Krista the Explorer
31 Historic Attractions in Málaga's City Centre
Updated: Dec 22, 2021
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What first comes to mind when you think of Málaga? For many people it's the city's vast amount of beaches, its nightlife scene, and its near perfect temperature all year round. If this doesn't appeal to you, you'll be pleased to know that Málaga is much more than that, and has a deep rooted history going back thousands of years, as well as a fascinating culture that's worth learning more about. There are also countless historic attractions in Málaga's city centre to visit, and many of them are free too! In fact, most of the main places of interest in Málaga are within walking distance of one another, making it very easy to plan a day trip to the centro histórico and see all that Málaga has to offer.
Málaga is one of my favourite large cities in southern Spain to visit, and is very different from the likes of Granada and Seville. Founded in 770 BC by the Phoenicians, Málaga is considered to be one of the oldest cities in the world, and based on its geographical location, it's also the largest southernmost city in all of Europe. From Roman archaeological ruins, to an Arab fortress, to Catholic religious monuments - Málaga is practically bursting with historic sites to visit. As you can imagine, there are numerous things to do in Málaga's city centre, especially if you're planning on spending a while in the city! Here are my top picks for the best historic attractions in Málaga's city centre that you won't want to miss:
1. Catedral de Málaga
One of the main historic attractions in Málaga's city centre is without a doubt the Catedral de Málaga (Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación). Building began on this cathedral in 1530, on the site of an old Arab mosque, and finished in the 17th century. Strangely enough, although work has finished on the cathedral, one of the towers remains unfinished due to funds being sent overseas for various wars. The cathedral has lovingly been nicknamed The One-Armed Lady by locals because of this. I would highly recommend going inside the cathedral if you can, but if you're not able to it's very impressive on the outside and there are plenty of different angles you can take photos of it from. Entrance to the cathedral costs €5.50, and you can add a tour of the cathedral's roof to your ticket as well, which would bring your total to €9.
2. Palacio Episcopal
Sitting next to the cathedral, in Plaza del Obispo, is the very colourful Palacio Episcopal. The original construction of this palace dates back to the 16th century, but it was later deemed to be too small so it was expanded upon, and the palace that you see today dates to the 18th century. Its doors are not always open, but if you happen to be walking past and they are, it's worth taking a look inside because it's now used to house religious artwork as well as other interesting exhibitions. Unfortunately, many tourists in Málaga stop outside to take a photo of the building, but don't actually explore its interior. Entrance to the palace costs just €4.
3. Hospital de Santo Tomás
Across from the main entrance to the cathedral is another interesting historic building in Málaga to take a look at. Hospital de Santo Tomás is not your typical tourist attraction in Málaga, but it does have an interesting history behind it. It was founded in 1505 by a knight who fought with the Catholic army to reconquer Málaga from the Muslims (his remains rest inside the building), and its main purpose was to provide healthcare to the poor. The building that stands today is a 19th century reconstruction of the original, which was needed following a large earthquake that struck the city. You can't miss it if you're heading to the inside of the cathedral!
4. Palacio de Zea-Salvatierra
Considered to be one of the most important buildings in the city coming from the 17th and 18th centuries, Palacio de Zea-Salvatierra still proudly stands opposite the cathedral entrance, next to Hospital de Santo Tomás. Over the years, it has been used as both the headquarters of the city council, as well as a postal office. This historic attraction in Málaga is often passed by without much thought, but it's a lovely piece of Baroque architecture to look at as you make your way through the city.
5. Calle San Agustín
One of my favourite streets in Málaga's city centre has to be Calle San Agustín. It leads from the cathedral all the way up to the Picasso museum, and is lined with small shops and restaurants. You'll also pass by the 16th century Iglesia de San Agustín which is very bright and colourful, much like Palacio Episcopal. This street is a great example of the traditional layout of Málaga's centro histórico, and if you turn around to take another look at the cathedral, you'll be in for a beautiful view (and a great photo spot) too!
6. Museo Picasso Málaga
Did you know Picasso was born in Málaga? The city is very proud of its ties to one of the world's most famous artists, and at Museo Picasso Málaga you can see many of his artworks on display. The museum sits on Calle San Agustín, which is where Picasso went to nursery school and also where his father worked as a curator. The building that was chosen for the museum is the 16th century Palacio de Buenavista, which was used as a home for centuries before being turned into a school, a factory, and a hospital during the Spanish Civil War. It costs €12 to enter the museum.
