Planning to spend one day in Malaga? Read on for my top recommendations for a perfect day!
Malaga is a culturally rich city that sits right on the Mediterranean coast of Southern Spain – in the region known as the Costa del Sol.
Known for its stunning beaches, interesting cultural sites, and delicious cuisine, it has become one of Andalucia Spain’s most visited coastal cities. We had *such* a good time in Malaga and were absolutely charmed by the cute city and sea views.
You could certainly spend multiple days, or even a week relaxing on the beaches or using Malaga as a base to visit more of the region. However, you can still have a fantastic, one-day adventure in the city!
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The Perfect One Day Itinerary in Malaga
Here is the exact itinerary I would recommend you see and do with your day in Malaga!
1. Delight in the Alcazaba
Start your day in Malaga with my favorite spot in the entire city (and one of my favorite places we visited during our entire 2 weeks in Southern Spain), the Alcazaba.
The Alcazaba, a historic Moorish palace, has a distinct beauty due to its semi-ruined state. It isn’t the same kind of fancy as the Royal Alcazar in Sevilla, for example, and its marble and the fancy carved stucco and tiles.
Instead, the Alcazaba is made entirely of stone, with numerous passageways, rooms, and hidden areas to discover. Plus, there were so many charming corners, small fountains, hanging ivy, and picturesque windows and vistas over the city.
You can take in the city’s scenery and views of the sea by strolling along the fortress walls and climbing the towers. The palm trees and traditional Arabic-style arched entrances added to the enchanting ambiance, giving the feeling of stepping into some kind of fairytale.
I seriously loved this massive palace complex. We spent about 1.5 hours here.
- Hours: 9am-6pm (winter) or 8pm (summer)
- Entrance Fee: 5.50 euro for the combo ticket with the Castillo de Gibralfaro
2. Stop by the Roman Theater
The Roman Theater is located at the base of the Alcazaba, just adjacent to the entrance, and is a well-preserved Roman site dating back to the 1st century AD. You can see and admire the ruins from the street.
3. Visit the Castillo de Gibralfaro
The Castillo de Gibralfaro sits on a high hill overlooking the city and the port, and is a must-visit attraction in Malaga. This historical fortress features ancient defensive walls and towers that trace back to the 14th century, providing insights into the castle’s rich history. The remarkable architecture of this stronghold beautifully shows the military capability of its time.
Inside the castle, you’ll find a small museum that displays various artifacts and exhibits that help shed light on the castle’s history and its significance to the region. There are displays such as ancient weapons and archaeological discoveries that help add some depth to your understanding of the castle’s role in the city’s past.
To reach the Castillo de Gibralfaro, you can walk up the hillside or choose to ride on a tourist train that shuttles visitors to the castle’s entrance from the base of the hill.
- Hours: 9am-6pm (winter) or 8pm (summer)
- Entrance Fee : 5.50 euro for the combined ticket with the Alcazaba
4. Observe the Malagueta Bull Ring
I’d highly recommend at least walking back down from the castle, and noting the Malagueta Bull Ring as you stroll back to the city.
This prominent and significant structure represents the traditional bullfighting culture deeply rooted in Spain. Throughout the year, the Bull Ring hosts bullfights, and occasionally serves as a venue for cultural events, concerts, and festivals.
I’ll be honest, I’m not a big fan of the Spanish bull-fighting tradition. I had thought that the matadors were just doing demonstrations with the bulls, when in actuality the bulls are treated terribly before the fights and then cruelly killed in the ring.
Despite my qualms with the bull-fighting practice, it’s undeniably an important cultural tradition in Spain, and it’s definitely worth observing this iconic building from above.
5. Explore Old Town
The old town of Malaga is a charming, historic area filled with cafes spilling out onto the streets, interesting shops, cobblestoned lanes, and beautiful architecture. It’s not a large area, but it’s definitely one to spend some time wandering and exploring.
6. Learn At the Picasso Museum
Okay to be honest, I went to the Picasso Museum more out of a sense of duty (to visit all the main sites in Malaga) than out of a deep interest in the works of Picasso.
However, as someone who is a moderate art lover, and certainly not a big Picasso fan, I was pleasantly surprised by how engaging and interesting the museum turned out to be. I’d truly recommend it, and consider it a top priority when visiting the city.
Picasso was born and spent the first 10 years of his life in Malaga. The museum takes you on a curated journey through the different stages of Picasso’s life and artistic career. Each room or area was dedicated to specific years and periods, allowing you to witness the evolution of his style and creativity.
