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Malaga in 3 Days: a guidebook for getting the most out of your visit

If you are interested in strolling through the city center, visiting the beaches of Malaga, the Caminito del Rey and the Nerja Caves in a weekend, this itinerary has your name on it.

Carla Yaquer

Carla Yaquer

10 min read

Malaga in 3 Days: a guidebook for getting the most out of your visit

Malaga | ©Jonas Denil

In the capital of the Costa del Sol you can reach the beaches walking through the city center, while museums, Roman legacy, gastronomy and flamenco shows seduce you.

And this is not the only thing, among the best things to do in Malaga also highlights the dizzying Caminito del Rey, some caves and several of the surrounding villages. In this itinerary you will get to know all the places you can see in a 3 day stay, join me.

Day 1: Get to know the center of Malaga

View of the Alcazaba and the Roman Theater| ©Adán Sánchez de Pedro
View of the Alcazaba and the Roman Theater| ©Adán Sánchez de Pedro

After your transfer from Malaga airport, I recommend that you spend the first day touring the essential urban enclaves of the city along its historic center and downtown. The route can be done in different ways:

  • Walking on your own, to let yourself be surprised by the city.
  • With a tour in an electric tuk tuk, with which you go around the outside of the museums and monuments while a guide explains their stories for 1-2 hours.
  • Aboard a segway, a guided tour of a couple of hours of fun.
  • Riding the tourist bus, with a ticket that can include everything from tickets to the main museums of the city, to flamenco shows, to boat rides. This option offers a complete route through this Andalusian capital.

Whatever your choice, these are the essential stops:

Malaga's Alcazaba and Gibralfaro Castle

Start the day at the Alcazaba of Malaga, a fortress of 15,000 square meters that imposes itself in the surroundings of the Gibralfaro mountain. It was built during the 11th century to protect the Muslims from the Catholics. Inside the castle you will travel back in time among its rectangular courtyards, exhibitions, gardens and ponds very well preserved.

Once you finish the walk through this fortress, you can enter through an interior corridor, called the Coracha, to the Castle of Gibralfaro. Here you can get a panoramic view of the city from the viewpoint of Gibralfaro, as well as walk through the 8 towers of the castle, the highest being the Torre Mayor with its 17 meters high.

  • Opening hours: Monday to Sunday between 09:00 - 18:00 hours in summer and Monday to Sunday between 09:00 - 20:00 hours in winter. I leave you here a post in case you are interested in knowing the special opening hours of the Alcazaba.
  • Address: Alcazaba Calle Alcazabilla, 2.

Buy your tickets for the Alcazaba

Roman Theater

After leaving the small Alhambra, go along Alcazabilla street to visit the Roman Theater, rediscovered in 1951.

Admission is free and inside you will find the proescenium - the stage - in the middle of the play that opens the way from the vomitorium of the cavea, a set of 13 tiers rising 16 meters.

A series of legends and a web of stories accompany the Roman legacy and the open-air performances that take place today.

  • Hours: Tuesday to Saturday 10:00 am - 6:00 pm. Sundays and holidays between 10:00 - 16:00 hours.
  • Address: Alcazaba Calle Alcazabilla, s/n.

Guided visit to the Roman Theater and the Alcazaba of Malaga

Museum of Malaga

In the middle of the Roman settlements, I propose a stop that you will find on your way to the Plaza de la Aduana. This is one of the best museums in Malaga, the main of the list, the Museum of Malaga, where art and archeology converge.

Since 1945 it was decided to unite the Provincial Museum of Fine Arts and the Provincial Archaeological Museum to concentrate in the same cultural space the best of both worlds. Admission is free. If you add that the Palacio de la Aduana (Customs Palace ) is located there, doesn't it sound interesting?

  • Hours: Tuesday to Saturday between 09:00 - 21:00 hours. Sundays and holidays between 09:00 - 15:00 hours.
  • Address: Plaza Aduana s/n.

Picasso Museum

Entrance to the Picasso Museum| ©Dr Bob Hall
Entrance to the Picasso Museum| ©Dr Bob Hall

It is said that in every corner of this historic center there is a small representation of the works of Pablo Picasso. It is necessary then to approach the site dedicated to the Malaga artist: the House-Museum of Pablo Ruiz Picasso.

At 350 meters from the Museum of Malaga, in the vicinity of the Plaza de la Merced, a handful of 200 works of the artist await you inside the Renaissance building of the Buenavista palace, and the site is constantly being renovated to portray the life of the Malaga-born artist. If you are interested in learning about this pioneer of cubism, it might be interesting to listen to the comments of the experts.

