How to Organize the Perfect Trip to Malaga

  • 01 of 08

    So you've got flights to Malaga...

    The sunset off Malaga cathedral
    (c) Damian Corrigan

    How can you get the most out of a trip to Malaga? Andalusia and the Costa del Sol offer the visitor to the area the most iconic Spanish experiences: fried fish, tapas, wine, sunshine, flamenco and if that's your thing, bullfighting. 

    Though it's far from being the best city in Andalusia, Malaga is also well connected to other cities in Andalusia, such as Granada, Seville and Cordoba and has a high-speed rail connection to Madrid And with the third largest airport in Spain, it's easy to plan the perfect Spanish vacation starting in Malaga.

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  • 02 of 08

    How Long Should You Stay in Malaga?

    El Pimpi restaurant, Malaga
    (c) Damian Corrigan

    There’s really no need to stay in Malaga at all unless you’re craving a city with a beach. You can take a bus straight from the airport to cities such as Granada or Seville, so don't even need to come into the city at all. As for beaches, there are better places to catch the sun than the city beach in Malaga itself.

    How to Spend a Day in Malaga

    If you’re on a very short trip and really don’t want to travel to somewhere like Granada (which is just 90 minutes away by car or bus), then you can see the best of Malaga’s sights in one day.

    See also: Malaga Hop-on-Hop-off Sightseeing Bus Tour

    You can climb to the Alcazaba and Gibralfaro, taste Malaga wine at Antigua Casa de Guardia, have some fried fish in one of the many restaurants in the pedestrianized shopping area and visit one of its art galleries or museums. 

    But the Alcazaba isn't as good as the one in Granada and the art museums aren't a patch on those in Madrid.

    Eating and drinking is the best way to spend your time in Malaga. And though its fried fish isn't as good as in Cadiz and its fortified wines can't compete with the sherries of Jerez, it's still how I'd spend my time in Malaga. If you don't plan on exploring Andalusia and the rest of Spain from Malaga, skip to the page on Eating and Drinking in Malaga. 

    Best Day Trips from Malaga

    Malaga is well connected by public transport to most of the best sights in Andalusia, so visiting these is how I'd spend most of my time in Malaga. However, there are reasons why I'd recommend an overnight stay instead of a day trip in most cases, as you'll see on the next page: Where to Go in Andalusia After Malaga.

    The following list is, in my opinion, from the best to perhaps least interesting (but still worth a visit, I or I wouldn't have mentioned them!), with how long you need to add to your time in the region to fit in your visit.

    • Add a day to visit Granada. The bus from Malaga to Granada is a quick and convenient way to get to one of the most popular cities in Spain. Don't visit Malaga without going to Granada. 
      See also: Guided Tour of Granada from Malaga
    • Add at least a day to visit Seville Though it can be done as a day trip, Seville is best visited over a couple of days because it is further away and there is a lot to do there. I'd recommend either staying for a night or two (especially if you want to add in Cadiz and Jerez) or to take a .

      For a half-guided, half-independent experience, you could take this  but make your own way from Malaga to Seville.
    • Add a day to visit Ronda High up on the Tajo gorge, Ronda is famous for its bridges and the views they afford. There aren't many trains from Malaga to Ronda, so you'll have to take a bus or a . 
    • Add a day to visit Tangier in Morocco. As a day trip, this is impossible by public transport. The ferry directly from Malaga to Morocco is too long for a day trip and is best taken as an overnight journey as the start of a longer Trip to Morocco. Meanwhile, the quick crossing (from Tarifa or Algeciras) requires you to get there and co-ordinate your transport with the ferry departures. Best take a Guided Day Trip to Morocco from Malaga or visit Morocco for longer than a day.
    • Add a half-day to visit the Caminito del Rey, the newly re-opened scary mountain pass close to Malaga. Access is limited (apply at the Caminito del Rey website) but it's worth it if you can get a reservation.
    • Add a day to visit Jerez and Cadiz. This trip isn't really feasible by public transport (not as a day trip, anyway). It's a good trip from Seville, but you could go from Malaga by car or take a Jerez and Cadiz Guided Tour.
    • Add a day to visit Cordoba. The high-speed AVE train to Cordoba make this an easy day trip from Malaga. Read more: Malaga to Cordoba by Public Transport
      or Guided Tour of Cordoba from Malaga
    • Add a half-day to visit the caves of Nerja. These can be easily reached by local public transport. To make a day out of it, consider this .
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  • 03 of 08

    Exploring Andalusia from Malaga

    Seville cathedral
    (c) Damian Corrigan

    As you can see from the previous page, it's easy to fill your time in Malaga by taking day trips from the city. However, there are big advantages to basing yourself in a different city.

