How to Spend One Day in Malaga: the Highlights Tour

If you only have one day to spend in Malaga – here is the great news: you can see all the main highlights of the city without any rush!

Malaga is a great place as a day trip destination, or even worth as a stop-over if you’re passing through.

This itinerary is by no means super original as it focuses only on the main tourist attractions, but it’s written by a local expat with a lot of practical tips and insights you only get from someone living here.

With that in mind, let’s dive in!

When is the Best Time to Visit Malaga?

Malaga is a popular holiday destination, and it is extremely busy in the summer months.

It’s not just people coming here for a city or beach holidays, but also tourists who arrive in buses for day trips from other places in Costa del Sol.

Another thing that contributes to the overcrowding of the city is the cruiseliners that arrive at the port for excursions. If you get your timing wrong and get to the old town at the same time as the excursion arrives, it can really ruin the day for you – there are just too many people, you have to wait in line for all the sights and its impossible to find a place for lunch as the restaurants are all packed.

So when is the best time to visit?

As you would have guessed – in the shoulder season, or in the winter months. Malaga has over 300 sunny days per year, so you’re pretty much guaranteed a good weather day, unless you arrive in January / February when there are more rainy days.

Is One Day Enough to Explore Malaga?

One day is plenty of time to explore the highlights of Malaga.

Anything beyond that will give you a chance to have a beach holiday too and plan fun day trips around the city.

One Day Itinerary: The Highlights of Malaga

As I mentioned before, this one-day itinerary is really focusing just on the highlights, so you can explore them in peace without rushing from one place to the next one.

Here is a short overview of the one-day itinerary:

  1. Picasso Museum (1 hour)
  2. Malaga Cathedral (1 – 1.5 hours)
  3. Muelle Uno (1 – 1.5 hours)
  4. Gibralfaro Castle (1 hour)
  5. Alcazaba (1 hour)
  6. The Old Town (1 – 2 hours)

Morning: Picasso Museum, Malaga Cathedral & Muelle Uno

The best way to start exploring Malaga is to tick off the main attraction that tends to be the most crowded one – Picasso Museum.

From there, you can walk to the Cathedral in just a few minutes and check the inside tour, and also the rooftops if you happen to arrive on the scheduled tour.

Once you’re done with the visit, you can take a stroll from the edge of the old town towards the coastline, passing through the lush city park and arriving in Muelle Uno for a bit of sightseeing and lunch.

VISITING THE PICASSO MUSEUM

The time needed: 1 hour

Location:

The museum provides a good overview of his artistic career, but don’t expect to see his most famous (and expensive) creations here.

The museum’s collection consists of 44 paintings, 49 drawings, 40 graphics works, and sculptures. Some of these are on a loan or gifted by Christine Ruiz-Picasso.

While the art exhibited was truly spectacular, I was hoping to learn a bit more about Picasso’s life in general and his creative process, which was not the case.

There are general information notices at the entrance to each room that will tell you about the specific era (pictured below in the post), and each artwork had only a very brief description.

I felt like after visiting the museum I have seen some previously unknown art pieces of Picasso but learned very little about the artist himself. Which I think is a shame if you have such a beautiful building for use of exhibiting his work, but tell very little about his life, especially since he was born not far from where the museum is located.

The entry to the museum is 9 eur and you can also get guided tours or just use an audio guide.

READ MORE: Full Tour of Picasso Museum

Picasso Museum, Malaga
Picasso Museum, Malaga
Picasso Museum, Malaga

MALAGA CATHEDRAL AND ROOFTOPS

Time needed: 1 – 1.5 hours

Location:

Malaga Cathedral, known under the official name as Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación (Our Lady of Incarnation), is one of the most important landmarks in Malaga.

The cathedral dates back to 1530 and the last finishing touches were added in the 17th century. The cathedral remains incomplete and unfinished to this date. It is missing coping on the main facade and the south tower is completely unfinished too, which has earned the cathedral the nickname ‘La Manquita’ (one-armed).

The incomplete state of the cathedral is visible right away as you approach it – if you look up you will see some abandoned columns on one of the towers.

Now, if you have visited other big cities in Andalusia, you might find the inside of the Cathedral not as impressive as some of the other much bigger and older ones.

Nevertheless, if you do have time, venture inside to explore the gorgeous architecture. It’s also worth checking their website to see when you can get a tour of the rooftops too (they only run them a few times a day in scheduled times).

Entry to the cathedral starts from 6 euros per adult, and 10 euros if you want to see the rooftops too.

READ MORE: Malaga Cathedral – Full Tour

malaga cathedral, spain
malaga cathedral, spain
malaga cathedral

MUELLE UNO FOR WALK AND LUNCH

Muelle Uno (or the harbour area) tends to be one of the busiest in town, but it doesn’t take away from the experience.

Most of the restaurants here have a lovely view of the sea, and some are not even the tourist traps they may appear to be at first glance.