7. Iglesia de Santa Ana
Iglesia de Santa Ana is a bit of a hidden gem in Málaga, and is easily missed as you make your way from the cathedral to the fortress since it's tucked away at the back of a narrow street. This 19th century church is also referred to as the Cistercian Abbey, and was only recently restored in 1990. The doors were unfortunately closed when I came across it by chance, however it is a lovely quiet street to take a photo in. This is just one of the many unique historic attractions in Málaga's city centre that you can visit if you have time in your schedule.
8. Museo Revello de Toro
Just across the street from Iglesia de Santa Ana is another interesting museum that you could add to your Málaga itinerary - Museo Revello de Toro (entry is €2.50). It's housed in a 17th century building which would have been home to the sculptor Pedro de Mena. Inside, you can find over 100 artworks of the famous portrait and figurative painter Felix Revello de Toro. There are plenty of museums in Málaga to choose from, and many of them are just as unique as this one. They make for a great option of something to do in Málaga on a rainy day.
9. Museo de Málaga
Museo de Málaga boasts an interesting mixture of Fine Arts pieces and archaeological artefacts. Although it wasn't opened until 2016, this museum sits in Palacio de la Aduana, which was built in the 18th century and used as a customs building for the Port of Málaga. It's a very impressive building to look at from the outside and is definitely one of the key places of interest in Málaga. Entry costs €1.50 for non-EU citizens and is completely free for EU citizens, which is great if you're visiting Málaga on a budget!
10. Teatro Romano de Málaga
Are there free things to do in Málaga? Absolutely! Teatro Romano de Málaga is one of the most recognizable historic attractions in Málaga's city centre, and yes, it's completely free to enter. It dates back to the 1st century AD, during the reign of Augustus, and was in use until the 3rd century. Many of its stones and columns were later used by the Arabs to construct the fortress that it stands at the base of. If you're lucky with your timing, you'll be able to see a show taking place in the amphitheatre! While you're sightseeing in Málaga, you won't want to miss this!
11. Piletas de Garum
Right in front of the Roman amphitheatre is a small glass pyramid in the middle of the pedestrianized street. Calle Alcazabilla is home to what's known as the Roman Piletas de Garum, which are Roman basins that would have been used in a salted fish factory in the 4th century. The sauce that would have been made in these basins is called garum, hence the name. The glass pyramid allows people to look directly at the basins, while at the same time protecting them. Make sure you take a look the next time you're near the amphitheatre!
12. Alcazaba de Málaga & Castillo de Gibralfaro
You can't visit Málaga without going inside the alcazaba and the castillo. The Alcazaba de Málaga is an Arab fortress built in the 11th century, and is considered to be one of the most beautiful in all of Spain. It sits at the base of Gibralfaro hill, and overlooks the Roman amphitheatre. At the very top of the hill is where you'll find Castillo de Gibralfaro, which was built in the 14th century to protect the alcazaba. The castle is less impressive than the fortress, but is definitely worth visiting, especially for the views, and is one of the best castles in the Province of Málaga too. At the base of the fortress and castle you can also find two beautiful gardens, Jardines de Puerta Oscura and Jardines de Pedro Luis Alonso, which are nice to stroll around if you have the time (and free). Entry to the alcazaba and the castillo costs €3.50 each, or you can get a combined ticket for just €5.50, and the tickets can only be bought onsite. The alcazaba and castillo are definitely two historic attractions in Málaga's city centre that need to be added to your list of things to do in the city!
13. Cementerio Inglés de Málaga
This one might be a bit unusual, but the Cementerio Inglés de Málaga (English cemetery) is located only a short walk from the alcazaba and is one of the most popular points of interest in Málaga. Established in 1831, it's the oldest Protestant cemetery on the Spanish mainland, and was advocated for by a British Consul after he saw the way Protestants were being buried along the shoreline in the middle of the night. It's a very interesting historic attraction in Málaga to visit, and costs just €5 to enter, which goes towards the upkeep of the cemetery.
14. Plaza de Toros de la Malagueta
I know that most people don't condone what goes on inside a bullring, but they are an important aspect of Spanish culture and history, so it's worth it to learn more about them. You don't need to go to a bullfight though so don't worry! Many of the bullrings in Spain offer guided tours of the building itself, which are usually quite impressive. Málaga's bullring is called Plaza de Toros de la Malagueta, which opened in 1876 and unfortunately still hosts bullfights. It sits across the road from the English cemetery, and is one of the most famous places in Málaga.