    If you already know Andalusia and would prefer to head further north into Spain, skip this page and look at where else you can go from Malaga.

    Reasons why you shouldn't be taking day trips from Malaga:

    • Seville deserves much more than a day to truly enjoy it. It's actually a better place to base yourself than Malaga.
    • Cadiz and Jerez are best reached from Seville.
    • Granada, too, though it can be enjoyed in a day, is a wonderful city that deserves more time. Just the Alhambra, the tapas and sleeping off the tapas is a day's worth in itself.
    • Madrid would be an ambitious day trip from Malaga. And then you have all the excellent day trips from Madrid, such as Segovia and Toledo.
    • Cordoba is on the high-speed AVE train line from Malaga to Madrid, so it makes more sense as a stop en route to Madrid than as a day trip.
    • There are plenty of cheap flights from Malaga to Barcelona.

    See also: The Best Cities in Andalusia

    Guided Tours of Spain and Morocco from Malaga

    There are few extended tours of Spain from Malaga. Such tours are great for taking the hassle out of the logistics of planning a multi-city tour but you'll get much a much better selection of tours if you plan your trip from Madrid

    Exploring Andalusia from Malaga

    Visiting the famous cities of Andalusia is the easiest and best thing you can do from Malaga. I've already gone through how to visit them as day trips (on the previous page) but why you probably shouldn't (above). So let's address how to visit these places best.

    Suggested Andalusia Itinerary from Malaga 

    How long this itinerary would take depends on how long you have available. I'd spend at least two, preferably three days in Seville, two days in Granada and a day or half each in Jerez, Cadiz, Cordoba and Ronda, but these could all comfortably be extended.

    1. Take the bus from Malaga to Granada and spend the night there. Remember to book your Alhambra visit in advance (with limited tickets available, if you turn up on the day you might find long queues or that it has sold out for the day).
    2. Take the bus or train from Granada to Cordoba. The main sight in Cordoba is the Mezquita, the dual-faith mosque and cathedral with its curious mix of Catholic and Moorish architecture and decoration. You could stay the night there, but Seville is just 45 minutes away by high-speed AVE train, so why continue straight to Seville and get an extra night there?
    3. Spend a few days in Seville. Consider either day trips or a night in Jerez and Cadiz. My advice would be to have a fried fish lunch in Cadiz, followed by a night of sampling the sherry 'tabancos' of Jerez. Rest your weary head after all that sherry in Jerez rather than trying to get a train at that time of night.
    4. Either from Jerez or straight from Seville, take a bus to Ronda. I would stay overnight in Ronda, though you could see the city in a day and proceed back to Malaga.
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  • 04 of 08

    Malaga to Morocco and the Rest of Spain

    Marrakech main square
    SuperCar-RoadTrip.fr/Creative Commons

    Though Andalusia is the obvious place to visit from Malaga, good train and flight connections mean it's easy to explore the rest of Spain, while Morocco is temptingly close.

    Visiting Morocco from Malaga

    Southern Spain virtually touches north Africa and there are great connections between Andalusia and Morocco, the only safe country to visit in the region at the moment.

    Taking the ferry from Malaga isn't the quickest way to Morocco (that honor goes to the Tarifa to Tangiers route), but it does have its advantages (namely, taking the overnight ferry and saving a night's accommodation).

    If you plan more than a day trip to Morocco, you'll need to take a train or bus from your arrival point, be it Tangiers or Melilla (the Spanish enclave in Africa and where the ferry from Malaga arrives) to one of the more popular cities, such as Fes or Marrakech. The first time I went to Morocco I found the buses quite a bewildering experience and for many, a guided tour would be the only way they'd feel comfortable traveling in Morocco.

    Read more about travel from Malaga to Morocco or check out these tours:

    How to Get to Madrid from Malaga

    Your gateway to the rest of Spain is via Madrid. The high-speed train takes under three hours to whisk you to the capital, though a stop in Cordoba on the way (to see the Mezquita and to grab your final Andalusian lunch) is a good way to break up the journey.

    If you're visiting Madrid, you might want to continue with this article: How to Plan the Perfect Trip to Madrid

    Flights to Northern Spain

    If your destination is the northern regions of the Basque Country, Galicia, Barcelona, or Catalonia, in most cases your best bet is to fly. The only possible exception would be to travel from Malaga to Barcelona, as there are AVE trains that travel the full 1,000km in under six hours, which for many will be better than the hassle of airport transfers, check-in, and security.