What I appreciated the most were the insightful paragraphs accompanying each collection. They provided context and explanations about the period, Picasso’s artistic approach, and the influences that shaped him during that time.
One aspect that stood out to me was the exclusivity of Picasso’s artwork in the museum – there were ONLY works by Picasso displayed. It created a cohesive and focused experience, immersing you fully in his world.
- Hours: 10am to 6, 7, or 8pm (depending on the season)
- Entrance Fee: 9.50 euro
7. Stand in Awe at the Cathedral de Malaga
The Cathedral of Malaga dominates the cityscape with its striking design and massive size, and is known as the “one-armed lady” due to its unfinished second tower.
On the inside, the main nave, grand columns, carved ceilings, and stained glass windows all contribute to a breathtaking atmosphere. This cathedral is truly enormous in scale and breathtaking in its attention to detail. I particularly loved the intricate carvings on the ceiling!
For a unique experience, consider going up the tower with a guide (only at 5 pm, with extra cost). From the top, you’ll be amazed by a great view of Malaga’s picturesque landscape and be able to capture stunning photos of the city below.
- Hours: 10am-6:30pm Mon-Fri, 10am-6pm Sat-Sun
- Entrance Fee: 8 euro
8. Stroll the Paseo Espana
The Paseo Espana is a long garden area that connects the old town with the seafront, filled with elegant palm trees, tropical plants, and blooming flowers. There is one long, wide walking path through the garden, with a vast network of connecting paths, and small “courtyards” filled with statues, fountains, and charming little spots to discover.
It’s a beautiful and peaceful oasis plunked down right in the middle of the city, and we enjoyed eating a picnic lunch there (with takeaway food we had purchased from a nearby bakery)
9. Take a Dip at Malagueta Beach
Malagueta Beach is the closest beach to historic Malaga – it’s only a 10 minute walk away from the old town. The sandy beach is long and wide, with lots of space for people to spread out and relax. During the hot summer days, this is the perfect place to spend an afternoon.
10. Relax in a Traditional Hamman
While the Acazaba was my favorite landmark in Malaga, the Hamman Al-Andalus was absolutely my favorite experience. If you’re seeking ultimate relaxation during your trip, then a visit to this traditional Arab bathhouse is a must.
Inside the bath area, you’ll find a peaceful setting filled with captivating Islamic-style architecture. The walls are painted in a lovely golden or red color, and there are multiple pools with carved arches and colorful tiles surrounding them. The ceilings are high, and there are soft curtains and tiled floors made of marble. It’s absolutely gorgeous.
As you relax, there is a pleasant scent and calming music playing quietly. You can also experience pools with different temperatures (cold, warm, hot) and a steam room.
Part of the hamman experience includes a soothing 15-minute massage using your choice of scented oil.
Swimsuits are required here, and reservations are highly recommended, as time slots do sell out. Since the Hamman is open late, I recommend finishing your perfect day in Malaga here!
Map of the Attractions You’ll Visit in Malaga
If You Have More Time in Malaga…
While you truly can hit the major sites in Malaga in one day, many people do choose to spend more time here, and relax at the beach or do day trips to nearby cities and villages in southern Spain.
Here are a few great day trip options from Malaga:
The Caminito Del Rey is an exciting hike through a deep gorge, where you walk on a wooden boardwalk bolted to the side of a sheer cliff. The hike is easy and only takes about 2 hours, and is absolutely gorgeous!
The hike is located high up in the mountains, of course. This tour provides round trip transportation from Malaga to the trail, a guide on the trail to share interesting history about the route, and entrance fees.
The Alhambra, an incredibly preserved fortified city and palace complex, is an absolute must-see in Spain that should not be missed.
This tour includes round-trip transportation to Granda, and a guided tour through the Alhambra complex, including the Generalife gardens, jaw-dropping Nasrid Palace, and the Alcazaba military fortress.
Ronda is home to one of Spain’s most incredible feats of engineering: the Puente Nuevo, a 322 foot tall bridge that connects the two sides of the town on top of the cliffs.
Setenil de las Bodegas is a particularly unique village, in that it was built into and underneath cliffs, and many streets in the city actually have rocky overhangs covering them. This tour takes you to both enchanting locations in Spain.
Your Malaga Itinerary – The Wrap Up
Malaga is a charming and beautiful Spanish city perfect for enjoying culture in the morning and hitting the beach in the afternoon. With even just 24 hours, you can enjoy so many of the fascinating and beautiful things to see and do in Malaga.