15. Centre Pompidou Málaga
The Centre Pompidou Málaga is definitely a standout building along Málaga's waterfront. It's a very modern building, opened in 2015, but inside you can view beautiful works of art from the 20th and 21st centuries. Artists on display include Picasso, Frida Kahlo, and Francis Bacon - and that's not including artists from the temporary exhibitions. It's the first branch of the French museum to be located outside of France too, so you really shouldn't miss it! It costs €9 to have access to both the permanent and temporary exhibitions. The building itself is one of the most unique things to see in Málaga too, and is a great spot for a photo. Directly below the Centre Pompidou Málaga is a large parking garage which is perfectly located to explore Málaga from.
16. Puerto de Málaga
The Puerto de Málaga may look very modern now, lined with restaurants, palm trees, and shops, but its history dates back to the time of the Phoenicians in the 1st century BC. It quickly grew into an important export port for a wide variety of goods, and was also used by Spanish soldiers when the Catholic army reconquered Málaga from the Arabs. It's one of the prettiest places to go in Málaga for a casual stroll, and is just across the road from Parque de Málaga too.
17. Estatua de Hans Christian Andersen
As you make your way into Málaga's old town, you may come across this statue of Hans Christian Andersen. At first I thought this was quite random, but it turns out that it was commissioned by the Danish royal family to commemorate the Danish author's trip to Málaga in 1862. He loved the city so much that he wrote about it in his book, In Spain. It's not one of the main points of interest in Málaga, but it is an interesting statue to take a quick photo with!
18. Calle Larios
One of the main shopping streets in Málaga's historic centre is Calle Larios. If you happen to visit Málaga during the festive season, the street is beautifully decorated with a light and sound display which is magical to walk under. During the summer months, it's lined with colourful flowers and is eventually covered to provide shade for shoppers. The redesigned street was officially opened in 1891, and since then has been at the centre of life in Málaga.
19. Plaza de la Constitución
At the far end of Calle Larios is Plaza de la Constitución, which has been in use since the time of the Catholic reconquest. You can often find large events being held in this plaza, and many of the buildings surrounding it are of cultural importance. Tucked away in a corner of the plaza is Fuente de Genova, which dates back to the 16th century, but wasn't brought to Málaga until the 17th century. On all sides of this plaza you'll find narrow, winding streets that are filled with shops and restaurants as well. Due to its central location, this plaza is one historic attraction in Málaga that's easy to find and will only take a few minutes out of your schedule to take a look at.
20. Plaza de las Flores
Only a short walk from Plaza de la Constitución is another plaza which is often missed by tourists. Plaza de las Flores is a bit of a hidden gem in Málaga, and is packed with cafes and restaurants. Between the 10th and 12th centuries, this area would have been used by the Moors for tanning leather, and you can see some archaeological remains of one of the tanneries under a glass panel in one of the shops. At one end of the plaza you can see a large water fountain in the shape of a horse trough, which was built in recognition of this plaza's past.
21. Mercado Central de Atarazanas
If you love food, you're going to want to check out Mercado Central de Atarazanas. This market is where people in Málaga go to buy fresh produce, as well as grab some delicious tapas. Most walking tours in Málaga will stop here, and if you have time I would recommend going on a food tour of Málaga for an unforgettable experience. The market itself dates back to the 14th century, and the current building was constructed to reflect its original design. It's a fantastic historic attraction in Málaga to visit - especially if you're a little bit hungry!
22. Sagasta, 5 Guerrero Strachan
Directly opposite the market is an interesting example of neo-Moorish architecture. Sagasta, 5 Guerrero Strachan was built in the 20th century, but resembles the architectural style that was popular in Málaga in the 18th century. This obviously isn't one of the top attractions in Málaga, but it's very unique to look at, so make sure you look up as you make your way to the market!
23. Puente de los Alemanes
Puente de los Alemanes (Bridge of the Germans) was built in 1909, and was gifted to the city of Málaga by the Germans, as a thank you for helping one of their vessels that became wrecked in the port during a storm. The bridge sits on the outskirts of the old town, making it a somewhat overlooked historic attraction in Málaga. It's definitely worth walking across though, as it connects to the beautiful Iglesia de Santo Domingo de Guzmán, which has a history dating back to the 15th century.
24. Colección del Museo Ruso
This one is a little outside of the historic centre, but if you like learning about Russian history or automobiles in general, it will be worth the trip. The Antigua Fábrica de Tabaco (Old Tobacco Factory) was built in the 1930's, and played an important role in the industrial scene of the city. Today, the factory is being used for a number of different things, from municipal offices to museums. The Museo Automovilístico de Málaga (Málaga Automobile Museum, €9.50) is a key tourist attraction in Málaga, and is home to one of the most important vintage car collections in the world. You can also find Colección del Museo Ruso (Russian Museum, €8) within the factory grounds, which houses Russian artwork from as far back as the 15th century. The art comes directly from the Russian State Museum in St Petersburg. This factory complex is one of the more interesting places to visit in Málaga if you have some extra time!
