Malaga is a Mediterranean marvel of sun, sea and sights. The Andalucian city is Spain at its purest. It was the birthplace of Spanish legends from Picasso to Antonio Banderas. 

The Spanish sun is always shining down on its life-infused streets, the sea breeze whispers tales of ancient mariners and the city’s history is laid bare through its towering monuments and eclectic range of museums. It’s the kind of place where you can savor a world-class art museum in the morning, sunbathe on golden beaches by afternoon, go shopping for the best Spanish brands at a world-class outlet by evening, feast on tapas that will make your taste buds dance the flamenco for dinner then hit the clubs of the Costa Del Sol by night.

We look at eight highlights of the city that best epitomize the Malaga experience.

Hit the Shops at the McArthur Glen Designer Outlet Malaga

Spain has some of the best clothing brands out there and Malaga is a great place to buy them on the cheap. Just 15 minutes via taxi, bus or train from the center is one of the best designer luxury outlets in Europe, McArthur Glen Designer Outlet Malaga.

McArthur Glen has 25 designer outlets across Europe, each individually styled to the country it’s found in. Malaga's has a Spanish flair to it with a central plaza at its heart replete with a gorgeous fountain. Shopping there is itself an experience worthy of a day out, however much you intend to buy – there’s nothing quite like enjoying a “relaxing cup of café con leche” on the terrace of their Starbucks between shopping bouts.

The MAG center of Malaga boasts a hundred international and local brands to choose between. Peruse hundreds of international and local brands including Coach and our Spanish favorites such as Scalpers, Silbonand Toni Pons. Luggage and shopping bags drop-off assure ease of service and the outlet has an Onsite Tax Refund service for non-EU residents – with no minimum spend in Spain and you can save up to 15.7%! There are also restaurants on site like Five Guys for a delicious customizable milkshake and burger.

The McArthur Glen Designer Outlet in Malaga is just 15 minutes from Malaga center, or five minutes from the airport if you intend to visit on the way home. And you can arrive using the RENFE Cercanías C1 line, stopping on Plaza Mayor Station (taking about 12 minutes) or by Take EMT Málaga 5 line and hop off the bus at Plaza Mayor (stop number 2267).

Image credit: McArthurGlen

Get to Know Picasso

Malaga has an artistic legacy in that it is the birthplace of one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, Pablo Picasso. Sure, you’ll find evidence of his works in museums across Spain, but it is only in Malaga that you can really delve into what shaped his artistic vision from birth onwards.

This legacy can be explored through two museums. The first, the Casa Natal Museum, was Picasso's childhood home. Open to the public, inside you’ll find personal memorabilia, family photographs, and early sketches – making for a fascinating journey into the formative years of a young Picasso before he became the multifaceted genius of his adult years.

The Picasso Museum Malaga, on the other hand, is housed in the stunning Buenavista Palace. The museum gives an intimate look at the maestro's journey from prodigious talent to avant-garde pioneer through its impressive collection of over 200 of his works – from his early paintings, sculptures, drawings, and ceramics to the Cubism most know him for.

Image by Юлия Сорокина from Pixabay

Monumental Monuments

There are three historical buildings that you simply can’t miss in Malaga – literally, because they loom high over the city wherever you are: Malaga’s cathedral, the Castillo de Gibralfaro and the Alcazaba.

Malaga's Cathedral is affectionately known as “La Manquita” or “The One-Armed Lady,” because it isn’t quite finished – what is it with Spain and incomplete cathedrals – and it boasts a stunning blend of Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles. Its incomplete second tower gives it a unique charm, as does the intricate interior, beautiful chapels, and grand organs.

The other two structures dominate the hill alongside the city and might require a healthy constitution to climb too – although there is a bus apparently – but are well worth the energy. Castillo de Gibralfaro is a 14th century Moorish castle which offers panoramic views of Malaga and its coastline. The fortress was originally built by the Phoenicians, and has formidable walls, historic battlements, and lush gardens to traverse. Whereas, the Alcazaba of Malaga, is a magnificent 11th century Moorish palace-fortress and a maze of tiled floor rooms, intricate archways and splendid gardens.

All three of these can be seen for free on Sunday evenings – although they’re pretty cheap to enter and certainly won’t break the bank even at peak times.

Andalucian Food at Its Best

The region of Andalucia excels at all the Spanish classics when it comes to food and Malaga does them best!

For breakfast, you can tuck into chocolate con churros (dough pastry coated in sugar and dipped in chocolate) or Pan Con Tomate (bread coated in tomato, garlic and herbs) at cafes like local favorites Café Aranda and Café Berlin. For the full tapas experience at lunch or dinner head to restaurants like the popular Casa Lola or Atarazanas Market – for the authentic market food stall experience. There you are free to devour the most exquisite seafood of the region as well as old favorites like croquettes and bravas. All washed down with a nice glass of Tinto de Verano – a wine drink that is the real sangria.

Beach Life

The Costa del Sol is well known for its beaches and attracts millions of tourists every year, especially English ones. Malaga city may not have the best beach itself – Malagueta beach is passable but truthfully as ugly as city beaches tend to be – but there is a wealth of great beaches within easy reach.

Staying in Malaga means you don’t just get the city, you get the whole nearby coast via a cheap train line, which acts as a metro would in a bigger city like Barcelona. The train gives access to all the big beach resorts like Benalmadena, Fuengirola and – the thoroughly gay – Torremolinos. All have superb beaches and provide the classic “being on holiday in Spain” vibe.

Party in Torremolinos

Malaga has a gaggle of gay bars, but the truth is, come the weekend, most of the gays jump on the aforementioned trainline and head to Torremolinos for their late night kicks. The La Nogalera area is where you’ll find all the guys from local villages mixing with gay tourists at bars like Men Bar and El 12 before getting down and dirty in clubs like Eden and Aqua. The train back runs well into the night but hey…if you miss the last train you can just party till the first one back to Malaga at 7.30am.

The Ferria of Ferrias

Should you be lucky enough to time your trip around one of them, Malaga has some of the best annual parties in Spain, including a rather flamboyant Pride parade or moving Semana Santa procession. However, it is Malaga’s “ferria” in August which really embodies the full spirit – or “fuego – of Andalusia 

Expect a full week of street parties, a large fairground, bullfights (should you dare) and hundreds of ‘casetas’ tents. Within the tents you can’t miss seeing the famous Sevillanas dance in all its splendor. Should you find a patient partner you could even give it a go yourself – it’s nowhere near as effortless as they make it look though!

Image credit: from Flickr

Beautiful Hotels, Beautiful Sunsets

Malaga has so many great LGBTQ+ friendly hotels to choose between, whose architecture effortlessly blends traditional Andalusian architecture stylings with the modern – Only You Hotel Malaga being a wonderful choice, which we recently stayed at ourselves. It's also a good idea to stay in the center near the old town or beach, so you are in walking distance to everything. The best of Malaga's hotels have roof terraces with bars and pools, which are the best place to watch the stunning sunset over the rooftops of Malaga. Once more, with a tinto de verano or five. 

This article was sponsored by McArthur Glen Designer Outlet with support from Only You Hotels.