Complete One Day in Málaga Itinerary: What to See and Eat
Although Málaga is the sixth largest city in Spain, its most popular attractions can be seen in one day. This is because they’re all located in or around the city’s historic center, making it easy to reach all your destinations by foot. It’s also well connected to other cities. So if you’re short on time, you can take a day trip to Málaga or stop for one night on your way to your next stop.
I really loved the two days I spent in Málaga, and unfortunately, I left without seeing everything it has to offer. For that reason, I think Málaga is worth at least two or three days. However, spending one day here is better than skipping it.
Here’s your complete Málaga itinerary to see the best of the city in one day, including recommendations on where to eat. And if you find yourself not wanting to leave, that’s a reason to extend your stay or come back in the future.
- Grab coffee and a bite to eat
- Swing by the Roman Theatre
- Explore the Alcazaba
- Climb the mountain to Gibralfaro Castle
- Lunch at Atarazanas Market
- Discover Picasso's early artwork at the Picasso Museum Málaga
- Head to the beach, walk around the historic center, or visit another art museum
- Get an afternoon drink or snack
- Enjoy sunset from high up or by the water
- End your day with a delicious dinner
- More resources for traveling Spain
Grab coffee and a bite to eat
Start your day with a coffee and light breakfast, just like the Spanish do. Every travel blog recommends Casa Aranda, which has been “serving coffees, churros and chocolate since 1932 in the heart of Malaga.” Although they serve much more than that, these three items are what Casa Aranda is known for. It’s a popular spot with both locals and tourists, and it has indoor and outdoor seating. If you haven’t had churros and chocolate in Spain yet, you should absolutely visit.
But if you’ve already tried it and prefer having more savory options, head to Next Level Specialty Coffee – a small café on a quiet side street near the edge of Málaga’s historic center. They serve delicious coffee, yogurt bowls, and toasts. There were only a few people sitting inside when I went on a weekday morning. Service is quick, and most people seem to stop for a coffee and go.
Swing by the Roman Theatre
Built as far back as the first century and only discovered in the mid-twentieth century, the Málaga Roman Theatre (Teatro Romano de Málaga) is a surprisingly well preserved example of Roman design. You can go in for free or see the theater from the sidewalk. Since there’s not much else to see beyond the theater itself, stop by for a quick visit on your way to the Alcazaba, which is next to it.
Explore the Alcazaba
Overlooking the Roman Theatre is the Alcazaba, a fortress that shows off the gorgeous architecture of the Nasrid period. The Alcazaba was once decorated from head to toe with ceramics and plasterwork, and you can still see some of that beautiful artwork today.
When you buy your ticket for the Alcazaba, make sure you choose the joint ticket that also gives you admission to Gibralfaro Castle. The castle will be your next stop, and buying a ticket for both saves you a couple euros.
The Alcazaba is a beautiful place to walk around and take photos. If you want more information about its history and architecture, there’s a free audio guide that you can pull up on your phone.
Climb the mountain to Gibralfaro Castle
From the Alcazaba, prepare to go uphill as you ascend Mount Gibralfaro to reach the castle at the top. Gibralfaro Castle (Castillo de Gibralfaro) is a double-walled castle and fortress that was built in 1340 AD to improve the city’s defense. It reinforced Málaga’s one weak point – the mountain.
It’s a steep walk up, but the views get better and better as you get higher. Once you get inside, make sure to walk along the castle walls for sweeping views of the city and coast.
There aren’t many placards throughout the castle that explain what you’re seeing and experiencing. But like the Alcazaba, there is a free audio guide that you can access on your phone to learn more.
Lunch at Atarazanas Market
Atarazanas Market (Mercado Central de Atarazanas) is the food market in Málaga. But before it was a market, it lived several lives as a shipyard, warehouse, arsenal, military hospital, and barracks. Its arch gateway has been preserved, and an enormous, colorful stained glass window hangs above its entrance. Inside, you’ll find lots of fresh produce, meat, and seafood.
For lunch, walk up to any of the small bars in the market for drinks and small plates. Look out for pescaíto frito, which is Andalusian fried fish. You can also assemble your own lunch by buying bread, cheese, meat, and olives from vendors. It’s a simple yet exceptional lunch, due to the high quality of each item.
Note that the market is open Monday through Saturday, from 8 AM to 3 PM. Some vendors close up as soon as they sell out or around 2 PM, so it’s best to get there on the earlier side.
Other lunch options
If you’re not feeling like having lunch at any of the stalls in Atarazanas Market, you don’t have to go far for more options. There are lots of great restaurants in and around the historic city center.
Perro Viejo is less than a 10-minute walk from the market. It’s a bright and airy restaurant that, despite feeling upscale, serves an affordable menu featuring classic Spanish dishes and a few fusion surprises. The way to eat here is to share everything.
For a lunch that’s quick and budget-friendly, Spago’s is a tiny, no-frills restaurant that serves fresh pasta and an amazing tiramisu. The menu is simple. Choose your pasta and your sauce – that’s it. Every dish is 8€ or less. However, the portion size isn’t very large, so you might need to order seconds.
Discover Picasso’s early artwork at the Picasso Museum Málaga
You can’t visit the city where Pablo Picasso was born and not go to the Picasso Museum Málaga (Museo Picasso). This is the last must-see today. Afterwards, I’ve suggested some other highlights so you can pick your own adventure for the rest of this one-day itinerary.
