The list of reasons to visit Málaga, Spain, is as long as your proverbial arm, but it’s not hard to pinpoint the three most compelling arguments. First, with over 300 days of sunshine each year, you’re guaranteed a strong dose of Vitamin D—whenever you choose to visit.
Second, the high-quality food and drink is enough to spoil anyone, from gastronomes to those new to Spanish cuisine. A glass of wine for three Euros? Seafood fished in the morning, just down the road? Yes, please!
Finally, although Málaga boasts the regional airport for the Costa del Sol, most visitors land and hightail it to nearby resorts. This means Málaga is primarily the domain of domestic tourists and locals, providing you a more authentic experience.
Already searching for tickets? Good. Read on to discover how to make the most of the city, even if all you have is a weekend.
First, select a strategic home base…
First things first: If you’ve only got 48 hours, staying close to the action is key. One option is the AC Hotel Palacio Málaga. Not only is it walking distance to the beach, but it’s also literally steps away from the Málaga Cathedral. The 203-room hotel was recently renovated so expect new, if simple and sleek, fixtures.
Upon arrival, make a beeline for the Atarazanas Market. This central market is filled with fresh produce, meats and seafood for sale—but the best part is the food stalls. Stop by the Bar Marisqueria El Yerno, a restaurant that specializes in seafood. You’ll be spoiled for choice but the smart money is on eating at least one of the giant gambas rojas, or “red shrimp,” that have a lobster-like quality with their succulent, plump meat. To help you digest, visit any of the market stalls for a glass of Málaga Virgen, a local sweet wine made for sipping in the sun.
After fueling up, you’ll be prepared to tour the Alcazaba, a palatial fortress built in the 11th century with gorgeous Moorish-influenced architecture and sweeping vistas. The really ambitious can also take a 15-minute walk uphill to the connected Gibralfaro castle, boasting more panoramic views of the city.
You could also visit Málaga Cathedral, with its intricately carved choir stalls and two organs featuring more than 4,000 pipes. If shopping is on your agenda—especially picking up high-quality, affordable shoes in a country known for them—remember to go on Saturday as most stores close on Sunday.
Once finished with the day’s sightseeing, get a pre-dinner drink and nibbles at El Pimpi, an institution frequented by tourists and Malagueños alike. You could sip wine in the iconic barrel room but, given the prolific sunshine in Málaga, I’d highly recommend a table outside on one of their three patios. Perfect for people-watching.
Nighttime is when Málaga really comes alive. Do as the locals and make a booking at Meson de Cervantes for dinner to start the evening. This cozy restaurant is known for modern twists on the classics. These include blood sausage with sweet potatoes and the most perfectly runny quail’s egg, and flamenquines, or serrano ham wrapped in pieces of pork loin, breaded and deep-fried.
Finish off the day by taking in some Andalusian culture at an intimate flamenco show. Try Kelipe Centro de Arte Flamenco. This dance company and school has only a handful of tables so every seat is a great one from which to enjoy the pulsating dances and classical Spanish guitar.
You’ve front-loaded your sightseeing so sleep in a bit and then do as the Malagueños do: Take a long stroll. Head to the Paseo del Muelle Uno, a palm-lined promenade that runs along the Port of Málaga. On Sundays a market pops up with local artisans, perfect for those souvenirs you’d like to take home for yourself or loved ones.
As you pass further east, you’ll come across La Farola, or the lighthouse, built in 1817. A few minutes later you’ll arrive at La Malagueta beach with Chiringuito La Farola, an eatery perfect for feasting on freshly grilled seafood, complete with an oceanfront view.
Another attraction to visit is the Picasso Museum. You may not know that Málaga was the birthplace of Pablo Picasso but the museum does a fine job of paying homage to the local boy. The permanent collection takes visitors through Picasso’s exploration of multiple styles and themes, from cubism to portraiture.
As the light starts to fade, round out your adventure by savoring a drink at Atico, the 15th-floor rooftop bar at the AC Málaga Palacio Hotel. With its 270-degree view of the city, the terrace is a prime location for watching the sunset—and toasting your ingenious decision to pay Málaga a visit.
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