Málaga Travel Guide

Málaga Travel Guide

Curation by Yasmina Rodríguez, words by Laura Tucker

Putting the soul into the Costa del Sol is the ancient city and beach town of Málaga, blending gorgeous architecture and rich history with sun-soaked luxury retreats and a wicked nightlife scene. The birthplace of Picasso on Spain’s southern tip, Málaga is much more than sun, sea and sand – here you’ll find authentic Spanish traditions, remnants from both the Roman and Islamic empires, as well as classic tapas and local wines at beachside chiringuitos. Spain is renowned for its LGBTQ+ progressiveness and Málaga is no different. Although the city centre’s gay scene is fairly small, Málaga province is actually home to Andalucía’s liveliest gay scene of Torremolinos, just 20 minutes from Málaga, centred around La Nogalera, where most gay folk party on the weekends. Confused about what to do in Málaga? Sit back and let our definitive Málaga gay city guide do the work.

The best hotels in Málaga

While in Málaga, visitors can take advantage of affordable accommodation options without having to sacrifice on style. The city is home to a myriad of super-cool design and boutique hotels, whether in the historic centre or further out towards the more isolated beaches. First up in our Málaga gay travel guide is the Hotel Vincci Selección Posada del Patio, a spacious 5-star lodging just a ten-minute walk from the centre and dripping with history. Explore Roman and Arabic ruins underneath the bar or head straight up to your room to enjoy the colourful décor and adjoined private terraces. Room Mate Valeria meanwhile offers monochrome designer rooms overlooking the port and azure Mediterranean sea beyond. Other comforts of this Calle Marqués-based hotel include the roof terrace with plunge pool and lounge area and private balcony options.

Halcyon Days is a series of apartments in a prime position, moments from the marble-paved shopping hub of Calle Larios and the city’s cathedral, with spacious and uniquely designed rooms. Nearby boutique Hotel Molina Lario is also an impressive option, based across two renovated 19th-century buildings, each with the original façade. As well as offering modern design and a terrace dining area, Hotel Molina Lario’s rooftop pool views steal the show. Another historic build is the luxury Gran Hotel Miramar, found at Malagueta Beach in Caleta (just one kilometre from the city centre) and showcasing Moorish and Andalusian finishes amid grand archways and leafy courtyards. Having hosted various famous guests including Orson Welles and Elizabeth Taylor since its opening in 1926, the Gran Hotel is a real gem, maintaining an authentic old-world spirit as well as a chill Ibiza-esque vibe, especially felt on the rooftop bar. For when you’re bored of the beach, the site also offers a number of restaurants, a full spa and a huge pool.

Room Mate Valeria

Room Mate Valeria

Having hosted various famous guests including Orson Welles and Elizabeth Taylor since its opening in 1926, the Gran Hotel is a real gem, maintaining an authentic old-world spirit as well as a chill Ibiza-esque vibe, especially felt on the rooftop bar

Room Mate Valeria

Room Mate Valeria

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Recommended hotels in Málaga
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Things to do in Málaga

As well as knowing how to host a party, Málaga does a stellar job on the cultural and historical front too. Of the best Málaga things to do besides a beach day, a visit to the city’s cultural hubs is much recommended. La Térmica is one of them, a former military hospital turned social space that now hosts various community workshops, interesting exhibits and live music on specific dates. For more of the same, The Courtyard of La Invisible is a centre hidden in an ancient palace inside the Nasrid wall of the city centre. Running activities such as artisan and charity street markets, the centre is also a great place to relax and enjoy a homemade meal in the courtyard. After dinner, consider attending a workshop or talk on relevant social issues or even a dance performance.

Roman theatre is big in the city but so too is modern independent cinema, epitomized by Cines Albéniz, an old-fashioned movie house showing original versions of independent films covering Hollywood, cartoon and French genres. A slightly different viewing experience can be had as the Microteatro, a cosy meeting spot in the hipster side of the city, offering literary workshops, art exhibitions and a micro theatre in the original basement halls. Another cultural institution in Málaga is Centre Pompidou Málaga, a museum just off of the main Paris’ Pompidou Centre where modern architecture meets a permanent exhibition of art from Frida Kahlo, Francis Bacon and Antoni Tàpies, as well as audio-visual installations and temporary events.

