If you’re looking for a quick answer from a local expert, you have come to the right place!
I am a local resident in Costa del Sol, and have been living near Malaga and Torremolinos (in Fuengirola) since 2020.
I spent a lot of time in both cities, for a weekend break, a day trip, or an extended stay. I know both cities inside and out, and I covered most of the attractions they offer.
That means that this article will give you lots of local insights and practical tips you won’t be able to get from someone who doesn’t live in the area.
Let’s skip to the chase, as you probably want your answer right away!
Torremolinos vs Malaga: Which is Better?
This is a pretty easy answer: MALAGA gets my vote each time.
You can find out all the reasons by reading the article, but if I had to sum it up, I would say that Torremolinos cannot compete with Malaga in many respects.
Be it the availability of experiences, quality of restaurants, historical sights, things to do (families or couples), and many other things that make your trip so much more fun.
The only time I would recommend staying in Torremolinos instead of Malaga is if you’re on a very tight budget and traveling with a family. Torremolinos has a lot of all-inclusive cheap resorts right next to the seaside, so you’re more likely to get better value for your money there.
Another strong reason you might consider Torremolinos instead of Malaga is the availability of beaches. Those in Torremolinos are much more spacious and vast than Malaga, and they don’t fill up as fast as the relatively small urban beaches in Malaga.
In the sections below, you will find detailed comparisons on different trip aspects.
Torremolinos vs Malaga: City Overview
What does Torremolinos feel like? How is life in Malaga?
This section will give you a quick glance view of each city.
Malaga: The Sunny Capital of Costa del Sol
Malaga is only 10 minutes away from the airport, making it a convenient location for travelers who want to explore beyond the city.
It is a modern cosmopolitan city with an exciting culinary scene and vibrant nightlife. It’s a great city for young people, families or couples looking for a romantic break.
Even though Malaga is a big city, it does have a good availability of sandy beaches so you can enjoy the Mediterranean Sea without leaving the town. Malaga is a trendy destination for the summer months, and it gets very crowded due to the cruise ships docking in the port with day excursions to the city.
Malaga has a fascinating rich history as evidenced by the beautiful well, persevering historic sights. There are plenty of museums to keep the culture vultures busy and lots of family-friendly activities for the little visitors.
In Malaga, you will also find a broader range of accommodation options, whether you’re looking for a luxury five-star resort or a cheap stay for a few days.
Torremolinos: The Gay Capital of Costa del Sol
Torremolinos rose to popularity in the 70s when the city started developing the coastline areas, and cheap hotels emerged everywhere. I have very fond memories of Torremolinos as my very first beach holiday was just here.
Torremolinos has rebranded itself in recent years as the ‘Gay capital of Costa del Sol’ and I can confirm that if you stroll in the city in the summer, you feel like you’ve just entered a Pride parade that lasts for months.
Torremolinos las a long stretch of sandy beaches lined with restaurants and shops on the other side of the road. The old town is up on the hill; unfortunately, I don’t have much nice to say about it.
The whole city feels like urban planning has gone wild.
There are old unkept buildings sandwiched between modern developments, crumbling balconies on old apartment blocks, uneven roads full of holes, benches painted last time in the 80s and a very high concentration of old hotels.
I would not usually notice these things, but as I live in Fuengirola, I can see how wildly different the cities are. Torremolinos makes a lot of money from tourism, yet none seems to have been invested into keeping the city clean and well-maintained.
I think of Torremolinos as a cheap all-inclusive hotel stay place. Most of the hotels in the city are very old and have never been adequately refurbished, so if you want to take a time machine to the 80s, this would be your place to stay.
I spent a lot of time trying to get to know and like Torremolinos, but I’m yet to find something worth praising.
Torremolinos vs Malaga: Activities
When you’re considering where to stay, one of the first things you might want to explore is what is there to do. The short answer: there are much better activities and experiences available in Malaga.
Check out the full list below!
