A perfect day in Malaga
Updated: Jun 3
Spend a perfect day in Malaga with a self-guided walking tour.
Malaga is a fantastic city and a fun change of atmosphere from the resort-style town of Marbella. Follow our guide for a perfect day - or two - in Malaga. Walking is the best way to discover Malaga's treasures. Wear comfortable shoes because some of the distances are long, especially if you want to discover the Alcazaba fortress, the Port and the tropical botanical parks...
How to get there
Arriving by car? We recommend parking at the Central Parking Garage which is easy to access on the main road, and just next to the port and to Calle Larios, the main pedestrian commercial street in the historic center. Arriving by bus or train? If you are staying in center Marbella, it is easy to take the direct bus from the Marbella bus station (estacion de autobuses), to the bus station in the center of Malaga. Direct buses leave every hour and for 6-8 euros will bring you to the Malaga bus station. From there it is a 15 minute walk to get to the historical center of town. You must cross over the Guadelmina river bridge and make your way to the covered market for the start of the tour.
Self-guided walking tour itinerary: Two loops from Plaza Marina
Malaga is a huge city, but the main historical area, museum district old town and port are all relatively close by. We propose 2 loops which you can shorten or lengthen, that start from Plaza Marina in front of the "Central" parking garage. This parking garage is easy to find, on the main boulevard, and right near all the attractions on foot. The first loop takes you down splendid Calle Larios, the main commercial artery, past the wonderful covered food market and around to the main museums: Carmen Thyssens, the Picasso museum, and the Malaga museum which are all worth their visit. Loop back past the Cathedral to get back to your car. This is a 2km walk but could take the entire day if you stop to see the museums, stop for lunch... The second loop has more walking - and up and downhill to go see the fortifications of the old Alcazaba. Spectacular views over the port and the town to the mountains, and a nice walk through history at the top of the hill before looping down the other side of the hill back into the old town. From there you can reach the pompidou museum on the port which has a thought-provoking permanent collection and lots of exhibits all year. On the port you can have a drink and watch the people and boats, hire some bikes (no need to reserve ahead) and explore the seafront a bit further out... hire a segway or roller blades. Check out the botanical gardens that run parallel to the port area before heading back to your car.
Click on the image above to get the Google Maps itinerary to download to your phone. Here we go!
Loop 1 - Market, shops, old town, Picasso, churches, and cathedral
When you come out of Central Parking Garage, turn your back to the port and walk across the street in the direction of Mc Donald's. You will be at the start of the Calle Larios, a beautiful wide pedestrian commercial street, the heart of the city. In the summer they hang beautiful sails over the street for shade. In winter, spectacular Christmas lights brighten up the dark evenings. Wander along Calle Larios, not too far - and turn left to find your way to the Atarazanas covered market. If you are a foodie, you will love seeing the fresh seafood just off the fishing boats in Malaga port. And the incredible array of fruits and vegetables, nuts and dried fruit, spices and herbs. Stroll around and you will be offered tastes of almonds, dried fruit, figs... The beautiful stained glass represents the principle attractions of the city, it dates from 1973 and was restored in 2009. It includes 108 panels which were painstakingly removed and put back after the renovation of the building. At the far end of the market, out on the street, you will find some little market restaurants that sell fish and vegetables fresh off the market stalls, where you can come back for lunch later in the day. They are open until 4pm but get there sooner as they run out of the best things earlier. If you want to eat like a local, come back around 2pm and go inside to the bars in the fish hall on the pedestrian-exit side of the market (under the stained glass window). These have the freshest fish and prepare it for you as you watch, with a cold glass of draft beer or wine.
