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One Day in Malaga: The Perfect Day Trip Itinerary

Discover the best of Málaga in one day with our guide. Explore historic sites, enjoy local cuisine, and experience vibrant culture. Perfect for a day trip.

By Liza S. | Updated 23 May 2024 | Málaga | Cities | Login to add to YOUR Favourites Favourites Icon or Read Later

This article has been visited 86 times

Just have one day in Málaga and wondering how to make the most of your visit? This guide is your perfect companion!

From exploring historic landmarks to indulging in delicious local cuisine, Málaga offers many experiences that you can enjoy even in a short visit. Based on my personal experience, I'll walk you through a well-planned 1-day itinerary covering the city's must-see attractions, practical tips for getting around, and the best places to eat.

Whether you're an art lover, a history buff, or just here for the sunshine, this guide ensures you won’t miss out on the essential highlights of Málaga. Get ready for an unforgettable day in one of Spain’s most charming coastal cities!

Quick Answer: One Day in Malaga

Here’s the key information you should know when planning a day trip to Malaga:

  • The top 3 sites to visit are the Alcazaba and Gibralfaro, Malaga Cathedral, and the Old Town
  • Atarazanas Market is the city’s local market and it’s a great spot for a nice local lunch.
  • The Picasso Museum is a must-visit if you love art and culture.
  • For sun, sea, and sand, head to the city’s urban beach La Malagueta

Read more for more practical information to plan your Malaga day trip and get a full itinerary for the day.

Is One Day in Málaga Enough?

Is one day in Málaga enough to truly experience this lively city?

Well, yes and no. If you have more time to spare in your itinerary, it’s certainly worth it to allocate more time to Malaga. It’s a large city with different facets to explore and you can easily fill your time here.

Let’s break down the pros and cons so that you can make the right decision for your trip.

With a solid itinerary, one day in Málaga is good enough to get a taste of its vibrant culture and stunning sights. You can explore the historic centre, visit top attractions like the Alcazaba and the Picasso Museum, and even enjoy a leisurely lunch in the Old Town.

The city’s compact size makes it easy to get around quickly, so you can cover a lot of ground without feeling rushed. Plus, the energy and warmth of Málaga’s atmosphere are infectious, giving you a wonderful snapshot of Andalucian life.

However, cramming all the highlights into one day means you’ll need to be selective. There are so many more things to do, from exploring the beaches and different neighbourhoods to discovering hidden gems.

A day trip might leave you wanting more time to relax and soak in the local vibe at a slower pace.

If one day is all you can spare, then one day is better than nothing.

But just know that while one day in Málaga is enough to hit the high notes and enjoy a fantastic adventure, the city has so much to offer that you just might find yourself planning a return trip before you even leave.

Whether it’s a quick visit or a longer stay, Málaga is sure to captivate your heart.

Getting to Málaga

Malaga's Gibralfaro Malaga's Gibralfaro

Malaga's Gibralfaro

Reaching Málaga is easy and convenient, whether you’re coming from nearby cities or further afield. Here’s how you can get to this vibrant coastal city.

By Train

The AVE high-speed trains connect Málaga with several major Spanish cities. From Madrid, the journey takes about 2.5 hours, while from Seville, it’s around 2 hours.

There are also middle-distance trains from other Andalucian cities like Granada and Cordoba.

Overall, I enjoy travelling in Andalucia via trains as they’re comfortable and offer a scenic way to travel.

You’ll arrive at Málaga María Zambrano station, which is well-connected to the city centre by bus, metro, and taxis.

Travel Tip: Renfe is the train company in Spain and you can book tickets directly on their website. You can also use Trainline which I find easier to use!

By Bus

Buses are a budget-friendly option, with services connecting Málaga to cities like Granada, Seville, and Córdoba. The ALSA bus company operates many of these routes.

Expect a bus journey from Granada to take about 1.5 hours, from Seville around 2.5 hours, and from Córdoba about 2 hours.

Buses arrive at the Estación de Autobuses de Málaga, located next to the train station, making it easy to switch between modes of transport.

While I personally prefer to travel by train in Andalucia, taking a bus can often be much cheaper especially if you’re booking closer to your travel date. Buses in Spain are reliable, safe, and comfortable.

By Car

If you prefer the flexibility of driving, Málaga is well-connected by road.

From Granada, the drive takes about 1.5 hours via the A-92. From Seville, it’s around 2.5 hours on the A-92 and AP-46.

Once in the city, parking can be challenging in the historic centre. Look for public car parks or park on the outskirts and use public transport to get into the centre.