Combine sightseeing here with a delicious lunch – I recommend the Cambara Restaurant near the end of the promenade.

After lunch, it’s time to check out the rest of the highlights of Malaga.

READ MORE: Dining at Muelle Uno: Cambara Restaurant, Malaga

is Malaga worth visiting?
muelle uno

Afternoon: Gibralfaro Castle, Alcazaba & the Old Town

Once you finished your lunch in Muelle Uno, I would recommend getting a taxi from the main traffic junction at the end of the park.

The taxi from there to Gibralfaro castle will only cost a few euros, and trust me – you will be happy you did that instead of climbing up towards the castle from the city on foot.

Most people normally check the Alcazaba, as they are usually already in the old town, and then follow up with the steep climb on the path leading to the Gibralfaro Castle.

I think it’s much more pleasant to do it the other way round, especially in the summer, and save yourself a lot of sweat and tears. After you see the castle, you take the same path to Alcazaba, but the walk downhill is much more pleasant!

TOUR OF GIBRALFARO CASTLE

Time needed: 1 hour

Location:

Stretching on the top of the Gibralfaro hill, this 14th-century fortress is one of the most recognizable monuments of Malaga.

Even though the name suggests it’s a castle, in reality, it was a fortress built to house the troops protecting the Alcazaba under the foothill. So if you’re expecting beautifully decorated interiors and intricate courtyards, you will have to head elsewhere.

The castle has 8 different towers and two lines of walls, considered to be impregnable at that time. The walls and stairs are in great condition and serve as the perfect vantage point to capture some stunning city landscapes.

The Castillo is divided into two parts, the upper courtyard and the lower part which used to house the soldiers and horses.

To cut to the chase, there isn’t much to see inside the castle.

You will spend most of your time walking along the defence walls and enjoying the views. For the views alone, the entry price of 3.50 euros is well worth it.

READ MORE: Full tour of the Gibralfaro Castle

Castillo de Gibralfaro, Malaga
Castillo de Gibralfaro, Malaga
Castillo de Gibralfaro, Malaga

TOUR OF THE ALCAZABA & ROMAN THEATER

Time needed: 1 hour

Location:

According to the best available records, Alcazaba was built between 1057 and 1063 at the order of King of the Berber Taifa of Granada.

Since 1279 Malaga was a part of the Nasrid Kingdom and after the renovations that followed, Alcazaba acquired its typical Nasrid appearance, with architectural similarities to Alhambra in Granada (although not on such an epic scale).

It consists of outer defences walls and an inner palace in a typical style – with spacious courtyards decorated with blooming gardens, fountains and arched doorways.

Similar to the Gibralfaro Castle, Alcazaba also has a small cafe (a lot smaller than Gibralfaro) under a shaded pergola. There are also two small toilets right next to it.

The general ticket price is 3.50 euros if you’re visiting only Alcazaba if you’re continuing your visit to the Gibralfaro Castle, the combined ticket costs 5.50 euros.

The tickets cannot be purchased online, you can buy them directly at the entrance.

PS: The entry to the Alcazaba is free every Sunday, from 2pm till closing.

READ MORE: Full tour of the Alcazaba in Malaga

Alcazaba in Malaga
Alcazaba in Malaga
Alcazaba in Malaga

TOUR OF THE OLD TOWN

Time needed: 1 – 2 hours

The old town is probably the best place to explore in Malaga – in addition to the hidden treasures it hides, it’s also the perfect place to seek some shelter from the sun in the summer, and a refreshing cold drink!

Start exploring the area around the cathedral or the Picasso Museum – it’s utterly charming, and a very nice place to get lost indeed!

If you fancy a bit of shopping, head to Calle Marques de Larios and grab a coffee on the gorgeous square of Plaza Mercedes.

things to do in Malaga, Spain
Centre Pompidou, Malaga

I hope you enjoyed my recommendations for one day in Malaga.

Check the articles below for more inspiration and gorgeous places to see in the city.

Explore More in Malaga

Is Malaga Worth Visiting? All Your Questions Answered

Best Day Trips from Malaga by Bus: Travel Tips from a Local Expat

What to Do in Malaga? Best Travel Tips from a Local Expat

How to Get from Malaga to Granada: Your Detailed Transport Guide

Best Day Trips from Malaga by Train

13+ Brilliant Things to do in Malaga, Spain (Tips from a Local Expat)

Where is Malaga?

13+ Stunning Photography Locations in Malaga, Spain

Car Museum in Malaga: Fashion & Vintage Cars Under One Roof

2 thoughts on “How to Spend One Day in Malaga: the Highlights Tour”

  1. Great pics! We live nearby. Not my favorite city by any means but a nice place for a day – the highlight being the Moorish fortresses. I’m a big fan of Castillo de Gibralfaro, best way to escape the city below and enjoy the views over the Med.

    Reply

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