Main city of the Costa del Sol and home to one of Spain’s busiest airports, Malaga is too often dismissed simply as a transport hub.
But the birthplace of Picasso has one of the loveliest Old Towns in Andalusia, stand-out Mediterranean beaches, and is the only city outside France with a Pompidou Centre.
Malaga’s compact centre is easy to get around on foot, and walking is the best way to explore the historic quarter and the waterfront districts. It’s also the only way to see the regenerated port area, where most streets are now pedestrianised.
Local Empresa Malagueña de Transportes (EMT) buses cover the entire city and run from early morning until evening. Times and routes can change seasonally, but bus stops usually display current timetables. You can also find information online, though it's mostly in Spanish.
The city’s green and red line tourist buses, meanwhile, take in all the major sights and let you hop on and off as many times as you like on a single day ticket. They also provide multilingual audio guides.
There are dozens of taxi companies in Malaga, and most cars can be flagged down in the street, although you’ll find organised ranks at the airport and train station. Unitaxi Malaga is the city’s largest operator, has its own app, and can be booked online.
If you're passing through Malaga en route to another destination along the coast or inland, hiring a car can be a good option. The A7 motorway runs the length of the Costa del Sol, and the AP7 offers a toll-free alternative on the same route, both providing quick connections to resorts along the coast in both directions.
A growing number of traffic-free areas and designated cycle paths means cycling around Malaga is getting easier all the time. There are several hire companies in the city centre. Most have online booking, and many offer a delivery and pick-up service too.
Old Town: for history
The city’s historic quarter meanders down from the Alcazaba fortress, and spreads west and east. It’s typically Andalusian, with grand plazas, atmospheric alleys and charming traditional architecture. Head to Plaza de la Merced for street food, street performers, and some of the city’s coolest restaurants. Make a point of shopping in Atarazanas market at least once, and be sure to have coffee on Plaza de la Constitución.
If you want big attractions in the Old Town, they don’t come much bigger than Malaga Cathedral. But this is also the neighbourhood for the Picasso Museum, Museo Carmen Thyssen, and good tapas bars on Calle Marques de Larios, one of the few Old Town streets that's more like a boulevard than an alleyway.
Malaga Port: for shopping and eating
Malaga Port is one of the largest cruise ports in Spain, but for most Malagueños, it’s all about Muelle Uno. This area benefited from the first stage of the port’s multi-million-euro regeneration project, and is now one of the city’s most popular shopping districts. It’s home to many of Malaga’s best restaurants, and a rival to the Old Town for cafés, bars, and even street markets.
La Malagueta: for sun, sea and sand
This is the district for big golden beaches, seafood restaurants, water sports, and the immense La Malagueta Bullring, centrepiece of the city’s annual Feria celebrations in August. It’s also where sprawling modern Malaga’s gleaming apartment blocks and luxury hotels meet the quaint Andalusian antiquity of its historic quarter.
Paseo del Muelle Uno is the long Mediterranean promenade stretching west to the port district. But if you stroll a little east of busy Playa la Malagueta, you’ll quickly come to quieter beaches and sandy coves where the city’s most authentic chiringuitos (small beach bars) are found, and there are more locals than tourists by the sea.
Time zone: Central European Time (GMT +1) and Central European Summer Time (GMT +2)
Language: Spanish, though English is widely spoken – like much of the Cost del Sol there's a large British expat population, as well as tourists