What to do and see in Málaga? Experience the magic of the lighthouse city of the Costa del Sol

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Are you considering Málaga as your next destination, perhaps to settle down or simply for a relaxing holiday? You’ve made the right decision! If you’re wondering what to see in Málaga and what wonders await you in this light–filled epicentre of the Costa del Sol, we’re here to reveal the secrets and attractions of this city.

Not only will Málaga captivate you with its resplendent beaches and exquisite gastronomy, but it will also immerse you in a beautiful cultural mosaic. Its impressive architectural works and a history that resonates in every one of its corners will invite you to lose yourself in its charming streets and squares. Thanks to the warmth of its people and its exuberant atmosphere, Málaga is positioned as an idyllic place to live

Has your curiosity been piqued? At Quadratia, we’ve designed this article to immerse you even more in the magic of Málaga. Come with us on this journey and discover everything this Andalusian treasure has prepared for you.

Málaga, the capital of the Costa del Sol in Spain

Night-time image of the city of Malaga.

Málaga, located in the charming autonomous region of Andalusia, is the capital of the province of the same name. Originally founded by the Phoenicians as Malaka, its name is derived from the Phoenician word Mālk, which translates as “salt”. Throughout its history, Málaga has been under the dominion of various civilisations, including the Roman and the Muslim, reinventing and shaping its personality in each period. For centuries, its strategic port has been a key gateway to the Mediterranean.

Located in southern Spain and on the renowned Costa del Sol, Málaga has established itself as one of the most desired tourist destinations in Spain. Beyond its golden beaches and superb Mediterranean climate, the city is renowned for being the Costa del Golf and also boasts, a rich historical heritage. Testimony to this is the majestic Alcazaba, a Muslim palace–fortress that stands in the centre of the city, recounting the tales of the ancient civilisations that once inhabited it.

In addition, Málaga wears its party clothes as it celebrates its traditional fairs and festivals, offering a vibrant nightlife that delights Malagueños and visitors alike. Although tourism is a fundamental pillar of its economy, Málaga also shines in the industrial and commercial fields. Its port is not only an economic driver, but also a point of connection with other Mediterranean destinations, reaffirming its importance in Andalusia and throughout Spain.

How many inhabitants has Málaga got?

According to recent data from the National Institute of Statistics (INE), Málaga’s population totalled 1,761,893 inhabitants in the second quarter of 2023. In one year, the population grew by almost 26,181 people, of which – according to the newspaper Málaga hoy – 21,165 are foreigners.

These figures are impressive, considering that the city covers an area of 398.25 km², which translates into a population density of 4,423.79 inhabitants per km². This area has a high concentration of people compared to many other urban areas, such as Alicante, for instance.

What is the climate in Málaga like?

Málaga enjoys a Mediterranean climate with coastal influences, marked by moderate winter seasons and sunny and mild summers. Average temperatures during winter vary between 13°C and 20°C, and in the summer season, they usually range from 25°C to 30°C, although at specific times they may exceed these figures. Although not very abundant, rains are most frequent in the autumn and spring months, with summer being the driest time of the year.

How many days are needed to see Málaga? What to see in Málaga in a single day?

If you’re planning a visit to Málaga, we recommend that you dedicate at least three days to enjoy everything it has to offer. However, if you have only one day, don’t worry! Here’s a short but complete itinerary so that you can make the most of your visit:

Itinerary of what to do and see in Málaga in a single day

  1. Málaga Cathedral “La Manquita”: Emblematic Renaissance monument of the city.
  2. Alcazaba: Moorish fortress palace with spectacular views of the city.
  3. Teatro Romano: Testimony of Málaga’s rich history, located next to the Alcazaba.
  4. Calle Larios: Take a stroll along Málaga’s high street.
  5. Museo Picasso Málaga: Immerse yourself in the life and work of the famous artist Pablo Picasso.

This tour weaves together history, culture and a touch of Málaga’s day–to–day life. Without a doubt, you’ll immerse yourself in the heart of the city and capture its essence with these places to see in Málaga.

