A Complete Guide to Malaga Old Town (By A Local)

The old town of Malaga is one of the most captivating in Andalucia with a maze of cobbled streets taking you past tapas bars, boutique shops, and quirky museums to quaint squares.

Malaga Old Town breathes history and culture, a delightful blend of traditional and modern, something rare in Spain’s southern region. It’s a living testament to the vibrant tapestry of civilizations that once called it home.

From the seafaring Phoenicians who established their early settlements to the indomitable Romans who left their architectural footprint and the Moors with their intricate designs and advanced urban planning – every dynasty contributed to the rich narrative of Malaga Spain’s old town.

There are so many things to do in Malaga’s historic center to keep you entertained for days and in this guide, I’ll cover everything you need to know from how to get there to what to do, and where to shop and eat.

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Malaga Old Town

Where is Malaga Old Town?

Malaga Old Town stretches from the Alcazaba to the Guadalmedina River and continues inland through a maze of cobbled streets and quaint squares. The historic center borders the Soho district and almost reaches the marina, so it is centrally located to all the highlights in Malaga.

Where to stay in Malaga Old Town

There’s a wealth of hotels in Malaga Old Town to choose from forever budget. You can read my complete guide to where to stay in Malaga or check out the below hotels.

BEST LUXURY
Palacio Solecio
Set in a restored 18th-century palace, this is a dreamy hotel to stay in the city center. It has a high-end restaurant and cocktail bar for dining in.

BEST MID-RANGE
Palacete de Alamos
Lovely boutique hotel in the heart of Malaga Old Town within walking distance of all the top attractions, restaurants, and bars.

BEST BUDGET
H-A Hotel Trebol
A great budget hotel in the heart of Malaga Old Town. It’s basic but clean and the location is great compared to the price.

Malaga Old Town parking

Parking in Malaga Old Town can be complicated. There is a large pedestrian area and the streets surrounding it are narrow and less than ideal to drive around. However, there are some parking garages around the old town.

I have usually left the car at Parking Tejon which is within easy walking distance from all the top attractions in the old town.

There is also one not far from Calle Larios at the marina, Parking Plaza de La Marina where I’ve left my car a few times. Further up the street, you find Parking Muelle Uno which is close to the Centre Pompidou.

If you’re looking for free parking in Malaga, you might be lucky and find a spot along the Parque de Malaga across the street from Muelle Uno.

This is only a few minutes walk to the old town. I always park there with the van to avoid the hassle of driving it into narrow parking garages.

Malaga Old Town parking

Where to eat in Malaga Old Town

This is a big question with incredibly many sug¡bjective answers. Now, you’re talking to a vegan here, so I can definitely guide you to the best places to eat vegan in Malaga.

However, I realize that not all of you are, so I’ll list some of the best restaurants in Malaga Old Town that are great for everyone.

Beyond these restaurants, it’s really hard to go wrong in Malaga Old Town, particularly if you move away from the main tourist magnets.

Mercado Central De Atarazanas – The local market in Old Town Malaga. Spain is famous for its food markets and this is a great example with plenty of tapas bars inside.

Astrid – A welcoming organic tapas restaurant with a few fully vegan dishes (not tapas) on the menu.

El Vegetariano de la Alcazabilla – A vegetarian restaurant tucked in a back street close to the Roman Theater that has amazing plates with multiple vegetarian and vegan tapas.

Uvedoble – Upscale tapas and mains. They’ve mainly got meat and seafood-based dishes, but a handful of things on the menu are or can be made vegetarian or vegan. See the menu here.

El Tapeo de Cervantes – One of the most popular tapas restaurants in Malaga. There are 2-3 things on the menu that are veg (mainly salads.) See their website here.

Bun & Coffee – A hidden gem that specializes in vegan doughnuts that everyone will love. They also serve coffee with both plant-based and cow milk.

best restaurants in Malaga Old Town

Shopping in Malaga Old Town

If you’re planning on going shopping in Malaga Old Town, you won’t be disappointed. There are so many stores to choose from. You find anything from quirky handicrafts and antiques to upscale boutique shops as well as all the famous brands like H&M and Zara.

The best places to look for Malaga Old Town’s shops are Calle Larios, Calle Nueva, and the connecting streets. There you’ll find all the big names.

When looking for more quirky and unique stores, I recommend taking a look down Calle Compañia which is located off Plaza de La Constitucion. There are quite a few unique finds that way.

With some patience, you’ll find quite a few hidden treasures in the narrow streets of Malaga Old City.

Old Town Malaga

Things to do in Malaga Old Town

Take a guided tour of the Alcazaba and Roman Theater

Visiting the Alcazaba and Roman Theater are among the most popular things to do in Malaga Old Town and not without a reason.

The Roman Theater dates back to the 1st century AD and is free to visit, but it’s worth visiting with a local guide together with the Alcazaba. This way, you learn everything there is to know about its history.

Overlooking the Roman Theater, you find the Alcazaba which I think is one of the most beautiful castles in Malaga.

Wandering through the Alcazaba’s robust walls and towers takes you back in time when the Moors held the city. It was constructed in the 11th century on the hill right above the Roman Theater.

You can get Alcazaba Malaga tickets at the door, but I highly recommend booking a guided tour as you’ll get so much more out of the visit. The castle walls hide a wealth of history you just won’t know about if you visit individually.

Old Town in Malaga

Climb the hill to Gibralfaro

Another highlight of the old town of Malaga is the Gibralfaro castle overlooking Alcazaba.

