Officially the capital of Costa del Sol, Malaga is both the southernmost city in Europe and, with a history that dates back 2,800 years, one of the oldest cities in the world. Two days here offers plenty of things to do and see. Compared to Seville and Córdoba, Malaga displays its rich cultural history with more subtlety. The city’s massive Baroque and Industrial structures steal the limelight, dominating the skyline. Malaga’s impeccably-preserved historic center is one of the richest and most vibrant in all of Europe, and contrasts starkly from the grimy high-rises that have sprouted up along the coast. Today, Malaga—known for its thriving nightlife scene, excellent museums, and sunny beaches—acts as a major maritime hub and holiday destination. If you have 48 hours to spend here, this itinerary can help you get the most out of your stay.
Kick off your stay at Malaga’s famous palace and serene public garden.
Morning: Visit la Alcazaba de Malaga
Undoubtedly Malaga’s top tourist attraction, this palatial fortification was constructed by the Hammudid dynasty during the early 1000s, housing several monarchs and withstanding several attacks during the subsequent centuries. A free guided tour is a cool way to learn a little more about the history of this landmark then you would wandering around alone.
The outer citadel, accessible by elevator or on foot, boasts towering gates that double back on themselves, expansive gardens, and a number of elaborate fountains. The inner citadel, accessible only by foot through the Puerta de los Cuartos de Granada, houses the Palace and a few smaller dwellings. Scattered throughout the Palace are a number of encased artifacts—jars, bowls, and tilework—that adorned it during the 13th through 18th centuries. We recommend arriving early and taking your time as you ascend its steep pathways and staircases.
Lunchtime: Take a walking food tour
What better way to get to know the city of Malaga than through a walking tapas tour? Local chefs and shopkeepers will show you how the locals live during this 3.5 hour food fest. Along the way, you’ll sample regional wine, olives, homemade spreads, fresh bread, and more. Make sure to wear comfy shoes (and stretchy pants).
Afternoon: Cool off in the Jardines de Pedro Luis Alonso
Located just east of Malaga’s Town Hall, this small, manicured garden is great for a rest after eating your way through town. It consists of rather low hedges, pink rose bushes, and red, dust-covered bricks paved in a fishtail pattern. The top of the Castillo de Gibralfaro is visible above this garden’s grid of bright green trees, and a cool Mediterranean breeze sweeps through the open horizontal plane. As you pass through, we recommend taking a seat on a shaded iron bench; within minutes, you’ll be shepherded into a pseudo-hypnotic state by the bubbling marble fountains that surround you.
If a quiet afternoon in a garden doesn’t float your boat, go check out the famous Museo de Picasso. If you didn’t already know, Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga, and the museum certainly lives up to its reputation. The tour begins on the first floor with an overview of his early work and continues upstairs, symbolizing his own creative ascent (or descent, depending on your perception) in late adulthood. Most pieces are accompanied by a written description and verbal explanation, but if you want more information about a painting or sculpture, odds are high that you can leech onto a chaperoned tour group winding its way through the building’s pale corridors. (Note: Not to be confused with Museo Casa Natal de Picasso, the artist’s birthplace.)
Evening: Nosh on more tapas
When in Malaga, right? The city is known for its tapas, so just embrace it and assume they are what you’ll be eating for the remainder of your stay. (Side note: you can even take a tapas cooking class.) Treat your taste buds to delectable dishes like marinated salmon with citrus mayonnaise, seaweed-seasoned vegetables, grilled watermelon with goat cheese and honey, and homemade beef burgers with pistachio, eggs, cucumber, tomato, and mustard vinaigrette.
Escape Malaga with a visit to the mountaintop town of Ronda.
Morning and afternoon: Visit Ronda
You can’t visit this area of Spain without checking out this gorgeous city. A private, full-day tour of Ronda will give you plenty of time to explore the bridges, cliffs, and beautiful views of the countryside. A local guide will lead you along the quaint cobblestone streets as you learn all about the city’s past. Ronda is also the birthplace of bullfighting, so if that’s up your alley, be sure to check out the Ronda bullring before heading home. Some of the most important events in bullfighting history have taken place there.
Evening: Have dinner in Plaza de la Merced
You’ll definitely be hungry after a long day of sightseeing, and this lively plaza is home to many tapas bars and restaurants. We recommend finding a cozy little spot to dine al fresco, so you can people watch while nibbling on some fried fish tapas and sipping an ice cold cerveza. The ambiance of the plaza paired with the mouth-watering food makes it the perfect place to end your stay in Malaga. Come for dinner—stay for a night on the town.