Visit Málaga, on the Andalusian Costa del Sol, for its scenic beaches and landscapes, century-old castle structures and stylish port with great restaurants. There is plenty of history, sun and sightseeing waiting to be enjoyed – here are 14 things to get you started.
The white stonework of the Neo-Gothic Iglesia del Sagrado Corazón, built in 1920, glows in the Spanish sunshine – and even more so when it’s floodlit by night. Marvel at its tall spires, intricate archway entrance and stained-glass windows, with your camera in tow. It’s only a 2-minute walk from the main cathedral, but tucked away, making it a real hidden gem of Málaga.
History buff? Head to the Iglesia de San Juan Bautista on Calle San Juan, for its striking religious architecture. The original church, built in a Gothic-Mudejár style, dates back to 1487; it was remodelled many times over the centuries, including during the Baroque period, evident in some of its details. The tower was added in the 15th century, while the sacristy was built in 1789. It is an incredible place to visit and a chance to enjoy a mishmash of architectural styles.
Port of Málaga, only a few minutes from the city centre, is a glamorous seaport with restaurants, bars and fashion boutiques. Although it is one of the oldest ports in the Med, it boasts a distinctively modern feel, with superyachts docked in the harbour and high-rise buildings towering over the palm tree-lined promenade. The best way to enjoy it? Watching the world go by with a cocktail in-hand.
Castillo de Gibralfaro, on Gibralfaro hill, overlooking Málaga city, is a Moorish palace that dates back to the 10th century. The castle, which is renowned for a three-month siege by Catholic monarchs, has been mostly restored and today also features a military museum. It can be reached by bus or foot, but it is well worth making the steep climb to enjoy the scenic view of the city. You can also get to Gibralfaro via the scenic walkway of Paseo Don Juan de Temboury, south of the Alcazaba.
Hiking through the Chíllar River to the Caves of Nerja offers some of the most stunning scenes in the region – it is an absolute must for outdoor enthusiasts. A pair of solid trainers is essential for your walk (or wade) through the mostly ankle-deep waters. The trek takes 4–6 hours to complete and leads through narrow cave walls and pebbled river beds. On arrival at Nerja, you’ll welcome cooling off in the water basin.
The Cathedral of Málaga, in the historic centre of Málaga, is one of the most important architectural structures in this port city. It was designed in the Renaissance style by Diego de Siloe, with a Baroque façade and frescos on the walls inside, and constructed between 1528 and 1782. A lack of funds meant only the north tower was completed, but the cathedral is still considered one of the most impressive throughout the region.
Artist Pablo Picasso is from Málaga, and today you can discover some of his works, from the late 19th century through to his death in 1973, at the Museo Picasso Málaga in Buenavista Palace. Located in the centre of the old town, it is close to the Plaza de la Merced, where Picasso was born. Some 230 artworks offer insight into his style, while there are also changing contemporary exhibitions.
It is estimated that this Roman theatre, at the foot of the Alcazaba, in the southern part of Málaga, was constructed under the dominion of Augustus in the first century CE. It remained in use until the third century, when it was converted into a source for building material by Arab conquerors. At the time of its construction, Málaga represented one of the most important cities in the region, and the theatre itself is a historical reminder of the Roman imperium.
El Pedregalejo, home to Playa Pedregalejo, one of the best beaches in Málaga, is a 30-minute walk from the town centre. Spend the day relaxing on the 1.2km-long (0.7mi) beach, before tucking into local seafood at one of its many restaurants and dancing the night away at one of the clubs.
This botanical garden, spread out over 25,000 square meters (269,100sqft), is located just outside of the city centre and can be reached within half an hour by bus. It was constructed in 1850 by an aristocratic couple and, today, boasts more than 2000 different plant varieties from Europe, America, Asia, Africa and Oceania, as well as a huge variety of bird species.
Alcazaba, at the foot of Gibralfaro hill, is Málaga’s most iconic landmark and the best-preserved Moorish fortress palace in Spain. It was constructed by the Hammudid dynasty in the early 11th century and later captured by Ferdinand and Isabel, after the siege of Málaga in 1487. It is renowned for some of the most important Muslim works in Spain today, as well as its caliphal arch work. Reach it by foot or bus, and head there early to avoid the midday heat.
Kim Gregory contributed additional reporting to this article.