25. Hammam Al Ándalus Málaga
What better way to relax than in the Hammam Al Ándalus? The baths are themed on Arab architecture, and follow the traditional Turkish bath circuit, where you change between pools of different temperatures. You can find a number of these Arab baths throughout southern Spain, but Málaga's has a very good reputation. If you travel to Jerez de la Frontera I would recommend trying theirs out as well. Málaga's Arab baths are not too far from Picasso's museum either!
26. Plaza de la Merced
One of the most picturesque spots in Málaga is Plaza de la Merced. It's located less than a five minute walk from the Roman amphitheatre, and is lined with popular cafes and restaurants. The plaza has been in use since the Roman's occupation of Málaga, and since the 15th century has operated as an outdoor marketplace. In the spring time it's a beautiful space to visit, with the purple flowers blossoming on the trees. Currently there are ongoing archaeological excavations on one side of the plaza, where they are expecting to find medieval and Roman ruins.
27. Museo Casa Natal de Picasso
A big claim to fame that Plaza de la Merced has is being the birthplace of Picasso. Museo Casa Natal de Picasso sits in a corner of the plaza, just behind the statue of Picasso, and is where the famous artist was born. Today it's used as a museum (€4 to enter) that showcases the life of Picasso and his ties to the city. This is one of the most popular attractions in Málaga, and is a very unique museum to visit too.
28. Mercado de Salamanca
One thing to see in Málaga's city centre that most people don't know about is Mercado de Salamanca. As you can see from the photo, there were restoration works going on when we attempted to visit, but maybe you'll have better luck! This market was built in the 1920's, and reflects the Arab-style architecture that would have dominated much of southern Spain in the medieval period. There are tiles around the main arch which show you what kind of produce you'll find inside at the various market stalls as well. This market is smaller than the popular Mercado Central de Atarazanas, but it's a big hit with the locals and is only a short walk from the old town too, making it a great historic attraction in Málaga to visit.
29. Santuario de la Victoria
I came across Santuario de la Victoria while I was walking around the outskirts of the historic centre, and was amazed that this building had never come up on any lists of things to see in Málaga. This beautiful church was built in the 16th century, and was originally used as a hermitage. The spot it was built on was actually where the Catholic monarchs (Ferdinand and Isabella) camped during the siege of the city. It has also been home to a number of brotherhoods who participate in Holy Week in Málaga. It has a lot of history behind it, and is the perfect historic attraction in Málaga to visit if you don't mind venturing outside of the old town.
30. Cementerio Histórico de San Miguel
In terms of historic attractions in Málaga's city centre, they don't come much bigger than Cementerio Histórico de San Miguel. This cemetery is considered to be one of the most historic in all of Spain, and is also one of the only 19th century necropolises to survive intact today. It was built as a result of a royal decree, when it was decided that burials in churches couldn't continue for health reasons. The cemetery is filled with elaborate mausoleums which are very interesting to look at. It is a bit of a trek to get here from the old town, but if you have nice weather it makes for a lovely walk!
31. La Concepción Jardín Botánico-Historico
You'll probably need a car or a bus to get to this one, but La Concepción Jardín Botánico-Historico is definitely worth adding to your list of places to see in Málaga. The garden is over 150 years old, and is one of the only gardens that features subtropical plants in it in all of Europe. It was originally the recreational home of a wealthy family in the 19th century, and they kept various archaeological artefacts within the grounds (which are still on display). As you walk around, you'll find a number of sculptures, temples, and of course their stately home as well which you can explore. It's a stunning historic attraction in Málaga to visit, and is very different from the regular tourist attractions in the city centre.
32. Mirador de Gibralfaro
The best viewpoint in Málaga can be found at Mirador de Gibralfaro. From here, you're able to see the port area, the city below, and the mountains in the background, which makes for some spectacular photo opportunities. This is also where you'll find the 14th century Castillo de Gibralfaro, which has parts of it dating to the 10th century. You can hike up to this viewpoint by following the walls of the fortress from the bottom of the hill, or you can either drive up yourself or hop on one of the many tour buses that bring you to the top. The Parador de Málaga Gibralfaro hotel is also situated at this viewpoint, so you can grab something to eat and drink here as well as you take in the views.