Get back outside for our next Málaga sightseeing spot, which is the Noria Mirador Princess, a high-flying Ferris wheel on the waterfront, bringing bird’s eye views over the old town and port area for an interlude of 15 minutes. At the top, if you squint, you’ll might be able to catch a glimpse of former fishing village Torremolinos. This place is best viewed up close, however, as home of the largest gay scene in the Costa del Sol. The 20-minute journey south of the city towards the Mijas Mountains is more than worth it, as you’ll no doubt be joined by numerous other like-minded people along the way, all looking for sun, sea and gay-friendly fun. If you come before nightfall, make sure to visit the famed El Bajondillo and La Carihuela beaches.

Centre Pompidou Málaga | Photo: Michael Martinelli

Centre Pompidou Málaga

Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga | Photo: Quino Al

Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga | Photo: Quino Al

La Térmica is one of them, a former military hospital turned social space that now hosts various community workshops, interesting exhibits and live music on specific dates

La Térmica

La Térmica

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Recommended experiences in Málaga
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What to see in Málaga

Let’s get right down to it; when exploring Málaga, make sure you hit up the three coolest neighbourhoods, as named by us; Soho, El Perchel and La Merced. From its name, you might already guess that Soho will be cool, but this Soho reaches whole new levels of hipster chill, based in a somewhat grungy quarter, just moments from the busy port. What used to be a genteel residential area has now been transformed into Andalucia’s most exciting street art venues, thanks to the work of leading graffiti artists found throughout. El Perchel meanwhile is Málaga’s oldest neighbourhood, an off-the-beaten-track gem that oozes local culture. Situated on the water’s edge and home to the must-see Mercado del Carmen, El Perchel is where locals shop and where fishermen ply their catch of the day to the city’s restauranteurs and hoteliers. And then there’s El Merced, a buzzing district that holds claim as Pablo Picasso’s birthplace. As well as being home to an international food market and great restaurants, La Merced also offers non-stop entertainment and some of the city’s best bars and clubs on Calle Alamo and Calle Carreteria.

If El Merced has piqued your interest for Picasso, check out Museo Picasso where you’ll find a collection of the legendary artist’s most meaningful works, curated by the man himself! With 233 works across 11 rooms spanning a total of 80 years, Museo Picasso is an incredible asset to the city, showcasing Picasso’s unconventional styles in a variety of mediums. Continue your art tour of the city at Casa Sostoa, a private home and eclectic art project created by Pedro Alarcón. One of the lesser-known Málaga points of interest, Casa Sostoa is well worth the trip, so long as you call ahead to make an appointment!

Casa Sostoa | Photo: Fernando Bayona

Casa Sostoa | Photo: Fernando Bayona

For insight into Málaga from a time gone by, visit The Church of Santiago, the oldest church in the city, established in 1490 on the site of a former mosque. The original Mudéjar façade remains while the matching square tower was added in the 16th century. Inside the church, discover the site of Picasso’s baptism, as well as valuable works by Alonso Cano and Niño de Guevara. Those who like their history to be combined with a lot of greenery will enjoy a trip through La Concepción Historical-Botanical Gardens, a set of exotic hillside gardens conceptualised in the 19th century by the noble Loring-Heredia clan and featuring the largest collection of subtropical plants in Europe. Other points of interest include the foliage-veiled Doric Temple and the many fountains and waterfalls.

If you like your history crumbling and ancient, a visit to the ruins of the Roman Theatre is for you. One of the city’s last remaining relics of Roman Hispania, these ruins, despite only being discovered in the 1960s, date as far back as the 1st century. The theatre is now fully functioning and runs al fresco performances throughout the year. To remember the city’s Islamic past, a visit to the craggy ramparts of the Castillo de Gibralfaro is in order, overlooking the city from its hillside location. Established in the 8th century by the Caliphate of Córdoba and since rebuilt in the 14th, this castle has been used for a number of purposes, spanning lighthouse duties and military barracks. Walk the high-up perimeter wall for some of the best views over Málaga.