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  • 05 of 08

    Eating and Drinking in Malaga

    Sweet malaga wine at Casa de Guardia
    (c) Damian Corrigan

    The best thing to do in Malaga is eat and drink. The weather is perfect for it and the abundance of bars and cafes in the pedestrianized center means there's always a party going on.

    See also:

    Here are my top picks for eating and drinking in Malaga: 

    • Try Malaga Wine Malaga wines are made from raisins, which give them a unique flavor (OK, not that unique - they taste like raisins - but that's still pretty unusual for wine!) Sample the wine at the oldest bar in the city or visit the Malaga Wine Museum
    • Though paella is not originally from Malaga, Bodega El Patio is one of the best places I've ever been to for paella. Every week day afternoon you can Watch Paella Being Made
    • Fried and Grilled Fish The most iconic Malaga dish is the Espeto de Sardinas, which is best eaten at a beach-side chiringuito. There are plenty on the beach in Malaga itself, but you'll get a cheaper and slightly less touristy restaurant lace in nearby El Palo. Check out the Great Big Plate of Fried Fish I got in El Palo.
    • Tapas How to avoid disappointment with Tapas in Malaga.
    • After dinner drinks The Best Gin & Tonic in the World? I'd say so...
    • Flamenco isn't just for tourists. Mix with the locals in this Vibrant Late-Night Flamenco Bar.
    • Breakfast in Malaga Get some vitamins in you, because you won't get many vegetables in Malaga tapas bars
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  • 06 of 08

    Arriving and Departing from Malaga

    Bus in Malaga
    (c) Damian Corrigan

    Most people come to Malaga by plane. In fact, Malaga airport is the main reason why people come to Malaga - it's the easiest way to get to southern Spain for most visitors.

    It's also great that there are plenty of buses and trains straight from the airport to other destinations in the area, allowing you to skip Malaga completely if you wish.

    Accommodation Close to Malaga's Transport Hubs

    Malaga is not a big city. The bus and train station are side-by-side to the southwest of the city. Even if you were to stay at the north part of the pedestrianized center, you'd still only have a 20-minute walk to the train station.

    But to really cut down on walking time, important if you plan on doing lots of day trips (which is what you should be doing in Malaga), I'd stay as close to the river as possible. This puts you halfway between the old town and the bus and train stations. NH Malaga or Suite Novotel Malaga Centro are good options. For cheaper accommodation, try an AirBNB property. You can search both hotels and AriBNB properties at the same time with Hipmunk.

    How to Get from Malaga Airport to Central Malaga

    There are buses from Malaga Bus Station and trains from the main train station (Maria Zambrano) as well as the smaller stations of Malaga Centro Alameda and Victoria Kent. 

    You can also catch the A75 bus to the airport from Paseo del Parque, meaning there's no need to go all the way to the main Malaga Bus Station. 

    If you have an early morning flight, be sure to confirm there will be a bus or train. You may need to take a taxi.

    Buses from Malaga Airport

    There are buses from Malaga Airport to Cordoba, Seville, Granada, Marbella, Jaen, Caceres and Merida (as well as even further afield). Book buses from Malaga airport from Movelia.es

    My advice would be to head straight to Granada for a day, stay the night and head to Seville in the morning and base yourself for the rest of your Andalusia visit there.

    Tickets for most of these buses are available on Movelia.es except for the Malaga to Marbella route.

    Trains from Malaga Airport

    Cercanias Malaga, the local suburban railway in Malaga, runs to the city center as well as to Benelmadena and Fuengirola.

    AVE High-Speed Train from Malaga City Center

    Though not available from the airport, it's easy to take the train to Malaga train station and then get the high-speed AVE train to Cordoba or Madrid. The whole journey to Madrid takes under three hours.

    Ferries and Cruises to Malaga Port

    There are ferries from Malaga to Morocco. They take quite a long time so are best taken overnight. It's actually quicker to get to Morocco via Tarifa or Algeciras than directly from Malaga.

    Malaga is also a popular cruise stop.

    Taking a Tour Directly from Malaga Port

    If you will be arriving by cruise ship in Malaga, there are lots of tours you can take without even having to deal with orientating yourself in a new city. Many tour companies will pick up you right from in front of your ship and guarantee they will get you back in time for your ship's departure.

    By far the best such tour is the Granada Tour from Malaga Cruise Port. See the Alhambra with your own guide, jump all the lines and sample the best in Granada tapas.

    Estación de María Zambrano - Malaga's Main Train Station

    Malaga's main train station and, with the bus station just around the corner, your gateway to the rest of Spain.