Tourism in Málaga: discover the lighthouse city of the Costa del Sol

Málaga, known as the “lighthouse city” of the Costa del Sol, is a coastal enclave full of history and Mediterranean flavour. If you’re considering the option of moving to Málaga or simply making a visit, we suggest you start your journey at the Málaga Tourism Office. This is strategically located on the Paseo del Parque, near the Cathedral and the Port of Málaga, and offers impressive views of the famous La Malagueta beach.

The tourism office’s team, with extensive knowledge of many languages, will provide you with all the essential information about Málaga. They’ll guide you with suggestions, curiosities and tips on the monuments and attractions that the city has to offer you.

However, at Quadratia, we’re aware of how practical it is to consult information on the internet, so we’ve devoted resources and time to developing a detailed guide on Málaga’s cultural and tourist wealth. Get to know the most iconic places and the most authentic areas of this vibrant Andalusian city.

Discover what to see and do in Málaga with the help of Quadratia!

10 things to do and see in the city of Málaga

1. La Alcazaba de Málaga: historical fortress and architectural treasure

Image of the Alcazaba, one of the things to see in Malaga.

The Alcazaba de Málaga is a fundamental piece of the history of the city and the region. Its construction dates back to the 11th century, during the period of Muslim rule on the Iberian Peninsula. Its construction over the ruins of a pre-existing Roman fortress explains how its design fuses Islamic and Roman architectural elements.

During its heyday under the reign of the Nasrid dynasty, the Alcazaba de Málaga played a crucial role as a royal residence and defensive fortress. Events such as the conquest of the city by the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabel in 1487, which marked the end of Muslim rule in the region, also influence its history.

Today, visitors can explore its walls, towers, courtyards and gardens, and enjoy the unique atmosphere that this historical site offers. It’s also possible to combine the visit to the Alcazaba with other places of interest, such as the nearby Málaga Cathedral or the Picasso Museum. Tickets can be purchased on the following website, and there are discounts available for students, pensioners and groups.

Without a doubt, the Alcazaba de Málaga is a must–see stop in Málaga for anyone wishing to immerse themselves in the city’s rich history and enjoy its unique architecture.

2. The Catedral de la Encarnación de Málaga or “La Manquita”

Image of Malaga Cathedral from the side.

The Catedral de la Encarnación de Málaga, affectionately known as “La Manquita” (the One–Armed) is one of the most emblematic monuments in the city of Málaga and on the Costa del Sol. Its official name is the Santa Iglesia Catedral Basilica de la Encarnación, but it receives its nickname due to an architectural peculiarity: it lacks one of the two planned bell towers. This Renaissance–style cathedral is located opposite the Plaza del Obispo square and is an important reference point in the heart of the city.

The history of “La Manquita” is linked to the Great Mosque that occupied its place before the Christian Reconquest. The cathedral was built over the old mosque between the 16th and 18th centuries, and its design included two twin towers. However, due to the lack of funds and structural problems, only one of the towers was completed, lending it its characteristic nickname.

Image of the Plaza del Obispo, one of the places to see in Malaga.

And, if you’re wondering whether you can visit the Málaga Cathedral, the answer is “it depends”. It depends on whether or not worship or masses are being celebrated in the cathedral. To find out, check the timetables or access this web portal to plan your visit. We strongly recommend doing so, because, while you’re there, you’ll be able to admire its interior, which is home to an impressive collection of sacred art, and enjoy the unique atmosphere of this historical church that you’ll get to see only in Málaga.

3. The Teatro Romano of Málaga, an archaeological site that can be visited free of charge

Roman Theatre of Malaga and in the background, the Alcazaba.

The Roman Theatre of Málaga is an important relic of the presence of the Romans in the city. Built in the early first century CE, it sits at the foot of the hills of the Alcazaba and archaeologists discovered it in 1951 after it had been buried for centuries.

The theatre retains many of its stands, decorates its orchestra with marble slabs, and reproduces the original pavement on its stage. Its construction took advantage of the slope of the hill for the stands and used artificial foundations for the rest. It was in use for two centuries and then was abandoned in the third century CE.