Travel Tip: Renting a car gives you the ultimate freedom to explore Andalucia at your own pace. Click here to compare car rental prices. (You’ll be surprised at how affordable it is in Spain!)

By Plane

Málaga’s international airport, Málaga-Costa del Sol Airport, is one of the busiest in Spain, with flights from all over Europe and beyond. It’s about 8 km southwest of the city centre.

From the airport, you can take the Cercanías train, which runs every 20 minutes and gets you to the city centre in about 12 minutes (get off at the Malaga-Centro-Alameda station). Taxis are also readily available.

Getting Around Málaga

Navigating Málaga is a breeze, thanks to its efficient public transport and walkable city centre.

On a one-day visit, you can easily just explore on foot. The historic centre of Málaga is compact and perfect for walking. Most major attractions, like the Alcazaba, Málaga Cathedral, and the Picasso Museum, are within easy strolling distance of each other.

Walking lets you soak in the city’s vibrant atmosphere and discover charming spots you might miss otherwise.

Málaga is also bike-friendly, with several rental services available. Cycling along the port or the beach promenade is a pleasant way to see the city.

You’re unlikely to need public transportation on a day trip but here’s what you need to know:

  • Málaga’s bus network is extensive and reliable. For €1.30 per ride, you can reach most parts of the city. The main bus hub is at Alameda Principal, right in the city centre.
  • The metro is limited but useful for getting to and from the outskirts. It’s less likely to be needed on a day trip focused on the central area.
  • Taxis are plentiful and a convenient way to get around quickly, especially if you’re short on time. They’re relatively affordable, with a base fare starting around €4. You can also use ride-sharing apps like Uber and Cabify.

How to Spend One Awesome Day in Malaga

Now that we’ve gotten the logistics and practical information out of the way, let’s get into what to see and do during your time in Malaga!

This Malaga 1-day itinerary covers the city’s best historical sites, cultural spots as well as its seaside highlights. Like with any suggested itinerary, feel free to omit anything or mix and match to suit your own travel interests.

But if you have a full day in the city and want to see a bit of everything, then this itinerary has got you covered.

Morning: Discover the Historic Side of Malaga

The Alcazaba of Malaga The Alcazaba of Malaga

The Alcazaba of Malaga

Alcazaba & Gibralfaro

Kick off your day in Málaga by visiting the Alcazaba and Gibralfaro Castle, two of the city’s most iconic landmarks.

Arriving early not only helps you beat the crowds but also avoids the midday heat. Be sure to buy the combined ticket when you enter the Alcazaba to get access to both monuments. Tickets are not available online so you’ll have to buy them at the entrance.

Start with the Alcazaba, a majestic Moorish fortress dating back to the 11th century. The Alcazaba is one of the best-preserved Moorish fortifications in Spain, offering a fascinating glimpse into the city’s past. Wander through its beautiful gardens, courtyards, and battlements, and enjoy stunning views of the city and the sea.

Next, make your way up to Gibralfaro Castle. While the climb is a bit steep, the panoramic views from the top are well worth the effort.

Built in the 14th century, the castle served as a military outpost and provides expansive views over Málaga, the port, and the surrounding mountains. This is a perfect spot to capture some memorable photos and take in the breathtaking scenery.

These two sites are big and I suggest giving yourself about 90 minutes at each place. The walk up to the Gibralfaro takes about 30 minutes, depending on your pace.

Insider Tip: Not thrilled at the idea of walking uphill? Take Bus 35 at the bus stop at Alameda Principal or Parque de Malaga which will take you all the way up to the entrance of the Gibralfaro. You can do the visit in reverse: Gibralfaro, then walk down to the Alcazaba. This saves you from doing the uphill trek!

Roman Theatre

After exploring the Alcazaba and Gibralfaro, pop over to the Roman Theatre, located at the foot of the Alcazaba.

This impressive archaeological site dates back to the 1st century BC and offers a fascinating look into Málaga’s Roman past. Discovered in 1951, the theatre is one of the oldest monuments in the city. Take some time to explore the theatre and visit the adjacent interpretation centre, which provides insights into its history and construction.

The well-preserved ruins, set against the backdrop of the Alcazaba, make for a captivating stop on your morning itinerary.

Admission to the Roman Theatre is free and a 30-minute visit should be sufficient.

Atarazanas Market

After a busy morning, head to Atarazanas Market, Málaga’s bustling central market and a perfect spot for lunch. The market is housed in a beautiful 19th-century building featuring a stunning stained-glass window that tells the story of Málaga’s rich history.