The scenic route to the majestic Castle of Gibralfaro provides sweeping views of Malaga’s marina Muelle Uno. Gibralfaro Viewpoint is just over halfway up and is spectacular at sunset, so if you manage to time your descent around that time, you’re up for a treat!

This fortress, perched high above Malaga, offers unparalleled panoramic views – the rooftops of Malaga Old Town lead to the dramatic mountains one way and to the sea the other way.

The fortress, with its robust walls and watchtowers, is a reminder of the city’s military significance and its resilience against numerous sieges. In my humble opinion, the best views of Malaga are from Gibralfaro.

You can purchase joint tickets with the Alcazaba or get them directly at the entrance.

Old Town of Malaga seen from Gibralfaro

Visit the Picasso Museum

Growing up amidst the charming lanes of Malaga, the young Pablo Picasso was destined for greatness in the realm of art. Old Town Malaga still echoes his legacy, and it’s no surprise that it proudly houses the Picasso Museum.

It’s Malaga’s heartfelt homage to a boy who once roamed its streets and went on to change the world of art forever.

Housing an extensive range of Picasso’s oeuvre, get ready to trace the artist’s transformative journey from budding sketches to monumental masterpieces.

Each piece resonates with Picasso’s unique vision and groundbreaking techniques. A visit offers an intimate glimpse into the mind and soul of one of history’s most celebrated artists.

I highly recommend taking a private tour of the Picasso Museum including Picasso’s Natal House. After all, it isn’t every day you visit Picasso’s hometown!

Malaga Old town Museums Picasso

Experience the Malaga Fair

The Feria de Malaga, or Malaga Fair, is officially located outside the city center, but the Malageños celebrate in style in the old town too!

With plenty of live concerts, people crowd the streets, dancing and drinking Cartojal (sweet wine) out of pink shot glasses with polka dots.

In all honesty, this is my favorite part of the Freia de Malaga when the old town comes to life with culture and tradition.

Malaga old town Spain

Go shopping

One of the top things to do in Malaga Old Town is to go shopping. The bustling streets and squares transform into a veritable shopping haven.

Amid the echoes of ancient tales, you’ll find a harmonious blend of charming boutiques exuding old-world charm and sleek, contemporary stores showcasing the latest trends.

Whether you’re hunting for handcrafted jewelry, local artisanal goods, or the latest in Spanish fashion, the diverse shopping avenues cater to every taste.

Calle Larios and Calle Nueva have all the affordable chain stores as well as high-end luxury brands. But give yourself time to get lost in the more remote and narrow streets and you will find boutique shops, unique vintage stores, and local handicrafts. Shopping in Malaga is heaven for any shopaholic!

Malaga Spain Old Town

Eat all the tapas

Malaga Historic Center hides a plethora of tapas restaurants and you find both local and international food.

I suggest going a bit away from the main tourist attractions to avoid the highest prices. Besides, some gourmet tapas bars have very high prices. So just check beforehand if you’re on a budget. Because tapas is the size of the dish – and it’s small!

I also have a guide to where to eat vegan in Malaga if you’re like me and don’t do the animal products that Andalucia is so famous for.

There are tapas tours you can take, and I’d highly recommend it if you want to get an introduction to some great tapas places and maybe even meet some other travelers.

old town malaga spain

Visit Malaga Cathedral

Towering in the heart of Malaga Old Town, Spain, the cathedral is one of the most iconic buildings.

Malaga Cathedral is also known as ‘La Manquita’, which translates to ‘The One-Armed Lady’, alluding to its iconic unfinished tower.

The intricately designed facade offers a glimpse into the diverse eras of Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles, beckoning those passing by to step in and explore its rich history.

As you step inside, the vast interiors, adorned with detailed sculptures and stunning stained glass, tell tales of Malaga’s spiritual journey over centuries. I highly recommend taking a guided tour of the cathedral to learn all about its intriguing history.

You can also visit Malaga Cathedral’s rooftop, which I really recommend. The views are spectacular! It’s a guided tour organized by the cathedral and you must book at the entrance where you’ll get a timed entrance to the rooftop.

From there, you’ll get sweeping views of the entire city, and it’s especially cool to see the view of Alcazaba and Gibralfaro.

Malaga historic center - inside the cathedral

Admire the architecture

The architectural splendors you come across, not just in the renowned monuments but also in the details of everyday structures, are some of the best things to see in Malaga Old Town.

As you meander through its labyrinthine alleys, the city unfolds like a living museum, narrating tales through its eclectic mix of Moorish intricacies, Gothic grandeur, and contemporary flair.

I’ve been wandering these streets for so many years and I still find myself in awe as I discover new details and new hidden corners. If you’re looking for free things to do in Malaga, look no further.

Malaga old city

Search for street art

While the Soho district is most famous for street art in Malaga, the Old City Malaga also hides beautiful artistic creations. The most known and seen are on Plaza de La Juderia just a stone’s throw from the Roman Theater.

But I challenge you to get lost in the maze of narrow streets and alleys to search for other magnificent pieces that are hidden throughout the old town.

If you love street art, I highly recommend going on this street art tour of the Soho and Las Lahunillas districts.

things to see in Malaga old town - street art

Conclusion: Old Town Malaga

Summing up, Old Town Malaga, Spain, is a fabulous neighborhood to explore with so much diversion and deep roots in culture and art. Yet, it’s moving with the times like no other old town in Andalucia.

This makes Malaga Old Town unique and whether you like museums, street art, history, or religious structures, there’s a whole world to uncover in the tapered streets.

Happy travels!