Things to do in Torremolinos
- Visit Molino de Inca Botanical Garden
- Take a stroll in Battery Park
- Spend a day by the sea
- Visit Casa de los Navajas
- Plan a day trip to Malaga by train or bus
Things to do in Malaga
- visit Gibralfaro castle and enjoy stunning views of the Bay of Malaga
- visit the Picasso Museum and the birth home of the famous painter
- marvel at the beauty of the ancient Alcazaba and the Roman Amphitheater
- enjoy a day at the sandy beaches and grab lunch in a local restaurant
- get lost in the streets of the old town and book a walking tour
- indulge in some retail therapy at Calle Larios
- visit the local Cars & Fashion Museum
- book a cruise from Malaga harbour
- visit the 100 year old botanical gardens of Malaga
- enjoy a tapas dinner in the charming old town with beautiful views
- discover the city’s interesting history as part of bike or e-bike tour
- explore Andalusian cruising by booking a food or tapas tour!
Torremolinos vs Malaga: Location
In terms of location, you get much better chances to explore more of Andalusia if you choose Malaga as your base.
Malaga has a big train station (Malaga Maria Zambrano) with frequent and affordable connections to destinations like Seville, Granada, Cordoba, and even as far as Madrid.
Right next to it is the central bus station from where you can catch a bus to any other beautiful coastal towns on Costa del Sol.
If you prefer to rent a car, you can get on the main highway in minutes and venture to the hilltop villages to explore some of the pretties pueblos blancos of Andalusia.
Malaga is a big city with plenty of facilities that make your life much easier – big hospitals, plenty of restaurants, and most importantly, you’re only 10 minutes from the international airport.
Torremolinos is also connected to the other destinations on Costa del Sol with a network of local trains, that run towards Fuengirola and Malaga. There are also some local buses but they are pretty limited.
If you want to visit any of the bigger cities of Andalusia, you will have to take the train to Malaga and take a connecting train or bus connection from there.
Torremolinos vs Malaga: Beaches
Where do you find the best beaches?
In this case, the vote goes to Torremolinos.
The beaches in Torremolinos are vast, stretching from one end of the town to the next.
Closest to the borders with Benalmadena, you will find Playa de la Carihuela. If you walk a bit further, you will get to the long uninterrupted stretch of beach consisting of Playa del Bajondillo, Playa la Caracola, which further continues with another long stretch of beach – Playa de Playamar and Playa de los Alamos.
You certainly won’t struggle to find plenty of space for sunbathing and swimming, even in the middle of the summer.
As I mentioned earlier, I would choose Torremolinos beaches ahead of Malaga beaches, as they are much larger, more spacious and closer to accommodation options and restaurants and shops.
Beaches in Malaga are still very nice, but they are typical urban beaches and tend to fill up quite fast. If you head to the beach early in the morning, you stand the best chance of finding the best spot for your day in the sun.
Torremolinos vs Malaga: Prices
Malaga is a big city and you can expect higher prices than in Torremolinos.
Torremolinos is considered one of the most affordable destinations on Costa del Sol, so if you’re on a tight budget, you could consider staying in Torremolinos and visiting Malaga for a day trip.
Torremolinos vs Malaga: Accommodation
Accommodation in Torremolinos
Torremolinos also covers a vast area by the coastline, with a very high concentration of hotels all around the coastline.
You will find options for every budget in here, and unlike in Benalmadena, all the hotels have direct access to the beach – all you need to do is cross the road.
There is an old town of Torremolinos close to the train station, but it’s just a maze of old crumbling streets, tapas bars, restaurants, clubs, cafes and touristy shops. If you’re looking for good deals on accommodation, you’re very likely to find those in here, further away from the coastline.
If you’re staying in the center, you can get to the coastline very easily taking the stairway from the main square.
If you’re looking for a good deal on an all-inclusive resort close to the sea, you’re more likely to find it in Torremolinos.
Accommodation in Malaga
Malaga caters for a much larger crowd compared to Torremolinos – be it business travel, family visitors, single travelers and even budget travelers, there is something to choose from for everyone.
If you have very specific idea about what type of hotel you would like to stay in, such as those with indoor pools, rooftop terraces with views and similar, you will find these in Malaga.
