Top 5 alternative things to do in Málaga

Málaga is the gateway to the Costa del Sol, but the city is much more than just a touristic stepping stone. The birthplace of Picasso is home to a host of excellent art museums and the burgeoning Soho waterfront area, as well as natural attractions. Here is our pick of alternative things to do in Málaga.
Traditional jábega boats are still built in Málaga today. Photo: Pabkov/Shutterstock
Traditional jábega boats are still built in Málaga today. Photo: Pabkov/Shutterstock

1. Explore cool, contemporary street art

Since the CAC Málaga opened in 2003, Málaga has been synonymous with street art, particularly in the waterfront Soho district. Giant murals decorate facades throughout this up-and-coming area where you can also find some of the city's best craft beer bars, fusion restaurants and hip cafés. While many of the murals are obvious, a little effort is required to discover others. And don’t forget to look up as well as down – some of the best are painted ten storys up.

Top tip: Although not as well as known as Soho, the Lagunillas neighborhood to the north of Plaza de la Merced is another great district for street art in Málaga. Check out the latest artworks on display in the area around Calle Lagunillas and Calle Vital Aza.

Coulourful streets in the Lagunillas disctrict, Málaga.

Colorful streets in the Lagunillas disctrict, Málaga. Photo: Nancy van den Ende/Shutterstock

2. Marvel at the city's Vertical Garden

Vertical gardens are relatively new to Spain, but you can see one of the most creative in Málaga. Divided into two – leafy ferns form a colorful mosaic on the top while dozens of words punctuate the steel wall underneath – the colors on the wall evolve throughout the day, depending on the light, so it’s always a surprise to see. To find it you need to head off the beaten track: make your way to Calle Andrés Pérez and follow Calle Pozos Dulces until a sharp bend brings you to the vertical garden.

Top tip: Grab a bite to eat in Calle Andrés Pérez, where you will find a range of venues to suit all tastes. Vegetariano El Calafate (on the corner opposite Calle Pozos Dulces) is a great spot for hearty, homemade vegetarian dishes. 

3. Escape the city bustle in an unlikely location... 

Getting away from the crowds and noise in a busy city can be difficult, but one of the best places to do it in Málaga is at the English Cemetery. Wait, hear me out on this one. Built in 1831 as a final resting place for non-Catholics (who were previously buried at the beach), the cemetery has a fascinating history as well as some illustrious residents including the British Hispanist and writer Gerald Brenan and Spanish poet Jorge Guillén. It is also an oasis of peace and quiet.

Top tip: After your visit, head south to Playa la Malagueta for a lunch or dinner of fresh fish at one of the laid-back beach bars, the perfect complement to one of the best alternative things to do in Málaga.

Playa la Malagueta, Málaga

Playa la Malagueta, Málaga. Photo: Jose Andel Astor Rocha/Shutterstock

4. Tour a working shipyard

Málaga Port is home to one of Spain’s oldest working traditional shipyards. On guided tours at Astilleros Nereo, you can see the construction of a traditional jábega boat (first used for fishing by the Phoenicians in the 8th century BC), and a replica of the ship used by American independence fighters, as well as other handmade boats.

Top tip: Time your visit towards the end of the day so afterwards you can watch the sunset at nearby Los Baños del Carmen, a bar and restaurant with sweeping views of Málaga Bay.

5. Visit the Rio Guadalhorce Nature Reserve

Sandwiched between a residential area and Málaga-Costa del Sol Airport is the Rio Guadalhorce Nature Reserve. The river and lagoons provide the perfect habitat for numerous coastal migratory birds, and a haven for birdwatchers. Depending on the time of year, you can see cranes, spoonbills, ducks and herons, as well as the reserve’s resident osprey and flamingos. And, even if you’re not especially interested in birds, the nature reserve is a lovely spot for a peaceful walk.

Top tip: Get to the nature reserve by bike by cycling west along the seafront or take the number 5 bus from the Alameda Principal.

Rio Guadalhorce at dawnDawn at Rio Guadalhorce, Málaga. Photo: David Salcedo / Shutterstock 

Ready to take a trip to Málaga?

Insight Guides can help you plan and book fantastic trips to Málaga and other cities in Spain. Simply get in touch with us to share your ideas for the trip and let us know when you would like to travel. Local travel experts will then create a personalized itinerary especially, which you can amend until it's exactly how you want it before booking. Browse our existing itineraries for inspiration, and keep in mind that they can all be fully tailored to suit your needs.

Check out the Guide to Malaga for dozens of up-to-date and mapped events listings to help make the most of your visit to the city.  

Updated 20 February, 2020