Ooh Malaga Spain. Once renowned as a seedy tourist trap, full of drunk Brits on tour with a really bad tan, the capital of the Costa Del Sol holidays has transformed itself into one of the hottest cultural, arty and foodie port cities in Europe. And oh my, it is absolutely succeeding.
It’s beautifully hip and elegant; oozing creativity, historical magnificence, and some seriously good coffee and ham. If you’re landing at Malaga airport with Jet2 airlines, and skipping the city for the beach, you’re missing out.
Chisel some time out in your Spain itinerary and make this picturesque city break happen. There’s plenty of things to do in Malaga, and I’m going to give you my 10 secrets to the perfect one day in Malaga. Vamos!
My 10 Secrets to the Perfect One Day in Malaga
To fit everything awesome about Malaga into one day, I’m going to give you a bit of everything – just like a delightful plate of tapas. It’s going to involve walking, eating, drinking, gawping, photographing, shopping and a whole lot of art. For a last minute Malaga itinerary, let’s get to it!
1. Grab your morning coffee at Cafe Central
Weave your way through the beautiful narrow streets, gently glowing in the morning sun, to the sounds of a new day in Malaga. If you’re feeling a little ruffled and seeking some go-go juice for your exciting day ahead, I’ve got just the ticket. Head straight to Cafe Central, on the corner of Fuente de Génova square, to start your morning off with a ‘zing!’
The magic of ordering your coffee here is that the locals have their own unique and novel way of doing it. It all started here in the 50s after the war. Due to rations, the owner Don José Prado Crespo decided to serve 9 coffees in his establishment. Each has its own specific measurements of milk and coffee; made just to your liking.
Are you going to go for the full works with ‘Solo Tantum’ or back out completely with a ‘No Me Lo Ponga’ – a humourous way of ordering no coffee at all – it’s just a damn glass of frothy milk.
2. Gawp at the Catedral de la Encarnación de Málaga
3. See 285 works of Picasso at the Museo Picasso Málaga
What has made Malaga so successful this decade, is its sheer determination to become the compact, charming capital of art and culture. Rumour has it that they have invested 100 million euros into exquisite pieces in the last 10 years. You can certainly see it, with an impressive 30 museums filling its twists and turns through the narrow alleyways.
Best fact of the day: Picasso was born in Malaga. Some people may be surprised by that, instead mistaking him for being French(!) In 2003, Malaga was gifted with over 250 works of Picasso by his family, and since then, the Picasso Museum has been bringing the house down.
The actual building that hosts his works is remarkable within itself. When they were renovating it, they discovered a Roman fish factory, remnants of the old city wall and an even older palace. Cool huh?
What I must say about coming here however, which I highly encourage you to do, even if you’re not a Picasso fan, is grab a tour guide. Possibly the best tour guide I’ve ever had ever, had the knowledge, passion and insight to open up a whole new world to me through art. I’ve always loved it, but my guide really hurled me deep into Picasso. I was brought out the other end, questioning what art means to me and all of us, and how life, love and death is one hell of an amazing ride.
4. Gorge on Spanish food at Atarazanas market
Wandering what to do in Malaga next? With the insider local knowledge from Spain Food Sherpas, I was introduced to the best food I’ve ever eaten in my life (for reals). You know when you eat fish and it just tastes so…fishy? I was surprised to find this isn’t the case in Malaga. The fish here was cooked to perfection, so that it was just so…meaty!
Maybe I was just eating in the right places, but there literally is something in the water, and cooking, here. The locals know what they’re doing.
The malaga markets are a pure joy to explore, and there’s none better than the fantastically fresh Atarazanas market, also lovingly called ‘Mercado Central’ by the Malagueños . It’s a central hub of glorious food (Malaga wine, cheese, meats, fruit and veg), hosted within what was once a shipbuilding yard! It goes all the way back to the 14th century.
The stained windows make it extra lush to see, but popping those olives, melt-in-the-mouth octopus bits, goat’s milk cheese, strawberries and Galician beef in my mouth took my senses to the next level. Go with the experts to gorge on the best stalls, first time.
5. Take a stroll along Malaga’s port promenade
Strolling past the Alcazaba Roman Theatre, take your time to soak up more of the city delights as you work your way down to the Malaga port promenade. With the sun shining, it’s an awesome spot to soak up the sun, enjoy the blue waters and take in the greenery. It’s a break from the Malaga attractions and a time to digest everything you’ve seen so far.