Most of us know Picasso as the famous painter of Guernica, Girl Before A Mirror, and Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. But he was also a sculptor, ceramicist, and printmaker. While you’ll see some of his most well-known pieces in the Picasso Museum Málaga, it’s also a unique opportunity to see his early and lesser known work.
You can walk up and buy tickets, but since this is one of the most touristed attractions in the city and they limit the number of visitors inside, there’s usually a line to get in. Instead, skip the line by buying your ticket online in advance.
Head to the beach, walk around the historic center, or visit another art museum
Málaga is a part of the Costa del Sol, the region in southern Spain that’s known for its sunshine and beaches. Because of that, it feels like a missed opportunity if you don’t spend some time on a beach while you’re here. Being on the coast, Málaga has plenty of beaches that are a short walk or bus ride away. The beach that’s most accessible from the city center is Malagueta Beach (Playa de la Malagueta), which is a 24-minute walk from the Picasso Museum.
While you’ve spent all of your time in the historic center (Centro Histórico) so far, you’ve been shuffling from one attraction to another and haven’t truly seen it. The center is a beautiful place to wander around and get lost, with lots of cute shops and lively restaurants. Pick up some souvenirs or visit the Málaga Cathedral (Catedral de Málaga).
If you’re an art lover or want to take in more of the incredible art available in Málaga, there are several more art museums to check out. In particular, there are lots of contemporary art museums to choose from: Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga (CAC Málaga), Carmen Thyssen Museum Málaga (Museo Carmen Thyssen Málaga), and Centre Pompidou Málaga.
Get an afternoon drink or snack
Málaga isn’t just the birthplace of Pablo Picasso – it’s also where the famous actor Antonio Banderas was born. He owns property in the city, continues to live there, and is involved in local life. One example is El Pimpi, which is a restaurant and wine cellar that’s partially owned by Banderas. The food is just alright, so while I don’t recommend dining there, it’s a fun place to grab a drink and be able to say you visited Banderas’s restaurant.
Conveniently across the street from El Pimpi is La Tarta de la Madre de Cris. The popular cake shop grew from a small family business in Granada, and it’s best known for its cheesecake. Although it serves other types of cakes, like carrot cake and chocolate cake, you have to go for the original plain cheesecake (tarta de queso).
For another type of sweet treat, Casa Mira is around the corner from La Tarta de la Madre de Cris. Casa Mira is an iconic ice cream store that’s been around since 1890. Although Casa Mira actually started out selling turrón, an European nougat made with honey, sugar, egg white, and nuts, its ice cream has become one of the best in Málaga. You can sample their flavors before choosing, so be sure to try the turrón ice cream.
Enjoy sunset from high up or by the water
Being on the coast, Málaga has gorgeous sunsets. As the day winds down, you’ll want to park yourself somewhere for the view. Two places that are easy to get to and close to the city center are Mirador de Gibralfaro and Muelle Uno.
Mirador de Gibralfaro is a viewpoint on the way up to Gibralfaro Castle. Even though you previously passed it when walking up to the castle, it’s worth hiking up to again because it really gives you some of the best views of the coastline.
If you prefer not to climb the mountain again (and I don’t blame you), Muelle Uno is the waterfront promenade next to Playa de la Malagueta. It’s lovely to walk along at sunset, and you can always stop for a drink at one of the restaurants off the promenade.
End your day with a delicious dinner
To cap off your day in Málaga, enjoy dinner at one of the city’s many amazing restaurants. Here’s a selection of some of the best places serving Spanish food and international cuisine.
Restaurants serving Spanish cuisine
La Casa del Perro specializes in natural wines and serves Spanish dishes made from the highest quality ingredients.
Gloria Hoyos is a tapas bar and restaurant where it’s best to order multiple dishes and share. But if you’re not in a sharing mood, go for one of their burgers.
Uvedoble Taberna is a nice tapas restaurant that’s less laidback than Gloria Hoyos. With a slightly higher price tag comes more creative tapas, like suckling pig brioche and ravioli in gazpachuelo (a creamy fish soup originating from Málaga).
Lastly, Anyway Wine Bar is an excellent wine bar off of Muelle Uno. They mainly serve artisanal cheeses and Iberian ham, but there’s a small menu of special dishes and desserts too.
Restaurants serving international cuisine
For something besides Spanish food, Curry-Ya! Málaga is a Japanese curry house that serves traditional dishes, like okonomiyaki (a Japanese pancake with cabbage, meat, and seafood) and breaded chicken or pork with curry, and inventive creations, like the curry-to (a curry burrito).
Dynamit was started by a Swedish duo who wanted to create something different with Spanish produce – “a second living room with non-pretentious food.” At Dynamit, you’ll find a focused menu that celebrates fresh ingredients, fantastic service, and a warm and welcoming atmosphere.
Head to Black Label Urban Grill if you’re craving a solid burger. Not only do they have some of the best burgers in the city, but their large menu also offers nachos, chicken sandwiches, and dessert.
More resources for traveling Spain
- How to Get to Málaga From Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, Valencia, and Granada
- Málaga Solo Travel Guide: Best Hostels, What to Do, & More
- 8 Best Hostels I Stayed at in Spain
- Perfect One Day in Bilbao Itinerary: What to See, Do, and Eat