What to see in Málaga? In the city where Picasso was born you can discover everything from the artist’s childhood home and museum, the modern seafront, an old fortress, an art museum hiding under a multi-coloured cube, breathtaking views and a cool street art district.
1. Modern art in the colourful cube
In the middle of Muello Uno and Dos, a coloured cube shoots up from the ground. Although the cube attracts a lot of attention, it’s not immediately obvious that underneath it lies the underground art museum Centre Pompidou.
The museum opened in 2013 and is the first Centre Pompidou to open outside France.
The permanent collection is divided into five themes and includes works from the Paris collection, including Spanish painters Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso, Antoni Tàpies, as well as international artists such as Francis Bacon, Frida Kahlo, Marc Chagall, Max Ernst and Alberto Giacometti. The museum also has changing exhibitions exploring photography, video, architecture and design.
Created by architects Javier Pérez De La Fuente and Juan Antonio Marín Malavéi, the cube is a masterpiece in its own right. The sun’s rays shine through the transparent surfaces of the cube, reflecting the colours in very different ways indoors and outdoors, depending on where the sun is in the sky.
The cube and colour reflections are particularly beautiful in the blue hour before sunset and until the sun sets and the cube is lit. So it’s a good time to take a few walks around the cube or sit on a bench and enjoy the artwork.
Centre Pompidou Málaga, Pasaje Doctor Carrillo Casaux, s/n
2. Enjoy sunset drinks over Malaga harbour
Málaga’s port is over 3000 years old and Spain’s oldest. Today, the old fishing port is also Spain’s second largest cruise terminal. The harbour area is close to the city centre and, following extensive modernisation completed in 2011, has become a much-loved tourist attraction.
It is a must for all tourists to enjoy a meal or a drink at one of the many restaurants and bars along the seafront promenade Muello Uno, which also has several shopping options.
You should also take a walk along the Muello Dos, also known as the Palmeral de las Sorpresas (Surprise Palm Garden), which is an extension of the Muelle Uno. Muelle Dos has a sculptural, wave-like canopy and is surrounded by around 400 palm trees and a green park area with benches, playgrounds, plants, flowers and fountains.
Fewer people know that at the top of the Room Mate Valeria hotel, on the edge of Malaga’s Soho district, you’ll get a great view of the whole harbour area, which looks beautiful at sunset. From the roof terrace you can also see the city’s large Ferris wheel at the harbour and over the old city centre with the fortress in the background. The roof terrace is not in any guide to Málaga, so there are relatively few tourists here.
The rooftop terrace serves good drinks and the service is top-notch.
La Terazza de Valeria, Plaza Poeta Alfonso Canales 5
3. Málaga’s Old Fortress and Roman Theatre
At the top of Málaga, the old Alcazaba fortress is one of Spain’s most important, offering stunning views over the city and bay. The Moorish fortress was built between 1057 and 1063 and is located at the foot of the Gibralfaro hill.
When Malaga was conquered by Muhammad II Ben al-Ahmar in 1279 and the city became part of the Nasrid Empire, the Alcazaba was renovated to give it its distinctive Nasrid appearance. Architecturally, it is a mix of military fortification combined with aesthetic, characteristic Moorish courtyards with elongated terraces with pools, just as the spaces beautifully combine light and shade.
You’ll have to walk up steep, cobbled paths to climb the fortress, but the tour of the spectacular fortress – and the views – are well worth the effort. Alternatively, you can get to the top by lift.
Looking from the fortress towards the Picasso Museum, you can spot a miniature version of the cube covering the Centre Pompidou art museum to the right of the museum. The roof terrace and cube belong to Málaga’s famous actor Antonio Banderas, of whom the locals are very proud.
At the foot of the Alcazaba you’ll find the remains of the city’s Roman amphitheatre, built in 100 BC. Kr and used until the year 300 E.kr. Later, the Moors used it as a quarry, excavating stone to build the Alcazaba. The ruins of the theatre were only rediscovered in 1951, and since 2011 it has been used for outdoor performances in the summer.
The theatre is the only one left in the city from Roman times, the rest disappeared when the city was bombed during the Civil War.Next to the theatre you will find a visitor centre with information about the history of the theatre and the excavations.