6. Get your second dose of art at the Pompidou Centre
Can’t make it to Paris to the original George Pompidou Centre? No sweat. Malaga is the home to the only other one in the world; exhibiting the best in 20th century art. As you walk up the promenade, you can’t miss it.
That rainbow, pop-art box in front of you is the beacon for this underground collection of cutting-edge art pieces.
This site was originally going to be a supermarket; thankfully THAT never happened. Instead, at the time of my visit, I came upon some interesting sheep chairs, an unnerving set of deathly figures waiting for….something, and a delightful video installation of a woman playing the cello in the Austrian mountains.
My words aren’t doing this justice. Make time for this in your one day in Malaga, and you’ll certainly be entertained.
7. Go street art hunting in Soho
Still got some energy in you? There’s one more part of this city you need to see for the best art – the streets! And they’re in the ‘sexy’ part of town where all the adult shops are wahey.
Solo female travellers: don’t hesitate to come here. I found Malaga incredibly safe to walk around day and night. And if you love street art hunting like me, these striking ‘works’ are too good to miss.
Head to the Soho area and orientate your nose off the main street into the side ones. I’m not going to tell you where everything is, because there’s a joy in stumbling upon these things. And no doubt, they’ll be chopping and changing as I type!
8. Take an evening stroll and enjoy retail therapy
Malaga at night takes on a romantic, funky and truly European vibe. Make the most of it by wandering aimlessly and soaking up the culture as the sun goes down. There’s plenty of shopping opportunities to be had along the stunning fairy-lit Calle Marqués de Larios or for all of your needs under one roof, head to Spain’s adored department store, El Corte Ingles. If you want to bring something home as a souvenir, I recommend the olive oil, Malaga wine or the beautifully hand painted Andalusian ceramics.
9. Eat dinner and see a flamenco show at Bodega Bar El Pimpi
As you brush past the gigantic barrels adorned with celebrity’s autographs below their matching photographs, you’ll find yourself in El Pimpi. It’s an infamous buzzing restaurant with some of the best food and entertainment in town. It feels like a big fancy house party, with many rooms jutting off a maze of corridors; holding waiters whizzing back and forth with their endless plates of delicious dishes.
The menu has it all, with every dish lovingly prepared alongside a stream of highly enjoyable entertainment. As a larger-than-life senora sang from the bottom of her tapas-filled belly, with her afro hair jutting back and forth in front of a live band, the photographer of our group somehow managed to find himself up on stage with her. Hilarious really; as he had been sick all week and was coincidentally cajoled into crooning, ‘donde estan los bailarines’. She kept plying him with shots of something local and alcoholic. Lucky guy.
10. Fall into bed at Vincci Posada del Patio
If you’re wondering where to stay in Malaga. Vincci Hoteles are top notch and the adult only Vincci Posada del Patio, is right in the centre of the city. It’s perfect for all of your Malaga sightseeing needs. With glorious balcony views of the cutest and colourful Malaga city life (that you’ll be aching to post on Instagram), you will be very happy and well-cared for in this avant-garde haven.
They have an awesome complimentary breakfast, the comfiest beds and a bathtub (that I happily sat and soaked in till my toes were all crinkly). The WiFi is brilliant, the service impeccable and for all you bikini babes, there’s a small rooftop pool to chill out in too!
On a stricter or more luxurious budget? Discover more hotels in Malaga here.
What’s the best time to go to Malaga?
Costa Del Sol weather is really very lovely! I happily escaped to the cultural capital in January away from the snow in the UK. Yes, I was still wearing my jeans and jacket, but the sun was shining.
January is one of the quietest months here. It’s perfect for having the museums to yourself, and grabbing a bargain in the sales. Temperatures are around 17°C at this time.
October to February is a good time to come to Malaga if your intentions are to experience the architecture, museums and eat to your heart’s content.
March, April and May is mid-season with temperatures around 20°C. If you’re budget conscious, are happy with the sea being a bit chilly and do not mind the nightlife being a little quiet, this is a good time for you.
High season is June, July and August. This is the best time for the beach and nightlife to be in full swing in Malaga!
How to get to Malaga Spain
Jet2 fly to Malaga from many airports in the UK including London Stansted, numerous times a day. They have a 22kg luggage allowance: not bad at all! You can book flights, hotels or a whole package at Jet2 Holidays. Nice!
Have you been to Malaga? Has it changed since you’ve visited?
Full disclosure: This post was sponsored by Jet2 but opinions as always, are my own. A big thanks to Vista Costa Del Sol for accommodating me and showing me just how kickass Malaga is. I’ll be back!