Subsequently, the space was used for the fish–salting industry and then as a necropolis in the 5th century CE. Today, it’s an archaeological site open to the public free of charge, with an interpretation centre that allows you to explore Málaga’s Roman history. A magnificent plan for enjoying Málaga!

4. The Museo Picasso de Málaga: art and legacy in the city of Picasso

On the cover of the book you can read "Viva Picasso", referring to the Picasso Museum, one of the obligatory stops to make and see in Malaga.

The Picasso Málaga Museum is a prominent cultural establishment whose purpose is to preserve and exhibit the work of the renowned painter Pablo Picasso, one of the most influential artists of the 20th century and who was born in this city in 1881. One of its main attractions is its extensive permanent collection, which covers different stages of Picasso’s artistic career, including paintings, sculptures, ceramics and other works that illustrate the evolution of the artist’s art throughout his life.

This museum has the privilege of being located in the historic Palacio de Buenavista palace, a 16th–century Andalusian Renaissance building, which is itself an architectural gem. This location provides a unique atmosphere to appreciate Picasso’s oeuvre.

The Picasso Museum of Málaga offers flexible opening hours and has a single–price admission, providing guided tours that allow visitors to gain a deeper understanding of the works and life of Picasso. In addition to its permanent collection, the museum organises temporary exhibitions that present works by other artists, along with cultural activities and art–related events.

5. The Playa de la Malagueta beach: a paradise for Malagueños and tourists

Espetos boat on the beach of La Malagueta.

The Playa de al Malagueta beach is a coastal treasure that combines the essence of Mediterranean life with its natural and cultural charm. Located between the Port of Málaga and the Playa de La Caleta beach, this beach is a jewel that attracts both Malagueños and tourists.

With its golden sand and crystal–clear waters, La Malagueta extends along the coast, offering 1,200 metres of space to kick back and enjoy the sun. Here, you can take a refreshing dip in the sea or simply rest under the warm Andalusian sun.

In the surroundings, you’ll find a varied offering of restaurants and bars where you can enjoy the delicious local gastronomy. During the summer, the beach comes alive with events and activities for the whole family, from concerts on the sand to barcas de espetos (a particular local way of fire–roasting sardines).

We consider it an obligatory stop, because the Playa de La Malagueta beach is one of the places that you have to enjoy and see in Málaga city.

6. Calle Larios in Málaga, the high street and the soul of the fair

Calle Larios, one of the main stops to see in Malaga.

The Calle Marqués de Larios in Málaga is much more than a street; it is the city’s high street and the soul of the Málaga Fair. During this festival, Calle Larios comes alive with stalls, music and dance, creating a unique festive atmosphere in which Malagueños and visitors come together to celebrate and enjoy.

In addition to its role in the Fair, Calle Larios is one of the most important high streets in Europe, known for its stores of famous brands. It’s a perfect place to enjoy shopping, restaurants and cafés all year round. Its impressive architecture and historical charm make it a must–see spot for anyone visiting or living in Málaga.

7. The Port of Málaga and its seafront promenade

Image of the sunset on the Malaga harbour promenade.

The Port of Málaga is much more than a place of trade. It has a charming seafront promenade lined with palm trees and restaurants with outdoor patios that offer a delicious variety of dishes from Spanish cuisine. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a relaxing stroll overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, while you enjoy a delicious Andalusian tapa or two.

In addition, the Port of Málaga is an important entry point for cruise ships that sail through the Mediterranean. This makes it an epicentre of tourism, where visitors can explore the city before continuing their trip, or enjoy local excursions.

Likewise, throughout the year, the Port of Málaga is the scene of cultural events and festivals that celebrate music, art and nightlife. If you’re not sure what to do or see in Málaga, the port is a place where culture comes to life on every corner.

8. The Farola de Málaga, icon of the city

La Farola de Málaga, the lighthouse you must visit and see in Málaga.

The Lighthouse of Málaga, located in the Port of Málaga, is one of the oldest lighthouses in Spain, second only to the Torre de Hércules in A Coruña, in addition to being one of the two Spanish lighthouses with a feminine name. Its construction ended in the 19th century, in 1817, during the reign of Ferdinand VII. Since then, it has been witness to numerous historical events and changes over the years.