Botanical Garden

Botanical Garden

From its name, you might already guess that Soho will be cool, but this Soho reaches whole new levels of hipster chill, based in a somewhat grungy quarter, just moments from the busy port

Photo: pxhere

Photo: pxhere

Where to eat in Málaga

Eclectic and unpretentious, Málaga has a wonderful dining culture just waiting for travellers to tuck into. We’ll start with some of the best authentic Spanish cuisine. El Mesón de Cervantes is a classic tapas joint and pretty famous in these parts, due to its excellence in every aspect – its seafood, meat and vegetarian options are all to die for. Over in Soho near the river edge is La Deriva, boasting a relaxed ambience and a stylish setting, in addition to standout cuisine such as their saffron y jamón risotto. Third up is Eboka, an awardee of the government’s “Sabor a Málaga” stamp of approval, not to be beaten on traditional Spanish flavour, with its star dishes such as ajoblanco and porra, paired with an extensive range of Málaga-made wines and craft beers.

Spain’s version of Japanese Izakaya dining is “Chiringuito”, a small beachside bar serving up alcohol and tapas dishes. The top chiringuito on the coast is west-side Gutiérrez Playa, a beach bar serving fresh, locally-caught seafood for lunch and dinner. Enjoy the small fry and wine selection as well as the Málaga-famous Espeto cooking style, where fish on a stick is cooked over fire. Also attempting to fill your lifetime cravings for tapas and wine is Anyway Wine Bar, a small yet classy joint with a central location. Over a glass or two of local red, enjoy nibbles of Iberian ham, cheeses and Galiucian beef.

Michelin-starred Málaga is relatively new and worth a little exploration. Award-winning Restaurante José Carlos García in the port area of Muelle Uno is an ambitious yet welcoming eatery, comprised of three stylish dining spaces and serving up experimental takes on local dishes. With double, the number of Michelin stars is Dani García’s BIBO Marbella, a dynamic and indulgent space in Puente Romano Marbella, complete with avant-garde green walls offset with monochrome accents. Their food also flirts with flamboyance, putting twists on traditional dishes such as their anemone and ceviche gazpacho and seafood ‘gypsy stew’.

Photo: pxhere

Photo: pxhere

Spain’s version of Japanese Izakaya dining is “Chiringuito”, a small beachside bar serving fresh, locally-caught seafood for lunch and dinner

While Málaga is not famed for its vegan options, Siete Semillas is a perfect exception. This quirky industrial loft space, on the doorstep of Atarazanas Market, comes replete with high ceilings and hanging spider plants. Its organic menu spans tabbouleh and soups as well as great juices and smoothies. They’ll even serve meat dishes for the odd one out in your party! El Vegetariano de la Alcazabilla is another eatery offering reasonably priced vegetarian fare and also happens to have one of the best outdoor terraces in central Málaga. Expect to find Spanish classics such as paella and croquetas on the menu, as well as veggie burgers, in a jazzy setting with friendly service.

For a hip and healthy brunch, look no further than the Recyclo Bike Café, a popular pooch-friendly spot with its own outdoor terrace and bike repair service. Their healthy food and artisan beers are worth a glance too! Last up is beloved, Marbella-based bistro Casanis Marbella, popular year-round among locals. Based on a 150-year-old country house, doubling up as a living art workshop, Casani boasts all original interiors, with wooden beams, terracotta flooring and unique, wall-hanging artworks. The menu here is largely traditional French cuisine with a modern twist, but there is also a wide choice of tapas and wine pairings.

Photo: pxhere

Photo: pxhere

Shopping in Málaga

Marqués de Larios Street is Málaga’s version of New York’s Fifth Avenue, so it would be a crime not to come here while in town to do some retail therapy. Lined with traditional businesses and world-famous fashion brands, this is the shopping epicentre of Málaga. While you’re here, try out the Atarazanas Market-based in a 14th-century build and selling pretty much anything you could dream of. For an alternative shopping experience, head to La Brecha, a small shopping mall tucked between Calle Nosquera and Calle Andrés Pérez, solely dedicated to craftsmanship. Among the stores here is legendary record store Candilejas which hosts small concerts and serves as a platform for local artists, flamenco and Spanish genres. The other stores at La Brecha sell all sorts, from musical instruments and minimalist furniture to leather handicrafts and ceramics.