This vibrant market is a feast for the senses, where you can immerse yourself in local culture and sample fresh, delicious produce. Arrive in time to see the market at its liveliest, with vendors selling everything from fresh seafood and meats to colourful fruits and vegetables.

It’s the perfect place for a lunch break and to recharge before continuing your day. The front side of the market along Calle Atarazanas has outdoor tables and chairs where you can rest and enjoy lunch.

By this point, you’ll have experienced some of Málaga’s most iconic sights and enjoyed a taste of its vibrant local culture. The combination of historic landmarks, ancient ruins, and a lively market makes for an engaging and enriching start to your day in this captivating city.

Afternoon: Art & Culture

Sherry and tapas on a Seville food tour Calle Larios in Malaga

Calle Larios

After a satisfying lunch, it’s time for a leisurely stroll along Calle Larios, Málaga’s main shopping street.

This elegant, pedestrian-only boulevard is lined with stylish shops, boutiques, and cafes, making it a perfect spot to soak in the local atmosphere. Enjoy the street’s beautiful architecture and vibrant energy.

Calle Larios is also a great place to pick up souvenirs or local products to remember your trip by.

Málaga Cathedral

Next, head to the nearby Málaga Cathedral, also known as La Manquita, or “The One-Armed Lady,” due to its unfinished second tower. This stunning Renaissance-style cathedral is a must-visit for its impressive architecture and rich history.

Step inside to admire the intricate interior, featuring beautiful chapels, a grand altar, and stunning stained glass windows. Don’t miss the chance to climb the cathedral’s tower (if it’s open) for a breathtaking view of the city and the surrounding area.

The cathedral’s serene atmosphere provides a nice contrast to the bustling streets outside, making it a perfect spot for some quiet reflection.

Set aside about 1 hour to explore the Malaga Cathedral. Tickets are available at the entrance or online on their official website.

Optional: Picasso Museum or Carmen Thyssen Museum

By this point of the day, you may be ready for another break. If you’d like to take it easy, I suggest wandering around the historic centre, finding a lovely local cafe, and just relaxing and people-watching.

If you’re still up for more sight-seeing, choose between two of Málaga’s premier art museums: the Picasso Museum or the Carmen Thyssen Museum.

Located in the Buenavista Palace, the Picasso Museum celebrates the life and works of Málaga’s most famous son, Pablo Picasso. The museum houses an extensive collection of his paintings, sculptures, and ceramics, offering a comprehensive look at his artistic evolution.

Explore Picasso’s early works, which provide insight into his development as an artist, and see some of his most iconic pieces. The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions and educational programmes that delve deeper into his life and influence.

You can buy tickets in advance on their official website.

Another great option is the Carmen Thyssen Museum. Housed in a beautiful 16th-century palace, the Carmen Thyssen Museum focuses on 19th-century Spanish art, particularly Andalucian works. It offers a unique perspective on the region’s artistic heritage and cultural history.

The museum’s collection includes works by renowned Spanish painters such as Zurbarán, Sorolla, and Zuloaga. It’s an excellent choice if you’re interested in exploring art that captures the essence of Andalucia and its traditions.

You can buy your ticket in advance here.

Allocate 1 to 2 hours for your museum visit, depending on interest level.

Whichever museum you choose, you’ll enjoy an enriching cultural experience that rounds off your afternoon in Málaga. Both museums are located in the city centre, making them easily accessible from the cathedral and Calle Larios.

Evening: Malaga’s Seaside Highlights

Sherry and tapas on a Seville food tour Muelle Uno, Malaga

If you’re able to stay in Malaga as the sun sets, then get ready to discover yet another facet of this exciting city.

Muelle Uno

Start your evening at Muelle Uno, Málaga’s modern waterfront promenade. This lively area is filled with shops, restaurants, and bars, making it a great spot to unwind after a day of sightseeing.

Enjoy a leisurely walk along the marina, take in the beautiful views of the Mediterranean Sea, and watch the boats bobbing in the harbour. The promenade often hosts live music and events, adding to its vibrant atmosphere.

Muelle Uno is also home to the Centre Pompidou Málaga, a contemporary art museum that you might want to visit if you’re an art lover and have some extra time. The museum is typically open until 8.00pm.

La Malagueta Beach

Just a short walk from Muelle Uno lies La Malagueta Beach. This popular urban beach is perfect for a relaxing evening by the sea.

Find a spot on the golden sand, kick off your shoes, and enjoy the sound of the waves. As the sun sets, the beach offers a stunning backdrop for a peaceful stroll or simply relaxing and soaking in the beautiful views.