Exit the Atarazana market from the doors underneath the stained glass windows, and you will be headed in the right direction to find in the Iglesia Juan Bautista, see the opulent decor inside. This 15th century church is still being used as a parish church, with mass celebrated and Holy Week services. The altar and chapel are worth seeing. An island of calm in the bustling downtown. Further along in the same direction you will pass in front of Hammam el Andalus - have a
look and decide if you want to come back another day! This is an Ali-baba cavern, amazingly with traditional arab baths and hammam inside. It is built in a house that looks like any other in the neighborhood, once inside you find incredible covered courtyards with bathing pools, saunas, hammam, and massage room. You can spend a few hours here getting massaged and polished from head to toe. Sip some herb tea and play dominoes in one of the cozy relaxation corners. An incredible experience. - Walk along the area in front of the Carmen Thyssen art museum, famous for Spanish renaissance paintings - there might be a good temporary exhibit here, the recent impressionist was fantastic...
- Continue your stroll through the narrow pedestrian streets filled with tapas bars, specialty food shops, clothing and art... We especially like the nougat makers - delicious - they give free samples! - and little stores selling cones of paper filled with manchego cheese and iberico ham.. You don't need to stick to the designated walk, just wander around the streets heading generally in the direction of the Picasso Museum...
- The Picasso Museum is fantastic. Take the audio tour, you receive a little speaker device - pick your language and then select the painting you are in front of to hear the story. The museum takes you through different periods of Picasso's life and also gives you a glimpse of how his life was (his family lived in this house).
Inside the museum you will walk through the different epoques of Picasso's work and life:
Leaving the picasso museum, enjoy the surrounding streets which are touristy but a great place to pick up a souvenir or a snack! Check out the traditional Malaga nougat they make in front of you - delicious. Beware if you buy some for friends you might eat it before you get home.
Pass in front of the Our Lady of the Incarnation Cathedral (Nuestra Senora de la Encarnacion). Like many similar cathedrals and churches in this part of Spain, it was built in the middle ages on top of site that was previously a mosque.
From here you can complete the first loop of the walk and head for lunch, maybe you spotted someplace to tempt you along your path?
Loop 2: Alcazaba, Pompidou, port, and gardens
From the Cathedral, follow the signs for the Alcazaba.
Getting to the Alcazaba citadel, involves a long uphill trek, up a sloping winding road. Be careful it can be slippery. Be sure to stop occasionally on you way up to enjoy the panoramic views over the port, city, bullring, feria..
At the top you can buy a ticket to visit the fortress. This gives you access to come down the hill through a drawbridge and down the other side. You will wind up back in the old town, behind the Picasso museum!
From here, you can short cut back to the parking lot. Or, if you are still curious about what else Malaga has to offer: walk around the Museo de Malaga - worth a visit maybe on another day? It has a beautiful collection of art and artefacts showing the very rich history of this area. We especially like the numerous paintings depicting sea and boating scenes. You can reach the Paseo del Parque from a little alley along the side of the museum, and from there cross the busy road to visit the botanical park along the port. This is a green haven for Malagua residents, many of whom live in small apartments with little or no outdoor space. The botanical gardens run parallel to the port, and offer shade and cool breezes. There are many places to sit and meditate or watch the people go by. If you want to see the Pompidou museum, facing the port, turn to the left and walk through the gardens until the end. There at the right on the port you will see the pompidou museum. This museum has a thought provoking modern art collection and lots of interesting temporary exhibits.
Leaving the Pompidou museum, turn right while admiring the boats in the port. The walk back to Central Parking garage is a straight line with the water on your left hand side, about a 15-20 minute walk. Enjoy the amazing architecture of the Palmoral de las Sorpresas as you walk back to your car.
If you enjoy the city and want to spend more time here, come back another day to :
- visit whichever exhibit or museum, you didn't have time for today!
Malaga is just 45 minutes drive from our fabulous beach properties. You can stay with us on the beach and do this wonderful day trip in between days of relaxation and sun. If you are staying in Sunny Corner, Marbella center next to the beach, you can take the easy bus shuttle to Malaga from the Marbella bus station. Coaches leave at least every hour and cost about 6 euros to the bus station in Malaga center. If you are staying in Paradise Beach Elviria, our 3 bedroom with panoramic sea views- you are just a short 45 minute drive from downtown Malaga by car. Book your Costa del Sol holiday with us now! We'll help to make it happen!