Malaga: What you need to know before visiting

All the practical city information you need to know before visiting Malaga in Spain. This travel guide will cover the following:

  • Malaga Facts
  • Arriving in Malaga
  • Getting around Malaga
  • Malaga neighbourhoods
  • Malaga attractions
  • Spanish language basics
  • Average food and drink costs
  • Things to be aware of in Malaga
  • Useful websites for Malaga

A practical guide to Malaga

Malaga facts

  • Malaga is in the region of Andalucía
  • It’s the southernmost large city in Europe
  • Malaga has a population of over 560,000
  • There are 2 huge historic hilltop citadels in the city
  • It has one of the busiest ports in the Mediterranean
  • Artist Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga
  • Malaga enjoys on average 300 days of sunshine per year
  • It’s the gateway to many popular holiday destinations along the Costa del Sol
  • Malaga airport receives over 19 million passengers

*RELATED article: For more Spain city break ideas read – The best cities to visit in Spain

Arriving in Malaga

By plane

Malaga airport is officially known as “Cost del Sol airport” and it’s the 4th busiest airport in Spain. A recent re-development means most flights arrive in Terminal 3. It offers worldwide connections to over 60 destinations. From the UK you can choose from a number of low-cost airlines and there are plenty of package holiday’s flying there.

It’s located 8 km south west of the city centre and has lots of great options for traveling to the centre:

  • Airport bus – The Line A Express public bus will reach Malaga centre in 15-25 mins depending on traffic. The bus stop is outside arrivals at Terminal 3 and a single journey is €3, you pay direct to the driver. The service runs frequently until the early hours of the morning and the city centre stop is the last one.
  • Airport train – There is a local train service from the airport. The C1 train goes to the city in 12 mins and also connects to many popular beaches along the coast. You can buy tickets easily from the machines and they are very reasonably priced. Be aware the trains stop at 23:00. If you are going to Malaga city centre, get off at Centro Alameda station, as that’s the most central. A single adult airport to city train ticket is €1.80.
  • Airport taxi – There is a registered 24 hour taxi rank outside arrivals in Terminal 3. In Malaga official taxis are white cars with a blue stripe on the door. Ensure the driver turns on the meter, it should cost around €20. The drive will be approximately 15-20 mins.

By train

If you travel by the Renfe AVE high speed train you will arrive at Maria Zambrano station. It’s a large modern train station that feels a little more like an airport with shops, bars and restaurants facilities. You can walk to the centre or go 1 stop on the local C1 or C2 train.

By coach

Alsa and Avanza coach companies connect Malaga with the rest of Spain by cheap, comfortable and regular bus services. If you arrive in Malaga by coach from another city you will most likely arrive at the large main bus station at Paseo de los Tilos. It’s south west of the centre but within easy reach on foot. If you arrive in Malaga via one of the coastal towns you will most likely arrive at the smaller bus station at the port (near the big wheel). Again, you can walk to the centre from here or hop in a taxi for about €5.

By car

Driving to Malaga from elsewhere in Spain is pretty straight forward. Just hire a car, grab a road map from any petrol station and plan your drive. Be aware that the new, larger, faster motorways may have tolls. All the major car hire companies have offices in the city centre and the airport.

Visit Malaga port

Getting around Malaga

Walking

I always say walking is the best way to explore a city. You can sightsee, take photos and enjoy the sun when walking around a city.

Metro

Malaga Metro (or light rail) is fairly new and only currently operates 2 lines. It’s a way to connect the suburbs to the city and help ease congestion. You will only likely use this if staying in or visiting a suburb in the west.

Bus

Malaga city buses EMT are small, regular and air conditioned. On busy routes they arrive every few minutes and most stops are clearly signposted with maps and timetables. If you need to get around town but don’t want to walk this is the cheapest option. A single adult ticket in the urban area is €1.30 and you can buy a 10 journey ticket for €8.30.

Train

The Cercanias C1 commuter line goes west to the beaches on the Costa del Sol as far as Fuengirola. Which is great for a day-trip from Malaga.

Taxi

Taxi ranks are located near all stations, main shopping areas and tourist attractions.

Driving

I think driving in the city is best left to the locals. It can be heavily congested and quite confusing.

Bike

There is a bike hire system in Malaga called “Malaga Bici”. You can rent a bike from one of the many self service docking stations. Be sure to read the instructions fully and make sure you adhere to the rules to avoid extra charges.

RELATED article: If you have time, visit the nearby town of Sitges – What to see and do in Sitges

Wander the streets of Malaga old town

Malaga neighbourhoods

The main neighbourhoods of Malaga city centre that you are likely to visit are:

  • Centro historico (Old town)
  • Soho
  • La Merced
  • El Perchel
  • La Malagueta

Malaga attractions

The best tourist sights to visit in Malaga are:

  • Malagueta beach
  • Parque de Malaga
  • Plaza de la Merced
  • Mercado Central de Atarazanas
  • Roman amphitheatre
  • Picasso museum
  • Cathedral
  • Alcazaba
  • Castillo de Gibralfaro
  • Malaga port and Paseo de Mulle Uno
  • Centre Pompidou

*RELATED article: For a full 2-day city itinerary of sights to see read – A weekend in Malaga

The beaches in Malaga

Simple Spanish language basics

Hola – Hello
Gracias – Thank you
Por favor – Please
De Nada – You’re welcome
Si – Yes
No – No
¿Que tal? – How are you?
Bien gracias – I’m fine thanks
Disculpe – Excuse me
¿Habla Ingles? – Do you speak English
No entiendo – I don’t understand
Lo siento – I’m sorry
Adios – Bye

Malaga average food and drink costs

Prices will vary slightly but this is an average to give you an idea of the approximate costs in Malaga:

Small bottle of water = €0.50-€1
Ice cream = €2-3
Small beer = €2
Glass of local wine = €3
Cocktail = €5-8
Breakfast menu = €4-5
Tapas dish = €4-7
Espeto bbq seafood from a beachside chiringuito = €8-12
3 course menu of the day “menu del dia” = €10-14

*RELATED article: For some money saving holiday tips read – How to save money when visiting Spain

See the old historic remains in Malaga

Things to be aware of in Malaga

  • The chiringuito beachside bars in Malagueta and beyond serve their freshly caught and cooked espeto bbq seafood from 2pm-4pm
  • Restaurants get very busy during peak summer for dinner so book ahead to get a table at your chosen place
  • If you can’t get a table, ask if there is any standing space at the bar for tapas
  • If you are walking up the Gibralfaro be prepared for a steep incline and make sure you take water and sun protection
  • For a quieter spot on the beach walk east away from the Malagueta sign for approx 5-10 minutes or jump on the train to a beach on the Costa del Sol
  • Service in restaurants can be quite slow, so order as soon as the waiter comes to you and ask for the bill as soon as you finish eating
  • It’s free to enter the Gibralfaro and Alcazaba on Sunday afternoons

Useful websites for Malaga

Malaga tourist information
Malaga buses
Malaga airport
Malaga trains

I hope this article has been helpful and told you everything you need to know about Malaga before you visit. If you have been to Malaga before, share your experience in the comments box below ↓↓ We love to hear travel stories 🙂

Check out our other “need to know” guides to these great Spanish cities…

Bilbao

Madrid

Granada

Barcelona

Valencia

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