  • Hours: Monday to Sunday between 10:00 - 19:00 hours.
  • Address: Palacio de Buenavista, C. San Agustín, 8.

Buy your tickets for the Picasso Museum

The Cathedral Basilica

From its 16 chapels to the cathedral's organ, this basilica located just 650 meters from the Picasso Museum is well worth a visit.

Also known as La Manquita, it is so nicknamed because in the process of transforming the work from mosque to cathedral, it was interrupted leaving the South Tower uncompleted. Despite this drawback, its North Tower rises 84 meters, which places the Cathedral of Malaga as the second highest in Andalusia.

  • Hours: Monday to Friday between 10:00 - 18:30 hours. Saturdays between 10:00 - 18:00 hours. Sundays between 14:00 - 18:00 hours.
  • Address: Calle Molina Lario, 9.

Carla's Tip

From Monday to Saturday between 08:30 -9:00 and Sundays between 08:30 - 09:30 the entrance is free. In addition, this cathedral has an audio guide for adults and children.

Recharge your batteries in Larios Street

Once you leave the Cathedral, you will find yourself in the middle of the commercial heart of the city, Calle Larios. There, in addition to strolling along its boulevard of stores, you can stop for lunch.

El Balcón de las flores with its Mediterranean food, the tapas at Taberna de Pintxo Larios or the fried fish at Mellizos de Málaga are a sample of the variety and good taste available.

You can also go straight to the white thorn (nickname because the shape of the roof simulates a thorn and is painted white) of Pier One and have lunch in one of its bars near the beaches.

Afternoon at the beach

By La Malagueta| ©KAMO KAMOEIRAS
By La Malagueta| ©KAMO KAMOEIRAS

From Muelle Uno head to the promenade to continue the tour flanking the sea. The first beach you will find is La Malagueta. It is the most popular thanks to its easy access - only 500 meters walking from the pier - and the complete services it offers.

If you continue walking you will reach the beach of La Caleta and the beach of Pedregalejo. Walking along the beaches is one of the things to do to try to avoid a bit of the heat of this Andalusian province, especially if you visit Malaga in summer.

Night of flamenco shows

It's time to savor Malaga's cuisine with a night tour with wines and tapas and what can make the experience better? Its tablaos. The most popular are:

  • El Tablao Flamenco Alegria: 300 meters from Muelle Uno, it presents 3 shows a day on a cozy terrace. They have been drawing smiles among the public for more than 20 years with their performances and good food.
  • Tablao Los Amayas. It is located two blocks from the Pablo Picasso Museum, an artist who incidentally inspires part of his show. There are 2 performances a day and with your ticket they usually include a drink.

Buy your tickets for the best flamenco shows

Day 2: Nerja and Frigiliana

Nerja, Malaga| ©lhourahane
Nerja, Malaga| ©lhourahane

On the second day of your tour you will travel 55 kilometers along the Eastern Costa del Sol to reach Nerja. You can drive along the A/7 road or combine your trip with a direct excursion to Nerja and Frigiliana.

At this end of the Axarquia, beaches, cliffs and caves are the order of the day for you to relive Verano Azul, a popular Spanish TV series. Let's see what are the things to see and do in the area:

Visit the beaches of Nerja

There are 13 kilometers of coastline where the highlights are:

  • Calahonda Beach. Located at the foot of the Balcon de Europa, it has a picturesque entrance: the boquete de Calahonda. A staircase flanked by boats that gained popularity after the filming of the series Verano Azul.
  • Burriana Beach: The option that receives more visitors thanks to its range of services that, along with its water activities allow you to tour the Maro Cliff, the Caleta de Maro Beach, the Cascada Doncella, the Nerja Cliff, the passage through the Puente del Águila and the Cascada grande Maro, you can also enjoy the sighting of the bird habitat.

On this beach you can opt for:

  • A paddle surfing route from 25 €.
  • Follow a route in Kayak to which is added the possibility of snorkeling, all from 30 €.
  • Parasailing or powered parachute flight from 60 €.
  • Jet ski for couples from 140 €.
  • Rent a boat and tour the enclaves of Nerja and Maro accompanied by up to 4 people on a midday excursion from 299 €.

Visiting the Nerja Caves

Make a note of this stop among the things to do with children. The Nerja Caves are Spanish historical heritage. This monument stands out for its prehistoric symbolism and the wealth of stalactites and stalagmites that draw the cave.

The tour open to the public consists of 7 rooms including the Hall of Ghosts and the Hall of the Cataclysm, the favorite spaces of the kids.