Talking of ceramics, if you’re searching for the perfect delicate gift while in Málaga, don’t miss Alfajar, a store that makes and sells custom ceramic décor, tableware and sculptures, both big and small. Tell the owner your wants and desires and he’ll make it for you! Even for those not into books, Re-Read bookstore is worth a visit, modernizing the concept of second-hand bookstores with its bright and airy space, found on 27 Calle Victoria Street. To stock up on wines and tapas products, El Almacén del Indiano is the place to go, an all-Andalusian grocer’s shop offering taste testing of craft beer, cured meats, cheeses and pickles sourced from across Spain. On Thursdays, at 9 pm you’ll also get the opportunity to taste test Spanish-origin wines!

Of Málaga’s clothing stores, Veganized is perhaps the most eco-friendly, a trendy little boutique with an admirable collection of ‘non-toxic fashions’, from sustainable companies such as Wear Your Waste, Ethletic and Manifesto Eco. Another eco option is vintage store Flamingos Vintage Kilo Málaga on Calle Ollerías. Overflowing with piles of vintage stock and a friendly vibe, Flamingos is the perfect place for unique finds and costume finishers.

Veganized

Veganized

Marqués de Larios Street is Málaga’s version of New York’s Fifth Avenue, so it would be a crime not to come here while in town to do some retail therapy

Photo: Héctor Martínez

Photo: Héctor Martínez

Málaga nightlife

After a hard day’s work enjoying the beach or slow-moving café culture, Málaga nightlife has something special waiting for you. Our Málaga gay nightlife guide starts with the best of the city’s rooftop bars. The TOP at Molina Lario Hotel is a TOP choice, boasting two panoramic terrace areas where they serve up an exclusive range of quality cocktails and gastronomic delights. Also a Lario is the Larios Terrace on Marqués de Larios street, a social hotspot in the city. The terrace rooftop here features massive sofas for lounging as well as an diverse range of events, from language exchange and themed parties to fashion shows and concerts.

There are a fair few spots shaking up the cocktail and craft beer scene in Málaga. Of them, La Madriguera Craft Beer is a live music bar on Calle Carreterías with beer tastings and snacks in a friendly atmosphere. For cocktails, La vida de la gente is our favourite, an elegant space with a blend of modern and Spanish traditions serving inspired cocktails such as the wonderful coconut mojito. Then there’s 1804 Cocktail Bar, a place to enjoy full-on-flavour cocktails in uniquely eye-catching yet cosy surroundings.

After sundown, you may be wondering where all the gay bars are. News is that they are all in Torremolinos, the gay party town of your dreams. Take a 20-minute taxi ride and end up at EDEN Beach Club. EDEN is a gay favourite, attracting all types of guys, particularly in summer with awesome parties during Pride week. Serving up a large choice of food and drink right on the beach front, EDEN is always worth it on a weekend for its special events, such as the tea dance. One of Torremolino’s most attractive hangouts in the early evening is El Gato Lounge where the gay beach crowd from Beirola Beach congregates. Just 10 minutes from La Nogalera gay village, El Gato has a gorgeous terrace with an excellent menu of Andalusian cuisine. Back in the main hub is Codigo Bar, complete with a large terrace area, lip-smacking cocktails and friendly (and hot) staff. With a relaxing and sociable atmosphere, Codigo is also the place to come for cabaret and drag shows.

Photo: Daniel Horvath

Photo: Daniel Horvath

After sundown, you may be wondering where all the gay bars are. News is that they are all in Torremolinos, the gay party town of your dreams. EDEN is a gay favourite, attracting all types of guys, particularly in summer with awesome parties during Pride week

Photo: David Becker

Photo: David Becker

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