Is it possible to explore this Andalusian city in just a single day? For sure it is! You’ll miss out on some pretty interesting spots in the birthplace of Picasso, but you can definitely enjoy your 24 hours in Malaga. Read on to find out what to see and what to do in Malaga in one day and get ready for your crazy tapas & beach getaway.
Why do so many people travel to Malaga every year? What is so exciting about this Andalusian port? Well, Malaga offers just about everything any curious traveller could look for. The city is full of cultural spots, not least because one of the most famous painters of all time – Pablo Picasso – was born in Malaga.
Apart from that, this coastal town is home to many historical gems – let’s mention some of the most famous ones like the Cathedral, the Moorish Alcazaba palace and the Castillo. This place is suitable for people longing for lazy beach days, those who travel just to eat (yeah, I know a lot of those people), solo travellers who would like to meet cool new people and also fans of hiking!
All this and more is to be found in Malaga and the surrounding countryside. And this unique combination of Andalusian culture in a modern city vibe mixed with the Mediterranean Sea and beautiful nature makes Malaga a perfect destination for travellers. Moreover, it is really worth visiting this place even for just one day, or I should say, one night.
I’ve visited Malaga several times and each of those stays was only for a day or two. It’s definitely recommended to spend a few more days in this area, as you can easily travel to the lovely white villages or crystal-clear beaches which are nearby.
But if you don’t have time to spare, a one-day stopover in Malaga should give you enough time to see at least the main points of interest. This is exactly what happened on our ‘Mother & Daughter trip’ when I got to spend time there with the beautiful person who decided to give birth to the author of this travel blog!
Malaga is Great all over the Year
My mum visited me in December 2019, and we basically had just 2 nights to explore Malaga. In reality it was only one full day as we arrived late in the evening on Thursday and had to leave on quite early in the evening on Saturday. That gave us around 16 hours to enjoy one of the most popular towns in the whole of Spain.
Luckily for us the weather was great, and we made our day last as long as possible, so as to be able to visit everything on our ‘bucket list’. Yeah that’s right, you can get some sun in Malaga even a week before Christmas! Even though the weather in Andalusia can be pretty wild and unpredictable in the winter, there are many days which feel like Spring or Summer.
It is definitely one of the sunniest locations in Europe for a short winter break! And I’m talking too much again. Sorry folks, I know you just want to find out about the things to do in Malaga in one day. So here you go! If you like, you can follow our Mother & Daughter trip itinerary for yourself:
1. Cathedral & Old town
Start your day with a traditional Andalusian breakfast called pitufo – which is toasted bread like mollete (a soft round bread) topped with fresh tomato puree or butter with jamon, cheese or pate. If you don’t fancy this type of food in the morning, you may want to walk into one of the fancy cafes which are around just about every corner of the Old Town and select something international or hipster-ish, with plenty of vegan options available as well.
You can also visit the Malaga’s Market to enjoy a morning drink there. Walk around the tiny and busy streets filled with the aroma of churros and check out the monumental Cathedral of Malaga (Catedral de la Encarnación de Málaga
After you boost your energy with some ‘desayunos’ or even a super-early lunch called ‘merienda’ you should go and explore some more and take in the rich history of Malaga. As me and my mum had a slow start in the morning thanks to our tiredness (and laziness!) we skipped the Andalusian breakfast and went straight for a small tapas close to the Alcazaba.
Alcazaba is a Moorish palace-fortress which was built in the early 11th century, on top of older Roman ruins, by the Muslim dynasty of Hammudid.
It is located at the mount of Gibralfaro and it will give you a walk of at least an hour through its impressive ruins, during which you can enjoy a gorgeous view from above of the city of Malaga.
For opening hours and prices check out the official Andalucia page here. Me and my mum really enjoyed our unguided tour through the narrow paths and orange-scented alleyways, with spectacular panoramic views around every corner.
3. Castillo de Gibralfaro
Right after the Alcazaba, also on Mount Gibralfaro, there is a stunning castle which was built in the 14th century to protect the Alcazaba palace. You can get a ticket for this directly at the Castillo office or you can buy them together with the Alcazaba tickets to take advantage of a small discount. To get up to the castle you will have to climb up Mount Gibralfaro.
