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

8 things to know before you visit Málaga, 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

Known for its stunning beaches, culture, and food, Málaga is one of the most visited coastal cities in Andalusia, Spain. It's a go-to destination for travellers wanting to spend summer in Spain and can become busy during the warmer (hot) months.

If you’re planning on visiting Málaga, here are some local insights about the city and how to immerse yourself in the local culture.

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?

This term is believed to come from a tourist that 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. Many of the museums and landmarks are also free on specific days, meaning Malaga is a budget-friendly city.

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.

3. People from Malaga are informally called boquerón

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

The reason behind this is that anchovies are the typical fish in the city that you also find in many popular dishes 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.

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 that is usually celebrated in the second week of August. The festival continues for eight days, with activities starting in the morning and continuing into the night.

During the morning, you can attend feria del centro, which is 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 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 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.

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).

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. An hour's drive in the other direction will take to Estepona, a traditional Andalusian white-washed town.

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 hidden gems 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 Spanish expat, from Costa del Sol, who spends most of her time in the UK, but travels home on a regular basis. She is also the blogger behind My Little World of Travelling, a blog created to inspire and empower female travellers to live abroad and explore hidden gems in Europe.

Last Updated 4 August 2023

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.
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