The Costa del Sol is a perpetually sunny stretch of coastline in southern Spain and the city of Málaga is its heartbeat. Perched at the northern tip of the region, this port city is flanked by the sprawling Andalusian countryside and the Mediterranean sea. With a high-speed train connecting it to other cities like Granada, Seville, and Cordoba, Málaga makes for a great place to begin explorations throughout the region. It's about 478 miles (770 kilometers) from the other tourist-friendly coastal city that is Barcelona—608 miles (979 kilometers) on the road—and you can travel between the two by train, plane, bus, or car.
|Plane||1 hour, 35 minutes||from $39||Quick and cheap travel|
|Train||6 hours||from $50||When flights are too expensive|
|Bus||13 hours to 17 hours, 30 minutes||from $45||Saving money on accommodation|
|Car||10 hours||979 kilometers (608 miles)||Exploring the local area|
What Is the Cheapest Way to Get From Barcelona to Málaga?
Flying is often perceived as the most luxurious (i.e. the priciest) mode of transportation, but in this case, it's the cheapest. There are so many flights connecting Barcelona to Málaga each week (50, according to Skyscanner), that you can snag a seat on one for as little as $39.
What Is the Fastest Way to Get From Barcelona to Málaga?
Flying is also the fastest way to travel, even when you factor in the time it takes to check a bag and get through security. The flight from Barcelona to Málaga takes only an hour and 35 minutes, whereas the second-fastest option (the train) takes about six hours.
How Long Does It Take to Drive?
One of the best ways to get off the standard tourist track is to drive yourself. If you're over the age of 21, you can rent a car from Barcelona for as little as $40 per day. Expect additional fees if you're under 25. Then, you can drive it down the Mediterranean coast, past the cities of Valencia and Alicante before winding up in beautiful Málaga. The most direct route (the E-15 to the AP-7) is about 608 miles (979 kilometers) long and takes roughly 10 hours. You'll have to pay about $14 in tolls.
While there are a few pretty places to visit along the way, you won't get much scenery on the drive seeing as the motorway generally stays a few kilometers away from the actual sea. For this reason, most people prefer to fly or take the train.
How Long Is the Train Ride?
The fastest train from Barcelona to Málaga is Renfe's high-speed AVE. These trains go up to 193 miles (310 kilometers) per hour, taking just under six hours to get from Barcelona to Málaga. Beware of the ones that make you transfer at Antequera-Santa Ana, which can add an hour and a half onto the journey. The AVE departs from Barcelona Sants station and arrives at María Zambrano a few times per day between the times of 8:40 a.m. and 9:45 p.m. One-way tickets start around $50 and can be purchased online via Rail Europe.
Is There a Bus That Goes From Barcelona to Málaga?
ALSA and Eurolines both service the route from Barcelona to Málaga, but the journey can take more than 17 hours if you're not careful. Even the fastest bus takes 13 hours. And because tickets start at $45—more than a flight on most occasions and only slightly cheaper than the train—it can hardly be called the cheapest. However, budget travelers will have the opportunity to save on accommodation by taking the overnight bus, which gets in around 5 a.m.
When Is the Best Time to Travel to Málaga?
The best time to travel to Málaga—and the Costa del Sol in general—is during spring or autumn, when flights can be found for as low as $40 and the summertime crowds have either yet to come or already gone. Temperatures between June and September are hot and dry, often exceeding 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius), and the nightlife comes alive with students and tourists alike. The quieter months, however, are cooler—a comfortable average of 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius) is conducive to road tripping with the windows down—not to mention notably cheaper. While winter is considered the low season, holiday travel can send plane ticket prices soaring.
Can I Use Public Transportation to Travel From the Airport?
If you'd rather save some money and not take a taxi from the Málaga Airport, then you can choose between the bus or the train. The Paseo del Parqu/Aeropuerto Express bus runs from Terminal 3 between 7 a.m. and midnight daily. It takes about 20 minutes to get to the city center and costs just $3, which you can pay directly to the driver. Meanwhile, the C1 rail line, operated by Renfe, takes only 12 minutes to get to Centro-Alameda downtown and costs $2 for a single journey. It's both the fastest and the cheapest, and it, too, can be found on the arrivals level of Terminal 3.
What Is There to Do in Málaga?
Málaga, Spain, is most well known for its historical landmarks and yellow-sand beaches. When you're not lounging seaside, you can explore the two Moorish citadels that look out over the city, the Alcazaba and Gibralfaro. Málaga is also where artist Pablo Picasso was born, so there is, of course, a museum dedicated to his legacy. Another museum can be found inside the Renaissance-style Cathedral of Málaga. After you've worked up an appetite, stop for tapas at the Mercado Central de Atarazanas, an expansive covered market with all sorts of culinary treasures.