A local's guide to Málaga, Spain

Author of Guide to Málaga Joanna Styles shares her insider knowledge on Málaga, to reveal a happening city that’s so much more than just a beach resort
A beautiful view over the city of Malaga, Spain
The view over Malaga and the ocean beyond

When should we plan our holiday to Málaga and why?

Málaga is one of those destinations where it really doesn’t matter when you visit. 320 days of sunshine annually and a full programme of events in the city guarantee great weather and things to do whatever time of year you choose to visit Málaga.

The busiest times are August when the Málaga Fair takes place – a week-long celebration billed as southern Spain’s biggest party; Christmas – Málaga’s lights are famed throughout Spain; and Holy Week when solemn processions fill the city streets attracting thousands of spectators.

If you like it quieter but warm enough to sunbathe, October, April and May are good bets. And if you want the city (almost) yourself, visit Málaga in the late autumn and winter time.

Where would you recommend we stay?

Málaga comes packed with hotels to suit all wallet capacities; talk to a local expert today to select a trip itinerary to suit your budget. If you want somewhere that’s good value and bang in the old quarter, try Hotel Itaca. Rooms are clean, well-equipped and there’s a rooftop pool too. If your holiday budget is a little higher, the new Room Mate Valeria  has a great location, funky design and lovely rooftop pool and terrace. And if you want to splurge, treat yourself to Hotel Posada del Patio , the only 5-star hotel in town. Don’t miss the medieval walls in the basement.

Where’s a great place to eat in Málaga?

There isn’t enough space here to list them all because Málaga has a wealth of bars and restaurants, again to suit all tastes and budgets. But here are some suggestions to start you off. If you’re looking for lunchtime tapas, head for one of the bars at Atarazanas Central Market for fish, seafood and vegetables at surprisingly good prices. For something a little more sophisticated, try Eboka in Calle Pedro de Toledo. This new food and wine bar offers interesting takes on traditional dishes – be sure to ask for the list of daily specials. And if you want to go really special, try José Carlos García Restaurante on Muelle Uno, the city’s only restaurant with a Michelin star.

Is there a must-try dish while we’re here?

Málaga is most famous for its fried fish such as anchovies, white bait and baby squid, and for grilled sardines. These are placed on a wooden skewer and grilled to perfection over wood fires on the beach. You can’t really go wrong at any of the beach restaurants in Málaga but I like La Farola on La Malagueta beach (first beach restaurant after the lighthouse) and Gutiérrez Playa on La Misericordia beach. If you fancy a seafront stroll, walk east from La Malagueta to the Pedregalejo and El Palo fishing districts for a feast of fish at one of the many beach bars here.

Sardines grilled over an open fire on the beach are a must-try while you're in Málaga. Sardines grilled over an open fire on the beach are a must-try while you're in Málaga. Photo: Grisha Bruev / Shutterstock

Is there an ‘unmissable’ experience while we’re there too?

I love views so for me one of the unmissable things to do in Málaga is to take in the city from up high. In the day, walk up to the Gibralfaro Castle (if you can’t face the steep climb take the No 35 bus from the city centre) and view the city, mountains and Mediterranean as you walk all the way around the castle walls. 

If you want a night time vista, add a guided tour of the cathedral rooftops to your Andalucia Explored itinerary with Insight Guides  or for something more sedate and without the steps, take the lift to the roof terrace at Hotel AC Palacio. On the 13th floor, it’s the highest spot in the city centre and has lovely views of most of Málaga.

Where is the most romantic spot?

If you don’t mind sharing your romantic moment with others, a night time cocktail on any of the hotel roof terraces (Hotel AC Palacio, Room Mate Valeria, Hotel Molina Larios…) is pretty hard to beat. For a more intimate experience, head for Hammam Al Andalus Málaga. These perfectly restored Moorish baths in the centre of the old quarter offer relaxing soaks and massages in truly romantic surroundings.

Where can we hang out with locals?

Although tourism is big in Málaga it’s still very much a local’s city. And the Malagueños are famed for their friendliness so you can expect a warm welcome wherever you go. To get away from other tourists, head for the back streets in the old quarter or make your way along the seafront (in either direction) to experience Málaga like a local.

Do you have any additional insider tips?

If you’re on a day trip to Málaga, check beforehand how many cruises ships are in town. Málaga is a popular cruise destination and sometimes several dock on the same day meaning the city gets very packed. The Málaga Port website gives information on who’s in town when. 

And be careful when crossing the road – even if the pedestrian light is green to cross, make sure the traffic has stopped because drivers regularly jump red lights.

What souvenir should we bring home from our trip?

Personally, I’d take home a bottle of Málaga wine. Choose from sweet dessert wine such as Pedro Ximénez or a sparkling wine such as Botani. La Mallorquina on Plaza Féliz Sáenz and Almacén del Indiano on Calle Cisneros have a good selection of local wines plus a great choice of other Málaga produce such as olive oil, cheese and cured meats.

If you’re travelling hand luggage only, then buy a silver Málaga biznaga flower. The real version is made with jasmine flowers and one of the city’s icons. This scented souvenir only lasts an evening but several jewellery shops in Málaga sell biznaga-themed brooches, pendants and earrings.

Joanna Styles is a freelance journalist and copywriter based in Málaga, a city she is more than happy to call home. Joanna is the author of The 5 Best of Everything in Málaga, a guide to Malaga with over 240 listings, all bang up-to-date and mapped, to help you make the most of your visit to the city.

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