the weight off your feet for a little while in between all the sightseeing and trying your hand at the treats this city is famous for. You can get pescaito frito (fried fish) all over the city, but if you want to go local, then be sure to get your hands on some espetos. These are skewered sardines that are cooked over an open fire, a tradition that dates back to Phoenician times. Malaga’s also famous for sweet treats too, such as pastries and roasted almonds, so be sure to leave a bit of space for dessert. Pair everything up with a fine local wine and you’ve got the perfect mealtime on your hands!

Grilled fish

As for shopping, you’re absolutely spoilt for choice in Malaga. Once you’ve stopped for a little meal in the Old Town, you can always pick up a few gifts for the folks back home or treat yourself to something you’ve had your eye on for ages. In fact there are more than 1,000 boutiques, shops and other small little outlets where you can buy everything from high-end designer fashion to traditional handicrafts.

I’d say that this is the perfect blend of sights, history, cuisine and a good-old fashioned trip to the beach – it’s exactly this reason why Malaga is just so incredibly diverse. If you ever decide to come here for a little break, I can guarantee that you won’t be disappointed. :)