Alcazaba, Calle Alcazabilla 2
Teatro Romano Málaga, Calle Alcazabilla s/n
4. Picasso’s birthplace
Pablo Ruiz Picasso (1881-1973) is an essential part of any guide to Málaga. In Plaza de la Merced, you’ll find a bronze statue of the world-famous artist sitting on a bench overlooking the square. On the corner behind the statue (at no. 15) is the house where Picasso was born in 1881 and lived until 1884, when he moved with his family to La Coruna.
Picasso’s birthplace is now a museum, and here you can see a selection of the artist’s works, including ceramics, lithographs and sketches, as well as some of his and his family’s possessions. The museum provides an insight into Picasso’s family, the artist’s roots and his early association with Málaga.
In the building opposite (no. 13) you can see more of his art and works related to his life.
Fundación Picasso, Plaza de la Merced 15
5. The Picasso Museum
The Picasso Museum is set in a beautiful 16th-century palace in the centre of Malaga. The museum was inaugurated in 2003 and many of the works have been donated by Picasso’s daughter-in-law, Christine, and grandson, Bernard.
The museum is run by the Picasso Foundation and you can explore 233 works spanning 80 years of artistic practice, from Picasso’s time as an art student at the Academy, through the Cubist period to his later work.
Main works include Mother and Child, The Three Beauties (with wife Olga Khokhlova), Face of a Woman, Jacqueline in a Straw Hat, Child with a Shovel and Fruit Bowl
The Picasso Museum also has ongoing exhibitions focusing on a particular period of the artist’s career or a theme, as well as an extensive library.
Museo Picasso Málaga, Palacio de Buenavista
6. Málaga’s one-armed lady
Málaga’s cathedral is one of the most impressive in southern Spain, and like the one in Granada, it too stands unfinished. The cathedral is located in the city centre, close to the site of a former moor. Built between 1528 and 1782, it is in Renaissance and Baroque style and its full name is Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación (Our Lady of the Incarnation).
During the construction process, the coffers became empty and the planned two towers could not be built. The eastern tower was never built, hence Malaga Cathedral’s nickname La Manquita (the one-armed woman).
The remarkable cedar and mahogany choir is by Luis Ortiz. After his death, one of the most famous Spanish woodcarvers of the time, Pedro de Meno, created the 42 fine wooden figures that adorn the choir.
Also visit the cathedral’s beautiful gardens and climb the 200 steps to the top for great views.
Catedral Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación, Calle Molina Lario 9
7. Málaga’s best viewpoint
Málaga’s most enchanting viewpoint is located 130 metres above sea level on the Gibralfaro hill. Here you’ll get impressive views of the harbour and Málaga’s coast to the east, the cathedral and the city centre, not to mention the bullring, which you can look straight into.
The climb to the top is steep, but worth the effort. On the ascent through the Jardines de Puerta Oscura, on the other hand, you’re surrounded by beautiful flower gardens.
If you don’t have the courage to go all the way to the top, the view can also be enjoyed to a slightly more limited extent from a viewpoint further down the paths. Alternatively, you can take bus No 35 from Avenida de Cervantes.
Mirador de Gibralfaro, Calle Campos Elíseos 16
8. Tempting Andalusian produce
Brimming stalls selling fresh fruit and vegetables, cheeses, almonds and nuts, as well as fish and meat, tantalize the senses as you enter Malaga’s central market, Mercado Central de Atarazanas. Here you’ll find everything your heart desires in the way of delicious Andalusian produce, and you’ll be tempted to buy in for the big dinner party. If you’re staying in a hotel where you can’t cook, you can shop for almonds, nuts and vacuum-packed ham and cheese to take home in your suitcase.
The exterior of the Mercado Central de Atarazanas is also breathtaking. Above the main entrance of the fine iron structure that covers the market, there is a beautiful glass mosaic, which was added during a major renovation from 2008 to 2010. The mosaic depicts the city’s various monuments. The market is located in a building that was a shipyard about 600 years ago (atarazanas means shipyard). Back then, the water went right up to the market entrance. Later there was a monastery, a military hospital and a barracks before the market was opened in 1879.