La Malagueta Beach is well-equipped with amenities, including beach bars (chiringuitos), where you can grab a refreshing drink or even settle down for a leisurely dinner.

Dinner in Malaga

Need some dinner recommendations to cap off your fantastic day out in the city? Málaga offers a fantastic array of dining options to suit every taste. Here are three top recommendations:

  • El Pimpi: This iconic restaurant and bodega is a Málaga institution, known for its lively atmosphere and traditional Andalucian cuisine. The historic venue is adorned with photos of famous visitors and offers a charming setting for dinner. Try the fried fish, Iberian ham, and the variety of local tapas.
  • Restaurante Vino Mío: Located near the Cervantes Theatre, Vino Mío is known for its excellent fusion cuisine and regular live flamenco performances, providing a complete dining and entertainment experience. Enjoy dishes like tuna tartare, duck breast with mango sauce, and their famous mojitos.
  • Los Mellizos Málaga: Perfect for seafood lovers, Los Mellizos offers fresh, high-quality seafood dishes in a relaxed, welcoming environment. The restaurant is popular with locals and tourists alike. Don’t miss the paella, grilled prawns, and mixed seafood platter.

Recommended Activities & Tours on a Malaga Day Trip

When you’re short on time, taking a tour can be one of the best ways to efficiently see a city’s highlights and learn more about it at the same time.

Here are my recommended tours that you can fit into a one-day Malaga visit:

  • Free walking tour of Malaga: I love free walking tours and Guruwalk is my favourite platform to search for tours. There are typically morning tours that start at 10.00am or 11.00am, making it a great way to see the city’s highlights on a day trip.
  • 3-hour Complete Walking Tour of Malaga: This tour includes entry to 3 top sites (Alcazaba, Gibralfaro and Cathedral) and the historic centre, making it a fantastic way to see Malaga’s highlights in just 3 hours! This leaves you the rest of the day to explore on your own.
  • 2-hour Malaga Segway Tour: For a fun way to explore Malaga, hop on this Segway tour that covers the city’s monuments. The 9.0aam start time works well with a one-day Malaga itinerary.
  • 90-min guided tour of the Alcazaba and Roman Theatre: With a 10.30am and 12.30pm start time, this tour is perfect for day-trippers who want to learn more about Malaga’s Roman and Moorish past.
  • 90-min tour of Picasso Museum: The perfect way to see the museum’s highlights in a short amount of time while learning more about Picasso and his art.
  • Malaga Tapas Tour: This mid-morning tapas tour is part walking tour, part food tour, making it a lovely way to get to know the city through its food.

Practical Tips for a Day Trip to Málaga

Visiting Málaga for just one day can be an exciting and enriching experience. Here are some practical tips to help you make the most of your visit.

  • Start Early: To maximise your time, begin your day as early as possible, especially to visit popular attractions like the Alcazaba and Gibralfaro before the midday heat and crowds.
  • Book Tickets in Advance: For popular sites such as the Picasso Museum and Malaga Cathedral, book your tickets online ahead of time to avoid long queues.
  • Wear Comfortable Shoes: Málaga’s historic centre and key attractions are best explored on foot. Wear comfortable walking shoes to navigate the cobblestone streets and hills.
  • Plan for the Weather: Check the weather forecast before your trip and dress accordingly. Sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat are essential for sunny days.
  • Stay Hydrated: Málaga can get quite warm, especially in the summer months. Carry a water bottle with you and take advantage of the many cafes and restaurants to stay hydrated.
  • Respect Local Customs: Be respectful of local customs and traditions, especially when visiting religious sites like the Málaga Cathedral. Dress modestly and be mindful of photography restrictions.

Lastly, I would say: don't worry if you just aren't able to squeeze in everything that you wanted to see on a day trip! It's natural to want to linger at spots you like and take some time to relax instead of just rushing through your day. You can narrow it down to your personal must-do 3 sites and activities and simply 'freestyle' the rest of your day and see what catches your eye.

One Day in Malaga: Last Thoughts

As you’ve discovered, Málaga has a lot to offer: history, culture, and coastal charm.

This 1-day Malaga itinerary is loaded with my top things to do in the city but feel free to trim and adjust where needed so that you’re seeing the places and things that interest you the most.

Seeing the best of the city in just one day is possible - you’ll just have to accept that unfortunately you won’t be able to see everything. All the more reason to come back!

I hope this guide has helped you plan your Malaga day trip. With careful planning and these practical tips, your one-day adventure in Málaga will be unforgettable.

Buen viaje and enjoy every moment in this beautiful Mediterranean gem!

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