    • Where is it? About a ten-minute walk to the city center on Explanada de la Estación. Next to the bus station.
    • For Travel to: This is the main train station so chances are if you arriving in Malaga by train, this will be the station you arrive in. Commuter, regional, long distance and high-speed trains are served at this station. It is on both the C-1 and C-2 Cercanias lines. Check out this Malaga Cercanias Map

    Malaga Centro - Alameda - Malaga's Central Train Station

    Malaga's new central station is the best place to catch the local train service, called Cercanias, meaning you don't need to go the main station for travel to the airport and along the Costa del Sol, but you'll still need to change in order to get to the in-land cities.

    • Where is it? Located in the city center on Avda. De La Aurora.
    • For Travel to: The airport and the Costa del Sol (as far as Fuengirola, including Benalmadena and Torremolinos). The train station is on both the C-1 and C-2 Cercanias lines. 

    Malaga Bus Station

    • Where is it? About a 10 minute walk to the city center on Paseo de los Tilos, next to the train station. 
    • For Travel to: This is the main bus station for Malaga - you can get all round Spain from here. Check times and buy tickets for buses in Spain here: Spain Bus Timetables and Tickets or visit the Malaga Bus Station website.

    Regional Bus and Train Stations

    Los Prados Train Station, Victoria Kent Train Station and Muelle De Heredia Bus Station are all small, local stations that are unlikely to interest most visitors to Malaga. Beware of a hotel that boasts of its proximity to any of these stations!

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  • 07 of 08

    When to Visit: Spring and Summer in Malaga and Andalusia

    Semana Santa in Malaga
    (c) Damian Corrigan

    Malaga enjoys the virtually year-round sun. In fact, it is the city with the most sunlight in Spain, meaning there's almost always a party atmosphere in the streets.

    Another plus to the weather is its location on the coast, which means it doesn't get as hot as, say, landlocked Seville.

    Having said that, there isn't beach weather all year round, so you'll probably want to miss out winter if you're looking to top up your tan. 

    See below for the big events going on in and around Malaga throughout the year.

    See also: When Is the Best Time to Visit Spain?

    March in Andalusia

    March

    Event: Old Music Festival 
    Where? Seville
    What? Baroque and classical music festival.

    April in Andalusia

    Event: Malaga de Festival
    Where? Malaga, Andalusia.
    What? Arts festival that acts as a kind of extended pre-festival to the Malaga film festival 

    Event: Semana Santa
    Where? All over Spain.
    What? Semana Santa completely dominates Spain in March, so no matter where you are, there'll be something to commemorate the Resurrection. See my Semana Santa to give you a flavor of what you may see on your travels. Seville and Toledo are popular places to experience Semana Santa. Read more: Semana Santa Cities

    Spring festival

    Where? Murcia, south-east Spain.
    What? Street festival because the Murcians refuse to let Easter die.

    Event: Festival de Malaga (Cine Español)
    Where? Malaga.
    What? Spanish-language film festival.

    Event: Cruces de Mayo
    Where? Cordoba, Andalusia.
    What? Cordoba has the first of its two festivals this month. This festival features a competition for the best-decorated patio. Also popular in Alicante and Granada. 

    May in Andalusia

    Event: South Pop Festival
    Where? Seville
    What? Alternative music festival

    EventSOS Festival
    Where? 
    Murcia.
    What?
     Alternative music festival with a focus on Spanish acts, though this year Phoenix will also perform.

    Two weeks after Easter

    Event: Feria de Sevilla 
    Where? Seville, in Andalusia.
    What? Food, drink, music and lots of dancing. Note: bullfighting for the event in 2012 was canceled due to lack of funds; this may occur again.

    Early- May Event: Spannabis
    Where? Malaga 
    What? Cannabis trade fair! Promotes the legal use of cannabis in Spain. See also: Is Cannabis Legal in Spain?

    Mid-May Event: Noche en Blanca

    Where? Malaga
    What? A night of cultural activities. Museums stay open later (and usually have free entry) and other festivities for night owls.

    Mid-May  Event: Open de Espana
    Where?  Varies 
    What? Golf tournament.

    Mid to Late May 
    Event: Jerez Horse Fair
    Where? Jerez in Andalusia.
    What? A celebration of the famous horses of Jerez. 

    May or June Event: Territorios Sevilla
    Where? Seville.
    What? World music festival.

    Late May Event: Cordoba Festival
    Where? Cordoba, Andalusia.
    What? General city festivities. There is also a bullfighting festival to coincide.

