How often does one get to see sprawling skylines rising from vast sandy strips lined with fisherman boats all over? If you happen to be in the vicinity of Spain's port city of Málaga, there's a good chance of witnessing the spectacle on a daily basis. The seaside city paints quite a picture with its famed terraced cafes and balcony houses, charming streetscapes, and busy beachside restaurants serving Andalusian delights. But its temporal beauty is further surpassed by the rich heritage it carries as a city of art and culture.
The beaches and the old city streets are definitely reason enough to visit Málaga, but the city packs a punch with its stunning architecture and art history. As home of the artist that was Pablo Picasso, Málaga has developed a flair for the fine arts. Visit the museum, art galleries, and theatres that make this city the jewel that it has come to be known as today. There's definitely more to do in Málaga than you can cover in a single trip. And so we'll help you with a headstart on finding the ideal place to stay in. Here, we have listed some of the best neighbourhoods of Málaga and what they might have in store for you, traveller!
Centro Histórico (Old Town)
This charming neighborhood is where the real magic lies! The meandering alleys and streets of the historic district are lined with the most stunning townhouses—most of which have their own vertical gardens for balconies of course, and are all things Málaga. You are bound to come across several obscure restaurants and cafes serving the best local cuisine on their pristine terraces, art galleries of exquisite appeal, and even great open air exhibits around every corner. Start your expedition from the central plaza, Calle Marqués de Larios and find your own way around the network of smaller alleys; when in the Old Town, there aren't really any wrong turns and every nook and cranny is packed with surprising charm.
The area is also home to some great sightseeing options. The most obvious pick has to be the Museo Picasso, an art gallery with several of the artist's masterpieces housed in a 16th-century palatial complex. The hill-top fortress of Alcabaza is also a great get away. The lush surroundings and fresh breeze is also a nice change from the packed streets of the central parts of the Old Town. Other major landmarks in the Old Town include the unique Interactive Music Museum, popular for its playable instruments and historiography on music and the Carmen Thyssen Museum, which has international art exhibits. After a long day of sightseeing, you can always head back to the central plaza and find yourself a spot on the terrace of the cozy bars that dominate the area.
Lines C1 and C2 of the Málaga Metro have stations in the vicinity of the Old Town, making it fairly straightforward to reach through public transport. Hotels and homestays should be easy to find, given the international appeal of the area.
The eastern seaside district of El Palo is your getaway beach vacation in the waiting. A little outside the central districts, this part of the town has become known for its vast sandy strips (more on them later) and great seafood eateries. The Andalusian flair is unmistakable in the food that you will be served in and the beaches of El Palo. The fried fish or pescaito frito and the grilled sardines or espetos are amongst the signature dishes that you can enjoy at the beachside restaurants, famously known as chiringuito. Grab the best snack in town and enjoy it with a chilled beer or a cocktail as you wait for the perfect opportunity to hit the water or the sandy beaches right across from your sitting area.
The stunning El Palo beach is the perfect spot for just about everyone; whether you're looking for a lazy day of sunbathing, or a quick volleyball game, or some watersports, the venue has you covered. While you're here, look out for Costa del Sol's very own jabega boats that are a constant reminder of the area's humble beginnings as a small fishing village. Fishermen still bring the catch of the day to the beachfront restaurants, so there's a good chance that you can watch them catch your dinner! The broad-walks along the shore are perfect for evening strolls and morning bike rides. Watch the sunset from the beach with your family and/or friends to mark the perfect end to your weekend getaway.
The neighborhood is a little further out from the central part of town but is easily serviceable through public transport including frequent bus service. You can also hire a rental for a more custom travel experience. Finding a hotel near the beachfront should not be too much trouble in El Palo.
Another neighborhood that gives you easy access to the beachside is La Malagueta, a small district in central Málaga. Now, the beaches are not as extensive as those in El Palo and the seafood shacks might fade in comparison, but it more or less makes up for the points that it loses in those departments through its close proximity to the central part of the town and a serene cityscape. The Faro de Málaga lighthouse at the Western tip of the neighborhood that stands tall at the centre of the extended strip of land is a sight to behold in the foreground of the vast sea. It is surrounded by quaint walking trails that are perfect for a romantic walk or an extended bike ride of the city!