The architecture of La Farola is distinctive, with a square–based tower that rises over a two–storey building. Its design combines Neo–classical and Neo–Mudéjar elements, and its white colour makes it especially visible at the entrance to the port. In addition to its historical and architectural importance, La Farola continues to fulfil its main function as a lighthouse, guiding the boats to the Port of Málaga and facilitating navigation on the coast.

This lighthouse has become an iconic symbol of the city of Málaga and is widely recognised by both the local inhabitants and the visitors, the reasons why Málaga is known as the “lighthouse of the Costal del Sol”. It has become a recommended stop for anyone wishing to get to know the city of Málaga and be an integral part of Málaga’s maritime identity.

9. Castillo de Gibralfaro, another fortification in Málaga city

The Gibralfaro Castle is a historical fortification located on top of a hill with panoramic views of the city and the sea. During the reign of Yusuf I of Granada in the 14th century, builders constructed this castle.

During a visit to the castle, visitors can explore its walls, towers and parade ground. It’s also a popular place for taking photographs and learning about the history of the region. You can check on tickets sold in conjunction with those of the Alcazaba.

Bonus track: Where to see the best sunset in Málaga?

Aerial view of what to do and what to see in Malaga city.

For anyone looking for the perfect place for a romantic evening or simply wishing to contemplate the beauty of the sunset in Málaga, the Mirador de Gibralfaro is an exceptional choice that will not disappoint you.

From this privileged location, you can marvel at the panoramic views that include the city and the Mediterranean Sea. The combination of the sky’s warm colours at sunset with those of the coast creates a truly magical and romantic setting.

10. The Feria de Málaga: an emblematic celebration

Balcony of a house in Malaga decorated in Feria. One of the things to do and see in Malaga.

The Málaga Fair – also known as the August Fair – is one of the most emblematic events in the city. During the second week of August, people celebrate a festival full of joy and tradition that attracts visitors from all over the world. During this week, people fill the streets of Málaga with color, music, and dance, and numerous stands offer traditional Andalusian foods and drinks, such as gazpacho and rebujito.

In addition, the fair has parades with floats, flamenco shows, live concerts and spectacular fireworks. The Málaga Fair is a unique opportunity to experience Andalusian culture at its most authentic. What are you waiting for to experience it? It’s something that absolutely must see in Málaga.

What to see in the province of Málaga?

That’s right, the province of Málaga offers treasures beyond its capital. We invite you to explore some of the must–see cities to see in the province of Málaga:

  • Nerja: On the eastern Costa del Sol, Nerja earns renown for its impressive cliffs and beaches with crystal-clear waters. One of its main attractions is the Cueva de Nerja cave, a natural wonder full of stalactites and stalagmites that will transport you to another world.
  • Estepona: This charming coastal town combines traditional Andalusian charm with a modern marina and a wide variety of beaches. Its flower–filled streets and well–preserved old town invite you to explore authentic Spanish culture.
  • Marbella: Marbella earns its reputation as a luxury destination due to its swanky villas, golf courses, and beaches with golden sand. In addition to its glamorous nightlife, Marbella offers an old town full of history and charm.

Homes for sale in Málaga and the Costa del Sol

Do you feel like you want to move to Málaga as soon as possible? That’s perfectly normal, especially after discovering all the wonders that Málaga and the Costa del Sol have to offer you. Its natural beauty, exceptional gastronomy and relaxed lifestyle make it a highly attractive destination for anyone looking to invest in properties abroad, especially those with a high net worth.

If you’re interested in exploring newly built properties on the Costa del Sol, we at Quadratia have an extensive catalogue that ranges from luxurious apartments to elegant penthouses, duplexes and villas in the province of Málaga and its charming surroundings. In addition, if you’d like to learn more about the best cities to live in Spain as a foreigner, we recommend that you check out our previous article.

Perhaps we’ve piqued your interest in embarking on a new direction in life and establishing a new destiny, and that fills us with joy! The Costa del Sol is waiting for you

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