    Late May Event: Vinoble Wine Exhibition
    Where? Jerez in Andalusia.
    What? A celebration of sweet and dessert wines in Jerez, the home of sherry.

    Late May Event: Feria de la Manzanilla
    Where? Sanlucar de Barrameda, Andalusia.
    What? If you like your sherry, this should be up your street, as the locals drink vast quantities of their celebrated local alcoholic beverage!

    Late May or early June  (Weekend before Pentecost Monday - dates TBC)
    Event: Pilgrimage of the Virgen del Rocio
    Where? El Rocio, Andalusia.
    What? There are a number of religious pilgrimages in Spain, but this is one of the biggest.

    June in Andalusia

    Early June Event: International Sherry Week
    Where? Jerez.
    What?  A celebration of the fortified wine that was invented in Jerez.

    Mid-June  Event: Festival Circada
    Where?
     Seville.
    What? Circus Festival 

    Mid-June Event: Algeciras Fair 
    Where? Algeciras on the south coast.
    What? Local festivities

    Mid-JuneEvent: Noche en Blanca de Flamenco
    Where? Cordoba
    What? (Mostly) free flamenco concerts throughout the night.

    Late June-Early July Event: International Festival of Music and Dance
    Where? Granada
    What? A celebration of flamenco and classical music that attracts some excellent musicians.

    Late June Event: Fiesta del Agua y Jamon
    Where? Lanjarón, in the Alpujarras region near Granada
    What? Water and Ham Festival, the town's two most famous exports. The water festival is just an excuse for a giant water fight. Revelers from all over the country take to the streets with buckets and water pistols. Then they feast on locally-produced ham. A novel event that is worth a visit.

    Last Saturday in June (TBC) Event: Potaje Gitano
    Where? Utrera, Seville.
    What? Flamenco festival

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  • 08 of 08

    When to Visit: Autumn and Winter in Malaga and Andalusia

    Carnival celebrations in Cadiz
    Alcalaina/Creative Commons

    As the weather starts to cool down, you'll want to come no later than October if you want a good chance of sunbathing weather in Malaga. Here are the events to tempt you once the weather turns a little too chilly for bikinis.

    October in Andalusia

    Event Seville Guitar Festival
    Where? Seville
    What? Classical, jazz and flamenco music festival.

    Event Marbella Film Festival
    Where? 
    Marbella, Costa del Sol.
    What? Film festival.

    Third Sunday of October
    Event Romería de Nuestra Señora de Valme
    Where? Dos Hermanas, near Seville
    What? Religious pilgrimage.

    Event San Lucas festival
    Where? Jaen, near Granada.
    What? The olive growing capital of the world has its festival.

    Event Seville Guitar Festival
    Where? Seville, Andalusia
    What? Classical, jazz and flamenco music festival.

    Event San Pedro feria  
    Where? San Pedro, near Marbella, Costa del Sol
    What? Local festivities. Food and drinking in the streets. I lived in San Pedro for a time and attended this festival once. It is a lot of fun!

    Event Fuengirola Feria
    Where? Fuengirola, near Malaga
    What? Local festivities.

    November in Andalusia 

    Event Granada Jazz Festival
    Where? Granada
    What? Music festival.

    January in Andalusia


    Event: La Toma de Granada
    Where? Granada.
    What? A small celebration of when Ferdinand and Isabella marched into the city of Granada and the Moorish rulers surrendered.

    Late January or early February Event Flamenco Fashion Show
    Where? Seville.  
    What? See the latest designs in flamenco dresses.

    February in Andalusia

    (First Sunday of February) (TBC)
    Event San Cecilio festival
    Where? 
    Granada 
    What? A gypsy festival in the Sacromonte area of Granada. The whole city converges on the Sacromonte monastery where there is lots of partying and some flamenco performances. There is little online evidence of this festival and I have not attended it in person, so check locally before you get your hopes up!

    February 14
    Event: Valentine's Day
    Where? All over the world!
    What? Lovers go out for dinner and buy chocolates.

    Late February/Early March Event: Jerez Flamenco Festival
    Where? Jerez, in Andalusia.
    What? One of Spain's largest flamenco festivals. 

    Late February Event Seville Marathon
    Where? Seville
    What? It's a marathon, through the gorgeous streets of Seville.

    Week before Lent Event: Carnival
    Where? All over Spain. Click on the above link for more details. What? It's Carnival time! Spain's two main gay communities, Chueca in Madrid and Sitges near Barcelona , are the stars of the shows here. Cadiz and Tenerife also host famous processions.