At the main entrance, there are several tapas bars where you can take a break and sample some of the fresh produce from the market. Don’t deprive yourself of one of the sensory experiences in Málaga that you’ll get at the market.
Mercado Central de Atarazanas, Calle Atarazanas 10
9. Street art in Soho
Malaga’s Soho district is a haven for street art lovers. The neighbourhood, also known as Barrío de las artes (Art Quarter), is full of street art by world-famous artists such as D*Face, Obey, who was behind the iconic election poster featuring Barack Obama and the motto ‘Hope’, ROA and Pejac.
The Soho district is located in an old residential area, which for many years was worn and half-empty, but in recent years it has become a hip and cultural melting pot. This is partly due to the MAUS project – Málaga Arte Urbano Soho – which hired renowned street artists to revitalise the neighbourhood. In addition to international artists, many locals have also graced the walls with their street art.
Take a stroll around the charming neighbourhood and enjoy all the street art. Be sure to look up and down and into nooks and crannies, because street art is everywhere in the neighbourhood. Read more about street art in Soho and find a link to a map here.
10. Art in the old hospital
La Térmica is a vibrant cultural centre, housed in an impressive Modernista building that once housed a military hospital, an orphanage and a community centre.
Created by architect Juan Nepomuceno Ávila between 1907 and 1912, the 13,000 square metre building is worth a visit in itself. There are impressive tile mosaics on the walls and floors, simple and fine glass decorations, and charming courtyards and fountains.
The cultural centre, La Térmica, opened in 2013 and is a place for locals to express creative ideas, as well as hosting interesting art and design and architecture exhibitions, theatre performances, film screenings, concerts, workshops and lectures. The world-famous street artist, Banksy, has exhibited here.
La Térmica also has a large common room with soft sofas, work areas, free Wi-Fi and vending machines with drinks that visitors can also use.
Check the current cultural programme on the website.
La Térmica, Av. de los Guindos 48
11. Drinking coffee in the central square
Málaga’s most central square is the beautiful Plaza de la Constitución, which is the centre of political, religious and cultural events, including the great Easter processions and Feria de Málaga.
The square has been a public gathering place since the 15th century and is adorned by a central fountain(Fuente de Génova), which dates from 2003 when the square was renovated. Around the square are a number of architectural gems. Málaga’s town council was located here until 1869, as was the former home of the mayor, the town’s prison and a monastery.
Sit down at the legendary Café Central (read more in no. 6 of the Málaga café guide) and sip a coffee while you study the lively square.
Plaza de la Constitución
12. Shopping on Malaga’s main street
Málaga’s main street, Marqués de Larios, is the city’s most prominent street with the most expensive rent. The street runs between Plaza de la Constitución and the Alameda Principal boulevard, with shops dotted along it like pearls on a string.
The Marqués de Larios was inaugurated in 1891. The project was 11 years in the making, and when the city council needed money for the project, construction was taken over by one of the city’s most important businessmen – the other Marques de Larios, after whom the street is named. You’ll find a statue of him at the end of the street, off Alameda Principal, facing the harbour.
However, with the proclamation of the Second Republic in 1931, the street changed its name to Calle 14 de April, but after the Civil War it regained its original name.
After a major renovation in 2003, Marques de Lario became a pedestrian street, where you can zigzag between shops like Desigual, Mango Man, Bershka, Massimo Dutti, Swarovski and Victoria’s Secret. Take a look at the side streets, where there are also many shops.
Many of the city’s big events also take place at the Marques de Larois, fashion week and the annual film festival, where the red carpet rolls out onto the streets.
Calle Marqués de Larios
13. Relax on the beach
One of the great things about Málaga is that you have easy access to great beaches. Malagueta is closest to the city centre and you can walk to it along the seafront promenade in around 10-15 minutes.
Take a break from the city’s many attractions and lie on the 1.2 km long beach of fine sand to enjoy the Andalusian sun and a cool dip.
On the beach you can hire sun loungers and parasols, and there are plenty of beach bars where you can refuel with drinks and a bite to eat.
Playa de la Malagueta