And while we are at it, let's get something out of the way. Despite what you might hear, the beaches in this part of the city are stunning. They might not be as spacious as in some other parts, but that takes nothing away from what the sandy strips do get right. The water is crystal clear and the setting is picture perfect. Rent a space on the beach for comfortable sunbathing during the day, and come back in the night for some stunning photography setups. The popular Malagueta sign is just one of the many spots that make for just the perfect photography session in the neighborhood. And like we mentioned before, the beaches are so close to the city centre that you can hop in/out at your own whim.
Close to almost all central parts of the town, La Malagueta has easy accessibility. Plus you get the perks of a nice change in scenery with all the beaches without having to travel too far out of the city centre.
Onto the liveliest part of the city then! The northern neighborhood of La Merced has become increasingly popular for its nightlife. There are many bars and tapas that you can choose to go to for your evening drinks after a long day of sightseeing and beach outings. The list of the nightclubs and establishments that stay open till late in the night is also equally impressive; La Merced is a great neighborhood to socialise with the younger crowds of Málaga, especially the ones that like to party hard. Shopping streets and lined with home-grown boutiques and fashion accessory stores, most of which will draw you in with their vibrant displays.
The neighborhood is named after the 15th-century public square, which is the venue of Picasso's childhood home. It is a charming sub-district, and a stroll around the wide avenues in the lush setting is just what you need to get away from all the partying and bustling crowds. The yellow townhouses that surround the central square and life size Picasso statue are standout features; make sure you pay a visit to the museum housed in the artist's house under the Fundación Pablo Ruiz Picasso banner. Spend your afternoons trying out the Málaga delicacies in the terraced restaurants of the market streets or getting takeout that you can savour with a nice cocktail in the outdoors.
La Merced shares its borders with the Old Town and is right in the heart of the city. The Álamos bus stop sits right atop of the neighborhood. Smaller hotels and homestays of the neighborhood are amongst the most charming in all of Málaga and should be your go to option.
The waterfront district of Soho is the most lively part of the town and an ever-popular destination for younger crowds and art enthusiasts. The open-air exhibits, walls murals, and graffiti paintings all lend the neighborhood an alternative appeal that has attracted the attention of corresponding audiences for long now. The area, much like the central Old Town, is best discovered on foot as you can find an exhilarating piece of art in almost every nook and cranny. The avenues, unlike Old Town, are wider and the art, much more edgy compared to the examples of classical antiquity offered elsewhere. The vibrant neighborhood ticks all the expected Málaga eccentricities, but the street art just stands out amongst it all and should not be missed.
Corresponding to the artsy outdoors, Soho's gourmet experience and bar scene are also unique to this neighborhood. Hip cafes and home-grown beer are major characteristics of the food streets; the indoors of most of these venues are eclectic and very cosmopolitan, which is quite a shift from the usual pastel-coloured indoors in the other part of the cities. You will also find yourself attracted to the international cuisine (some great Moroccan chicken topping the list) served in the most obscure-looking restaurants. Art galleries and smaller boutiques are another great way to savour Soho. Rest assured, you will never find two exhibits or street murals that look anything like each other and that dynamism is the real reward of staying in this part of the town.
The neighborhood of Soho is just south of the Old Town and easy to access through public transport. Getting a rental is an option, but you would want to walk the streets to best experience the area. Accomodation, is easily available in almost all price ranges.
And lastly, if you are looking for a nice blend of all things Málaga, Pedregalejo is the place for you. Sandwiched between the bigger districts of El Palo and Malagueta, this quiet fishing village is a true eclectic gem. The beaches are great spots for laid-back afternoons and family outings. While chilling in the water, keep an eye out for fishing boats that bring back the catch of the day, which as you might know by now, could very well end up on your dinner plates. Vendors selling espetos skewers, fresh off the grill can be found outside almost all fishing huts that are situated very close to the beaches.
The area has smaller bays, which although all linked to each other, are less crowded than the more mainstream beaches of the city. Shallow waters make for great swimming spots and there really no reason to stay out of pristine water on the hot days. By sundown, you can always head to the open air bars that serve chilled beers with soothing music playing in the background. Most of these establishments are open till late, but make a nice shift from the loud and busy nightclubs. Some of them even host open mics and live music acts which only add to the alternative appeal of Pedregalejo's nightlife. You can enjoy a view of the sea or the Málaga skyline, which is visible from many spots in the neighborhood to mark the perfect end of a long day.
Families often choose to stay in the area, mostly owing to its laid-back setting, but finding inexpensive accommodation for backpackers should not be particularly hard either. You can hire a rental or a taxi to chauffeur you around the neighborhood.
That's our complete list of neighbourhoods then. Take you pick, traveller; the dream city of Málaga awaits!