In Malaga, you’re also more likely to score a great apartment with the best views. If you’re visiting in the shoulder season or winter season, you will also get very good prices for your location and view.
If you’re after all-inclusive hotels, or more family-friendly hotels, I personally feel like there are much better options in Torremolinos. If that’s the case, you can always visit Malaga for a day trip, so you’re certainly not missing out!
Torremolinos vs Malaga: Nightlife
Where do you find the best parties and night clubs?
I’m probably the last person you should be asking!
I am not a frequent visitor to bars or nightclubs, but from what I know, you have great options in both cities.
Perhaps in Malaga, you will find a better variety of places to have some fun, with a range of different establishments. In Torremolinos, most night clubs and bars are still pretty dated.
Torremolinos vs Malaga: Seasonal Guide
As I mentioned earlier, both cities are blessed with sunny weather all year round.
During the high season, from June to September, the prices of accommodation are at their highest and you will struggle to find a free sunchair on the beach if you don’t get there in the morning hours.
The shoulder season in May and October to November is much more pleasant time to visit, with plenty of sunshine around and much less people everywhere.
Torremolinos tends to be more empty in the winter season compared to Malaga, which still gets a high volume of visitors from Spain or Europe visiting for day trips.
Torremolinos vs Malaga: Day Trips
Both destinations are a great base for planning day trips in Southern Spain. Due to its location as a central travel hub, you will find much better options from Malaga.
Below you will find selection of the most popular tours from both cities, followed by a round up of my own articles where you will find detailed instructions for planning your own day trip to these destinations.
Tours from Torremolinos
Caminito del Rey tour from Torremolinos (an absolute highlight of your trip)
Day Trip to Gibraltar from Torremolinos (most affordable tour)
Day Trip to Ronda & Setenil de las Bodegas (the famous gorge town & town under the rocks)
Day Trip from Torremolinos to Seville (visit the capital of Andalusia)
Day Trip to Tetouan (The Blue City) in Morocco (something exotic & exciting!)
Tours from Malaga
Caminito del Rey tour from Malaga (you will love this one!)
Full Day Trip to Granada & Alhambra (tickets included – most important monument of Southern Spain)
Malaga to Tangier (Morocco) with Lunch & Shopping (something exotic & exciting!)
Day Trip to Ronda & Setenil de las Bodegas (the famous gorge town & town under the rocks)
Day Trip to Gibraltar from Malaga (most affordable tour of Gibraltar)
Malaga to Cordoba Day Trip with Mosque Tickets (another must see in Southern Spain)
Guided Day Trip to Nerja & Frigiliana (dubbed the most beautiful village in Southern Spain)
Malaga Day Trips
Torremolinos Day Trips
I hope you found all the answers you need to decide on whether to stay in Torremolinos or Malaga.
If something was not covered in the article, I will happily answer your questions in the comments under the post.
Southern Spain Travel Planning Guide
Is it safe to drive in Spain?
YES! The roads in Southern Spain are generally in very good condition, with modern highways connecting the biggest cities. To rent a car, I highly recommend Discover Cars, which will get you the best deals on your car rental for your trip.
WHAT IF I DON’T WANT TO DRIVE?
WHERE SHOULD I BOOK MY ACCOMMODATION?
BOOKING.COM — I have been using booking.com for all my trips in Spain and abroad, and have never had any negative experiences. Their reviews are very accurate and you get the best deals even on apartments, not just hotels.
ARE THERE LUGGAGE STORE OPTIONS IN THE CITIES?
YES — If you would like to leave your luggage behind to explore the city on your last day, before heading to the airport, you can use Radical Storage service, which lets you book luggage storage options in almost all the destinations in Southern Spain.
DO I NEED TO BUY A LOCAL SIM CARD FOR THIS TRIP?
YES – You can, of course, use your own card if you have roaming data available. If you want to avoid surprising extra charges from your operator, you can use a service like Airalo, where you can buy digital packs for e-sim cards, avoiding the hassle of sourcing local physical sim cards and extra roaming charges anywhere you go.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links – if you decide to book using one of the links, I will earn a small commission that helps me run this site. This is at no extra cost to you.