The visit to this cave is often done in conjunction with the Chanquete's boat and the Museum of Nerja. The whole set marvels the whole family.

To lean out of the Balcony of Europe

This is one of the landmarks of Nerja, a balcony built in the eleventh century that in ancient times located the Torre de los Guardas thanks to its strategic point and panoramic view. You can walk along the promenade of the Carabineros on the beach of Burriana. The tour lasts about 20 minutes and there you will be able to find the best postcards of Nerja.

Book your excursion to Nerja and Frigiliana

Visit Frigiliana

Frigiliana, Malaga| ©Keith Roper
Frigiliana, Malaga| ©Keith Roper

In this village the historic center is small and the tour is often guided by the passage of the Twelve Plaques that identify its Moorish heritage. There are several things to do in Frigiliana such as the visit to the Botanical Garden, the walk through the Reales Pósitos, the Fuente Vieja and the Castillo de Lizar, but the must-sees in my opinion are:

  • El Fuerte. A route of 7 kilometers at 900 meters above sea level. The imprint of the city presents you with a multitude of white houses with the coastline in the background. The Fort is a pass between its views and trails.
  • The Archaeological Museum. This is the first museum representative of the eastern part of Malaga. Inside, the Sephardic, Christian and Arab culture are exhibited among a hundred pieces.

The sunset from this village is of photography. In the evening you can return to the center of Malaga where you may want to sit on one of the terraces of the promenade or take a gastronomic tour.

Book your excursion to Nerja and Frigiliana

Day 3: Visit the Caminito del Rey, Carratraca and Ardales

Caminito del Rey, Malaga| ©Frayle
Caminito del Rey, Malaga| ©Frayle

The route through the Caminito del Rey, Carratraca and Ardales is one of the best day trips from Malaga.

You can do it by private car following the road A/357 or with a private excursion to the Caminito del Rey, Carratraca and Ardales. In both cases it will be 60 kilometers north through the white villages of the Sierra de Alcaparaín between which it is worth making at least a couple of stops.

Carratraca

Located in the municipality of Guadalteba, in this village stands out the Balneario de Carratraca, an emblematic place that since 1855 has served to relax with its thermal waters to personalities such as the poet Rainer Maria Rilke to Antonio Banderas.

Another iconic place is the hermitage of the Virgen de la Salud, located in a forest trail that makes its way behind the Plaza de Toros of the countryside.

Ardales

Continuing along the route of the white villages of Malaga you will find Ardales among orange plantations. In this area it is worth visiting Doña Trinidad Grund, better known as the Cave of Ardales, one of the most important caves in Malaga.

Along its 1.5 kilometers you will find contiguous lakes and an interesting collection of stalagmites and columns that do not leave visitors indifferent. With this visit you will be able to admire the cultural beauty of Ardales, which not in vain is part of the European Prehistoric Rock Art Trail since 2010.

Book your tour to Caminito del Rey

The Caminito del Rey

The next stop is in El Chorro where the mountainous landscape, marshes and valleys give way to the Caminito del Rey. This famous path is a footbridge that rises above the Sierra Huma, in the Guadalhorce reservoir.

Originally, it was built by fishermen in the early twentieth century. Their work was titanic and although the issue of safety for passers-by was not taken into account, King Alfonso XIII walked the footbridge, giving rise to its name.

Once you arrive at the Desfiladero de los Gaitanes you will walk for 1.5 kilometers, sticking to the vertical rocks to reach the entrance.

During the tour you will discover the magical landscapes that surround the enclave whose geology is of continuous study, while you complete the 3 kilometers of road. Between the walkways and the viewpoints, it will be between 2.5 - 3 hours of walking suspended at 105 meters above sea level.

By far, the adrenaline rush on this trail makes it a must for extreme travelers. Don't forget to bring comfortable shoes, light clothing and a swimsuit to end the day with a dip in the Pantano del Chorro, an inland beach located 600 meters from the Caminito del Rey.

Book an excursion to the Caminito del Rey with picnic

Summary itinerary of 3 days trip to Malaga

  • Day 1
  • Downtown Malaga
  • The Alcazaba and the Castle of Gibralfaro
  • Roman Theater
  • Museums
  • The Cathedral - Basilica
  • Larios Street
  • Visit to the beaches
  • Tablaos
  • Day 2
  • Eastern Costa del Sol
  • Visit the beaches of Nerja
  • Visit the Caves of Nerja
  • Hiking in Frigiliana
  • Day 3
  • White villages of the Sierra Malagueña
  • The Caminito del Rey
  • The Chorro Reservoir