How to Spend 24 Hours in Malaga

This blog post was originally posted on April 4th, 2016 and was updated on April 15, 2019.

24 hours in Malaga isn’t a long time when you consider how much this city has to offer, but it’s better than nothing!

We get it—sometimes you just don’t have a ton of time to spend in a city, but want to make the most of what you do have. This is especially true for travelers stopping into town from one of the dozens of cruise ships that docks in Malaga’s port every week. No matter what brings you to the Costa del Sol’s sunny capital, we’re glad you’re here, and want to make your 24 hours in Malaga the best they can possibly be!

Ready to spend a perfect 24 hours in Malaga? Here's your complete guide to making the most of a short stay.

Finding your way from the port to the center of town

Your 24 hours in Malaga will already be off to a positive start from the moment you step off your cruise ship. That’s because Malaga’s vibrant, colorful port area, Muelle Uno, is one of our favorite parts of town! In late 2011, the area was treated to a complete face lift, transforming it into one of Malaga’s top shopping and dining hotspots. There’s no shame in stopping to enjoy the views and take a picture (or several) as you make your way along the promenade (we all do it).

Start off your 24 hours in Malaga with a picture-perfect stroll through Muelle Uno, the city's colorful port area.
Be sure to appreciate the views of Muelle Uno as your cruise ship pulls into port.

Enjoy the views as you stroll through the Plaza de la Marina, and make sure to pick up a map of the city at the tourism office on your way. From there, cross the Alameda Principal, Malaga’s busy central avenue. Just north of the statue of the Marqués de Larios, you’ll end up at the foot of the street of the same name. You’re officially in the historic center of Malaga, ready to explore even more!

If your 24 hours in Malaga starts early, you might be lucky to catch this sunrise from Plaza de la Marina
If your 24 hours in Malaga starts early, you might be lucky to catch the sunrise from Plaza de la Marina.

Coffee, Malaga style

Head north up Calle Larios towards one of Malaga’s most emblematic squares, Plaza de la Constitución. It’s here where you’ll start off your 24 hours in Malaga on a tasty note at one of the city’s most emblematic coffee shops: the one and only Café Central. Put your malagueño coffee ordering skills to the test, and don’t forget a bite to eat, either (we recommend the famous local pitufo breakfast sandwich).

Start your 24 hours in Malaga with breakfast at the city's emblematic Cafe Central.
Café Central is Malaga’s signature coffee shop, which revolutionized the way we order coffee here in the city.

The cathedral: Malaga’s one-armed wonder

Once you’re caffeinated and pleasantly full from breakfast, make a right on Calle Santa Maria as you leave the cafe. This street will deposit you right in front of Malaga’s stunning cathedral, one of the most unique of its kind in all of Spain. If you notice that the exterior looks a bit lopsided, that’s because it is—while two identical towers were originally planned, only one was built. As a result, locals fondly refer to the cathedral as “la manquita” (“the one-armed lady”).

The unique cathedral is a must-see during your 24 hours in Malaga.
The single tower of Malaga’s cathedral rises high above the city.

A walk through history

After marveling at the cathedral, head down Calle Císter until you reach the sprawling ancient amphitheater left behind by the Romans. Not only is it free to visit (so there’s really no reason not to go!), but the Roman Theater will also give you a fascinating look into Malaga’s rich history.

Perched on the hill above the theater is the imposing Alcazaba, the breathtaking palace-fortress left behind from Malaga’s Moorish days. While the complex is huge and 24 hours in Malaga may not seem like much time, we highly recommend checking this place out. The beautifully preserved grounds and gardens will take you back in time, and you’ll even enjoy some of the best views of the city as you make your way higher up.

The Alcazaba and the Roman Theater are two must-see sights during your 24 hours in Malaga.
The Alcazaba and the Roman Theater bring the past to life in Malaga.

Say hola to Picasso

After exploring the Alcazaba and Roman Theater, head north on Calle Alcazabilla until you reach the second of Malaga’s most important squares, Plaza de la Merced. It’s here where you’ll run into one of the city’s most famous residents: the one and only Pablo Picasso, who was born in an unassuming building right on this same plaza. The family’s home is now a museum where you can learn about the artist’s early life and formative years. Don’t leave without posing for a picture with the man himself (his statue, anyway) on a bench just outside the door!

Tapas lunch at a holy bar

You’ve done quite a bit of exploring during your 24 hours in Malaga so far, and by this point your stomach might be rumbling. There are dozens of great options for lunch, but one of our favorite spots in the city center is Las Merchanas. From the moment you walk through the door, you’ll be transported to Malaga’s famed Holy Week processions, no matter what time of year it is. This unique bar is the perfect place to experience Andalusia’s extravagant Easter celebrations all year long while you munch on tapas.

Las Merchanas is one of our favorite spots for lunch during 24 hours in Malaga. Try the montaditos!
Order up a round of montaditos—mini sandwiches—at Las Merchanas.

R&R during siesta time

If you’re only spending 24 hours in Malaga, you may or may not have a hotel you can go back to during the midday break known as siesta (yep, it’s a real thing!). After lunch, the city goes quiet for a few hours as locals head home to relax and enjoy some time with their family before heading back to work in the afternoon (and yes, many of them also take a quick catnap while home). If you don’t have a hotel where you can head to recharge for a few hours, no worries. The Hammam Al-Andalus Arab baths are well worth a visit—spend an hour or so here immersing yourself in the refreshing water ritual, and you’ll walk out feeling ready to make the most of the second half of your day.

Learn something new

Ready to jump back into exploring? You can’t spend 24 hours in Malaga without visiting at least one of the city’s fascinating museums. Fortunately, most of them are right here in the city center, so you won’t have to go far at all. Art lovers will want to check out the Carmen Thyssen Museum or the Picasso Museum, and for budding sommeliers, the Wine Museum is an absolute must.

A final bite

Before making your way back to your cruise ship (or to the train station), save some time for one last foodie indulgence. After all, you’re in one of southern Spain’s top gastronomic destinations—even if you don’t have time for a full dinner, you can’t leave without a quick evening bite!

Our pick: head to Antigua Casa de Guardia, Malaga’s oldest wine bar, to sample the city’s signature sweet wine and simple, tasty tapas. If you’d rather indulge your sweet tooth completely, Casa Aranda—one of our top picks for churros in Malaga—is also nearby.

Antigua Casa de Guardia, the city's oldest wine bar, is a must during 24 hours in Malaga.
Try some sweet Malaga wine paired with the smoked tuna and cheese skewers at Antigua Casa de Guardia.

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