Malaga's bull ring with the harbour in the distance
travel tips

Eight things to know before you visit Malaga, Spain – from a local

Cristina Reina

Contributing writer

Planning a trip to Malaga? Here are our top picks...

Stay: Molina Lario, a boutique hotel in the city centre

Walking tour: Malaga through the eyes of a local

Experience: an authentic flamenco performance

Day trip: Nerja, Frigiliana and El Acebuchal

Food tour: Taste of Malaga

Car rental: find competitive rates with Discover Cars

With its enviable position in the south of Spain, Málaga is incredibly popular due to its blend of sun-drenched beaches, rich cultural heritage, and wonderful food.

As one of the best-known coastal cities in Andalusia, Málaga attracts travellers seeking the quintessential Spanish summer experience. As a result, it can become very busy during the warmer (hot) months.

But visiting this vibrant city is about more than beaches. Málaga blends history and modern life, with ancient Moorish castles, contemporary art galleries, and bustling markets.

If you plan on visiting Málaga, here are a few things you should know (from a local) to help give you more insight into the city.

Torremolinos Beach in Malaga

1. Málaga is part of the Costa del Sol (Coast of the Sun)

It can be confusing to hear about both Málaga and Costa del Sol and many people believe that Costa del Sol represents only the towns near Málaga. However, Málaga is included in the term too.

So why is Málaga called Costa del Sol too?

The Costa del Sol region, including Málaga, was historically a region of fishing villages and farms. In the early 20th century, it began to gain popularity as a health destination for the wealthy and ill, mainly due to its mild climate.

Post-1950s, due to affordable air travel and Spain's development as a tourist destination, the Costa del Sol became synonymous with sun, sea, and holidaymakers. Málaga, as the region's largest city, played a pivotal role in this transformation.

The term "Costa del Sol" is believed to come from a tourist who used to visit this area and was very surprised by the sunny weather and warm temperatures - no matter what season it was. Since then, it has become a popular name for the area.

The ancient Moorish fortress, Alcazaba, of Malaga in Andalusia Spain

2. There are many free things to do in Málaga

With many natural attractions such as beaches, parks and beautiful lookout points, there's a lot to do in Málaga for free.

Popular attractions in Málaga such as La Alcazaba and Gibralfaro Castle as well as the Picasso Museum are free on Sundays a couple of hours before closing time. Málaga's Centre of Contemporary Art is also free throughout the week.

Many of the museums and landmarks are also free on specific days, making Malaga a budget-friendly city.

To discover a different side of Málaga, take a stroll through the Soho district. This area, once rundown, has been revitalized by large-scale murals created by internationally renowned artists.

Also visit, the Atarazanas Market, located in a 19th-century building with a striking Moorish-style archway. The market is not only a great place to buy fresh local produce but also a window into the everyday life of Malagueños.

3. People from Malaga are informally called boquerón

A person from Málaga is called malagueño, but also boquerón which means anchovy.

This nickname comes from the fact that anchovies are a significant part of the local cuisine in Málaga. Anchovies are abundant in the waters around the city and have been a staple in the diet of Malagueños for centuries.

This has led to the affectionate nickname for the locals, tying them to one of their most iconic and traditional foods.

You can find anchovies in many popular dishes in the city such as pescaito frito (fried fish).

The white sands of Playa La Malagueta in Malaga, Spain

4. Summer is high season

Málaga is visited by millions of tourists every year, and most of them come in summer.

With Málaga's beautiful beaches, resorts and events, summer is a good time to visit if you love a lively atmosphere and you can handle the high temperatures (32-38º degrees).

If you prefer fewer crowds and cooler temperatures, you may want to visit the city just outside of the peak season.

Consider late May when things are opening, ready for the summer, or in late September when tourists tend to go back home due to school and work.

If you do visit in summer, start your days early to avoid the heat and the crowds. When it gets too hot outdoors, escape to the city's historic churches and museums for a respite from the heat.

People dancing in the street during the Feria de Malaga

5. Don’t miss the Feria de Malaga

Feria de Málaga is a traditional fair and cultural event usually celebrated in the second week of August.

The Feria de Málaga dates back to the 15th century when the Catholic Monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand reconquered the city from Moorish rule. This festival started as a local fair but has evolved into a week-long celebration full of colour, dance, and traditional Andalusian festivities.

During the morning, you can attend feria del centro, celebrated in Calle Larios and other linked streets in the centre of Málaga. Many locals dress up in traditional suits and dresses, and dance, drink and have a good time with family and friends.

In the evenings, the festivities take place next to the Trade Fair and Congress Centre of Málaga. Not only will you find many stalls where you can eat, drink and dance, but also there are also other attractions and live concerts.

The festival lasts eight days, with activities starting in the morning and continuing into the night.

The Picasso Museum tower in Malaga

6. Picasso was born in Málaga

Although the famous painter spent most of his life in France, he was born in Málaga. In Málaga, you'll find a Picasso Museum as well as a Picasso statue.

If you love his art, the Picasso Museum Málaga is a must-see attraction. In the museum, you can see some of the artist's incredible works, take a tour to discover more of his history or join workshops to learn more about painting and ceramics.

If you want to delve deeper into Picasso's life, the Fundación Picasso Museo Casa Natal, located in the Plaza de la Merced, is where Picasso was born and spent his early years.

This museum showcases his early works and provides insights into his family life and the environment that shaped his formative years.

Names for coffee in Malaga

7. Asking for a coffee in Málaga isn’t simple

Just a little warning for any coffee lover... ordering coffee may not be as easy as you think.

There are many types of coffees in Málaga and each one has a unique name - un nublado, un cortado, etc. The difference between all these coffees is the ratio of coffee and milk.

If you don't want milk in your coffee, ask for café solo (similar to an Italian espresso) or a café americano for a weaker version (similar to a long black),

If you ask for a café con leche, you'll probably end up with half coffee and half milk. If you prefer your coffee with more milk, try a sombra at 80 per cent milk and 20 per cent coffee (similar to a flat white).

Málaga's unique coffee culture, with its specific names for different coffee mixtures, has historical roots going back to the local cafés of the early 20th century.

Frigiliana, a white Andalusia Village with view of the Costa del Sol Spain

8. Explore beyond Málaga

Although Málaga has a wide range of activities for everyone, there are also other towns and villages that are worth visiting during your time in Costa del Sol.

If you hire a car, you'll be able to see some beautiful places, all relatively close to the city. For example, Frigiliana, a 45-minute drive from Málaga, is one of the prettiest villages in Spain and an easy day trip from the city. Spend a few hours strolling through the old Moorish quarter's cobbled streets, adorned with white-washed houses and floral balconies.

An hour's drive in the other direction will take to Estepona, a traditional Andalusian white-washed town, with a wonderful Orchidarium - a marvel of modern botanical architecture.

Many travellers make the mistake of spending only a few days in Malaga, then head to Seville or other popular cities. Make sure you plan some time to explore more of the Costa del Sol and don't miss out on the incredible lesser-visited places around Málaga.

Planning a trip to Málaga? Stay at the Molina Lario, a boutique hotel in the city centre or read our guide on where to stay in Malaga.

Need more info about Spain? Read our Spain travel guide to help you plan your trip.

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Cristina Reina

Author - Cristina Reina

Cristina is a freelance writer, translator and blogger from Malaga in the Costa del Sol. She spends most of her time in the UK, but travels home regularly.

Last Updated 16 February 2024

Frigiliana, a white Andalusia Village with view of the Costa del Sol Spain


On the southern tip of Europe, Spain is renowned for its beautiful beaches, vibrant cities and fascinating history.