The Alcazaba and Castillo are not exactly next to each other, so if you bought the ticket for both, you have to first leave the Alcazaba, then walk down to the Paseo Don Juan Temboury and walk up again to reach a small pedestrian pathway which leads to the top of Gibralfaro hill.
Don’t worry, there are some amazing views along the way to make your journey less painful! The best spot to enjoy the port, the city and the beachside of Malaga is the Gibralfaro viewpoint and the highest wall of the Castillo.
4. Port of Malaga
I guess you’re already feeling a little tired at even the idea of that climb up the 130-metre-high hill, so the next suggestion for your ‘One day in Malaga’ itinerary is a relaxing Spanish lunch in the Port.
There are a few highly rated places where you can take lunch in Malaga’s port and watch the world go by. If you fancy seafood it is definitely the place to go! But don’t worry if you prefer to try some other options, as you will find plenty of different cuisines to enjoy from the many restaurants here.
Me and my mum had an incredibly tasty lunch in a place called Toro. They serve high-quality tapas dishes, as well as fresh seafood. And the view out over the navy-blue sea is included in the price!
After you get nicely stuffed with some amazing Spanish food – which is not very light, but definitely yummy – take a walk around the port and have a look at the city from another perspective. From there you can walk to Malaga’s most popular beach: Malagueta.
5. Malagueta Beach
On your way from the port to Malagueta stop at the corner to check La Farola, the faro (lighthouse) of Malaga. Take a break at the promenade, breathe in the fresh sea air and head west, where the long Malagueta beach invites its visitors to refresh their sweaty bodies!
As we visited Malaga in December and very much underestimated the winter temperatures over there, me and my mum didn’t try a swim this time. My mum just managed to soak her feet in the water, as she felt the need to touch every wave coming in her direction. Although she had to walk to the next destination of our One day in Malaga trip – Picasso’s Museum – the Malagueta made her very happy indeed.
She even told me that she regretted not taking her bathing suit as the water felt quite pleasant. (I still don’t believe her!) Yes, we got lovely sunny weather of 18 degrees, but I doubt that swimming in the waters of Malaga in December would be too pleasant at all.
6. Picasso Museum
To be honest, we had planned to get around Malaga a bit more than we managed in the end. We wanted to come back to the market, and to visit the busy shops at the famous shopping street of Malaga: Calle Marqués de Larios. But because my mom overdid her Mediterranean sea experience and let Malagueta’s waters seep into her shoes, we decided to quickly see the Picasso Museum before heading back to our Airbnb.
The museum offers you three types of tickets: You can visit only the collection of Picasso’s work, the current temporary exhibition only, or both together. We just had time for the first option, so we got to see Picasso’s journey as an artist from the very first landscapes he painted right up to his final cubist pieces.
Check out the official site before you head to the Picasso Museum and select the tickets which interest you the most.
7. Parks & Gardens
Whenever you need a little break from your scheduled activities, pay a visit to one of Malaga’s parks & gardens. The most well-known of these is Parque de Malaga which you can find next to the port at Paseo del Parque. Nearby is the Jardines de Pedro Luis Alonso, which is a small botanical garden known for ‘its roses & tranquil vibe, also featuring a lily pond & benches’.
…And Now It’s Some Time for Tapas!
What’s next? Well by now I bet you’re ready for dinner! There are dozens and dozens of restaurants in Malaga so you just need to select the type of the food you like the most. Do you fancy traditional tapas or do you prefer big meat & fish plates? Are you a vegetarian or vegan?
Find just the right spot to feed your tummy, as everything is available in Malaga! And don’t feel guilty if you want to enjoy the city in ‘tranquilo’ style!
That is what Andalusian people do, so if you want to spend your one day in Malaga in a calm and relaxed manner, just hang out in one of the parks, dine at a restaurant in the port or at any cafeteria, and sit, enjoy the sun, the scent of oranges and flowers and don’t think about anything but the relaxation you deserve!